Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Natural Treatments to Try Before ADHD Medication

We have been spending a lot of time recently on medications for ADHD. However, one question we should always be asking ourselves is: "Are medications always necessary?".

Believe it or not, there are a number of nutritional deficiencies that can trigger ADHD-like symptoms or worsen the disorder. There are definitely instances where merely fixing key nutritional imbalances over a period of a few weeks can lead to positive results.

Before we go any further, we need to examine how this all works out. It helps to think of ADHD as a puzzle, where one or more pieces are missing. If we can correctly fill in the missing puzzle piece(s), then we can treat the disorder. Of course this is oversimplifying it a bit, and no, nutritional and "natural" strategies do not always work. Nevertheless, I believe they are grossly under-utilized. After all, if a vitamin supplement gave the same results as an amphetamine-based drug, which one would you choose for you or your child? The answer is a no-brainer.

Based on a keynote article on Ritalin vs. supplement treatments for ADHD, which is frequently cited by the "natural cures for ADHD" crowd, we see compelling (albeit limited) evidence that natural supplementation can be as effective as Ritalin for treating ADHD. It sounds intriguing, but it is also important to note that too much weight is often placed on this study. Why? Because all of this information is based on the results of only 20 individuals (10 whom took the Ritalin and 10 who took the dietary supplements). Of course we should not discount the research because of a small sample size, but out of the millions who suffer from ADHD, do we really want to hinge a bunch of expectations on 20 individuals? Nevertheless, the results are worth reporting and are due much further investigation.

Here are 9 different possibilities cited by the article for nutritional deficiencies or environmental factors which could affect the onset of ADHD (I subdivided one of the categories, there are only 8 in the original article). I will list them here, and investigate each one in more detail in later posts:

  1. Food allergies and food additives
  2. Toxic effects of heavy metals or environmental contaminants
  3. Protein-carbohydrate imbalances
  4. Mineral deficiencies or imbalances
  5. Fatty acid deficiencies or imbalances
  6. Amino acid deficiencies or imbalances
  7. Thyroid dysfunction and iodine deficiencies
  8. B vitamin deficiencies
  9. Antioxidant levels, including phytonutrients and polyphenols (found in fruits, vegetables, coffee, teas, wines, beer and a few other sources).

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