Attention to nutrition and consuming a balanced diet are fundamental aspects of managing our overall health. They assist in our physical and psychological development, and can also provide protection against the onset of disease and conditions such as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). Sufferers and parents are also increasingly turning to natural therapies in an attempt to avoid prescription medicines and their associated side effects.
ADD, also known as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), is a condition that primarily affects children in the early stages of development – though some do grow up with the disorder. It is now classed as a behavioural disorder and is diagnosed after a thorough assessment by a paediatrician, child psychologist or child psychiatrist. Children with ADD find it difficult to concentrate, are impulsive and constantly hyperactive or restless. This typically impairs their ability to learn and affects critical tasks such as comprehension – leaving them needing individual educational assistance.
Ritalin is the prescription drug most associated with the treatment of ADD, and is a central nervous system stimulant designed to reduce the activity of the chemicals in the brain that are a factor in hyperactivity. Critics of such prescription drugs contend that they mask the problem, though today they are often used in tandem with a range of treatments, including dietary and nutritional advice.
Nutrition describes our entire dietary intake, and has been shown to be a critical factor in determining our overall health and wellbeing. It provides our body with all the necessary vitamins and minerals which are needed for sustained growth and development. At its most basic level it involves including a variety of desirable food groups in our daily diet. These include fresh fruits and vegetables, wholegrain products, lean meats, fish and pulses; amongst others.
There are several dietary changes that can be made in order to improve the symptoms of ADD. B vitamins are required in order to assist the brain enzymes that process carbohydrates for energy and to regulate neurotransmitters. DHA, an important fatty acid, is often present in lower levels in sufferers of ADD. Improving the levels of this fatty acid in the body improves behaviour. While supplements are available, it is best to increase the consumption of fatty cold-water fish such as salmon, herring, and tuna, all rich sources of DHA.
Vitamin C and proanthocyanidins (found in grape seed extract) are necessary for several functions in the brain. Vitamin C is used to manufacture neurotransmitters and proanthocyanidins are used to modify enzymatic activities. The proanthocyanidins are also used to stop the vitamin C from being oxidised or interacting with copper and iron to produce free radicals. Zinc and magnesium supplementation is useful as deficiencies in both of these have been associated with ADD.
If a salicylate and additive free diet is followed, the symptoms of ADD will often improve dramatically, but if additives are reintroduced, the symptoms will return straight away. Food allergens are also thought to be a cause of ADD. Following an elimination diet can help to improve behaviour in sufferers of ADD. Common dietary allergens are implicated – such as dairy, nuts, fish, wheat and soy – as well as additives.