Attention Deficit Disorder – a drug free intervention is possible

Attention Deficit Disorder – a drug free intervention is possible

Attention Deficit Disorder defined

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder can be defined as a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity more frequent and severe than is typical of children at a similar level of development. This definition conforms to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fourth Edition.(2)


Diagnosis should be done by an educational psychologist. Normal onset starts before the age of seven and symptoms should be present for at least 6 months. Six symptoms of the criteria for ADD/ADHD should be met.

Incidence of Hyperactivity

10% of the South African population is hyperactive.(5) Hyperactivity is between four and nine times more common in boys than girls.(4,6)

Characteristics of hyperactive children

  • The characteristics of the hyperactive child are present in all hyperactive children from time to time
  • Hyperactive babies are restless, have colic and often suffer from sleep disturbances
  • These children are in a constant state of over stimulation – always on the move and touch everything in sight
  • As the child gets older, the symptoms change: always in an active mode, shuffling the legs, cannot stay in an activity for long and cannot read without losing interest
  • A large percentage of hyperactive children have an abnormal thirst with a normal urine output (EFA-deficiency)
  • Other symptoms: lack of concentration, temper tantrums, impatience, quick frustration, impatience, clumsiness, sleep disturbances
  • These children usually have a depressed immune system and asthma (and other respiratory disorders), hay fever, otitis media, eczema, headaches and other atopic conditions are common
  • The majority of hyperactive children has a high IQ – but does not perform at school because of poor concentration
  • The symptoms of hyperactivity worsen from birth to 3-4 years of age
  • The symptoms of hyperactivity subside when the child reaches 10-12 years of age, and could be outgrown by that age (7)
  • Hyperactive children can have food intolerances for wheat, dairy, corn, soy, citrus, eggs, chocolate, artificial colours and preservatives (8)
  • Leaky gut syndrome is common with hyperactive children – gut becomes leaky and you have an increased antigen uptake (9)
  • Low blood sugar is common with hyperactive children and has the following symptoms: vertigo, headaches, moodiness, irritability, confusion and lack of concentration (10)

Causes of ADD/ADHD

1. Prenatal Influences

The use of alcohol during pregnancy may result in mental retardation and hyperactivity.(11)

2. Inborn Temperamental Differences

Hyperactive children are probably deficient in some neurotransmitters (dopamine and noradrenaline) which are essential for normal brain functions. As the hyperactive child ages, the quantity of these transmitters increase and explains why the hyperactive child improves as they grow older.(12)

3. Heavy Metal Poisoning

Heavy metals such as copper, lead, mercury, fluoride, aluminum and cadmium are linked with hyperactivity.(7,11) Fluoride flags the potential for motor dysfunction, IQ deficits and/or learning disabilities in humans.(22)

4. Food Preservatives, Additives, Flavourants, Colourants and Foreign Chemicals  like Pesticides

Food preservatives, additives, flavourants, colourants and natural salicylates are linked with hyperactivity according to Dr Benjamin Feingold.(15) His hypothesis still needs to be proven and it is better to test the individual for intolerances.(13,14)

Tartrazine increases the urinary excretion of zinc which has been found as one of the nutrients deficient in the hyperactive child.(7,16) Food colourants and flavourants are found in foods such as processed meats, jams, sweets, cake mixes and flavoured drinks. Salicylates are found in almonds, apples, apricots, berries, cherries, cucumbers, oranges, plums, tangerines, peaches, tea, Worcester sauce & tomatoes.

The above chemicals inhibit certain enzymes (including delta-6 desaturase) and that these enzymes are necessary for the normal conversion of fatty acid prostaglandin precursors (linolenic acid and alpha-linolenic acid – EFAs) into PGE1 and PGE3 and other long chain essential fatty acids. These essential fatty acids are needed for normal formation of membranes in the brain cells. The symptoms of ADD and hyperactivity are the defect of quality of brain cells and a shortage of essential PGE.  PGE1 has a direct influence on behaviour.(1)

5. Deficiency of Nutrients

  • Essential Fatty Acids (linoleic acid and cis alpha linolenic acid) – inability to absorb EFAs or higher requirements (7,18)
  • Zinc (two thirds of hyperactive children are deficient in zinc.(4). A deficiency of zinc, magnesium and vitamin B6 blocks the formation of GLA (7,11)
  • Magnesium
  • Vitamin B6
  • Taurine (Taurine is an amino acid which plays an important role in maintaining electrical balance, thus preventing uncontrolled and runaway nerve impulses) (1)

6. Sugar

  • Protein and calcium is removed from sugar cane and it is treated with many harmful chemicals to create super white sugar
  • Refining of foods makes the metabolism there off difficult and toxic metabolites form like pyruvic acid and that could interfere with brain function (23)
  • Sugar (refined carbohydrates) influences the level of EFAs
  • Sugar influences the neurotransmitter levels – hyperactive children
  • 74% of hyperactive children have low blood sugar (Hypoglycaemia) low blood sugar will stimulate the production of epinephrine, which could affect behaviour (18)

7. Aspartame

Aspartame in high doses will cause some hyperactive children to become non-compliant and more aggressive.(13)

8. Food Intolerances

Hyperactive children can have food intolerances for wheat, dairy, corn, soy, citrus, eggs, chocolate, artificial colours and preservatives.(8) Food intolerances affect approximately 45% of our population. Causes for food intolerances include the following: enzyme deficiencies; reactions to chemicals in food and food allergies mediated by the IGG antibody. Our modern diets with all the additives and preservatives fuel food intolerances.  IGG mediated food allergic reactions have a delayed onset of 2 to 72 hours after ingestion of an offending food. The IGG Food Intolerance Tests should be done before embarking on serious diet restrictions. The IGG test is only done in Durban by Molecular Diagnostic Services.

9. Parasites

The presence of parasites in the body can course allergic reactions in the body that can aggravate ADHD.

10. GUT Health and Dysbiosis

A Recent study demonstrated that those children with ADHD had a dramatic increased prevalence of constipation almost threefold higher than those without ADHD. Interesting that, these findings did not differ depending on whether or not the children with ADHD were on medication.

A holistic perspective looks at the entire individual.  Gut dysbiosis may play an important role in terms of how the brain works not only in ADHD, but across the spectrum of brain related disorders. We are just beginning to understand the profound relationship between what goes on in the gut and what goes on in the brain.(26)

The results of restoring a unhealthy GUT flora back to normal has yielded many positive results for some families with ADHD.

Treatment of ADD/ADHD

1. Psychotherapy

Individual psychotherapy, behaviour modification, parental counselling and treatment of any coexisting learning disorder may be necessary. If the child is on medication, he should be given the opportunity to explore the meaning of the medication, in order to dispel misconceptions (such as “I’m crazy”). It must be made clear that the medication is there to help him handle situations better than before. The child’s environment should also be as structured as possible, as this should lead to decreased anxiety. Parents and teachers should set up a predictable structure of reward and punishment and focus on the need for the child to take responsibility for his behaviour.(2)

2. Ritalin and equivalents (use on a long term questionable – and not the only solution)

Ritalin improves 75% of cases, but does not remove the cause of the problem and has undesirable side effects such as: vertigo, headaches, drowsiness, blurred vision, gastrointestinal problems and depression.(1) Ritalin may also provoke seizures, suppress growth, or it may cause angina and  blood pressure changes.(20)

Dr. Robert Mendelson had once noted: “No one has ever been able to demonstrate that drugs such as Ritalin improve academic performance of the children who take them….  The pupil is drugged to make life easier for his teacher, not to make it better and more productive for the child.”(21)  A major concern is that Ritalin has cocaine properties and may lead to later drug abuse.(20)

3. Homoeopathic remedies

Homoeopathy is a therapy that has much to offer these children as it addresses issues holistically.

4. Elimination diet

  • Eliminate all foods that the child is intolerant to (IGG Food Intolerance Tests or Electro-dermal allergy testing)
  • Eliminate refined sugars such as those found in cool drinks and sweets
  • All junk food should be eliminated
  • Put child on a balanced diet and replace sugared cool drinks with fruit
  • Dilute fruit juices with filtered water and get child to drink more filtered water
  • The child should have small frequent meals consisting of protein and unrefined carbohydrates
  • No artificial sweeteners like aspartame. Use Stevia or Xylitol.
  • Avoid bad additives

In a study, Dr Joseph Egger and colleagues at the University of Munich put 76 children on a strict hypoallergenic diet for 4 weeks. 82% children got better and 25% recovered completely from ADHD. Interestingly the following also improved remarkably: antisocial behaviour; headaches; fits; abdominal pain; chronic rhinitis; leg aches; skin rashes; mouth ulcers and emotional problems.(24)

 Another double-blinded test was done in the UK by leading psychiatrist Professor Eric Taylor. He took 78 hyperactive children and put them on an elimination diet. 75% children showed improved behaviour.(24)

Safe Additives

Avoid these Additives

  • Acacia gum
  • Adenosine 5 (avoid if on CF diet)
  • Ammonium salt compounds
  • Annatto colour
  • Ascorbic acid
  • Ascorbyl palmitate
  • Beta carotene
  • Calcium ascorbate, phosphate salts, sulfate
  • Carbonates
  • Cellulose gel, gum
  • Disodium inosinate (avoid in yeast free diets)
  • EDTA
  • Fumaric acid
  • Gelatin
  • Glycerides
  • Lactic acid (avoid if very sensitive to dairy)
  • Lecithin (avoid if soy is a problem)
  • Pectin
  • Potassium chloride, citrate, phosphate, sorbate
  • Psyllium
  • Xanthan gum
  • All aluminum compounds
  • Artificial colours
  • Artificial flavours
  • Aspartame
  • BHA
  • BHT
  • Caffeine
  • Calcium disodium EDTA
  • F,D and C colours
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • Nitrates
  • Nitrites
  • Phosphoric acid
  • Potassium bromate
  • Quinine
  • Olestra
  • Polysorbate 60 & 80
  • Saccharin
  • Sulfites
  • Vanilla (common artificial flavour)
  • TBHQ

5. Supplementation of Vitamins, Minerals, Essential Fatty Acids & Bacopa on a daily basis

  • Vitamin B6: 5-10mg (to regulate the central nervous system)
  • Vitamin B2: 1-2mg (to regulate the central nervous system)
  • Magnesium: 150-200mg (needed for calcium metabolism and essential for effective nerve and muscle functioning)
  • Calcium: 200mg (aids your nervous system, especially in impulse transmission)
  • Zinc: 5-15mg (important in brain function and needed for EFA metabolism)
  • Vitamin B1: 5mg (to regulate the central nervous system)
  • Iron: 10mg (needed for metabolism of Vitamin B`s)
  • EPA: 100-150mg (aids in PGE1 & PGE3 production)
  • DHA: 50-80mg (aids in PGE1 & PGE3 production)
  • GLA: 120-150mg (aids in PGE1 & PGE3 production)
  • Bacopa: Scores for restlessness were reduced in 93% of children, whereas improvement in self-control was observed in 89% of the children. The attention-deficit symptoms were reduced in about 85% of children.(27)

6. Eliminate Heavy Metal Poisoning

  • A calcium and magnesium complex will chelate heavy metals and will be excreted
  • Do not expose your children to cigarette smoke (cadmium)
  • Do not cook in aliminium foil containers (7,11)

7. Reduce Fluoride Intake

Fluoride levels in our water are high and we need not to supplement with fluoride. High fluoride intake is associated with poor memory and loss of concentration. Use Nature Fresh Junior Toothpaste that is fluoride free.(19,22)

8. Tender Loving Care

Give your hyperactive child lots of hugs and kisses before your psychologist tells you to.

9. Parasite cleansing

Once a year for adults and twice a year for children.

10. Tension Release Exercises

Stress is part of our lives in the 21st century. Until, no long-term successful way has been found to manage it. The groundbreaking work of Dr David Berceli Ph.D. who had studied animals in the wild, realised that we have inhibited the one safety valve we need to discharge stress after it happens  this is the tremoring mechanism. Berceli devised a simple-to-learn exercise routine to invoke these tremors in the flexor muscles. These muscles are associated with curling up when we become stressed. By tremoring, we are able to release stress, trauma and the toxic build-up of stored chemicals, which can make us eventually ill. The stored stress is safely released over several sessions by doing these short exercise routine. This restores the body ability to its natural state of balance and deep relaxation.

Before you put your child on drugs for hyperactivity, first have a proper evaluation so see if the child is hyperactive. If the child is hyperactive, then first try a natural intervention before drugs.(25)

11. Restore GUT flora with Probiotics

By testing the stools one can access which bacteria are needed and which not needed and then supplement specifically.

12. Neuro-feedback (Brain Training)

Neurofeedback (Brain Training) can be a highly effective way of getting the brain to regulate itself so that focus and concentration come with more ease. Neurofeedback (a non-invasive treatment) is a form of biofeedback that acts as a reward system for the brain to train your brainwave patterns to a more optimal range of functioning.

At The Brain Trainer, they look at the whole brain instead of falling into the simplification that a label brings. In the assessment they look to see what’s going on in your brain. And when they Brain Train and they focus on the patterns that are shown in your assessment, remarkably most problems with memory and attention will get better.

Read more here:


Web pages of interest


(1) Serfontein, W.  New nutrition for the new Millennium.

(2) Kaplan H.I. and Sadock, J.B. Synopsis of Psychiatry . Williams and Wilkins, USA. 1998.

(3) Serfontein G. ADD in adults – help for adults who suffer from attention deficit disorder. Simon and Achuster, Australia.  1994:9.

(4) Matthews P.  Fast Food. Nursing Times. March 1986.

(5) Edmonds T.L Hyperactivity, following a special diet could help. Longevity. July 1995:88-89.

(6) Colten HR. Food Hypersensitivity, food allergies and hyperkinesis. Suskin R.M. Textbook of Paediatric Nutrition. Raven Press, New York, 1981:553-562.

(7) Van der Merwe C.F. Hyperactivity, Medunsa . August 1992.

(8) Lewis L. Special diet for special kids. Future Horizons  Arlington, TX: 1998.

(9) Complementary Medicine, 1996(1):20-24.

(10) Langseth L. and Dowd J. Glucose tolerance and hyperkinesis. Food Cosmet. Toxicol. 1978.16-129.

(11) Barnes B. and Colquhoun I. The hyperactive child – what the family can do. Thorsons Publishers, Northamptonshire. 1984:19,77.

(12) Wender P.H. and Wender E. The hyperactive child and the learning disabled child – A handbook for parents. Crown Publishers. 1978:22.

(13) Silver L.B. Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity disorder. Clinical guide to diagnosis and treatment. American Psychiatric Press Inc, Washington. 1992:129-134.

(14) Krause M.V. and Mahan L.K. Food Nutrition and Diet Therapy. A textbook of nutritional care. W.B. Saunders Company, Philadelphia. 1984:633-668.

(15) Feingold B. Why your child is hyperactive? Random House, New York 1985.

(16) Edmonds TL. Hyperactivity, following a special diet could help. Longevity. July 1995:88-89.

(17) The Hyperactive Children`s Support Group. Information sheet – Health Visitor. 1980, 57(1):87-93.

(18) Langseth L. and Dowd J. Glucose tolerance and hyperkinesis. Food Cosmet. Toxicol. 1978.16:129.

(19) Visser S. Attention Deficit Disorders – Radio Talk Show. Cape Town 2001.

(20) Buresz A. Attention Deficit Disorders & Hyperactivity Success.

(21) Mendelson M.D., Robert S.  How to raise Healthy Child  In spite of your Doctor. Ballantine Books, New York 1984.

(22) Townsend Letters for Doctors and Patients.  May 2001:214 p24.

(23) Natural Medicine Feb/March 2006 issue 22.

(24) Holford P., Braley J. Hidden food allergies. Piatkus Books, London 2005.








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