Children with ADHD

Children with ADHD

Approximately 10% of children are diagnosed with ADD or ADHD in their lifetime. Many sceptics claim unrelated causes such as lack of discipline, and poor parenting as the causes. As a parent and someone who has cared for children with this condition professionally for over 18 years, I know how hurtful these comments can be. Research has shown that there is a physiologic basis for attention deficit disorders. The primary consensus of all of the research seems to be related to a genetic imbalance in catecholamine metabolism in the cerebral cortex.

So what does that mean?

In part of the brain that is responsible for focus, impulse control, and hyperactivity there is an inability to balance the neuroreceptors needed for proper function, and there appears to be a genetic association. Catecholamines are neurotransmitters that are often called adrenaline. This is why stimulant medications are often used to treat attention deficit disorders. In fact, most parents will tell me that they have noticed that there child or adolescent will calm down when they drink a caffeinated soda. 

Non-medication and behavioral remedies are frequently cited and used to help children with attention deficit disorders. From a behavioral standpoint every child with attention deficit problems does better with a well-structured environment and lots of positive reinforcement. In fact, many parents will state that their child does better in a classroom with an empathetic teacher, who is very strict, and very positive. In general, all children respond well to an environment with lots of structure and lots of positive reinforcement. 

Dietary interventions can also help. Most parents will find that their children do better on a low sugar diet, that is high in complex carbohydrates and good fats. This principal makes sense for all children. Children have high energy needs, sugar provides quick energy, and it often has a corresponding crash. Complex carbohydrates and good fats, on the other hand, provide energy at a constant rate without the associated highs and lows of sugar. 

Other dietary measures that may have some associated symptom relief with attention deficit disorders are omega fat supplementation, and diets high in zinc. I have tried these interventions with my patients. I believe that omega fats may help with mood stabilization. This is an important component of attention deficit disorder, as children often experience emotionality, and temper tantrums. 

While some children and adolescents with the disorder have found behavioral and dietary interventions helpful, many of these children will be prescribed stimulant medications to help with their condition. Stimulant medications work effectively, but they are often associated with several side-effects that are intolerable. The first, and often most pressing, is appetite suppression. Appetite suppression can lead to weight loss and complicate growth. This often places parents and children between a rock and a hard place. 

A couple of tips that I have found that help with weight loss are, eat a high fat breakfast, eat small frequent meals, and power pack the foods the children eat. This means no cold cereal for breakfast, or if you do get a good, high fiber cereal and use whole milk, or coconut milk. A smoothie made with whole fat yogurt, veggies and a good meal replacement powder works great, as well. Accompany this with some whole grain toast and peanut, or almond butter. While the medication is affective provide small power packed snacks, such as almonds, apple slices and peanut butter help. Finally, have a late dinner, after the medication has worn off. 

Finally, Sweet Sprouts shakes can help. They provide a great sugar free base for yummy smoothies, metabolism sustaining calories to help maintain attention, and omega fats. I have used it with some of my most difficult patients. Many have found that it helps provide their children with a healthy alternative when their child just won’t eat.

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