ADHD, ADD & Focus: Back to School
by Heather Caruso
For many students a lack of focus has serious consequences for those attempting to put their best efforts into their school work. Focus may be related to the diagnosis of attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Up to 10 percent of all children have been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD, the greater percentage of them are boys. The diagnosis of ADD deals with the inattentive type of attention deficit disorder. However, some students find they can focus at certain times and not at others. What are the triggers and how can we best support learning and focus?
“The Twinkie brain” is an endearing term for those who eat predominantly starches in their diet. Those who consume mostly grains, little to none fresh vegetables, fruits, healthy fats or proteins have trouble focusing. Diets that focus on grains (bread, pasta, crackers, cookies etc), refined carbohydrates (white flour, white sugar), sweets (sugar, candies, baked goods, syrups, high fructose corn syrup, honey, maple syrup) and empty calories (regular and diet pop, juice and alcohol). The main problem with this diet is the excess amount of sugar or converted sugar in the body impairs memory processes by interfering with brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) mRNA and protein in the hippocampus. All this fancy term means is that our memory and learning capability goes down when we overload our brain with sugar. Junk food consumers also suffer with more depression, dementia, type 2 diabetes and sleep disorders than any other group. Not only that but eating too much sugar actually makes chemicals in the brain that cause us to crave junk, addictive behaviours and increases our appetite by interfering with our satiety hormone. Interestingly, homeopaths see a bad diet as a large obstacle to cure in cases. Some children don’t get enough nutrition from their food, due to their fussy palates. Fish is one food that many children don’t enjoy.
Brain lube; please check your oil levels. Many of us are lacking healthy essential fats in our diet. Our brain and nervous system contain the highest amount of fat and require essential fatty acids to help it run well. The brain is 60% fat. In our diets we actually need fat to help us to make sex hormones and also to absorb fat soluble antioxidants such as vitamin A, D, E and K. A component found in fatty fish called DHA helps to make our brain function better. Those who are vegetarian and don’t eat fish may try flaxseed ground or oil instead. However, for some people, their liver doesn’t convert flaxseed into omega 3 very well. Taking a fish oil supplement that is molecularly distilled with a high amount of DHA is beneficial for cognitive function and will ensure no heavy metal contamination.
Sleep is another obstacle to cure and an issue that affects both mental and physical performance. Attention and working memory may be poor when a person gets less than five hours sleep per night. An interesting study found that college students who reported the most satisfactory sleep scores had higher grade point averages than those who did not. A shorter sleep duration and efficacy of sleep is related to higher ADHD/ADD scores on the gold standard Conner’s scale. Studies have shown that children with sleep deficit also suffered with more depression and anxiety.
Distractions impede everyone’s ability to focus. Our tech based society has taken away our ability to concentrate and focus on one specific task. Distractions, such as the emails, television, phones, social networking, pagers and texting interfere with focus. Studies show that children who spend time in nature improve their focus. Those who watch the most television or play video games have the least ability to focus and increased impulsiveness, not to mention cause social adjustment issues from a lack of experience with other people due to isolation.
Homeopathy is a great system of medicine that treats people’s unique symptoms using safe and gentle medicines. Each person that has ADHD who seeks help from a homeopath, may get a different remedy, based on their unique needs. To highlight one’s unique needs a few common homeopathic remedies are below:
Calcarea carbonica is a remedy useful for slow children who may be forgetful and obstinate. They tend to suffer with a sweaty hot head. Some children are sweaty and clammy. They feel worse for exertion, coldness and during a full moon. They may tend to be heavier set kids. Their sleep may be filled with nightmares and wake up with some upsetting idea in their head. They tend to leave a sweaty deposit on their pillows at night. Sometimes these children crave eggs, fat, cold drinks and indigestible things.
Baryta Carbonica is a homeopathic remedy that is helpful for children who are slow mentally and can be physically weak They have low self confidence, shy away from strangers and may tend to enlarged adenoids and glands, especially the cervical glands. They may have difficulty concentrating and following instructions. They tend to like to stay home, since they are bashful types. These types have recurrent tonsilitis and colds.
Tarentula hispanica is an interesting remedy. Children who need this remedy can be impulsive and lack emotional control. They are restless and compelled to walk. They can be erratic, sometimes sweet and then irritable. They love music, dancing and rhythmic beats. They can be stubborn, destructive and demanding. These kids may refuse to eat and have a low appetite.
Tuberculinum is a good remedy for children who are always wanting to travel, go here and there and don’t feel fulfilled. They may be restless, impulsive and want to run. They may be malicious and destructive if they are provoked or don’t get their own way. They may like to fight and throw things. They tend towards catching colds, ear infections and bronchial infections. They crave smoked meats and fats.
Please note there are many homeopathic remedies for the symptoms of ADD or ADHD, however, the remedy should suit the person, not just the disease name. Thus it is prudent to seek the help of a qualified homeopath. There are many issues at hand that interfere with one’s ability to focus. The best route is always to clear away distractions, eat a wholesome diet with well over 50 percent fresh produce, healthy fats (olive and coconut oil, nuts – if not allergic and fatty fish), lean protein, legumes and minimal whole grains (oats, millet, quinoa and brown rice). If distractions are not an issue, food intake is prudent and balanced, book your child an appointment with a homeopath to find a remedy suited to their needs.
Heather Caruso is a holistic nutritionist and homeopath in private practice in Guelph Ontario for the past 16 years. For more information go to www.heathercaruso.com.