Thursday, September 20, 2012

3 Ways to Improve Attention Deficit Symptoms

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 5.2 million children are diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder in the United States today. In fact, the number of children diagnosed with attention deficit disorder increased by 21.8% over the four year time span from 2003 to 2007. The growing number of diagnoses are disturbing because this condition can effect the social, academic, and even physical development of our children and may also be responsible for the decreased productivity and concentration that we've seen in the workplace due to adults that are suffering from ADD as well.

So what is Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)? It's a growing diagnosis that is based off a questionnaire or rating from parents and teachers and a short subjective evaluation from a doctor of child's intelligence, social, emotional, or attention function. A medical examination is not necessary and there are no definitive test to diagnose this condition. As you can tell this diagnosis is highly subjective and can be interpreted differently between practitioners and different environments.

After a diagnosis of ADD or ADHD is made, parents are frequently encouraged to begin a lifetime medicine regiment in order to keep symptoms under control. Most frequently children are placed on Ritalin which is a Schedule II Controlled Substance that is in the same class as morphine and cocaine. This class of medications are highly addictive and have the greatest potential for abuse. This medication is not specific to children with ADD or ADHD and similar calming effects can be seen in normal children not suffering from the condition. In addition, many parents are not properly informed about the serious side effects or long term damage that can be caused from this medication. For example, studies on Ritalin have found that it impairs blood flow to the brain that can impair thinking, learning, and cause memory loss in addition to causing brain shrinkage and permanent physical abnormalities that can affect children and adults for the rest of their life. In addition, some studies have revealed a worsening of hyperactivity and inattention in children undergoing pharmaceutical treatment with this medication. Long term treatment with this medication will usually alter brain levels of serotonin and can lead to depression later in life that may require further medication.

So how can you improve symptoms of ADD and ADHD naturally? Recent studies on children suffering from ADD and ADHD have found many instances of nutritional deficiencies in essential fatty acids and proteins that are the essential building blocks of our brain, nerves, hormones, and muscles. Without these building blocks our bodies do not have the capacity to upkeep the nervous system function that is required for proper brain function and communication with the rest of the body. As a result, many physical symptoms such as inattentiveness, emotional withdrawl, and even clumsiness can result. An evaluation of your child's nervous system function and a nutritional assessment to check for deficiencies in these building blocks or any vital vitamins and minerals can be a large part in improving the body and brain function in your child or yourself. In addition, many of these children have alteration of their primary senses such as smell and taste that can affect their diet and contribute to food allergies and nutritional deficiencies. I have found that comprehensive allergy testing for sensitivities or intolerance can be a valuable tool in identifying underlying factors that may further complicate gut absorption of these essential nutrients and contribute to these deficiencies.

So what do I recommend?

1. Have your child's nervous system evaluated by a specialist. Chiropractors are trained to assess nervous system function and can assess not only any undetected nerve damage that can contribute to altered brain function or communication but can also identify any sensory disabilities that I have mentioned above.

2. Have your child's diet assessed for deficiencies or possible allergens that can complicate nutrient absorption. Some dieticians may be trained to perform this kind of evaluation, but I always recommend looking to a clinic that specializes in assessing children with ADD. There are certain markers and  trends in children with ADD and ADHD that can only be properly evaluated by a specialist or someone well versed in treating children with ADD and ADHD.

3. Comprehensive allergy testing is a must for children who's nutritional assessment shows abnormalities. This testing can reveal sensitivity or intolerance to many food additives, preservatives, or even main food products that can cause gut inflammation and affect nutrient absorption. Skin scratch testing may not be enough in most cases as there may be reaction at a cellular level in the body so I recommend a comprehensive test in a laboratory to check for blood reaction to allergens.

4. If you'd like more information on natural ways to improve symptoms of ADD or ADHD , I'd highly recommend attending the  Drug-Free ADD and ADHD Solutions presentation and workshop at Naturally Yours in Peoria on Saturday September 22nd at 10am.