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Natural Strategies for Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

Mitchell

A. Fleisher, MD, DHt, DABFM, DcABCT

Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is the most prevalent psychiatric disorder in childhood, affecting between 3 and 5 percent, and possibly as much as 20 percent of all school children in the U.S., according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Several epidemiological studies done in the recent past estimate that between 30 percent and 70 percent of children with ADHD will continue to exhibit symptoms into adulthood, accounting for many millions of cognitively impaired adults.1

The principal characteristics of ADHD are inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. These symptoms often appear early in a child’s life. Because many normal children may have these symptoms, but at a low level, or, the symptoms may be caused by another disorder, it is important that the child receive a thorough examination and appropriate diagnosis by a well-qualified health care professional.

ADHD is a syndrome characterized by inability to focus attention and/or periods of hyperactivity, more commonly exhibited in children, but also affecting adults as well. The term “attention deficit” may be misleading, in that the current theories suggest ADHD patients actually have difficulty: 1) regulating their attention spans; 2) inhibiting their attention to non-relevant stimuli; and/or, 3) focusing too intensely on specific stimuli to the exclusion of what is relevant.1-2 Rather than diminished attentive ability, many individuals with ADHD may focus their attention upon too many things at once, i.e., not “see the forest ‘fore the trees,” resulting in poor concentration, erratic thought processes and decreased intellectual productivity.

ADHD may be caused and/or exacerbated by a whole host of agents provocateur listed in Table 2.2-5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nutritional Support for ADHD

Standard, conventional treatment of ADHD is predicated upon the use of amphetamines and/or amphetamine-like drugs, as well as antidepressant, pharmaceutical drugs. However, growing evidence strongly points to the serious, short- and long-term, deleterious effects of drug-centered therapy, including anxiety, irritability, depression, insomnia, headaches, dizziness, learning disabilities, growth retardation, impaired vision, paranoia, psychosis, anorexia, dyspepsia, toxic hepatitis, seizures, myocardial infarctions (heart attacks), strokes, cardiac arrhythmias and death. Therefore, it is obvious that safe, nontoxic, effective and natural approaches are far more preferable.6-7

Among the most efficacious nutritional agents for the management of ADHD in both children and adults are the amino acids 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP), Acetyl-L-Carnitine (ALC), glutamine, taurine and tyrosine. 5-HTP functions as an important precursor for the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is commonly depleted in ADHD patients, which alleviates anxiety and depression and balances moods. It is best given as 50 to 100 mg doses three times per day with meals. ALC increases the formation of acetylcholine in the brain, a neurotransmitter essential for memory function. It also augments brain cell energy production and helps control impulsivity. The ideal dosage is 1,500 mg twice per day between meals. Investigations by the eminent nutritional researcher, Dr. Roger Williams, demonstrated that 75 percent of ADHD patients have low levels of glutamine and that children and adults diagnosed with ADHD experience a marked improvement when taking 250 mg to 1,000 mg of glutamine per day. Taurine, an anti-excitatory amino acid, serves as a central nervous system (CNS) sedative to help alleviate the hyperactivity associated with ADHD. It is most effective at 3,000 mg per day in divided doses between meals. Tyrosine, a catecholamine precursor, is capable of augmenting CNS dopamine and norepinephrine. Dr. Eric Braverman, a neurological specialist in the treatment of ADHD, purports that 5 to 10 percent of cases of ADHD respond to tyrosine supplementation in dosages up to 5,000 mg per day for children and up to 10,000 mg per day for adults.9-13

Another class of nutrients found to be effective in the care of ADHD includes the essential fatty acids and phospholipids. Studies using alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid, in the form of flax seed oil, showed significant improvement in the symptoms of ADHD reflected by reduction in total hyperactivity scores derived from ADHD rating scales. Deficiency of the omega-3 essential fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is associated with hyperactivity. DHA supplementation, in the range of 3,000 mg per day in divided doses with meals, helps control hyperactivity and improve behavioral deficits and learning activity. A study of phosphatidylserine supplementation, at a daily dosage of 200 to 300 mg over four months, resulted in a very significant, more than 90 percent, improvement in the cognitive function and learning ability of ADHD patients.14-19

Dimethylaminoethanol (DMAE), a modified form of choline, may help alleviate the behavioral problems and hyperactivity associated with ADHD. Approximately 70 percent of ADHD patients may experience increased attention span, improved learning ability, increased intelligence quotient and decreased aggressiveness following DMAE treatment.20

Specific supplements that contain many of the nutrients mentioned above, which I have found to be clinically useful in the support of children and adults with ADHD, include: 1) Extension IQ, a unique formulation for enhancement of memory, focus and concentration; 2) Neptune Krill Oil, a rich source of the omega-3 essential fatty acids DHA and EPA, phospholipids and antioxidants that protect and improve cognitive function and calm the nervous system; 3) DMAE 100 Plus, Dimethylaminoethanol enhanced by specific B vitamins; 4) Phosphatidylserine 100 Plus, a balanced blend of four, essential phospholipids; and, 5) Galantamine, a botanical extract of Galanthus nivalis (Common Snowdrop), that functions as cholinergic and nicotinic receptor agonists, thereby amplifying acetylcholine effects that enhance memory, concentration, cognitive performance and learning.21-23

For ADHD that is marginally responsive to nutritional therapy alone, it is best to seek out classical constitutional homeopathic medical therapy. I have found homeopathy to be very effective for the relief of ADHD in children and adults, in conjunction with carefully selected supplementation. In addition to the above recommended supplements, an alkalinizing diet rich in fresh vegetables and fruits and sprouted whole grains, low in acid-forming foods such as animal proteins (meat, fish and dairy products) and avoidance of refined carbohydrates (sugar, candies, cakes, white breads, pastas, etc.) is essential to promoting healthy brain and immune function and eliminating the underlying causes of ADHD in children and adults.

Mitch Fleisher, MD, DHt, DABFM, DcABCT
Dr. Mitch Fleisher is the Chief Medical Board Advisor for VRP.

References

1. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, NIH Publication No. 3572, Public Information and Communications Branch, National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Margaret Strock et al., 1996.

2. ADHD: Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Children and Adults, by Paul H. Wender, MD. Oxford University Press, 2002.

3. Straight Talk about Psychiatric Medications for Kids, by Timothy E. Wilens, MD. New York: The Guilford Press, 1999.

4. Faraone SV, Biederman J. Neurobiology of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Biological Psychiatry, 1998; 44; 951-958.

5. Attention Deficit Disorder in Adults. Harvard Mental Health Letter, 2002:19;5:3-6.

6. Wender PH. Pharmacotherapy of attention-deficit/hyperactivity in adults. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. 1998; 59 (supplement 7):76-79.

7. Wilens TE, Biederman J, Spencer TJ. Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder across the lifespan. Annual Review of Medicine. 2002:53:113-131.

8. DSM-IV-TR workgroup. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.

9. Lombardi, R. M. ADHD: A modern malady. Nutrition Science News. July 2000.

10. Adriani W, et al. Acetyl- l-carnitine reduces impulsive behaviour in adolescent rats. Psychopharmacology. 2004 Nov;176(3-4): 296-304.

11. Sahley, B. J. Natural control of ADD and ADHD.  Vitamin Research News.  2000;14(10).

12. McConnell, H. Catecholamine metabolism in the attention deficit disorder: implications for the use of amino acid precursor therapy. Med Hypotheses. 17(4):305-311, 1985.

13. Braverman, Eric R. The Healing Nutrients Within.  Keats Publishing, New Canaan, Connecticut, USA.  1997:68.

14. Joshi, K, et al. Supplementation with flax oil and vitamin C improves the outcome of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2006;74(1):17-21.

15. Burgess, J. R., et al. Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2000;71(1 Supplement):327S-330S.

16. Hamazaki, T., et al. The effect of docosahexaenoic acid-containing food administration on symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder-a placebo-controlled double-blind study. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2004;58(5):838.

17. Mitchell, E. A., et al. Clinical characteristics and serum essential fatty acid levels in hyperactive children. Clin Pediatr. 1987;26(8):406-411.

18. Richardson, A. J., et al. A randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of the effects of supplementation with highly unsaturated fatty acids on ADHD-related symptoms in children with specific learning difficulties. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry. 2002;26(2):233-239.

19. Stevens, L., et al. Essential fatty acid metabolism in boys with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1995;62(4):761-768.

20. Dey F, Bone K. The potential role of phytotherapy for ADHD. Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients. October 2003.

21. Meletis, C. D., et al. Mental health: not all in the mind - really a matter of cellular biochemistry. Alternative & Complementary Therapies. February 2004:39-42.

22. Kidd, P. M. Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children: rationale for its integrative management. Altern Med Rev. 2000;5:402–428.

23. Zimmerman, M. Drug-free treatment for attention deficit disorders. Health & Nutrition Breakthroughs. December 1998.


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