ADHD -- Causes and Top 10 Natural
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October 30, 2010, last updated June 8, 2014

By Louise Carr, Contributing Columnist


Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is on the rise in
America. ADHD is the name given to a collection of behavioral
symptoms including inattentiveness, impulsiveness and
hyperactivity. ADHD can affect the areas of the brain which solve
problems, plan ahead and control impulses.

Experiencing ADHD can be traumatic for both parents and
children but a lot remains unknown about this condition. Even
experts don’t fully understand if ADHD is an extreme form of
normal behavior or a separate condition.

For a parent, ADHD can be especially confusing, isolating and
worrying. If your child has ADHD, you may feel like you’re the
only one but ADHD is a fairly common condition. According to the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, diagnosis of ADHD
increased an average of 3 percent every year between 1997 and
2006. In the United States, 3 to 7 percent of school-aged children
suffer from ADHD. According to the National Health Service, 3 to 9
percent of school children in the UK have ADHD.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates the
annual cost of ADHD to be between $36 and $52 billion. A high
monetary toll, true, but the cost to society and to children’s health
may be much higher.

Young people affected by ADHD are more likely to underachieve
at school, behave antisocially and have less positive interactions
with other children. Children with ADHD are at greater risk of
substance abuse and may suffer from anxiety disorder,
depression, sleep problems and learning difficulties, although

ADHD does not affect children’s intelligence. All children have a
tendency to hyperactivity - which child can still for more than 10
seconds? But what makes ADHD different from regular kids’
behavior? Recent research suggests supplements and natural
remedies can improve symptoms of ADHD. Which natural
remedies work best against ADHD? Do certain diets improve the
symptoms of ADHD?

Causes of ADHD

Experts believe ADHD is characterized by a disconnection between
important brain regions and it lowers brain activity in certain
areas. No one knows for certain what causes a child to develop
ADHD.

Recent 2010 research from the Cardiff University School of
Medicine, UK, claimed to find the first conclusive evidence that
ADHD has genetic links. Researchers looked at 366 children with
ADHD and 1,047 children without ADHD and compared their DNA.
Research found 14 percent of children with ADHD had a rare
variation in their DND that was only found in 7 percent of the
control group. But because the researchers say “there is no single
gene behind ADHD, and the work is at too early a stage to lead to
any test for the disorder,” further studies are needed.

Environmental factors also play a part in ADHD, say experts.
Pregnant women who smoke or take drugs increase their risk of
having a child with ADHD. Exposure to certain chemicals and lead
is shown to increase the risk of ADHD. A 2010 study from the
Boston University School of Public Health linked polyfluoroalkyl
chemicals (PFCs) – industrial compounds used in many common
products like food packaging, foams and stain-resistant coatings
– with ADHD in children.

What Are the Symptoms of ADHD?

Symptoms of ADHD can be split into two categories – symptoms
of inattentiveness and symptoms of hyperactivity and
impulsiveness.

Inattentiveness means your child has an extremely short attention
span, is easily distracted, forgetful, unable to concentrate, unable
to listen to and follow instructions and makes careless mistakes.

Hyperactivity means your child is unable to sit still, constantly
fidgets and makes excessive movements. Impulsiveness is not
being able to wait in line for a turn, acting without thinking,
breaking rules and interrupting. Children with ADHD may seem
not to listen when you speak to them directly and lack interest in
tasks that require sustained effort. They may often lose school
books, toys, pencils and pens. Children may squirm and fidget,
run and climb too much, talk constantly, interrupt other children
and blurt out answers before you’ve finished answering the
question.

However, children often go through these stages and drive
parents crazy with unreasonable behavior. 2007 research from
the Tickbox Survey in the UK found over half the British public felt
ADHD was an excuse for uncontrollable behavior and not a clinical
condition. How do you know if your child has ADHD or is simply
behaving badly?

Is My Child Hyperactive or Suffering From ADHD?



























Not all impulsive, hyperactive and inattentive behavior is ADHD.
Young children often can’t sit through a whole story and
teenagers are extremely erratic about homework hours, computer
use and eating patterns.

To be diagnosed with ADHD, hyperactive and impulsive behavior
must be  seen to last for longer than six months and regularly
disrupts everyday life. It is more likely to be ADHD if the behavior
consistently occurs both at home and at school. Seeing a
specialist can help clear up any concerns.

But diagnosing ADHD is difficult. Many experts believe there are
problems with the way ADHD is diagnosed in the United States. A
2010 study from Michigan State University suggests almost one
million children are potentially misdiagnosed because they are the
youngest in their school year – the youngest are twice as likely to
be on ADHD medication. Another 2010 study from North Carolina
(NC) State University, Notre Dame and the University of
Minnesota found children born just before the cut-off date for
kindergarten – relatively young among their classmates – were
more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD.

Diagnosis of ADHD is even harder in adults. Inattentiveness,
hyperactivity and impulsiveness affect adults very differently to
children. Adult ADHD sufferers may lack attention to detail, have
poor organizational skills, suffer from an inability to prioritize and
be forgetful. Adults with ADHD are often restless, have difficulty
keeping quiet, and suffer from mood swings, extreme impatience,
irritability and inability to deal with stress.

That’s not to say a disorganized adult who can’t prioritize has
ADHD. Symptoms of ADHD can also be common behavioral issues
and part of a person’s personality. Different conditions can also
produce similar symptoms. ADHD is different from schizophrenia,
or bipolar disorder, and other personality disorders that cause
your mood to swing between extremes. However, adults with
ADHD are likely to suffer from related conditions such as these at
the same time as ADHD. Similarly, autism and ADHD are different
conditions but there is overlap in terms of symptoms and a
possible overlap in genetic make-up.

Update:

New research has found that certain foods, particularly foods
high in omega-3 fatty acids, can delay or prevent the onset of a
schizophrenic break in young adults. Read more about
foods that
fight schizophrenia.

Who’s More Likely to Suffer From ADHD?

ADHD is more commonly diagnosed in boys. According to the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 9.5 percent of boys
suffer compared to 5.9 percent of girls. However, because ADHD
in girls tends to be associated with inattentive symptoms rather
than disruptive behavior – dreaminess or quietness as opposed to
frequent interruptions and constant talking – it may be under-
diagnosed in girls. A diagnosis of ADHD is most often made before
the age of seven.

ADHD can be with you for a lifetime. The UK’s National Health
Service estimates that two-thirds of children with ADHD continue
to have symptoms at the age of 25. Many famous adults are
known to have ADHD, including Jim Carey, Dustin Hoffman, Robin
Williams, Whoopi Goldberg and Sylvester Stallone. Experts are
unsure whether ADHD occurs in adults without being present in
childhood.

ADHD is a treatable condition and children and adults are less at
risk of out-of-control behavior if they take medication or behavior
intervention therapy. However, the use of stimulants to control
the symptoms of ADHD has met with concern – recent issues exist
over cases of sudden unexplained death, addiction and adverse
psychological effects. Are there alternative ways to manage the
symptoms of ADHD? Which natural remedies are most effective at
lessening the impact of ADHD?

Top 10 Natural Remedies for ADHD

1. Do Omega-3's Help ADHD?

A body of recent evidence suggests omega-3 fatty acids offer a
promising natural alternative to conventional drugs to treat ADHD.
Omega-3 fatty acids are “good fats” that contribute to your
overall health as well as brain function.

A 2006 research study from the University of Oxford, UK, shows
fish oil alleviates the symptoms of ADHD in some children, as does
2009 research from the School of Pharmacy, University of
Southern California.

A 2009 study from Göteborg University, Göteborg, Sweden
looked at 75 children and teens who took omega-3 supplements.
While many did not respond in the first three months to omega-
3s, 26 percent of the group responded with a 25 percent
reduction in ADHD symptoms. After six months, 47 percent of the
group showed improvements. Omega-3s are beneficial for a
whole host of reasons so there’s no reason not to include them in
your child’s diet.

Which omega-3 sources should you prefer? Always start with
fresh food--salmon, tuna, halibut and sardines and walnuts all are
rich natural sources of omega-3 fatty acids.  As for supplements,
both
fish oil pills and krill oil are good candidates to try.

2.
Diet Affects the Symptoms of ADHD

While omega-3s have shown promise in treating ADHD, many
experts suggest looking at the entire diet in order to reduce
symptoms. A 2010 study from the Telethon Institute for Child
Health Research in Perth, Australia showed an association
between a “Western-style” diet and ADHD in teens. A “Western-
style” diet is characterized by processed, fried, refined foods,
saturated fat and sugar and was associated with more than
double the risk of an ADHD diagnosis than a diet high in fresh
fruit and vegetables, fish and whole grains – plus omega-3s - in
1,800 teens.

Experts have also tested a more extreme diet. When 40 children
aged three to seven with ADHD followed an elimination diet for
two weeks, based on the “few foods” diet of rice, turkey, pear
and lettuce, 62 percent of the children showed an improvement in
behavior on the Conner’s list and the ADHD Rating Scale. The
2002 research was from the ADHD Research Centre, The
Netherlands. However, 23 percent of the children withdrew from
the study after being unable to stick to the diet or falling ill. Strict
diets are not recommended for children as they increase the
chance of missing vital nutrients, and are probably impossible to
get children to follow. Are there any specific foods to avoid if
your child has ADHD? Many experts suggest cutting out caffeine
and cutting down on sugar but evidence for special diets is
inconclusive.

Update:

In 2012, a team of researchers from Seoul National University of
Medicine in Korea found a strong connection between the type of
diet children eat and the incidence of behavioral, learning and
attention problems. The study of 986 children found that, in
general, children whose diets consisted of more fatty foods,
sweetened desserts and salt had a high percentage of behavioral,
learning and attention problems, while children with balanced
diets had fewer behavioral problems. In particular, children had
fewer behavioral, learning and attention  problems if their diets
included higher intakes of dairy and more vegetables.

3.
Is Eliminating Additives The Answer to the ADHD Problem?

While experts disagree on the precise way to change a child’s diet
in order to help the symptoms of ADHD, many suggest additives
have an adverse affect on hyperactivity and should be avoided
altogether. Food additives that may increase hyperactivity include
sunset yellow (E110), quinoline yellow (E104), tartrazine (E102),
allura red (E129) and the preservative sodium benzoate. A 2007
study by the UK’s Food Standards Agency found food dyes could
increase hyperactive behavior. Children between the ages of
three and nine were given different drinks, including two with a
mixture of artificial additives. Hyperactive behavior increased after
kids drank both additive mixtures. Many additives don’t need to
be included on food labels but remember if a food is processed,
packaged and brightly colored it is likely to contain one or more
of these additives and should be avoided.

4.
Iron Supplements Improve ADHD Symptoms

Low iron levels may be partly responsible for ADHD in children
and iron supplements show promise in improving symptoms,
according to 2009 research from the University of Southern
California. 2004 research from the Hospital Robert Debre, Paris
tested iron levels in 53 children with ADHD and 27 children
without and discovered 84 percent of children with ADHD had
abnormally low iron levels compared with 18 percent of the kids
without ADHD. The children in the study with the most severe
behavioral problems also had the greatest iron deficiencies. Low
iron levels are believed to alter the activities of dopamine in the
brain, which controls movement. (Read more about
foods that
are high in iron to fight anemia.)

5.
Rewards May Be Just As Beneficial As Medication

A recent 2010 study from the University of Nottingham, UK, the
University of Oxford, UK, and Simon Fraser University in Canada
suggests children with ADHD may be helped by instant rewards in
the same way they are helped by ADHD medication. Children with
ADHD were assessed by a computer task that offered rewards for
less impulsive behavior. Picking up rewards improved activity in
areas of the brain affected by ADHD, thus working in the same
way as medication. However, it remains unclear if the results of
this study can be transferred into a useful everyday life situation.

6.
Supplementation May Benefit ADHD Sufferers

The chemical supplement DMAE (2-dimethylaminoethanol) is used
for a number of conditions that affect the brain and may be useful
in treating ADHD, according to studies carried out in the 1970s. A
1974 study entitled “2-Dimethylaminoethanol (deanol): a brief
review of its clinical efficacy and postulated mechanism of action”
compared DMAE (2-dimethylaminoethanol) with Ritalin and a
placebo and discovered significant ADHD test score improvements
for both Ritalin and DMAE (2-dimethylaminoethanol).

7.
Zinc Can Treat Symptoms of ADHD

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