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Nutrition and ADHD

Written by Daniel T. Moore, Ph.D.
Copyright 1999-2018

Planting seeds and raising animals provide an income for farmers. Some people enjoy gardening or raising animals as ahobby. Growing plants and taking care of animals teaches much about the facts of life. For example, gardeners realize thatto get better looking and tasting vegetables, good fertilizer is required. Organic gardeners spend much time mulching andadding nutrients so their crops will be healthful and delicious. Farmers also supplement grain and hay with vitamins andminerals for their livestock to prevent disease and to have healthier animals. It is amazing that so many parents feel that theirchildren do not need similar nutritional care. Nutritional supplements will improve any living organism's well being includingyour child. For some, appropriate nutrition and supplements can alleviate ADHD symptoms.

It is now almost accepted as fact that adding nutritional supplements will help anyone feel better and become healthier. Manydoctors are now prescribing vitamins and herbs to assist people getting well. Still there are too many parents who ignore thebenefits that nutrition offers to ADHD children.

No one can claim that all children with ADHD symptoms will improve solely through nutritional treatments. Some childrenhave had their treatment delayed because of vain hopes that a nutritional supplement will produce a miracle cure. On theother hand, other children have wasted time and energy on medical treatments only to find them ineffective because theADHD symptoms were caused by a lack of nutrition or an allergic reaction to foods or artificial food colors and additives. Arational approach to the use of nutrition is called for. It is hoped that the material in this chapter can help you as a parent ortherapist understand the role of nutrition in the treatment of ADHD symptoms.

There are three nutritional approaches that can improve a child's functioning. For a select few, nutritional treatments canmake a large difference. For everyone, nutrition will make improvements in behavioral, emotional or cognitive functioning. This chapter presents information on the importance of a healthy diet, how allergies effect children and how to recognizethem, and how nutritional supplements are helpful to children with ADHD symptoms.


Part of eight-year-old Joey's routine for preparing for school included a breakfast of Captain Crunch cereal and a blueberry muffin. For lunch, Joey drank chocolate milk, ate pizza and had a cookie for dessert. After school he ate more cookies and drank a cola beverage. Another cola beverage was drunk at dinner. Dinner consisted of a corn dog, french fries and chocolate ice cream for dessert. Joey has ADHD symptoms. Completing homework is a difficult task for Joey and his family.

Joey's diet is not too different from the majority of American children. In our current fast paced society, many children do not eat properly. Most consume empty calories in the form of soda pop, candy, and desserts. Others eat processed foods that contain few vitamins and minerals. Even those who eat healthful foods are missing needed nutrition. For example, it is a fact that organically grown broccoli has many more vitamins and nutrition than regular commercially grown broccoli. Parents who feed their children regular food along with junk food may not be providing their children with an adequate nutritious diet.

Eating an adequate nutritious diet contributes to a healthy lifestyle. When one eats poor food, such as excessive milkproducts, processed flour, and other processed foods, the body is not able to extract vitamins and minerals from the food aswell as it does from a healthy diet of fiber and complex carbohydrates. According to nutritional experts, poor foods cause thedigestive tract to become inefficient in absorbing vitamins and nutrition. So eating poor foods results in a two edge swordagainst the body. It provides inferior amounts of nutrition and also inhibits the body to absorb the nutrition that exists within the food being consumed.

Eating junk food, regular commercial food, and processed food, the normal American diet, may cause severe consequences to our children. The United States has the most children on stimulant medication than any other country in the World. Also, our children are among the most violent in the World. Could our diet have something to do with these grim statistics?

Look at your children's diet and assess: How healthful is the diet? The next question to ask is: How often do they caught a cold or the flu. Are there dark circles under their eyes? Do they have many ear infections? If you have a child with many colds and dark circles under their eyes, it is probable that something is wrong with their diet or the way their body absorbs nutrients.

What exactly is a good diet? This is a good question. Even the Food and Drug Administration (USDA) often change their recommendations for a healthful diet. As science makes new discoveries, what was once thought as adequate nutrition is now considered lacking. To illustrate this point, compare the food recommendations by the USDA with the revised recommendations. These two graphics represent changes in dietary recommendations by the USDA. The graphic on the right was the old USDA recommendations that stressed a balance diet from each of the four food groups. What was stressed was something from each of the four food groups at every meal. The graphic on the left represents the current USDA recommendation which emphasizes less meat and less dairy products. The newest recommendation is called My Plate and shows the need to include five food groups (fruit, vegetable, meat, grains and dairy). In the future, dietary recommendations are likely to change as well. This illustrates how the science of nutrition changes as we learn more information. Nutritionists were advocating a change long before the USDA made the change. Some nutritionists feel that the current recommendations are still not adequate and need to be revised. We suggest adding nutritional supplements, lowering dairy and meat products even further and increasing vegetables.

Let's look at the research to see how helpful a good diet can be. One ambitious research project affected over a million children in New York schools. First the students' academic abilities were measured by a standardized test called the California Achievement Test (CAT). Next, with the help of the children's parents, changes in the children's diets were implemented over a seven year period. Synthetic colors and flavors were gradually eliminated as well as selected preservatives. High sucrose foods were also eliminated. During the third and sixth years of the study, no diet changes were implemented. The results of the study showed significant increases in achievement scores for every year which included a diet change, and no increases during the years when there was no change in diet. Just by following these simple diet changes produced significant changes in achievement scores for the students of New York schools.

Based on other similar studies, we recommend a simple, sensible approach to diet. It consists of large amounts of complex carbohydrates (e.g., whole grain breads, potatoes), much fiber from raw and cooked vegetables, much fresh fruits, sparing amounts of meat, and avoidance of processed sugar. Foods to avoid include processed foods and foods with artificial colors and preservatives. The recommended diet includes supplementing with vitamin, mineral and some herbal products. The type of vitamin supplements will be discussed at the end of this chapter. This diet plan is simple to follow and not as expensive as eating totally organic foods. If you can afford totally organic foods, then you will have an advantage of avoiding extra chemicals that interfere with brain function. Otherwise most families will need to rely on vitamin and mineral supplements to detoxify chemicals and enhance health.

Some parents find it difficult to follow these simple recommendations. Changing a life style or habitual way of eating can be difficult. To prevent open rebellion from your children, ease into these recommendations. Use common sense and try substituting foods to get children to accept a new way of eating. For example, instead of consuming cola drinks, soda pop,and other high sugar drinks, replace them with juice products. You can even purchase carbonated juice products in most health food stores and large grocery stores. Juice is a good substitute for Kool-aid, Power-aid, and other drinks that contain artificial coloring and processed sugars. After your children are used to drinking juice, introduce them to lemon water. Lemon water is water with a slice or wedge of a lemon squeezed into the water. Now you can reduce the juice to an affordable amount. The next transition is to introduce children to plain water. Serve water at lunch and dinner. You can have lemons available. Eventually your children will learn to enjoy drinking water with their meals and having juice as a special treat. In time, most children will actually turn down an offer for soda in order to drink cold water. This may sound impossible now. Use the same process to get children off of potato chips, candy and high sugared desserts. Children from homes that stress healthful diets experience the good feelings of healthfulness and vigor. Realistically it will be difficult to avoid all desserts and junk food. When you eat healthfully over a period of time you will notice a difference. When you change your child's eating patterns, notice the signs of increased health. The side effects of a healthful diet include fewer colds, fewer ear infections, less aggressiveness, and improved school performance. If you gradually return to an unhealthful or normal American diet, you will also notice a gradual return or worsening of symptoms. We recommend that when families deviate from a healthful diet that they get back on track as soon as possible.

If you look at it logically, there is not a good reason to deny your children a healthful diet. If you are an adult with ADHD symptoms, there is not a good reason for you to deny yourself the same. For most ADHD children changing diet will not take away all of the ADHD symptoms. Effective diet will simply improve your child's functioning. Good nutrition providesthe body the raw materials to heal itself and to help the body grow appropriately. Most ADHD children eventually outgrow many of their symptoms. Providing the body with the raw materials for growth and development may help your child out grow these symptoms sooner. Unfortunately there are some children that will have ADHD symptoms even into adulthood no matter how good their diet is. Fortunately this is not true for most children with ADHD symptoms.

People with healthful diets simply do better than people without healthful diets. Some mothers have put it this way: "I would rather pay the grocery bill than the doctor bill." Good nutrition makes sense. It works for plants, it works for animals, and it works for humans too.

Probably the most noticeable effect diet has is with children whose ADHD symptoms are caused by food allergies. Within three days of the correct diet, most ADHD symptoms will disappear.

Allergies and Nutrition

Consider Jerry's story.... Nine year old Jerry had been in therapy for two years. He entered therapy after being evaluated for hospitalization after threatening to kill himself. At the interview, Jerry said he was not going to kill himself but admitted implying that he would. The assessment brought out the fact that for a few years, Jerry had watched his father physically abuse his mother. In therapy the issues related to domestic violence were addressed. Therapy started working on these issues. Jerry improved but still had problems with rages, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness. After six months of therapy, Jerry admitted to his mother that he was being sexually abused by his cousin who would visit about four times a year. Jerry started to be very sexually aggressive and would attempt to fondle his little brother, watch his mother bathe, and talk about sex unceasingly. After several months of therapy, these behaviors decreased but Jerry remained hyperactive, impulsive and aggressive. His mother finally wanted to try medication. Ritalin worked wonders. For the first time, Jerry was calm. His aggressiveness subsided, and his impulsiveness decreased significantly. However, a month or two later his hyperactivity and impulsiveness returned. The Ritalin was increased and produced some improvement. However, with more time Jerry'ssymptoms returned regardless of the increase in Ritalin.

Finally, Jerry's therapist learned about the effects of food allergies on children. When questioned, Jerry's mother told her therapist about Jerry's inability to tolerate milk when he was an infant. He also received blisters on his skin when eggs touched his skin. Following the advise of her therapist, Jerry's mother read the book: "Is This Your Child?" by Dr. Doris Rapp and started Jerry on a diet free of milk and eggs. Within three days Jerry was as calm as the first day of Ritalin. Three days later Jerry ate a slice of cheese cake. Ten minutes after eating the cheese cake, Jerry went into a rage. His mother was then convinced that most of Jerry's symptoms were related to food allergies. Today Jerry is calm, not aggressive, does not rage, and does not talk about sex. He is described as a sweet little boy. Ritalin is no longer required for Jerry. He continues his diet free of milk and eggs and only sees his therapist occasionally.

This story illustrates several important concepts. Did Jerry really need therapy to begin with? If Jerry's mother started the diet at the beginning of therapy, would Jerry need Ritalin? It is probable that if a controlled diet was used at the beginning of therapy Jerry would never have needed Ritalin. Because of the history of domestic violence and the ongoing sexual abuse it is unlikely that diet alone would have resolved those issues. It is likely that therapy would not have been as lengthy if the allergies to food would have been addressed initially. This story represents the complexity of some cases in therapy. It also illustrates the need to identify allergies early in therapy.

Environmental allergists estimate that 80 percent of the populations have allergies in one form or another. Some people sneeze and have a runny nose when they have an allergic reaction to pollen. Other individuals get asthma symptoms. Still some children develop ADHD symptoms as a result of an allergic reaction to food, chemicals or pollens. ADHD symptoms caused by allergies is a very complex topic and much debated among physicians. Even conservative sources estimates that five percent of the ADHD children have their symptoms because of food allergies. Thus, not all children with ADHD have allergies. Many ADHD children do not react to sugar or yellow food dies or any other substance.

How do you tell if your child's ADHD symptoms are caused by allergies? There is no simple answer. Below are two symptom checklists to help answer this question. One checklist is for toddlers and the other for adolescents. If you check many of the following items, it could mean that some or all of your child's ADHD symptoms are caused by allergies. As you complete a checklist, compare your child with other children you know. For example, if you feel that your child wiggles his legs more than your other children, then you would place a check in front of item number eleven on the following checklist.

Checklist for Symptom of a Toddler with Behavior Problems caused by Allergies

Physical Symptoms

___ 1. Frequent ear, chest and/or sinus infections.

___ 2. Runny or stuffy nose

___ 3. Nose rubbing, wiggling, and/or picking

___ 4. Frequent coughing or wheezing

___ 5. Intestinal complaints such as bloating, belching, gagging, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, nausea, rectal gas, and halitosis.

___ 6. Puffy looking face

___ 7. Frequent Headaches

___ 8. Frequent leg aches

___ 9. Seasonal Allergies

___ 10. Asthma

Behavioral Symptoms

___ 11. Wiggly legs

___ 12. Hyperactivity

___ 13. Refusal to stay dressed

___ 14. Temper tantrums

___ 15. Whining

___ 16. Screaming

___ 17. Clinging

___ 18. Excessive fatigue

___ 19. Reluctance to smile

___ 20. Depression

___ 21. Refusal to be touched

___ 22. Desire to crouch in dark corners or under furniture.

___ 23. Aggression such as bitting, hitting, spitting, pinching, punching and kicking

___ 24. Repetition of the same phrases (e.g., desire for a craved food, nonstop, senseless talk)

25. Becomes more hyperactive after eating ...

___ sugar

___ chocolate

___ eggs

___ milk products

___ yellow food dye

___ red food dye

Symptom Checklist for Adolescents

with Behavior Problems caused by Allergies

Physical Symptoms

___ 1. wheezing and/or coughing

___ 2. throat clearing

___ 3. throat clucking

___ 4. post nasal discharge

___ 5. seasonal allergies

___ 6. asthma

___ 7. itchy nose

___ 8. pale/puffy face

___ 9. limp unhealthy hair

___ 10. bad breath

___ 11. infections

___ 12. nervous tics

___ 13. irregular shape, color, lines in nails

___ 14. dry skin

___ 15. hives on skin

___ 16. intestinal complaints

___ 17. urinary complaints

___ 18. itchy rectum

___ 19. leg/muscle cramps

___ 20. "goose bumps" on thighs, back of arms and face

___ 21. creepy crawly skin: as though bugs are walking on it.

___ 22. Unpleasant, b body/foot odor where washing doesn't help

Behavioral Symptoms

___ 23. anger/aggression

___ 24. irritability

___ 25. never happy

___ 26. easy crying

___ 27. wishing to be dead

___ 28. suicidal

___ 29. hurting self

___ 30. fatigue

___ 31. insomnia

___ 32. waking up in the night

___ 33. nightmares

___ 34. restlessness

___ 35. hyperactivity

___ 36. fidgety

___ 37. fuzzy thinking

___ 38. hallucinations

___ 39. puzzling or unacceptable behavior

___ 40. babbling

___ 41. Sensitive to light, sound and touch

___ 42. unsociable

43. Becomes more hyperactive or fidgety after eating ...

___ sugar

___ chocolate

___ eggs

___ milk products

___ yellow food dye

___ red food dye

If you have checked many of these items, then there is evidence that allergies may be causing some or all of your child's ADHD symptoms. Children who were once allergic to milk as an infant or experienced asthma or currently have season alallergies are at high risk of having allergic reactions that negatively effect their behaviors. If many of the above symptoms were checked, we highly recommend you take the following steps.

1. Obtain more information. The best place to obtain information on the effects of allergies on children and adults is in the book: Is This Your Child?: Discovering and Treating Unrecognized Allergies in Children and Adults by Doris J. Rapp, M.D., ISBN: 0688119077. The book was written by a physician to explain the symptoms of ADHD and aggression that arecaused by allergies to foods, chemicals, and other allergens. This is the best book on how allergies influence behaviors thatwe have found. It is a good best place to start in obtaining information. A similar book is Cure Your Child with Food: The hidden connection between nutrition and childhood ailments by Kelly Dorfman.

2. Get an allergy test. See your physicians or an Allergist to obtain an allergy test. Dr. Caputo, a highly recommended allergist knows much about food allergies. He works at the Allergy Center in Mobile, Alabama. He can be reached by telephone at 334-304-0042. There may be an Allergist in your area that uses methods to get at food allergies that cause behavior problems. Not all allergists are good at this. Testing will give you a list of substances that your child is allergic to. Once you have this list, you are ready to take action in controlling the cause of your child's misbehavers. Action may include allergy shots, homeopathic drops, and/or diets that avoid contact with the allergens.

3. Keep a journal. Observe you child's behavior and keep a journal of your observations. Allergy tests may not confirm all that your child is allergic to or reacting to behaviorally. Armed with the knowledge of what your child is allergic to from the allergy tests, continue to observe your child's behavior. Notice when he/she misbehaves. For example, one mother observed her child become more hyperactive when they passed the bath and beauty store in the mall. Such children react to the chemicals found in perfumes and fragrances. Others react to the chemicals in household cleaners. By keeping a careful journal of your child's behaviors, you will notice patterns that will give you clues to the cause of your child's allergic reactions.

4. Start a diet. Once you have an idea as to what things your child is allergic to, the next step is to avoid these items. If your child has food allergies, try a diet that illuminates these foods. Careful planning is needed before you start the diet. Before you start the diet you will need to know what behaviors you wish to measure to determine if the diet is successful or not. Some behaviors might include a reduction in temper tantrums, decrease aggression, or better hand writing.

Be careful that when you start the diet that other variables do not interfere with the success of the diet. For example, if your child is allergic to certain foods and pollens, do not perform the diet in the spring or the fall when pollens are at their highest levels. Make sure that you do not do a diet when the school or your home has new carpeting or has been recently remodeled.

You will need to plan how to keep your child away from certain foods when your child is at school and other places. If your child is uncooperative you may have to wait for a vacation from school. Armed with the above information, you are ready to try a diet. Dr. Rapp's book gives good guidelines on how to do a diet. Basically the diet involves eliminating all foods and food additives (e.g., red & yellow food coloring, sodium nitrate) that you suspect your child is allergic to. A good health food store will have supplements that will make the diet easier. For example, almond milk can be used for children that are allergic to dairy products.

You may wonder why start a diet if you know from the allergy tests what your child is allergic to. The answer is simple. You need to know how much the allergens actually affect your child's behavior. Some children's behavior is not affected by allergies. Their ADHD symptoms are caused by something else. For other children their allergies cause almost all of their misbehavior. The diet will help you determine if your child's ADHD symptoms are caused by food allergies. If you child's ADHD symptoms are caused by food allergies, you should see a significant difference in your child's behaviors within four days. We recommend you follow the diet for two weeks as instructed in Dr. Rapp's book.

5. Keep a record of your findings. Records are not only useful for your own observations and deductions, but also for the convincing of many skeptical professionals. Many physicians and psychologists doubt that allergies can cause ADHD symptoms or aggressive behaviors. Your careful records of changes in behavior following a diet will be most convincing and will help in the treatment of your child. Dr. Rapp's book has many useful charts for record keeping during the diet. The records you keep will be useful as your child grows older.

If your child has an allergy and that allergy is causing most of the ADHD symptoms, then you have a treatment plan that is actually addressing the cause and not just treating the symptoms. Treating allergies involves more than keeping your child from being exposed to allergens. Treating also involves making the body more resistant to allergens. This may involve allergy shots, allergy medications, homeopathic remedies, and diet supplements. Diet supplements include vitamins, minerals and herbs.

Supplements: Vitamins, Herbs and other natural products.

Linda and her father have Attention Deficit Disorder that are not caused by allergies. Both do not have behavior problems. To help Linda perform better in school Linda's physician prescribed Ritalin. It worked really well. Immediately her grades improved by one or two letters. To avoid possible long term side effects (e.g., weight loss, slower growth), Linda wanted to be "weaned" off the Ritalin. Someone introduced Linda and her father to Pycnogenol. Linda's father was a bit skeptical but decided to try it. While he did not notice much of a difference in himself, his daughter said she liked it and wanted to use it in place of Ritalin under the supervision of her physician. Currently she makes above average grades. When her grades drop, she uses a combination of grapefruit seed extract, gingko biloba and ginseng products. Linda's father decided to use grapefruit seed extract for his other ailments which included symptoms of carpel tunnel syndrom, bronchitis, and allergy problems. He heard that you couldn't overdose on grapefruit seed extract, so he decided to try mega dosages. Soon he did not have these symptoms. Today he is symptom free of these ailments and only notices these symptoms when he is under stress or has stopped taking the grapefruit seed extract.

Nutritional supplements can help your child in a variety of ways. Research has shown in double blind controlled studies (the best type of scientific research) that vitamin supplements increase children's intelligence, decrease aggressiveness, and helps reduce illness. Children's intelligence level can increase up to an average of six points. Research conducted in the 1980's has shown that adding a multiple vitamin and minerals increased non verbal (visual-spatial intelligence) in children. All children become more cooperative and less aggressive with vitamins and minerals.

Knowing which supplements to take and how much is often difficult to determine. Research is constantly studying new products, new combinations and new methods of supplement administration. We will summarize the information and point out that what is recommended today. This information may change tomorrow.

Several concepts need to be explained to help you decide what types and what brands of supplements make the most sense to buy. These concepts are purity, bio-availability, absorption rates of an individual, and costs. These concepts will be explained followed by the types of supplements we find helpful for children with ADHD symptoms.

Purity. Purity refers to the amount of the substance (or active ingredient) contained in the supplement without additional ingredients being there. Other ingredients include inert ingredients or materials that are believed to cause no reaction to the body. Other ingredients may include the gelatin the capsule is made of, fillers or materials to make the capsule or pill appear bigger, materials that keep the ingredients in pill form. Almost every natural supplement will contain added ingredients. Artificial food coloring and sugar are too common in popular brands and can cause allergic reactions in some children. The best supplements will contain no solvents, yeast, corn, wheat, sugar, salt, dairy products, coloring, flavoring or preservatives.

It is very unfortuante but in 2015 four chain companies or big box department stores were found with their store brand herbs not containing the actual herb that was posted on the label. Their products were adulterated. There was even a class action law suit. Such deceptive practices destroy consumer confidence and inhibits individuals from benefiting from the healing aspects of real herbal products. It forces many consumers to return to standard medicine and all the side effects invovled with medications. One has to wonder if these companies are adulterating their herbal products, what other products are they adulterating?

Purity can also be effected by contamination that is not purposeful adulteration. Products may contain harmful ingredients like residue from herbicides or pesticides used to grow the herb or natural product. Harmful residues from the extraction process can make a product less pure and in some cases harmful. Even pollutants from the environment can sometimes contaminate a natural product. Some herbs produce toxic chemicals during their own growth cycle resulting in a toxic dose or harmful dose if picked at the wrong time of the year. Purity is an important concept when considering purchasing nutritional supplements. For all practical purposes, the more pure the product, the better the product and the more likely you will get the desired results.

Bio-availability. Bio-availability refers to the total percentage of a dose that first can be absorbed by the body and utilized by the body's cells. Some popular brand name vitamins that are purchased today are believed to have a very low bio-availability. These are vitamins made from petroleum products and do not get absorbed well by the body. If this is true, it means that people are spending their money on expensive vitamins only to have those vitamins excreted in much the same form that they came into the body. Natural vitamins or vitamins derived from plants usually have greater bio-availability. Some vitamins are designed to increase their bio-availability. For example, when taking minerals, chelated minerals and colloidal minerals are supposed to have a greater bio-availability. Some report that spray colloidal vitamins have the greatest bio-availability.

Absorption ability of the individual. While purity and bio-availability may be high, another reason that you might not see desired results is because of your child's ability to absorb nutrients. Some people simply absorb nutrition better than others. Two factors that help the body absorb nutrients include the amount of good bacteria in the intestines and the "cleanliness" of the intestines. Bacteria play an important role in helping the body absorb vitamins and minerals. When a person takes an antibiotic, much of the intestinal flora is destroyed including "friendly" bacteria associated with digestion. To create a good balance of intestinal flora, acidophilous and other probiotic supplements are recommended after the completion of an antibiotic.

The second factor involves the cleanliness of the intestinal tract. Milk products and certain junk foods (e.g., potato chips) are believed to coat the intestines to the point that the intestine's ability to absorb nutrients is lowered. Eating high fiber foods(e.g., broccoli, bran) helps clean the intestines. Another recommendation to clean the intestine is a twenty four hour fast diet of 100 percent organinc grape juice. For most children, just supplementing their diet with grape juice and high fiber food while avoiding junk food will help clean out the intestines. Remember that when you control your children's diet at home, you also have to control their diet at school. A way to tell if the intestines are clean is by looking at the stool of the child. The stool should be relatively thin, heavy (sinking to the bottom of the toilet) and not as smelly. Many nutritional supplements which might have been useful have been discarded simply because the individual body was not prepared to receive the nutrition. A healthy diet can prepare the body to receive the benefits of nutritional supplements.

Costs. Without your own laboratory it is impossible to tell which products have the highest purity and highest bio-availability. Consumers must rely on the reports of others. Generally speaking products that are pharmacy grade and used by physcians (e.g., Functional Medical Doctors), have the highest quality. These products have the highest cost. Next in line are the products that are available through reputable multi-level marketing companies or recommended companies from health food stores. They are also most likely to have the highest costs. Often commercial products (e.g., commercial vitamins available at most grocery stores) are going to have the lowest quality and often the lowest price. This is not always the case and one must rely on consumer reports and product comparison information. Psychologically speaking, it is important to purchase diet supplements that you trust. A good attitude towards the product, may increase the products efficacy.

There are ways to save money on vitamin supplements. Often mail order companies will offer the same products that you can obtain in health food stores at a discount. We recommend an online store called Vita Cost. They have a wide variety of brands and they even have their own well researched Vita Cost brands. They also offer organic and gluten free food products.

Another method to save costs is to first try a high quality supplement. As you take the product obtain many objective measures as described in the previous section. This will help you measure the benefit of that supplement. With time your measurements will show if the product is working or not. Next, you can change the expensive supplement with a good inexpensive brand. If you get good results with the less expensive brand, then you can continue its use to save money. If you notice a drop in effectiveness, then return to the original product. We have had reports from others that the grapefruit seed extract from discount stores is able to obtain results as does grapefruit seed extract from more expensive sources. You may need to experiment to see if your child can achieve the desired results on less expensive brands of supplements. But first, we recommend you start with a high quality brand. If you do not get the desired results with the high quality brand, you probably will not obtain the results with an inferior product.

In summary, obtaining the best results from nutritional products is not always as easy as it sounds. There are many reasons why some products appear to work for one child but fail on another. Some of these reasons may be due to product purity, product bio-availability, and the individual's ability to absorb the nutrients. When using nutritional supplements, we recommend the following steps:

1. Prepare the child mentally and emotionally about the product. This includes telling the child what you plan to do and why. Let children know you are trying an experiment and if the experiment is successful it will help them do better in school and at home.

2. Prepare the child physically. This means a healthful diet. If you suspect your child has food allergies, follow the principles outlined above. Avoid foods that the child is allergic to while trying the effects of a nutritional supplement. Our definition of a healthy diet is a diet low in processed sugar and high in fiber. Process foods should be avoided as well as restaurant food that has many additives or has been processed.

Preparing the child physically may include adding good bacteria in the form of a probiotic or live culture yogurt. If your child has used antibiotics we recommend supplements of a healthy bacteria. Acidophilous is a great starting point but we also recommend products that has more than one healthy bacteria. Your grocery store will have products that contain acidophilous (e.g., some orange juice, some yogurt). If you use yogurt or a milk product to supply the acidophilous, wait a few days without milk before you start the nutritional product.

3. Purchase the highest quality nutritional supplement available. For example, the Ginkgo Biloba at a discount super market may not be as high of quality as the Gingko Biloba from the health food store. After you have demonstrated that Ginkgo is helpful to improve your child's memory, then you can see if the Ginkgo at other stores is just as effective. Some prefer to continue with the brand they know is effective even if it is more expensive.

4. Give your child the recommended amount of the product. If you do not know the recommended dosage, ask around until you get the right dosage for the age and weight of your child.

5. Give the product ample time before you decide to give up on the experiment. Nutritional supplements rarely work as quickly as medication. Some may actually take two months before they can produce enough change in the body to see a measurable difference.

6. Notice improvements in doing homework, mood control, concentration, and behavior. Try to obtain objective information as well as subjective information. Objective information could include improved grades, turning work assignments in on time, or a reduced number of temper tantrums. Keep good records and show these records to your doctor and other helping professionals.

  • Sometimes it is wise to rotate your nutritional supplements. We suspect that the body gets used to the nutritional supplements which results in a loss of effectiveness with time. One way to counter act the problem is to discontinue a certain product or procedure and use a different product that is supposed to do the same thing. For example, if you use Pycnogenol and are noticing a decrease in effectiveness, you might switch to Super Blue Green Algae for a month or two. Afterwards you can return to using Pycnogenol and should receive positive effects as you did the first time you used the product.

Hopefully you are now ready to consider various nutritional products to experiment with. Choosing the right supplement depends on the suspected cause of the ADHD symptoms. For example, if your child has allergies you will want to choose products that assist the body to effectively deal with the allergens. This may include products like MSM, homeopathicd rops, mega dosage of grapefruit seed extract, Alfalfa, and other products. If you feel your child has the "classic genetic" cause of ADHD then you might consider Pycnogenol, grapefruit seed extract, or a combination of herbs designed for ADHD symptoms. There are literally hundreds of products which claim to be helpful for children with ADHD symptoms. Below is a list of our favorites. Additional lists may come from an ADHD support group or an experienced parent.

Pycnogenol is a trademark for a antioxidant found in pine bark. It is believed to be completely safe and has the sametherapeutic compound as vitamin C. Companies that sell Pycnogenol report the following "typical results" with ADHD individuals:

A generalized calming effect

Significantly increased mental alertness

Increased ability to remain focused upon a given task or problem

Activities and plans much more organized

Far less impulsiveness of behavior

decreased aggressiveness

A subjective feeling of being "at ease"

More in control of one's thoughts

Improved grades in school

Improved recognition of the cooperation with requests from teachers and parents

Fairborne is a company that is supposed to have a high quality Pycnogenol product. Their toll free phone number is 1-800-810-8696. They have a product for children and adults. Their children's product cost about $60.00 for a three week supplyand the adult formula is about $114.00. One advantage of ordering products from Fairborne is that they offer a 90 daymoney back guarantee. This is a nice feature because if it does not work for your child, at least you can get your moneyback. Most other professionals do not make this kind of offer!

New Vision is another company that offers quality products. For the treatment of ADHD, New Visions recommends aprogram called God's Recipe. This program requires the child to follow a special diet that avoids food sugars and use at leastthree of their products. To start their program, expect to spend about $100 to $150.00 and about $75.00 per month tomaintain their program. No known research has been published as to the program's success with ADHD children, but thecompany can provide you with many testimonials.

Super Blue Green Algae is sold by Cell Tech, a multilevel company that has many professionals (physicians, chiropractors,psychotherapists) becoming involved with the company and doing research. Their start up kit costs $135.00 and you canexpect about a $50.00 to $75.00 per month maintenance cost. Several research studies have been performed and havereported significant positive results. However, no known study has been published that reported the effects of a controlgroup. This means that the additional benefit of algae over a placebo (sugar pill) has not been determined yet. Usingnutritional supplements takes time to see results. Cell Tech offers full money back guarantee for 90 days. We feel theirapproach is especially good to get the body healthy and ready for nutritional benefits. They have a product that combinesalgae with several types of healthy bacteria. Cell Tech distributers provide many testimonials that claim their program isbeneficial for children with ADHD symptoms.

Super B - Complex is an herbal formula manufactured by Twin Laboratories in Ronkonkoma, N.Y. This vitamin B complexin liquid form which is easy to put in children's fruit juice.

Colloidal Minerals from DNA Labs is a low cost liquid mineral supplement. They come in eye dropper form. Othercompanies combine colloidal minerals with other nutritious liquids. DNA's minerals can be easily dropped into fruit juice.Colloidal minerals are used to improve the overall health of children. Again, some parents rotate colloidal minerals andvitamin B complex to help reduce the amount of medication needed for aggressive, inattentive children. Rotate means to useone for a while and then use the other for a while. Rotation is done to prevent the body getting used to the product and thenreturning to it's pre-treatment condition.

Gingko Biloba is often used to help brain functioning. Choose a good natural brand. We have had several reports on howgreat this herb is in helping cognitive functioning. A few children have been sensitive to gingko biloba and are not able totake it.

Calm Attend is manufactured in Ogden Utah. We have had teachers report noticeable difference in children who take thisproduct designed for individuals with Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder.

This list could go on and on. We recommend that you start your own list and keep record of what nutritional supplementswork best for your family. Remember to always be careful. Carefulness involves learning about what the nutritionalsupplement is supposed to do and how it works, informing your physician of what supplements you plan to try, andmonitoring unwanted side effects (if any). When you use nutritional supplements wisely, supplements can make a bigdifference in the health and emotional well being of your ADHD child.

Grape Seed Extract manufacturers claim that grape seeds have the same therapeutic benefit as Pycnogenol. The cost isconsiderable less and is even available at discount super stores.


ADHD symptoms are frustrating at times. The goal of every parent and ADHD child should be to relieve as many symptomsas possible. This chapter presented information on how diet can help reduce symptoms, how allergies cause ADHDsymptoms in some children and how to determine if your child is effected by allergies. Finally we discussed how to usenutritional supplements to reduce ADHD symptoms. Just as medication alone is not recommended for most ADHDchildren, nutrition alone is not recommended either. For some children, practicing good nutritional principles can reduce theneed for increases in medication. A few children may not even need stimulant medication, especially if the cause of theADHD symptoms is only caused by allergies. For these children allergy medicine and other treatments are recommended. All children with ADHD symptoms could benefit from the various behavioral techniques. Most parents can benefit byparenting techniques. Information on these techniques are presented in this book. By incorporating a holistic approach toADHD treatment, you can assist your child in reaching their full potential.

Nutrition will be covered in Chapter 6. Topics include the importance of a healthy diet, the effects of allergies on ADHD,and covers a few of the popular nutritional supplements recommended for individuals with ADHD symptoms. Referencesfor additional information is given.

Recommended Books for More Information

Prescription for Nutritional Healing by James F. Balch, M.D. and Phyllis A. Balch, C.N.C. Clark, ISBN: 0895297272. Written by a M.D. and loaded with helpful information covering many physical and emotional disorders.

The How to Herb Book by Velma J. Keith and Monteen Gordon, ISBN: 0961782501. A great place to start for the amateurnutritionist. Recommended by many health food stores.

Fit For Life by Harvey and Marilyn Diamond, ISBN: 0446300152. Our favorite diet plan and explanations for healthfuleating habits. The second book, Fit for Life II, is good also.

Improve your Child's IQ and Behavior by Stephen Schoenthaler, ISBN: 056336193X. This book presents how to improveyour child's behavior and intelligence level through diet and nutritional supplements. This book is backed by extensivescientific research.

Additional References

Bejar, I.I. (1981) Does nutrition cause intelligence? A reanalysis of the Cali experiment. Intelligence, 5, 49-68.

Benton, D. & Roberts, G. (1988) Effects of vitamin and mineral supplementation on intelligence of a sample of schoolchildren. The Lancet, 140-143.

Eysenck, H.J. (1991) Raising IQ through vitamin and mineral supplementation: An introduction. Personality and IndividualDifferences, 12, 329-333.

Lynn, R. (1990) The role of nutrition in secular increases in intelligence. Personality and Individual Differences, 11, 273-285.

Lynn, R. (1989) A nutrition theory of the secular increases in intelligence; Positive correlations between height, head size,and IQ. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 59, 372-377.

Schoenthaler, S., Doraz, W. & Wakefield, J. (1986) The impact of a low food additive and sucrose diet on academicperformance in 803 New York City public schools. International Journal of Biosocial Research, 8, 185-195.

Snowden, W. (1997) Evidence from an analysis of 200 errors and omissions made in IQ tests by a small sample of school children, undergoing vitamin and mineral supplements, that speed of processing is an importantfactor in IQ performance. Personality and Individual Differences, 22, 131-134.

Wachs, T.D., Moussa, W., Bishry, Z., Yunis, F., Sobhy, A., McCabe, G., Jerome, N., Galal, O., Harrison, G., & Kirksey,A. (1993) Relations between nutrition and cognitive performance in Egyptian toddlers. Intelligence, 17, 151-172.

Wachs, T.D., Moussa, W., Yunis, F., McCabe, G., Jerome, N., Galal, O., Harrison, G., & Kirksey, A. (1996) Cognitive performance of Egyptian adults as a function of nutritional intake and sociodemographicsfactor. Intelligence, 22, 129-154.

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