Inattention, forgetfulness, impulsive behaviour, restlessness, severe frustration, bed-wetting, and disruptive behaviour – do these behaviours ring a bell in relation to your child? If so, they may be suffering from ADD/ADHD which could result in a lack of focus at school and poor social skills.
Recently the New York Times reported that attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD) is being diagnosed in nearly 1 in 5 high school-age boys in the United States and 11% of school-age children. That represents a 16% increase since 2007 and a 41% increase over the past decade. In Hong Kong and according to the Child Assessment Service, 6.1% of boys are diagnosed with ADD.
Despite being one of the most commonly studied and diagnosed disorders in children and adolescents, the cause in most cases remains unclear. However, research scientists have indicated that it involves genetic and environmental factors affecting the brain’s chemical nerve transmitter levels. The traditional route to management – counselling and medication via drugs such as Ritalin – is commonly used but the long-term effects of this medication is not clear.
The Contributing Factors and the Drug-free Options
There are several contributing factors to learning and behavioural problems and many of these are nutrition and lifestyle related including food additives, unstable blood sugar levels, food intolerances, intestinal infections, nutritional deficiency and neurotoxins.
Removing Food Additives
It is possible that certain food additives may act as a trigger in those who are genetically predisposed. In 2007, UK’s Food Standards Agency financed a study that presented evidence that a mix of additives commonly found in children’s foods increases the mean level of hyperactivity.
Sugar has long been suspected to be a culprit behind ADHD symptoms, however research has yet to collect conclusive evidence to validate the connection. Naturally, if the child shows a tired spell when hungry then maintaining a diet with regular meals helps. Breakfast is especially important for school going children. Around a third of Hong Kong children don’t eat breakfast before school. This results in children struggling to concentrate during the school daya hungry brain cannot concentrate.
“Removing sugar, sodas, or white-flour junk food from the diet is often the only thing needed in this situation, along with supplements that help balance blood sugar,” recommends IMI’s Licensed Naturopathic Physician Dr Benita Perch (ND)”.
Removing Food Intolerance and Gut Infections
In Natural Medicine, the gut is considered the cause of many health issues, not just those related to digestion. Food intolerances can cause a low-grade inflammation in the body, including the brain.
The link between food sensitivities and behaviour is clear. A study in the Netherlands in 2002 revealed that 62% of children aged 3 to 7, when given an elimination diet, showed a 50% improvement in behaviour.
Getting the Critical Brain Nutrients
Studies show that omega 3 fatty acids, zinc and magnesium appear to reduce ADHD-related symptoms in some children. Modern-style diets, loaded with refined sugars and processed chemicals, often provide a low-quality nutrition profile. When the body is deficient in the critical nutrients, it will exhibit both mental and physical symptoms.
“Supplementation of magnesium and calcium daily, along with suitable omega-3 products is a good idea,” recommends Dr Perch.
Removing the Neurotoxins, Heavy Metals
It’s no surprise that our lives are impacted by our environment which today, more than ever, is surrounded by synthetic chemicals which are completely foreign to human physiology. Data has shown that infants born nowadays have measurable amounts of up to 200 pollutants. This is especially relevant in Hong Kong given the acknowledged poor air quality.
Research links ADHD with high heavy metal levels, especially lead, aluminium, cadmium and mercury.
“Prevention should begin before a woman gets pregnant,” advises Dr Perch. “It’s beneficial to do a mild to moderate detox—healthy eating, exercise, saunas, and gentle detox supplements—for 6 to 12 months before attempting to conceive.”
Supporting Structural Integrity – a natural approach
Just like adults, a child’s neurological function is affected by structural stress and tensions and can be supported by osteopathy.
Retained birth stresses can have implications on subsequent development of the brain and body, as there is much growth and development yet to occur in the brain, which can be delayed or impaired by restriction within the skull.
“Excessive crying, excessive wind, colic, feeding problems can be indications of retained stresses along with head banging or pulling at the hair,” explains one of IMI’s Osteopaths.
Benefits of Osteopathy for structural integrity
Osteopathy is a gentle, painless yet highly efficient soft tissue and cranial bone treatment. It aims to enhance neurological functions and resolves the recuperative powers of the child’s body. An experienced Osteopath can provide evaluations and treatments from birth and throughout a child’s development for those with identified ADD/ADHD.
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CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder): http://www.chadd.org
Attention Deficit Disorder Association (The World’s Leading Adult AD/HD Organization): http://www.add.org
Special Education Service, Education and Manpower Bureau, Hong Kong: http://www.edb.gov.hk/en/edu-system/special/about-special/index.html
Food Allergy Network: http://www.foodallergy.org