NUTRITION 101 FOR PARENTS
We were taught in medical school that specific nutrients are needed in our body to make the biochemical processes work properly. There are literally hundreds of articles in the medical literature showing a correlation between certain nutritional deficiencies and many different health problems, from heart attacks to cancer. In addition, there are blood tests available to help identify nutritional deficiencies that I have found useful for my patients. Our bodies depend on nutrients to function. If we don't get enough of the right nutrients, our bodies can't work appropriately. You might not feel sick without these nutrients, but you may not actually be well either. Your body must compensate and work harder if you don't get the nutrients your body needs to maintain health.
THE AMERICAN DIET
Let's consider a typical school lunch. It often consists of a soda, chips and sweet desserts. Many schools even have soda and candy machines in the schools and actually encourage children to purchase these products because it brings in revenue to the school. With this kind of food and drink being provided in our schools, it is no wonder that our children are having problems.
There was a very interesting study done in 803 New York public schools and in nine juvenile correction facilities. In this study, researchers increased fruits and vegetables and whole grains and decreased fat and sugars. They then followed these children for a couple of years. They made no other changes in the schools and correctional facilities during that time period, thereby assuring the accuracy of the results, which were dramatic and astounding. After making these simple changes to the children's diets, the academic performance of 1.1 million children rose 16 % and learning disabilities fell 40%. In the juvenile correction facilities violent and non-violent antisocial behavior fell 48%. According to one of the researchers, the schools have not instituted any of these dietary changes on a permanent basis. Instead, the children in New York and the rest of the nation continue to be prescribed drugs. And when parents refuse to drug the children, those parents may be turned in to authorities for medical negligence. The negligence here is not with the parents. No child should be drugged in a school that promotes the sale of soft drinks and junk food.
DIET IS NOT ENOUGH
Even when we eat more nutritious foods, I do not believe that we can get enough of the nutrients we need from our diets. Not only are most foods laden with sugar and artificial ingredients, many have chemicals added to lengthen their shelf life. Animals are fed antibiotics, hormones and other chemicals before they are slaughtered and fruits and vegetables are sprayed with pesticides while they are growing. All of these things can affect the quality of the foods we eat as well as add unhealthy toxins to our biological systems. Our environment also adds to our toxic load.
The pollution in our atmosphere and the toxins in our foods mean that our bodies have to work even harder to dispose of these toxic chemical by-products. For the liver to detoxify the toxins that enter our bodies, it must have the help of nutrients. The vitamins and minerals are used to make our biochemical processes work. Without an adequate supply of nutrients, our body simply cannot function properly. Many children diagnosed with the symptoms of ADHD show reactions and sensitivities to these food-based chemicals and environmental pollutants. They may also be deficient in many of the needed nutrients. That is why I recommend that my patients, as often as possible, eat organic and natural foods and take oral nutritional supplements.
In light of the many problems and concerns with the American diet, I believe that supplementing nutrients can help to make our children healthier, and, as I've seen in my practice, the supplements can make a major difference in how they feel and act. That's why I recommend supplements for all my patients. I have had children in my practice do nothing more than take supplements and improve significantly.
SUPPLEMENTS 101 FOR PARENTS
There has been much research on the effects of nutrients on behavior and attention. The following are the ones I find most beneficial for my patients. Remember, just because a nutrient is good for you, more of it is not necessarily better. While most nutrients have no known toxicity or side effects, some do have side effects in large doses. Do not exceed recommended doses. Locate a physician in your area who knows about nutrition and check with that physician before taking anything. Here is a list of specific nutrients and supportive literature.
Vitamin B6: Vitamin B6, in a double blind, crossover study published in Biological Psychiatry 1979 (14) 5, was found to be more effective than methylphenidate (Ritalin(r)) in a group of hyperactive children.
Thiamin: According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1980 (33) 2, when thiamin deficiency was corrected, behavior improved.
Calcium: Supplementing calcium to deficient children may improve their hyperactivity (Journal of Learning Disabilities, 1975 (8): 354.
Magnesium: Magnesium deficiency in children is characterized by excessive fidgeting, anxious restlessness, psychomotor instability and learning difficulties in the presence of normal IQ. (Magnesium in Health and Disease, Seelig, Mildred, 1980) Magnesium is needed in more than 350 different biochemical reactions.
My own experiences with magnesium match those published in "Clinical Aspects of Chronic Magnesium Deficiency" (Seelig, Mildred, Magnesium in Health and Disease, Spectrum Publishing, 1980.) One teenage patient of mine said he felt dramatically better, calmer and better able to focus on his schoolwork when I treated him for his magnesium deficiency. Unfortunately, the typical American diet does not supply much magnesium. It is found in green leafy vegetables and nuts like cashews and almonds, which are not mainstays of most children's diet.
Vitamin C: When Vitamin C was increased by 50% it was found that IQ scores went up 3.6 points. (Kabula, A., Journal of General Psychology, 1960 (96) 343-352.) [It is thought that IQ is not supposed to change over one's lifetime, yet 3.6 points is a significant amount. The increase of 50% is equal to someone who was taking just 100 mg of Vitamin C increasing to 150 mg of Vitamin C.]
Niacin: Another B vitamin, was found to be helpful for the symptoms of hyperactivity, poor school performance, perceptual changes and inability to maintain social relationships. (Hoffer A., "Vitamin B3 dependent child." Schizophrenia, 1971 (3) 107-113.) [These are symptoms which many children who have received the ADHD label have in common.]
Pyridoxine, folic acid, thiamin, niacin, and vitamin C were the nutrients most commonly found to be low in children who measureably improved on supplementation. Deficiencies of vitamins A, E, B12, pantothenic acid, riboflavin, and other vitamins and minerals also were linked to bad behavior. Improvement could not be expected unless all deficiencies were corrected. (Schoenthaler, S.J., "Nutritional deficiencies and behavior" quoted in Bellanti J.A., Crook W.G., Layton R.E., eds. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Causes and Possible Solutions.
(Proceedings of a Conference). Jackson, TN: International Health Foundation, 1999.)
Zinc: Children with Zinc deficiencies were found to be irritable, tearful and sullen. They are not soothed by close body contact and resent disturbances. Zinc deficiencies result in hyperactivity and changes in seratonin levels. [Remember the SSRI drugs, Zoloft, Luvox, Paxil, Prozac, etc., that I mentioned in Step 1? These drugs are supposed to affect the seratonin levels in the body. Maybe the people who are taking these drugs are just Zinc deficient?] Not surprisingly, one study showed Zinc levels in children diagnosed with ADHD were found to be significantly lower than control (Biological Psychiatry, 1996).
DMAE: DMAE is a neurotransmitter precursor that has been used for years to improve behaviors, mental concentration, puzzle-solving ability and organization. DMAE was found to increase mental concentration after six weeks of use. This report was in the Journal of Pediatrics in 1958. [Pediatricians have had this information available to them for more than 40 years. Parents deserve to know about this information. One parent reported to me that her son's teacher thought that he had started taking Ritalin(r) when he had actually begun taking DMAE.]
Essential Fatty Acids (EFA's): Lower levels of Omega-3 Fatty Acids, which are found in fish oils and flax seed, were discovered in children who had more temper tantrums and sleep problems. (Stevens L.J., Zentall S.S., Deck J.L., Abate M.L., Watkins B.A., Lipp S.R., Burgess J.R. "Essential fatty acid metabolism in boys with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder." (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1995 (62) 4: 761-8.)
DHA, another EFA, is found in the central nervous system. High levels of DHA are important for learning, for visual function and for general central nervous system development. (Ensein, M., et al., LIPIDS, 1991 (26) 3. )
Deficiencies in the omega-3 fatty acids and DHA can impair learning. In addition, a significant number of boys with heath and learning problems were found to have lower total essential fatty acids. (Mitchell, E.A., et al, Clinical Pediatrics, 1987 (28) 8: 406-11. )
DHA is an Omega-3 Fatty Acid that is necessary for brain development and functioning. (Simopolos, A.P., "Omega-3 fatty acids in health and disease and in growth and development. " American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 1991, (54) 3:438-63 )
l-Glutamine is an amino acid (a protein building block) and is important in supplying energy to the brain. It is also a brain neurotransmitter. It has been used to help curb sugar cravings, increase mental acuity, and to nutritionally support the nervous system. (Hackman, R.M. "Glutamine and Human Performance, Nutrition Science, March ,1997.)
Vitamin B12 helps cells in the body grow and maintain normal function. It is an important vitamin for the nervous system. Vitamin B12 is used to improve neurologic symptoms such as loss of memory and moodiness. (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 16 January 2001 (71): 514-522.)
Chromium is an essential trace mineral. Low chromium levels may be a contributing factor of hypoglycemia in some people. (Anderson, R.A., Polansky, M.M., Bryden, N.A., Bhathena, S.J., Canary, J.J. "Effects of supplemental chromium on patients with symptoms of reactive hypoglycemia," Metabolism, 1987 (36): 351-355.)
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