ADHD (Attention Deficiency/Hyperactivity Disorder) is a neurodevelopmental disorder and one of childhood's most common mental disorders. It is diagnosed in children and lasts into adulthood. Children with the condition have trouble controlling impulsive behaviours, paying attention and can be disruptive and over-active. In our discussion with Dr Cameron McIntyre ND, we try to unravel ADHD in children and autism. We ask what's happening in children’s brains and could our toxic environment be leading to the increase of ADHD and autism in children? Finally, we discuss what can clinicians do to improve outcomes in these children.
- One In Ten According to the National Survey of Children's Health estimates, one in every ten children in the US has ADHD. With the increase in ADHD and autism, the medical profession is getting better at diagnosis. The stigma of having any mental or developmental disorder is starting to fade. People are now more comfortable asking for and receiving a diagnosis and treatment.
- Causal Factors The increase in ADHD and autism is due to a host of different factors. An example is the quality of our food and the toxic load in agriculture, including the toxicity in the soil, air quality and water quality. Other factors may also play a part, like screen time and proximity to electromagnetic energy.
- Diagnosis There are no lab tests with the conventional assessment and treatment of ADHD. Many five and six-year-old boys meet the criteria or hallmarks of ADHD. This requires the physician to dig deeper and strive to understand the basis of the child's behavior before recommending medication. Unfortunately, for many reasons, standard medical practice is to move directly to a recommendation for medication - such as Ritalin.
- Food Sensitivities Many children who have been diagnosed with ADHD have food sensitivities. They may also be sensitive to artificial flavours and preservatives in their foods. Some of these chemicals are neurostimulators and some are even neurotoxic. Diet is vital to diagnosing and treating ADHD and family doctors and parents should pay special attention to it.
- Sleep Factors Food is only one part of the picture. Sleep is also key. Reducing screen time and ensuring children have a regular sleep schedule is critical to re-setting behaviors that exhibit as ADHD.
While food and diet may be the easiest to talk about, it's also the hardest to change. Food is part of the family culture. If parents do not cook and rely on fast food or processed food, attempts to change the child's diet will probably fail. Parents must be on board and be prepared to change for the good of the child. But clinicians must be prepared for resistance.
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