Monday, September 8, 2014

Can We Prevent ADD in Children and Adults?

Yessie En Bob
Photo by Yessie en bob
As I've studied food for the last 5 years there's nothing that's touched my heart more strongly than the effects of food on children.

I don't know for sure whether or not medication may be appropriate for some children.  I do know that the ADD medications can have concerning side effects, including weight gain and lethargy which can greatly impact the growing up years of a child.

We control what we put into our bodies, but once the food in there it controls us.  Our moods, energy levels and even thoughts are directed largely by what we eat and drink.

At Appleton Central Alternative high school for troubled kids in Appleton, WI, Healthy Ovens Bakery donated $100,000 to the school to hire kitchen staff and provide a healthy breakfast and lunch at the school.  What happened next shocked everyone. 

After having the vending machines removed and only having a change in diet, there was a dramatic difference in the students.  The school, which had a full time police officer because of violence and weapons violations, now had no drop outs, no expulsions, no drug or weapons incidents, and no suicides in the 3 years since the program started. The students were also noted to be studying better and seem happier.  The only thing that had changed was what they ate and drank.

Here's a short video interview of the principal, police officer, teachers and students sharing the before and after effects of the healthy food program.

At a grade school in the UK a study was conducted with hundreds of students.  Half of the students were given typical junk food to eat and the other half were given only healthy food choices.  The students’ behavior was then monitored for the next few hours, here are the results… 

                                 Healthy Food Group               Junk Food Group
Mean Behavior               0 incidents                           69 incidents
Physical Aggression       8 incidents                           63 incidents
Hyperactive Behavior    30 incidents                         163 incidents
Total incidents of
Bad Behavior                 120 incidents                       720 incidents

I believe it's our duty as care givers to first examine other areas to see if ADD symptoms can be resolved without medication.

Here are 10 areas that can effect the behavior of children and adults...

1) Exercise
When we get exercise endorphin hormones are released allowing us to feel happier and calmer.  Exercise also releases tension from our muscles so that we can sleep better at night.

A walk, bike ride, trampoline, sports, or even stretching can be very helpful.

2) Sugar
DonutsOur bodies are not make to handle the large amount of sugar that the average American intakes everyday, including too much fruit, hence our high diabetes rates.

Processed sugar and white flour products are the worst because they make the blood sugar go shooting up, then it comes crashing down.  This can cause feelings of tiredness and moodiness.

Having protein or fiber in whatever you're eating allows the body to accept the sugar in a more balanced manner and helps to keep blood sugar levels more balanced.  Fiber in fruit also allows the natural sugar to be more gradually absorbed than it would be from juice.

Try avoiding white processed sugar and flour, instead eat a piece of fruit a day and save the rest for treat times.  This will do a lot towards keeping both mood and body balanced.

3) Bored
I recently watched a child who is mentally far beyond his peers trying to interact with them.  He was friendly and a really nice kid, but he was obviously bored and couldn't sit still because of it.  Had his parents not known he was gifted he may have been labeled as ADD because his boredom caused him to loose focus more quickly than the other kids did.

If you believe your child may be gifted talk with their teachers and doctor to find appropriate testing, or see what you can do to challenge them more.

4) Omega 3
1      A Purdue University study showed that kids low in Omega 3 essential fatty acids are significantly more likely to be hyperactive, to have learning disorders, and to display behavioral problems.  Natural sources of omega 3’s are fatty fish like salmon, nuts, beans, seeds, and fruits and vegetables.  A good quality Cod Liver Oil or Krill Oil can be a good supplement.

Meat like beef should have a healthy balance of the fats omega 6 and omega 3, a healthy balance being about 2 omega 6 to 1 omega 3.  The way factory farms raise meat leaves it deficient in Omega 3's, where beef that has been raised on grass usually has the proper balance of omega 3 and 6.

If you can find and afford it I recommend grass fed beef (often found cheaper from a local farmer than the store), and meat raised traditionally and free range for the most nutrients.

I personally take these cod liver oil capsules and give my children this brand because they don't mind the taste (although it isn't as high of a quality as I'd like it does provide omega 3).  Another source is krill oil recommended by Dr Mercola.

Omega 3 needs fat to be absorbed (children should be on a diet of healthy fats not low fat, but that's a future article :).  The best healthy fat to have with the cod liver or other oil is butter from a grass fed cow.  I love the Kerry Gold brand (found much cheaper at Trader Joe's than most other places).

Tired Boy
5) Sleep
I've have 3 kids and I know that not enough sleep makes me grumpy, and I have a hard time focusing and remembering things.  Kids are no different.

How much sleep a child needs will vary from person to person, but allowing them to get to bed early enough that they sleep until they wake themselves up is the ideal.  I know with jobs, day care and schedules this isn't always possible, but sleep should be a priority whenever possible.

6) Meal Times
Infrequent and unhealthy eating can lead to drops in blood sugar levels. Try to maintain regular meal times so that your children learn to prioritize eating, and learn what healthy choices look like.  Most kids also need a snack mid afternoon, and depending on when breakfast is may need a mid morning one as well.

At our house we do a piece of fruit for the morning snack to give them a little boost until lunch, then have yogurt, dried fruit and nuts, a smoothie, or something else for afternoon snacks.

7) Grounding
Summer LandscapeThis sounded really ridiculous to me at first, but the proof is in trying it.  I'll let Dr Mercola do a better job of explaining it, but the gist of it is that there's an electrical current in our bodies that sort of releases when our bare feet touch the earth.  The modern rubber soles of our shoes block this from happening.

It's actually very calming to do, try it for yourself and see how you like it. Find a safe area for the kids and let them run barefoot. You'll likely find them a lot calmer when they're done.

In winter there are grounding sheets or blankets you can buy.  I have no experience with these but you can check the reviews to see what others have decided about them.

Cotton Candy8)  Artificial Food Coloring
1      Although this is #8 on this list I think it’s actually one of the worst offenders in ADD behavior, causing children to not be able to control their behavior and attitudes as well.  Avoid artificial food coloring whenever possible.  It is completely banned in Europe and in several other countries.

9) Quiet Time
Everyone has their limit for being around people, for some kids that limit isn’t a lot.  When you notice a child who has this need, try to provide about 10 minutes of time for them to just be alone reading a book or resting.

Ears Of Cereal10) Food Intolerances
For whatever reason food intolerances and allergies are on the rise, and surprisingly these intolerances can effect mood. Many children are finding relief in avoiding common allergens such as wheat (gluten), eggs, soy, tree nuts, peanut butter, sulfites, MSG and dairy products. 

To decide if these are an issue for a child try avoiding them one item at a time for about 2-3 weeks, then eat them again and see if you notice any differences. 

This is not medical advice, but rather common sense advice.  What we put in our bodies, and do to our bodies, determines what results we get from them.

I'd love to hear your thoughts and comments.

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