Do you have a child with ADD/ADHD or know someone who has? Has your doctor merely prescribed Ritalin or some other mind-numbing drug, and sent you both on your merry way without even addressing other factors such as diet? Have you been searching for some alternative remedies to prescription medication, but don't know where to start? This article may give you some answers!
Diet has a profound affect on ADD and ADHD. For many people, nutrition alone can effectively work as an ADHD alternative treatment. A growing body of research points to nutritional deficiencies-especially essential fatty acids and amino acids -as a contributing factor of ADD/ADHD and learning deficiencies.
Put down the Ritalin bottle for one minute to consider these ADD/ADHD nutrition research findings:
- A George Washington University School of Medicine study found that hyperactive children who ate a meal rich in amino acids did equally well, and sometimes better, in school than non-hyperactive kids.
- An Oxford University ( England ) study evaluated the effects of fatty acid supplementation in average intelligence children with significant reading and writing disabilities. The ADHD symptoms in children receiving essential fatty acids significantly improved over the children in the control group receiving a placebo.
- Researchers first tied ADD/ADHD with lower essential fatty acid levels in 1981. Studies examining essential fatty acid blood levels in children with behavioral problems in 1983 confirmed this ADD-nutrition connection.
- Researchers further documented the essential fatty acid deficiency tie to ADD in a 1987 study. Then, a 1995 study comparing essential fatty acid levels in ADHD boys against a control group of boys without ADHD found significantly lower levels of Omega-3 fatty acids.
- In 1996 Purdue University researchers have found that boys with low blood levels of Omega-3 fatty acids have a greater frequency of ADD and ADHD.
ADD/ADHD is the most common behavioral disorder in children. Statistics and studies show that a significant number of ADD/ADHD children are nutritionally deficient in essential fatty acids. Physicians predominately use drugs such as Ritalin for ADD/ADHD, but studies show that ADD/ADHD children whose treatment program includes medication alone remain at a high risk for vandalism, petty crime, frequency of alcoholic intoxication, and possession of marijuana. Additionally, ADD/ADHD medications can cause potentially harmful side effects and does not treat the cause of ADD/ADHD.
With ADD/ADHD, diet is one of the first aspects of treatment to consider.
Fatty acids are used to make brain and nerve tissue in the body and are crucial for proper growth, mental function, the immune system, and brain development. The body cannot produce the two fatty acids families, Omega-3 and Omega-6, on its own and therefore must receive these key ingredients through diet and supplementation. The typical Western diet is high in the Omega-6 family of fatty acids (found in corn, canola and safflower oil, margarine, vegetable oil, and shortening). But most Americans young and old are deficient in Omega-3. (Note that processed vegetable oils such as those listed above are not healthy sources of omega-6. They have been processed and refined to enhance shelf life, and in the processing lose their heart- and brain-healthy properties. Excess omega 6 in the diet from these "unhealthy" sources lead to excess inflammation in the body and weight gain, so should be eliminated from the diet. Healthy sources of omega 6 include organic, unrefined, cold-pressed pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower oils, raw nuts and raw seeds).
Learning specialists now believe many childhood behavior and learning problems are associated with Omega-3 deficiencies. This deficiency has a greater impact on males because their requirements for essential fatty acids are, in general, much higher.
Omega-3 rich foods are essential in a diet for ADD/ADHD adults and children. Cold-water fish such salmon, mackerel, and sardines are rich in EPA/DHA, which is part of the omega 3 family research has shown to improve brain function and help alleviate symptoms of ADD/ADHD. That said, many children simply will not eat fish. And, today, it is difficult to find high-quality fish from toxin-free, clean sources! You do not want you or your children eating fish that is loaded with mercury and other heavy metals, which impact neurological (i.e. brain) health.
A pure alternative is taking a high quality, ultra-refined, super concentrated, toxin-free fish oil supplement, such as OmegaEnergy Fish Oil. Three gel caps per day is the adult dose, and 1 a day for children. Ultra-refined fish oil supplements are a must for adults dealing with attention deficit or hyperactivity.
If your child is not willing or able to swallow capsules, or if you are a strict vegetarian,n raw, organic flax seed and flax seed oil is the next best alternative. Flax is "food of the Gods" when it comes to Omega-3 fatty acids.
Flax seed and flax oil are the richest plant source of Omega-3 fatty acids and offers nutrition that is vital to support healthy childhood behavioral and IQ development. One to two tablespoons of a high quality, organic, cold-pressed flaxseed oil such as OmegaEnergy Oil Blend or ¼ cup certified organic, raw ground flax seeds such as OmegaEnergy Mix should be part of every ADD/ADHD daily diet.
In addition to the positive affects on brain functioning, flax also works to prevent heart disease and certain types of cancer. Flax (oil in particular) helps soften skin, balance energy, burn fat, stimulate the metabolism, strengthen the immune system, manage diabetes, and prevent autoimmune disease and inflammatory disorders. Flax also helps alleviate PMS and some menopause symptoms. OmegaEnergy Oil contains 100% certified organic, cold-pressed flax oil, combined with sunflower, sesame, and pumpkin seed oils in a scientifically-recommended ratio of 2 parts omega 3 to 1-part omega 6. OmegaEnergy Mix has the same ratio of omega 3 to omega 6, in the ground seed form. Both the OmegaEnergy Oil and OmegaEnergy Mix are very easy to use in foods, without your child knowing it is there!
Here are some easy ways to use (and disguise for your children!) OmegaEnergy Oil and OmegaEnergy Mix:
- 1 tablespoon of OmegaEnergy Oil blended into an EnergyFirst shake is undetectable. Many children I have worked with love these tasty smoothies! See recipes below.
- Mix 2-3 tablespoons of OmegaEnergy Oil into a jar of raw almond butter.
- Omega Butter: Melt one stick organic coconut oil and mix with 4 ounces OmegaEnergy Oil when cooled to room temperature. Refrigerate until the omega butter solidifies and use in place of margarine.
- Omega-3 "Ice Cream": Mix 2 cups plain organic yogurt with 1 tablespoon OmegaEnergy Oil and fresh or frozen fruit, some vanilla extract and agave nectar. Serve when frozen.
- Mix ½ cup OmegaEnergy Oil with ½ cup Apple Cider vinegar or balsamic vinegar, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, and 3-4 heaping tablespoons of mustard for a fantastic-tasting salad dressing or sauce for vegetables.
- Sprinkle ¼ cup of OmegaEnergy Mix on mixed vegetable salads
- Add ¼ cup of OmegaEnergy Mix to cold oatmeal or Kashi cereal. Instead of using regular dairy milk (to which many children are allergic or intolerant), add "protein milk" (1/2 scoop Vanilla ProEnergy blended with ½ cup plain almond milk)
Most studies conducted on the affects of essential fatty acids found that at least 10 weeks of supplementation is needed to adequately raise fatty acid levels in brain cells. Follow a diet high in Omega-3 fatty acids for at least 10 weeks, and preferably 12 weeks, before judging the effectiveness of these dietary changes on ADD/ADHD symptoms.
Important points about OmegaEnergy Oil and OmegaEnergy Mix :
- Flaxseed oil and ground flax seed is highly perishable and should be kept refrigerated at all time.
- Heat destroys the health-giving flax oil properties. Use flax oil/flaxseed only with cold foods, preferably cold vegetables and proteins.
- Freeze oil to extend its expiry date by at least 6 months.
Essential fatty acids are not the only element needed when addressing ADD/ADHD nutrition. Amino acids , from which protein is made, are an integral element since amino acids and essential fatty acids are both needed to work in the body. Therefore, adding quality protein is a key in ADD nutrition.
Adults and children with ADD and ADHD can greatly reduce the level of unfocused or misdirected energy by starting the day with a nutritious, whole-foods breakfast that contains essential fat, fiber, and some high quality protein. This will increase concentration, reduce restlessness, and increase mental and physical calm. It is important to avoid a breakfast that contains processed carbohydrates and sugar, which will increase adrenalin production and blood sugar fluctuations, and therefore increase attention deficit. Instead of starting the day with sugared cereals, pancakes covered in syrup, sweet rolls, doughnuts or danishes, try these brain-boosting breakfast ideas:
- Fresh, organic, low-sugar, whole fruit such as strawberries, grapefruit, raspberries, blueberries, or blackberries.
- Organic whole wheat toast with raw almond butter (with OmegaEnergy Oil added).
- Organic oatmeal with protein milk (1/2 cup almond milk mixed with ½-1 scoop Vanilla ProEnergy protein powder ) and 1/4 cup raw almonds, plus cinnamon and agave nectar (a natural low-glycemic sweetener) for added sweetness if needed.
- An EnergyFirst Shake (But be sure to tell your child it is a yummy smoothie! They don't have to know it is good for them!).
- Organic plain yogurt mixed with 1 scoop Vanilla ProEnergy whey protein and 1 tablespoon of OmegaEnergy Oil.
Many children with ADD/ADHD that have had great results with the EnergyFirst shake for breakfast. Children tend to be very fussy when it comes to taste, so it is important to be patient with them and experiment until you find a flavor that they like, so that they look forward to drinking the shake.
The basic recipe for a child-sized EnergyFirst Shake is:
- 1 cup cold water or plain organic almond milk or rice milk (avoid dairy and soy milk)
- ½ -1 scoop EnergyFirst whey protein isolate (vanilla or chocolate)
- 1 tablespoon EnergyFirst Omega oil blend
- 1 cup organic frozen fruit (children love frozen banana or strawberries)
Blend : Add vanilla extract, agave nectar (available at any good health food store), cinnamon, almond extract, or coconut extract if you need more flavor/sweetness. Add ice for a thicker shake.
Note : Raw, organic agave nectar is a God-send for children! It has the consistency and taste of honey, but without the blood sugar spikes you can get from honey and maple syrup. Kids just love it!
Try these kid-favorite recipes!
Choco Banana Delight ½-1 scoop Fudge Chocolate ProEnergy whey protein blended with 1 cup plain almond milk and 1/2 frozen banana + 1 T. of OmegaEnergy Oil . Add 1 T. of Agave Nectar if more sweetness is needed.
I have had first-hand experience with ADD children. My x-husband's brother is one example. He lived in our home six months before we moved to the US in January 2000, and this is his mother's story:
"When we had the blessing of Lisa living with us for 6 months, I asked is she would work with my (then 13-year-old) son who was diagnosed with ADD when he was 3 years old. I was not sure whether her nutrition guidelines would make any difference to him, because so many people had told me that there was no link between nutrition and ADD. But, I trusted her. And I am so grateful that I did. First, we "cleaned" our house of all sodas, candy, chips, processed cereals, cakes, and white breads. And we started leading by example. We slowly integrated healthful foods into this diet. We replaced his usual breakfast of Frosted Flakes and orange juice with an EnergyFirst shake. He actually enjoyed the taste of the vanilla strawberry shake Lisa would make for the whole family every morning. The first day he tried the shake, he came home so excited to tell me that he was able to focus on what his teacher was saying all the way up until lunch time. He didn't have the hunger, mental fog, and lack of focus he usually experienced at around 10am every morning, when he would usually eat a candy bar to get him through to lunch. When he came home he asked Lisa to make him another energy shake! I could hardly believe the difference in him in such a short time. Gradually we included more essential fats into his diet by adding flax oil to salad dressings and in almond butter, lots of vegetables, and added fish oil to his diet also. It took a lot of time and effort with him, but it was worth it. After about 3 months, he was such a different boy!" - M.D.