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The causes and natural treatment of Autism, ADHD and ADD
By Sheena Hendon Health ((Registered professional nutritionist, Registered naturopath, Master NLP practitioner)
Please feel free to contact me today and or book in for an appointment

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and attention deficit disorder (ADD) are neurological and behaviour-related conditions that cause difficulty in concentrating, impulsiveness and excessive energy. Individuals with ADHD symptoms not only have a challenge in concentrating, but have a challenge sitting still. Those with ADHD are typically more disruptive than individuals with ADD.

New Zealand statistics and information

  • ADHD affects 2-5% of all children.
  • ADHD was first described 100 years ago but is no more prevalent now, just better recognised.
  • Although up to 3x as many boys are diagnosed with ADHD as girls, it is now suspected the incidence is more like 1:1.
  • Research suggests 50-80% of children with ADHD will continue to meet diagnostic criteria in adolescence and 50-70% will have symptoms causing impairment as adults.
  • The incidence of ADHD is approximately the same across all countries and races​
  • Most ADHD children have the social and emotional maturity of a child two thirds their age.
  • The stimulants Ritalin and Dexamphetamine have been used for over 40 years.  Between 80-90% of children with significant ADHD will be helped in the short term by one of the stimulants.
  • Approximately half of the children who present with ADHD are also troubled by specific learning disabilities, e.g dyslexia.
  • Oppositional Defiant Disorder is a co-morbid condition found in 40-60% of children with ADHD
  • Recent research suggests that sleep deprivation, circadian rhythm disturbances and sleep-disordered breathing (including mouth breathing) may lead to the induction of ADHD-like symptoms.

Researchers suggest that the long-term consequences of ADHD include dire psychological, educational and psychiatric consequences. Early diagnosis and intervention are important factors in preventing the debilitating effects of this condition.

Symptoms of ADD/ADHD

The severity of symptoms can vary greatly from individual to individual, depending on environment, diet and other factors. Children may exhibit one or more of the following symptoms of ADHD/ADD :

  • Difficulty in concentrating and diminished focus
  • Easily distracted
  • Easily bored
  • Difficulty organizing or completing tasks
  • Prone to losing things
  • Doesn’t listen
  • Difficulty in following instructions
  • Fidgety behaviour, squirming
  • Extreme difficulty being still and/or quiet
  • Impatience

Adults may exhibit one or more of the following symptoms of ADD/ADHD:

  • Difficulty focusing and concentrating on a task, project, or conversation
  • Overwhelming emotional and physical restlessness
  • Frequent mood swings
  • Prone to anger and a hot temper
  • Disorganizsd
  • Low tolerance of people, situations, and surroundings
  • Unstable relationships
  • Increased risk for addiction

The most common treatment of ADD/ADHD today is using medications such as Ritalin, both of which have been linked to suicidal thoughts and personality changes. Ritalin is a central nervous system stimulant, that can cause nervousness, agitation, anxiety, insomnia, vomiting, an increased heart rate, increased blood pressure and even psychosis.

With these side effects, it is easy to see why so many people are seeking effective natural solutions for ADHD. The good news is the natural medical model and functional medicine offer ADD/ADHD treatments that are both effective and without the possible side effects of prescription medications.

The key way the natural medical model differs from the orthodox medical model is that we seek to find and treat the cause rather than the symptoms.

Root Causes of ADD/ADHD

According to several international studies root causes that may increase the risk and in many cases, worsens the symptoms include;

  • A genetic link.
  • Environmental factors such as electromagnetic fields (EMF)
  • Diet and nutrient deficiencies.  Refined sugar, artificial sweeteners, and chemical food additives, nutritional deficiencies, preservatives and food allergies are all causes of ADD/ADHD.
  • In children, a partial cause is related to a lack of interest or forcing children to learn in a manner to which they are not geared to learn.
  • Learning style. Some children learn better by seeing or doing (kinesthetic), rather than by hearing. This may not be catered for in a traditional learning environment which makes it tricky for all involved.

The natural and biomedical approach to autism and ASD

The aim is to address the underlying metabolic, digestive and immunological factors that may contribute to the neurological symptoms. By addressing these we aim to reduce the severity of symptoms as well as the impact on the lives of the individual, their family and carers

The five key principles are

  1. Dietary intervention to help correct nutritional imbalances, resolve gut dysbiosis and heal the gut wall enabling effective gut function (including nutrient absorption and reduction of food toxins effecting brain health)
  2. Digestive tract healing
  3. Nutritional medicine to balance biochemistry and deficiencies and to target oxidative stress and inflammation
  4. Detoxification Promotion of methylation, sulfation and chelation of heavy metals
  5. Neurodevelopment and behavioural therapies.

Medication may be also necessary for some children as we work on the root causes and eventually a drug free approach where we can

Dietary Changes

  1. Identify and allergies or sensitivities. Either through IgE and IgG blood tests or observation. Removing these reduces gut wall irritation and reduces stress in the overburdened immune system. Often al low phenol/salicylate or a low oxalate diet may be necessary. Additionally, most children will benefit from a gluten and casein free (GFCF) diet. This is because these 2 proteins when broken down have a similar structure to opiates. In individuals with an inflamed gut these may cause ‘zoning out’, repetitive behaviour, sleep disturbances, constipation, and high pain tolerance
  2. Improve health of the digestive tract. This will include reducing inflammation and balancing the bacteria (reducing dysbiosis) as there may be more opportunistic microbes from Candida, Strep, Staph and less of the good bacterial such as Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria in these individuals. These opportunistic microbes may cause neurological changes. Eg Candida spp produce alcohol from any sugar or carbohydrate which effects brain health. Eg Streptococcus are often elevated in Autism, ADHD and OCD cases. The strep produces toxins that may cause the symptoms of these disorders. PANDAS (Paediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders) are associate with Streptococcal infections
  3. Address Methylation, detoxification, oxidation, autoimmunity and genetics
    Your health practitioner will discuss with you how he or she may detect methylation, pyrroluria, heavy metal toxicity and more and then how these may be treated
    Testing may include;
  4. Urinary Kryptopyrroles to determine pyrroluria (this results in B6 and zinc deficiency
  5. Blood tests: Plasma zinc and serum copper, Iron studies, Full blood count’ Vitamin D, Folate/ B12, Serum creatinine, homocysteine and streptococcal serology (if PANDAS is suspected) and other bloods
  6. Heavy metal toxicity using the Oligoscan (see ) $140
  7. Genetic testing (such as Fitgenes $499)
  8. Stool testing (CDSA $280 to $350) and more
Vegetables and Fruit Heart Shaped

Treatment of the root causes and symptoms

Dietary changes
May include a specific ADHD, Autism diet such as that in the appendix but more likely addressing your individual needs: Often sugar, artificial additives are the first to be eliminated, then any known allergens and then processed flour products
Depending on the individual’s symptoms we may consider low casein, gluten, phenol, oxalate or salicylate diets

Nutritional medicines
May be used to
Balance biochemistry and address deficiencies
Provide nutrients for growth and development
Boost immunity
Reduce inflammation
Reduce oxidative damage
Specific nutrient requirements (prescribed once we know which are necessary or beneficial) may include zinc, probiotics, cod liver oil (with vitaminsA and D), P5P, vitamin C, Calcium and magnesium and others. Herbal medicines may also be prescribed

ADHD and EMFs from mobile devices
Many studies have found a strong correlation between ADHD and EMF radiation exposure. Hence limiting screen and phone time and using EMF blocking devices may be useful.

ADHD Learning.
Last but not least, understand that different children have different ways of learning. Most children or adults with ADHD are kinesthetic learners — that means they’re hands-on learners. So know that if you try and put them in a classroom and tell them to sit there and not move for eight hours straight, that really isn’t natural for them.

That is not to say that by following these tips they can’t do that — I’m sure they can — but looking for a school system or teachers that really understand kinesthetic learning, that are patient, and that can be hands-on is one of the best ways of learning and supporting children with ADHD.

Where to next:
This information provides you with a brief overview and summary of the natural medical model approach to ADHD/ADD. The person affected by this disease is an individual and hence we treat them as one and that is why an appointment with a qualified and registered health professional is key.
Please feel free to contact me today and or book in for an appointment


Foods to Avoid on the ADHD Diet

There is no doubt, whether it’s a personality trait or a nutritional deficiency, that these tips will help. So let’s start off talking about an ADHD diet.

Now, the No. 1 thing most of you know is you’ve got to remove sugar and specifically gluten from children or adults with ADHD. Sugar is a major problem because it will cause blood-sugar spikes, which then really causes focus levels to drop when the blood-sugar spikes down — which will cause lack of focus. Then on a high spike, it will cause that hyperactivity behavior. So kicking your sugar addiction and getting sugar out of the diet, especially processed sugar, is No. 1.

Other foods to avoid include:

  • Gluten
  • Conventional dairy
  • Food coloring and dyes
  • Caffeine
  • MSG and HVP
  • Nitrates
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Soy
  • Personal food sensitivities and allergens

Foods and Supplements to Eat on the ADHD Diet
The next step in terms of diet is loading your child up with healthy protein, fat and fibre during the meals. That’s going to keep the blood sugar steady. So following a nutrient-dense diet — a diet high in vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, and organic meats — is an ideal diet for anybody with ADHD symptoms. Also a diet high in omega-3-fatty acids.

The typical ADHD diet should include:

  • Omega-3 foods
  • High protein meals and snacks
  • Iron-rich foods
  • Foods high in B vitamins
  • Poultry
  • Probiotic foods
  • Eggs

Fact Sheet: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) topic,

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