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Tips for Parents: A Ten Point Naturopathic Medicine Plan for ADHD (page 3)

By — New York Association of Naturopathic Physicians
Updated on Jan 18, 2010

5 - Essential Fatty Acids

About 10% of the brain is composed of fat (and the rest is water). As such, children need healthy fat ingestion in order to build healthy and functioning brains. These fats are called ‘essential fatty acids’ because these cannot be made by the body, and must be derived from the diet. Commonly, children’s diets are low in the foods that possess these. Foods with significant amounts include coldwater fishes, raw nuts and seeds, and flax meal. Recently, published work by researchers at Harvard’s Massachusetts General Hospital recommends a high omega-3 fatty acid supplement to be the a first choice in treatment for children with ADHD, as well as those with other mood disorders and behavioral problems. In this evaluation, omega-3 fats were tested for 8 weeks in 6 to 17 years olds. Half of these participants experienced a rapid 30 percent reduction in symptoms with no side effects. [xxviii]

6 - Zinc and Iron

Similar to fish oil intake, ADHD children are typically at risk for low trace mineral status, including deficiencies in zinc. One study revealed that serum zinc below laboratory norms was present in 77% of children aged 6 to 9 years and 67% of children aged 10 to 12 years.[xxix] Minerals like zinc may aid in producing dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter raised by stimulant medications. A second study of ADHD treatment with zinc sulfate as a supplement to medication has also shown beneficial effects and further confirmed the role of inadequate zinc.[xxx] Although these studies have shown help with zinc supplementation alone, other studies have not shown clear efficacy. Long term zinc supplementation may lower copper status and should be supplemented accordingly.
 
Iron is also an important nutrient for healthy mood. Pediatric investigators found that serum ferritin levels (which is the storage form of iron in the body) were significantly lower in children with ADHD and likely contribute to kids who are“inattentive and distractable and suffer from learning disabilities” according to the study authors. "Iron supplementation could be considered a first-line treatment for children with ADHD and iron deficiency…and decrease the need for psychostimulants" the authors concluded.[xxxi]
 
Given the association with mood disorders[xxxii], other vitamin and nutrient levels such as vitamin B12, vitamin D, and carnitine may be useful to look at with the pediatric patient.

7 - Herbal Remedies: St. John’s wort and Bacopa

Botanical remedies, known as herbs, have been used in children’s care for hundreds of years, if not millennia. One study of St. John’s wort found this herb, traditionally used in depression, as safe, but ineffective for symptoms of ADHD in children.[xxxiii] This study was an eight-week trial, which may not have been enough time to truly allow St. John’s wort to fully take effect. With other natural recommendations, St. John’s wort may still be a reasonable addition, but longer term stuy is needed. Another double blind study at a medical school in India revealed benefit after 12 weeks of using the botanical medicine Bacopa monnieri in regards to sentence repetition, logical memory and learning tasks. The children were still found improved four weeks after the herb had been discontinued. Bacopa did not show any side effects.[xxxiv]

8 - Other nutrients and herbs

Other nutrients that have been studied with some preliminary positive results include the amino acid L-carnitine, pycnogenol, and the herb ginkgo.[xxxv] Other herbs can be used for symptomatic help commonly associated with ADHD, such as California poppy for anxiety, or chamomile for digestive issues. Given their safety profile, these may be considered if other recommendations are not sufficient, but much more study is needed.

9 - Homeopathy

Used extensively in Europe and India, homeopathy is an energetic medicine that uses the law of ‘like cures like’ by using infinitesimal dilutions of various compounds. In children, homeopathy seems to be effective for many conditions, as a child’s energy is usually quite strong and responsive to this modality. We have used homeopathy quite effectively for a range of conditions, include infant colic and sleeping issues, pediatric fevers and colds, as well as mood balancing. At least three randomized controlled trials have evaluated the efficacy of homeopathy for the treatment of ADHD with mixed results, not allowing any research to show a clear advantage for using homeopathic medicines.[xxxvi] In our clinical experience, choosing a remedy is very individual, and may help when used in conjunction with the above recommendations. Since homeopathy quite non-toxic, and will not interfere with medications, it is worth pursuing for children with ADHD and needs further study.

10 - Psychotherapy

Not covered in this article - however every parent should include some type of group and individual psychologic work, behavorial and or cognitive therapy to learn more about how the child perceives the world, and to offer tools which may help the child enhance self-esteem, organize his or her day, and reduce anxieties.

Summary of Naturopathic Therapies for ADHD
 
 
1 - Diet: low sugar, higher protein, chemical-free, consider food sensitivities and salicylate free foods, assure adequate water intake
 
2 - Sleep: consistent early bedtimes, melatonin if indicated
 
3 - Exercise: every day
 
4 - Environment: identify home-life conflict, limit TV and video
 
5 – Essential Fatty Acids
 
6 – Zinc and Iron
 
7 – Herbal Remedies: Bacopa
 
8 - Other Nutrients: for extra help, see above
 
9 - Homeopathy: individualized to the child
 
10 - Psychotherapy
 

Conclusion

Although a challenging condition, we have found that children respond well to naturopathic approaches treatments for attention deficit and can prevent the need for medication. The key is to work with a practitioner like a naturopathic doctor who will to take the time a sort out which factors are most needed for each child to create an effective plan utilizing some of the above recommendations as appropriate for the best results and a healthy child.
 
About the NYANP: The New York Association of Naturopathic Physicians (NYANP) current mission is to keep New Yorker healthy, and pass legislation for licensure of naturopathic physicians in the State of New York. They can be contacted by visiting: www.NYANP.org.
 
Dr. Pina LoGiudice and Dr. Peter Bongiorno are a husband and wife, naturopathic doctor and acupuncturist team. Both were pre-doctoral fellows at the National Institute of Mental Health before their medical school and acupuncture training . They also served as past and current vice-president (respectively) of the NYANP, and have private practices in New York (New York City and Long Island). They can be reached by visiting www.InnerSourceHealth.com.


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