ADHD is one of the most common neurobehavioral disorders of childhood and approximately 70% of children diagnosed with ADHD will also have it into adulthood. ADHD affects a child’s academic development in many ways. Children that cannot concentrate or are hyperactive usually perform poorly in both academics and sports. This fosters a frustrating relationship between the child, teachers and parents, ultimately impacting self-esteem.
We have had a lot of success in managing children with ADHD without medications, but I often warn parents, that every child is unique and there is no one size fits all type strategy. There are patterns that seem to be consistent amongst these children such as diet; most children with ADHD benefit from a low sugar, high protein diet. Protein provides the building blocks for the neurotransmitters. Children with ADHD should begin their day with a high protein breakfast and they often need to eat frequently throughout the day. Sugar should be kept under 6 tsp. per day or approximately 40 grams. As a mother, I am aware that the majority of children’s breakfast foods and snacks are full of sugar.
The most common nutritional deficiencies associated with ADHD are the B vitamins, magnesium and the healthy fats, including both omega 3 and omega 9 fats. Ironically, these are the same micronutrients critical for a healthy neurotransmitter balance. Sleep is also critical for children with ADHD. These children need 10 hrs. of sleep per night, while adults need at least 8 hrs. I have had tremendous success with these strategies. I have also use supplements like gingko biloba and phosphatidyl serine. While they are all helpful, the key is to understand each patient’s unique biotype for ADHD, and their underlying functional medicine diagnosis.
Each child has a unique biotype and a specific reason for their ADHD. Evaluate your lifestyle and see if it fits your child’s needs. Insist on a consistent sleep cycle, high protein diet, and limited electronic use. I would even argue that our schools might need to go back to pencil and paper at least until 6th grade.
Schools and school/classroom placement are critical to a child’s success, especially a child with ADHD. These children need smaller classrooms, more intervention through the day, and teacher support. We cannot expect all children to perform in a classroom of 30 with 1-2 providers. Schools and school boards need to shift to a service-based classroom, where children are place in smaller rooms with limited distractions. These children do not need electronics to learn. They often benefit from the stimulation of using a pencil, learning outdoors or learning through movement and creativity.
ADHD, like many diseases we battle today, is the result of a complex interaction of chemical, environmental, and emetic influences. Using medication only is a quick fix, band-aid approach. Understanding the individual biotype and affecting factors is critical in ensuring ADHD success without medication mismanagement.