According to a US Government survey 1 out of 10 children are diagnosed with ADHD. and approximately tow thirds of the children diagnosed are on some sort of medication. This statistic is very alarming due to the steady increase (22% since 2003) in children who are being diagnosed.
Why so many more children are being diagnosed has a lot of experts scratching their heads.
Researchers suggested growing awareness and better screening may be responsible for the rising numbers, but there are a number of food additives that experts think may worsen ADHD as well. They include:
- Blue #1 and #2 food coloring
- Green #3
- Orange B
- Red #3 and #40
- Yellow #5 and #6
- Sodium benzoate, a preservative
The real problem is that there is no real objective test to determine ADHD such as a blood test or brain imaging test so there is plenty of room for interpretation. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Health Economics determined that about 20 percent of children have likely been misdiagnosed. That’s nearly 1 million children in the United States alone.
The study found that many of the youngest children in any given grade level are perceived as exhibiting “symptoms” of ADHD, such as fidgeting and inability to concentrate, simply because they’re younger and being compared to their older, more mature classmates.
Statistics indicated that the youngest students were 60 percent more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than the oldest in the same grade!
As you can see, diagnosing ADHD can be a little tricky. Along with inattention and hyperactive-impulsive behavior, the two “hallmarks” of the disorder, children may also show the following symptoms:
- Frequent fidgeting or squirming
- Feels restless or often runs and climbs excessively, or leaves his or her seat in the classroom when not appropriate
- Has difficulty playing quietly
- Talks excessively, interrupts often, and may blurt out answers to questions at inappropriate times
- Always seems on the go
- Has difficulty waiting his or her turn
The truth is, these “symptoms” could describe most children at one time or another! Therefore, only those who struggle with inattention and hyperactive or impulsive behaviors around the clock are candidates for the ADHD label, but it is frequently given to many other children as well.
Are the medications safe?
The real concern isn’t just that so many children are being diagnosed or misdiagnosed, it is that two thirds of them are put on drugs, such as Ritalin, that potentially have harmful side effects.
Unfortunately, U.S. pharmacists distribute five times more Ritalin than the rest of the world combined, according to Dr. Samuel Epstein’s Cancer Prevention Coalition (CPC). In all, 60 percent to 90 percent of U.S. kids with attention deficit disorders are prescribed this powerful drug, which amounts to 3 percent to 5 percent of U.S. children and teens on Ritalin.
By definition, Ritalin stimulates your central nervous system, leading to side effects such as:
- Increased blood pressure
- Increased heart rate
- Increased body temperature
- Increased alertness
- Suppressed appetite
Research has also linked Ritalin with more severe health problems such as cancer as well as an increased probability of suicidal thoughts and behavior.
Ritalin also has the same pharmacological profile as cocaine, yet its effects are even more potent. Using brain imaging, scientists have found that, in pill form, Ritalin occupies more of the neural transporters responsible for the “high” experienced by addicts than smoked or injected cocaine.
Is food that important?
More and more research is being conducted illustrating the connection between your child’s diet and their behavioral challenges.
Among them, exposure to food additives including preservatives and food coloring may cause ADHD-like symptoms. These chemicals have a particularly pernicious synergy if they are combined with sugars such as fructose.
For instance, a study published in the journal The Lancet concluded that a variety of common food dyes, and the preservative sodium benzoate — found in many soft drinks, fruit juices and salad dressings — cause some children to become measurably more hyperactive and distractible.
The study also found that the E-numbered food dyes (such as tartrazine (E102), ponceau 4R (E124), sunset yellow (E110), carmoisine (E122), quinoline yellow (E104) and allura red AC (E129) do as much damage to children’s brains as lead in gasoline, resulting in a significant reduction in IQ.
The results of this study prompted the British Food Standards Agency (FSA) to issue an immediate advisory to parents, warning them to limit their children’s intake of additives if they notice an effect on behavior. They also advised the food industry to voluntarily remove the six food dyes named in the study in 2009 and replace them with natural alternatives if possible.
Unfortunately, the United States has issued no such warning.
Other sources of food that are wreaking havoc on children’s bodies are High Fructose Corn Syrup, sugar, grain, and other processed foods laden with preservatives and chemicals such as MSG (Monosodium Glutamate).
What many people fail to understand is that our bodies require specific fuel to operate appropiately and when it is given the wrong fuel performance is altered. This principle is also true for children. In fact, children need the correct nutrients more than adults due to their developing body and organs.
Children get too much sugar in their daily diet. Between the cereals laden with sugar and artificial sweeteners, juices, and other breakfast pastries, children often get 50-100 grams of sugar to start their day off with! You would be shocked if you read the nutrient labels of your children’s foods and added up the sugar content in them.
Natural solutions to treating ADHD
The following are recommendations to treat your child’s ADHD naturally prior to resorting to the medication:
- Eliminate most grains and sugars from your child’s diet. Grains and sugars both tend to cause allergies in sensitive individuals. Even organic, whole grain can cause problems in many children so it would be wise to give them a grain holiday and see if their behavior improves.
- Replace soft drinks (whether diet and regular), fruit juices, and pasteurized milk with pure, clean non-fluoridated water. While you may believe fruit juices are a healthy option to soda, they aren’t and need to be avoided as strictly as soda does.
- Increase omega-3 fats by taking a high quality animal-based omega-3 oil. Research has confirmed that something as simple as animal-based omega-3 fat can improve the symptoms of ADHD more effectively than drugs like Ritalin and Concerta. In my view, krill oil is the best option for this. It contains essential EPA and DHA in a double chain phospholipid structure that makes it far more absorbable than the omega-3s in fish oil.
- Minimize your use of nearly all processed fats, especially trans fats as they disrupt nerve cell intercommunication.
- Avoid all processed foods, especially those containing artificial colors, flavors and preservatives, which may trigger or worsen symptoms.
- Clear your house of dangerous pesticides and other commercial chemicals. Pesticide exposure has been linked with ADHD.
- Avoid commercial washing detergents and cleaning products used on clothes, and replace them with naturally derived cleaning products with no added perfumes, softeners, etc.
- Spend more time in nature. Researchers have found that exposing ADHD children to nature is an affordable, healthy way of controlling symptoms.
- Investigate sensory therapy and emotional wellness tools. Instead of looking for a quick fix, encourage ADHD sufferers to talk, and find out what emotions are causing issues. You may want to consider the energy tapping techniques to improve emotional coping and healing.