Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are relatively new conditions known in Western medicine, but they have quickly become the most commonly diagnosed childhood health issue. While many children grow out of ADD/ADHD, the condition can last through adolescence and young adulthood.
People with ADD/ADHD commonly experience:
- Difficulty staying focused
- Difficulty paying attention
- Difficulty controlling behavior
ADD/ADHD presents differently in everyone it effects. Some are predominantly hyperactive, while others are predominantly inattentive. Still others can experience a combination of hyperactivity and inattentiveness.
Patients diagnosed with ADD/ADHD may also have other conditions or challenges such as learning disabilities, oppositional defiant disorder, conduct disorder, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder or even Tourette’s syndrome.
Doctors and researchers don’t know exactly what causes ADD/ADHD, but they believe several factors can contribute to it:
- Genetics-a gene has been identified that causes tissue in the brain where ‘attention’ is tends to be thinner than normal. Usually, as the child grows, the brain tissue grows to normal thickness.
- Brain injury
- Sugar and sweetener intake
- Food additives-artificial colors and preservatives are linked to increases in ADD/ADHD
- Environmental factors-children exposed to cigarette smoke or alcohol while in utero, lead found in paint and plumbing and other environmental factors can contribute toe ADD/ADHD
The National Institute of Mental Health recommends a combination of prescription drugs and mental health therapy to treat ADD/ADHD.
While this may work for some patients, the side effects of the prescriptions drugs-including cardiovascular (heart and blood) problems, psychiatric problems such as suicidal thoughts, becoming manic, paranoia and/or hallucinations, stroke, or sudden death.
There is no medical cure for ADD/ADHD. Pharmaceuticals may help to manage symptoms. Psychiatric therapy helps the patient develop coping skills.
People who suffer from ADD/ADHD have options in managing their condition. There are many recognized natural treatments that can help manage symptoms, which also helps the patient better cope with daily life:
- Diet – Minimize intake of processed sugars and processed carbs. Eliminate exposure to food additives such as artificial colors, artificial flavors and preservatives. Essentially, eliminate any processed food from the diet. Put the patient on a regular eating schedule. Three meals a day may not be enough. The diet may need to be supplemented with healthy snacks in between meals to prevent spikes in blood sugar and adrenaline levels. Add fiber to the diet through leafy greens, vegetables, steel-cut oatmeal, berries and whole grains.
- Behavioral Therapy – parents and children both benefit from participating in behavioral therapy such as Interactive Metronome Training for children, and parenting-skills classes for parents.
- Create a routine – children with ADD/ADHD benefit from a rigid schedule that let them know what’s expected of them and when. For instance, when they will be at school, when they will do homework, when they will do chores, when they can play with friends. Create a schedule and stick to it.
- Minimize exposure to television – The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no television for children under 2 years old, and no more than 2 hours a day for children older than 2 years old. While the link between watching television and ADD/ADHD is unclear, it is known that helping children develop attention skills can be achieved through activities such as puzzles, games, reading out loud, or using building blocks.