ADHD – 10 Steps Before Ritalin

Please note that ADHD refers to Attention Deficit Disorder with or without Hyperactivity.

This article gives a broad approach to what can be done for children with ADHD before commencing Ritalin or any other related medication.  Bear in mind that there is a definite place for medication in the treatment of ADHD, and it has helped many a child through a crisis.  However there is a lot more that can be done to help these children before commencing the drug route.  Genetic and environmental factors are some of the factors to be considered.

Step 1: Hydration
Most people are chronically dehydrated simply because they don’t drink enough water:

  • Drink filtered water
  • Use water from glass or stainless steel containers.
  • Avoid sterile or distilled water, avoid plastic bottles
  • Avoid sweetened fruit juices, and eliminate colas.

The bottom line is: drink more water.

Step 2: Methylation
Homocysteine levels provide a measure of the body’s methylation process which is the body’s ability to maintain chemical balance.

  • High homocysteine levels can affect the brain contributing to depression, poor concentration, poor memory, sleeping problems, mood swings and anxiety.
  • There is a strong genetic component, especially in the SA population.

Treatment requires B-vitamins: Folic acid B3, B6, and B12.

Step 3: Glycation
Stable sugar levels are the key to brain health.  Glucose is the most important brain nutrient but too much of it damages nerve cells.  It can cause inflammation in the brain and this is called glycation.

  • Around 50% of nutrient intake should be complex, slow releasing, carbohydrates.
  • According to research excess white sugar and refined carbohydrates can lead to low IQ, bad behavior, depression, eating disorders and learning disabilities.

Normalise sugar levels by excluding most breakfast cereals, sweetened fruit juices, colas, fizzy drinks, biscuits and high energy sweets.  Eliminate food chemicals and preservatives. More than a 1000 of these compounds have been indicated as active anti-nutrients.  Natural is always better.

Step 4: Lipidation
The human brain, on average, consists of 80% water.  The dry weight of the brain is 60% fat; and these should be good fats rather than bad fats.  Research shows that what you think and what you feel totally depends upon the amount and type of fats eaten on a daily basis.

  • Trans fatty acids are the really bad fats for the brain.  They are chemically altered fats and become embedded in the cell membranes.
  • Hydrogenated fats are bad.
  • Cut down drastically on all bad fats.
  • Saturated fats are important but should be less than 10% of the total fat intake.
  • Omega 3 is a good fat and provides EPA and DHA.

Symptoms of insufficient good fats include:

  • Chronic thirst, dry unmanageable hair, brittle soft nails, ear and sinus infections, memory and concentration problems as well as vision problems.

At least have 2 – 3 fatty fishy meals a week.

Step 5: Supplements
We are not getting sufficient nutrients from the foods we eat.  Organic supplements are best as they come from whole food products.

Supplementation should include:

  • Most important: a well balanced multivitamin in the morning.
  • B vitamins (including folic acid) taken morning and evening.
  • Lecithin E (Lecithin combined with Vit E).  Phospholipids improve insulation around brain cells.  Can use up to 5g per day.
  • Omega 3 – EFA’s.  High dosages to be divided into morning and night servings.
  • Antioxidant supplementation – not enough antioxidants in fruit and vegetables alone.
  • Calcium Magnesium and Vit D – divided dosage morning and evening.

Supplements do not replace healthy eating, they are added to the diet.  Supplements are not medication – they are what the body needs to grow and maintain.

Step 6: Allergies
Children are eating up to 5kg artificial additives every year.  These can cause reactions in the body and children with ADHD are 7 times more likely to have reactions.  90% of children with ADHD are likely to have food allergies. The most common foods can be tested by using the IGg food sensitivity test profile.

Step 7: High Stress Levels
These are linked to the inability to adapt and cope with situations. Children with ADHD are more likely to be in trouble with parents, teachers and others.

  • This causes excessive stress which affects adrenal hormone levels which also affects brain function – especially forgetfulness.

Help these children with:

  • psychological support
  • exercise
  • avoiding intake of sugars, refined carbohydrates
  • well structured home environment
  • using natural stress relief products eg GABA

Step 8: Sleep Hygiene
Adequate sleep is vitally important for brain health.  Not getting enough sleep is another stressor to the body.

Have a good sleep routine:

  • Regular bedtimes – going to sleep and waking up at regular hours.
  • Have regular hours of sleep
  • Keep sugar levels even.
  • Ensure that your balance of vitamins and minerals contain B6 and zinc
  • Take regular exercise
  • Use natural sleep agents – eg take Calcium-Magnesium supplements at dinner time.

Step 9: Colon Health 
A healthy colon – a  healthy child – a healthy brain.
There are 10x more bacteria in the large intestine than there are cells in the body.  Problems arise when these flora are abnormal. We need the correct colon bacteria as well as adequate water for normal colon function.

Leaky gut syndrome can cause food sensitivities.

90% of serotonin is manufactured in the colon.  Insufficient serotonin can cause depression and anxiety.

Chronic constipation can be auto intoxicating and lead to many problems. Regular bowel movement and a normal gastro-colic reflex is important for long term colon health.

Children need colon training:

  • Teach regular bowel habits.
  • Need enough water
  • Less refined sugars and refined carbohydrates.
  • Have enough omega 3 EFAs and supplements
  • Regular exercise
  • Probiotics – Prebiotics and digestive enzymes.

Step 10: Psychology and Behaviour
ADHD is a stressor and a challenge affecting every area of a child’s life.  Be very careful with labelling affected children.  Remember they are very special individuals.

  • Use behaviour therapy to change certain behaviours by increasing the frequency of acceptable behaviour with rewards and positive feedback.
  • Consider your attitude to children with ADHD.
  • What is your belief system and what is that of your children.
  • What confidence do you have in children with ADHD.

We raise these children with no self belief and no confidence, and forget the exceptional qualities and talents of individuals with ADHD.

When using their creativity and natural drive ADHD people are often more adapted to the modern day lifestyle, often coping better in the work place.  Others are starting to see them in different ways which acknowledge their strengths, and new labels are emerging such as “Latent Entrepreneur Personality Type”, acknowledging that ADHD is not a deficit or a disease.

Changing a few things in the life of ADHD kids can prevent the damaging labels, maintain self esteem, and help them to be normal well functioning adults.

Extracted from a talk by Dr Hein Badenhorst