Poor concentration and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
Young Adults and Stimulants – is there a solution?
Excerpt from Dr Arien’s book Health & Happiness
Read more about: Ginkgo biloba
Read more about: Essential Fatty Acids
Considerable research indicates that supplementary micronutrients improve the function of the nervous system, the immune system and the endocrine system in growing children, resulting in better cognitive functions (memory, concentration, eye-hand co-ordination and non-verbal intelligence). Non-verbal intelligence is considered an indication of basic physiological functioning in which micronutrients play a role, while verbal intelligence mainly reflects education and experience.
Healthy eating habits
The first symptoms of a marginal deficiency of a micronutrient, are often psychological in nature. Children grow quickly, their metabolism is fast and there are high demands on their enzymes. Children often do not eat enough fresh fruit and vegetables. A supplement is necessary to prevent marginal deficiencies and ensure the optimal functioning of the nervous system (psychological development, memory, concentration, state of mind and intelligence) and the endocrine system (responsible for constant blood sugar levels, growth, thyroid function and development of the urogenital system). It is important for children between the ages of 2 and 12 to learn healthy eating habits and to avoid refined sugar, white flour and greasy junk foods with a high fat content as much as possible.
Children often enjoy being involved in planning their meals. From an early age, teach them the principles of good nutrition and let them prepare the food themselves. Most children will understand and co-operate if they know why they must eat healthily. Children are more open to persuasion while they are still young. However, when they become a little more ‘independent’ between the ages of 7 and 12 and develop their own likes and dislikes, they still usually eat the right kinds of food. If you just leave them and quietly observe what they eat over the course of a week or two, they will surprise you. You will be amazed at how healthy they eat when there is no pressure – and no parental eye watching their every action.
Never change mealtimes into unhappy stressful experiences. Children have an inherent motivation to eat, but their physiology is different. They master eating skills in the same way as other skills. They will naturally choose a variety of foods, not always on one day or exactly what their parents want them to eat. Children have a sensory-specific saturation level: they taste the food and eat just enough and of the right kinds. Adults often suppress or ignore the saturation stimulus and eat to satisfy cravings, for sociability or because food is good for you. We then force our children to eat the way we do by offering them desert or other rewards if they finish all their food. The best thing for parents to do, is to offer a variety of attractive, wholesome food in pleasant and comfortable surroundings and act positively. Children like a structured environment.
The most common nutrition problems during childhood are obesity and iron deficiency, not starvation. Even if there is a family history of cardiovascular disease and atherosclerosis, don’t eliminate all fats. Limit saturated fats and concentrate on low fat milk, lean meat and mono- and polyunsaturated fats such as olive oil, flax oil, canola oil and grape seed oil. Stick to fresh fruit and vegetables, wholegrain products, seeds, nuts and pulses. Give your children a supplement combination for the cardiovascular system containing calcium and magnesium and the essential fatty acids. (Consult Chapters 7, 9 and 10).
A good breakfast of hot oatmeal porridge or whole wheat cereal ensures constant blood glucose levels for improved concentration. Pack a nutritious lunch box with interesting sandwiches, pieces of raw vegetables and fruit or dried fruit and yoghurt to tempt their taste buds at break. Set a good example at home and remember that girls in particular soon pick up their mother’s concerns about body mass and size. Don’t overestimate your children’s needs for food.
A child’s appetite depends on the rate at which they are growing and their activities – if you leave them alone, they will listen to the needs of their body. This is a natural instinct which many adults either suppress or forget. If adults also learned to tune in to their body more and listen to when the body needs food and exactly what it needs, there would be less concern with ideal body shapes and eating habits would be much healthier. Exercise is important for all children and teenagers. The human body has developed to be physically active. The lifestyle of a lazy couch potato is bad for muscle development and state of mind.
A good nutritional supplement guarantees the children’s needs and mothers can console themselves that the children have at least taken their daily health insurance in the form of micronutrients. Younger children prefer to take pills that they can chew, while older children can usually swallow the pills with water. Beware of sugar coated (“smartie”) pills: the sugar coating process may destroy most of the pill’s content! A general guideline for children under ten is half the adult dose.
About 5-10 per cent of school going children suffer from various degrees of poor concentration. It is four to six times more common in boys than girls. The main theory is that it is caused by a chemical imbalance in the concentration centre of the brain. The condition can improve considerably and even be, through healthy eating habits with regular, small, wholesome meals to keep the blood glucose levels constant (low blood glucose increases hyperactivity and causes poor concentration). Take additional essential fatty acids (for the deficiency of delta-6 desaturase), as well as a supplement for the nervous system with chromium (200 micrograms), vanadium (50 micrograms) and molybdenum (200 micrograms) to keep blood sugar levels constant, with calcium, magnesium and the amino acid taurine, every day. Regular exercise is also important to channel the energy. Meditation, visualisation and other relaxation techniques, bring about a marked improvement in the ability to concentrate as well as improved quality of life.
In children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) the immune system is often functioning below par.These children get many infections and allergies, which aggravate the symptoms of hyperactivity. Taking antibiotics or other pharmaceutical medication,will also tend to make the problem worse.
ADHD has become a fashionable diagnosis and it is made far too easily and quickly. The child’s whole physical and psychological profile must be evaluated by a team of experts, including a medical doctor, a child psychologist, a speech therapist and eye specialist, before the diagnosis can be made. Several disorders may seem like attention deficit. First eliminate hearing, speech and visual problems. Intelligent children may simply be bored in class and might need challenges to keep them interested and motivated. Disturbed sleep is common in young children and can lead to symptoms of ADHD. Petit mal epileptic seizures have to be excluded. In older children you have to consider drug abuse, which can cause slowness and memory disorders. Depression, anxiety, tension and adapting to a new school, or a new environment, are often incorrectly diagnosed as attention deficit.
ADHD has a strong psychological component. Food intolerance, allergy, micronutrient deficiency, infections, genetic factors, lead and other toxic metals, and psychological factors, all play a role in the syndrome. Prescribing Ritalin or Concerta for this, is not going to treat the cause or improve symptoms on a long term basis. Try an elimination diet. Supplements can often reduce or solve a dietary problem. My experience and that of other practitioners, clearly show that the correct supplements, used together with stress management and relaxation techniques, are extremely successful.
A good daily supplement (perhaps two or three products) for ADHD, attention deficit, poor concentration and memory, and for use during times of extra need such as exams and tests, will include the following (approximate quantities included as found in Heart-Brain-Body Support):
- 10-20mg Ginkgo biloba
- Vitamin C, 400 mg in two divided doses; the evening dose together with a calcium and magnesium supplement
- Vitamins B1-B5, about 20-25 mg of each
- Vitamin B12, 25 micrograms
- Folic acid, 400 micrograms
- Calcium, 500-600 mg
- Magnesium, 250-300 mg
- Zinc, 15 mg
- Inositol, 50 mg
- Choline, 50 mg
- Chromium, 100 micrograms
- Vanadium, 50 micrograms
- Molybdenum, 100 micrograms
- L-glutamine, 250 mg
- L-taurine, 250 mg
- Glycine, 250 mg
- Starflower or Evening Primrose oil, 500mg
- Salmon oil, 600mg
Many young children get from middle ear infection, hyperactivity or both. The usual treatment includes antibiotics and grommets. The broad spectrum antibiotic destroys both the beneficial and the harmful bacteria. Research has shown that more than 75 per cent of middle ear infections are caused by a virus and that antibiotics are ineffective as treatment. Taking antibiotics only leads to fungal infections (thrush or candida). Studies at the University of Colorado’s Health Science Centre and the Yeshiva Medical School in New York, have shown that children with recurring ear infections are three and a half times more prone to hyperactivity. Overproduction of Candida albicans may well be the common factor. The fungus secretes toxins which weaken the immune system and induce more infections. Candida can also cause irritation of the nervous system.
Try to put such a child on a natural alternative to antibiotics for a few weeks, Lactobacillus acidophilus or Bifidobacterium bijidus, a supplement for the respiratory system and wholesome food, including live yoghurt cultures. In addition take essential fatty acids and a calcium and magnesium supplement and notice what happens. This regime should work for any child with recurring infections.
Children with hyperactivity often have allergies as well. The culprits are usually milk, wheat, chocolate, eggs and cereals. Sugar can also aggravate the condition. Children who have sugar sensitive symptoms of hyperactivity, may have an underlying candida infection.