ADHD: Prescription Drugs or Not?!

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I’ve been listening to so many stories from friends, acquaintances, and strangers that have experienced their child’s school teacher/psychologist/administrators either hint at or outright suggest their child be put on prescribed meds for their ADHD/autistic behaviors. I personally have felt the constant pressure that I should do more for my kids and the “he just doesn’t focus and that is his main problem” statements during IEP meetings or parent/teacher conferences.

Over the years I have presented my natural approach to my sons’ school and have also received tremendous support. But it seems lately with the school budget cuts, and teachers/staff stress over increased classroom sizes that the “quick fix” of ADHD drugs seems to be the popular method of controlling the kids in the classroom. I have always said that the decision to put any child on prescription medications is a personal family choice. One that should not be made without careful consideration as to the ramifications, side affects, and health and well being of the child. This is not something that others should put upon parents whether guilting them into it, or painting a scenario that “he just isn’t working at his full potential”.

One approach that helps kids with ADHD and autism (all kids for that matter) is physical exercise EVERY day. Good, aerobic, physical activity. School budget cuts have forced schools to eliminate regular P.E. classes at the elementary school level, and team sports in middle school at a time when children and adolescents need daily physical activity to help them grow and learn. Thanks to the advances in technology, kids now have more electronic devices to occupy their free time instead of going outside to run, bike, skateboard, and play. Parents seem to be at a loss for what to do for their child and prescription meds are a seemingly sensible solution.

What prompted me to write about this is an article I read today about how low-income kids are being prescribed ADHD meds to boost academic performance. I know this sound like an outrage and “how can anyone do that?!” To me it’s really no different than kids given this for ADHD or autism. Unless a family has fully tried all methods of helping their child with natural approaches like a healthy, organic diet, addressing food allergies, supplements, getting the right amount of sleep and enough daily exercise, just to name a few, then perhaps researching how prescription meds can help the child is in order. More often than not, the natural approach is not taken. Most of the time I see this because the parents don’t even know they had other options available to them besides prescription drugs. Thanks to their doctor and the pharmaceutical industry capitalizing on today’s fast-paced, quick fix mindset of overworked, overextended, stressed out families, prescription medication for ADHD is the go to solution.

http://news.yahoo.com/medication-prescribed-low-income-kids-boost-academic-performance-133319856.html

The goal of my blog is to help educate parents that turn to their computer’s search engine for answers or ways to help their child. The results I’ve seen in helping my own children merits sharing and the extensive research I’ve done can help others to know that there are alternatives to prescription drugs for their child. I am humbled each and every day by the comments of parents and individuals that I’ve helped through this blog. Please spread the word. Biomedical approach works, heals, and offers a lifetime of health!

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Five Ways to Help Kids with ADHD

Over time, I have found that there are many things you can do for your child with ADHD that will help them stay positive, focused and less impulsive. Here I will list the five most important things I have found that help my son with ADHD.

  1. Diet – A healthy diet with good sources of protein, especially in the morning is essential. Breakfast is the most important meal for all of us, and it’s especially true for those that suffer from ADHD. Low sugar, high protein and complex carbohydrates are key. Of course, no artificial ingredients (colors, flavors or preservatives). Keep MSG out of the diet and make sure they have snacks (protein) between meals. I found that when my son’s blood sugar drops, his concentration and mood decline.
  2. Sleep – Everyone feels better and more alert when they’ve had a good night’s sleep. Kids with ADHD seem to struggle with getting a good night’s sleep. They sometimes have trouble falling asleep or wake in the night. Make sure they get the recommended hours of sleep for their age. A consistent bedtime will help along with no sugary foods after dinner.  The supplements GABA and magnesium are helpful for my son before bed. They are neuro-calming and help with sleep. Epsom salt baths also help calm and relax kids before bed. Some parents find that melatonin helps their child if they suffer from insomnia. My son couldn’t tolerate melatonin. Changing his diet and eliminating allergic foods helped with his night terrors he had from ages 2 – 9.
  3. Exercise – This is one of the most important elements.  A lot of kids with ADHD suffer from anxiety and mood disorders. Exercise will release anxiety, produce those good endorphins and stimulate blood flow to the brain.  They need daily exercise for at least 60 minutes.  My son’s mood is so much better when he has had plenty of exercise, he can focus and attend to homework, and he is healthier for it too.
  4. Motivators – Positive and disciplinarian in nature work best for our family.  Concise, achievable goals like earning rewards or privileges for accomplishments at school and with homework help my son with motivation. He is also held accountable for his negative actions. Clear, age-appropriate rules must be established with consistent monitoring of them.  And finally, always look for the positive and boost their fragile self-esteem with lots of praise, smiles and hugs.
  5. Supplements – Kids with ADHD have biochemical deficits that need additional supplementation to support important brain and nervous system function. I have found the following supplements beneficial in lessening the symptoms of ADHD in my son.
  • Essential Fatty Acids (EFA), particularly Omega-3s (DHA) really helps with focus, concentration and mood. About two-thirds of the brain is composed of fats. Myelin, the protective sheath that covers communicating neurons, is composed of 30% protein and 70% fat. I give my son omega-3 that are high in DHA. DHA reduces oxidative stress, enhances learning and memory, and is the most abundant omega-3 fatty acid in cell membranes within the brain. Omega-3s are anti-inflamatories and the primary building material for cell membranes, which let nutrients in and toxins out.
  • GABA is also a key supplement for my son. It is neuro-calming and reduces impulsive behaviors. GABA is an amino acid produced in the brain acting as an inhibitory neurotransmitter, a chemical that promotes communication between nerve cells in our central nervous system.
  • Pycnogenol is also beneficial for kids with ADHD. It’s a powerful antioxidant, a natural anti-inflammatory, and helps to dilate blood vessels which increases blood flow to the brain. It’s one of only a few antioxidants that can cross the blood-brain barrier. Studies have indicated that it is a more powerful antioxidant that vitamin C and E. It’s reported to help with cognition and focus.
  • Another amino acid that helps my son with cognition and focus is acetyl l-carnitine. It too can cross the blood-brain barrier and act as a powerful antioxidant. Studies have shown it improves kids symptoms with ADHD. The neurotransmitter in the brain, acetylcholine, is essential for proper brain function and the entire nervous system. Acetyl l-carnitine produces acetylcholine which helps in memory and mental alertness.
  • L-tyrosine is an amino acid and a building block for dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine;  neurotransmitters that helps regulate emotions. If levels of these neurotransmitters are insufficient, feelings of sadness, anxiety, irritability and frustration can result. Dopamine controls the flow of information to the other parts of the brain. This occurs in the frontal lobes (called the prefrontal cortex). Disorders in this part of the brain (like ADHD) can cause a decline in memory, problem solving, and attention. I found this supplement really helps my son with ADHD with his emotions and positive attitude. L-tyrosine should be taken at least 30 minutes away from meals since it will compete for entry to the brain with other amino acids (protein). Also, it should not be taken in conjunction with MAO inhibitor drugs.

You will notice that taking pharmaceuticals was not on this list. Prescription meds are a personal choice.  I have opted to treat my son’s ADHD biomedically with diet and supplements. We have found that  his ADHD symptoms were significantly reduced, and his overall health and well-being improved. Try to remember that your child with ADHD wants to succeed; they  just need your help in figuring out how, along with the nutritional support to help them in daily life.

What Autism Means To Me

April is autism awareness month. I think it’s wonderful that we have the ability to create more awareness since early diagnosis is important for the child and family. But the simple fact that we have a dedicated month of awareness means that it’s reached a level that demands attention, and it certainly has caught mine.

Today, it is estimated that one in every 110 children is diagnosed with autism, making it more common than childhood cancer, juvenile diabetes and pediatric AIDS combined.  This statistic keeps increasing.  When my son was diagnosed (in 2007), it was 1 in every 150 children. Before 1980, it was 1 in every 10,000. The Autism Society has statistics that break this down even further:

  • Autism has a 10 – 17% annual growth
  • $60 billion annual cost
  • In ten years, the cost will be $200 – $400 billion

What causes autism?

That’s the $64,000 question.  No known cause has been scientifically proven. Heredity points to it, but no “autism gene” has been found. Many children with autism or those who are at risk of developing autism have a metabolic impairment that reduces their ability to rid their bodies of heavy metals and other toxins. Build-up of these toxins in the body can lead to brain and nervous system damage and developmental delays. That pretty much sums it up for my viewpoint. Yes, I also believe there are true, Kanner autism cases. Genetic. And yes, I believe this metabolic impairment can also be genetic. Which leads me to my point. If I, my husband, or parents have this metabolic impairment, but don’t have autism, then why did this generation of children get it, and not us? Well, there’s a popular saying in the autism community that “genetics loads the gun, and environment pulls the trigger.”

I believe it’s the increase of toxins in our environment such as pesticides, PCB’s, mercury, lead, aluminum, arsenic, and antimony. Just to name a few. Our oceans are polluted which makes the fish our children eat polluted. Farming in 2010 is not the farming of 1980. We have genetically modified organisms (GMO) in our food supply, pesticide laden soil, antibiotics and hormones in our beef and dairy, and a strong prevalence of corn and wheat in the American diet.  The processed food industry has provided America with an unhealthy dose of harmful artificial ingredients (colors, flavors, preservatives and MSG). Profits are huge, but at what cost?

I don’t know if my son was born with a metabolic impairment or if the toxins triggered it. Thimerosal which is 49.9% ethyl mercury, is the preservative in the vaccines and Rhogam shots me and my son received. Add to that, I had over eight dental amalgams (50% mercury) and had one removed (unsafely) when he was 2 months old and still breastfeeding. Rhogam shots with thimerosal were given to me while pregnant and right after birth. Mercury is passed through breast milk, and neurotoxic to the fetus and newborn.

Studies have shown that ethyl mercury from thimerosal have important effects on metabolic pathways. Laboratory tests confirmed my son’s methylation pathway is impaired. This pathway is involved in the body’s ability to excrete toxins. His lab tests also indicated increased levels of mercury, lead, arsenic, antimony and PCBs. His body was not excreting heavy metals.  He was a typically developing infant and toddler. But by age three or four, he was diagnosed with autism.

How we treated our son’s autism:

For the past two and a half years, we have treated my son’s autism with behavioral therapy and biomedical treatments. He has had chelation therapy to remove the heavy metals, B12 shots and numerous supplements to boost his methylation. We’ve healed his damaged gut with probiotics, zinc and  herbal antimicrobial supplements.

His progress has been incredible. He no longer has meltdowns, tantrums, obsessions, diarrhea, sound sensitivity to everything, night waking, anxiety of new things or change, and doesn’t “stim” anymore. His eye contact has improved significantly, he has a lot of friends including a very best friend at school. In preschool he needed an aide in class. He has been in a mainstream classroom without an aide for the past two years; and is such an intelligent little boy. His expressive and receptive speech deficits are almost gone and his cognition has soared. I credit his recovery to working with a DAN! doctor on biomedical treatments and his behavioral therapy.

What does autism mean to me? That it is treatable. Our children need our help to heal and awareness is the first step. Research, read, educate yourself on how to help your child. Don’t wait for our government or others to do this for you. Take action. Now!

Biomedical interventions 101

By Joanne Allor

I am not a professor, nor an educator. I am a mother of a child with autism, self-educated in the field of biomedical treatments for children with autism and ADHD.  You may find yourself, like I did,  in one of three autism camps out there. One, you just figured out or received your child’s autism diagnosis and don’t know where to begin or what to do to help him/her. Two, you’ve been dealing with autism for a while now and are certain there is something more you can do in addition to behavior intervention. Or three, you’ve heard of the biomedical treatment of autism and don’t get it. What is it?

Biomedical interventions for autism and ADHD heal the body, which in turn, heals the mind.  By addressing underlying health problems, you will see an improvement in your child’s behaviors and the behavioral therapies (like ABA) will take hold. Developmental growth will follow.

Most autistic behaviors are symptoms of the body’s distress, such as pain, frustration, fear and a biochemical disruption.  While treating symptoms can ease distress, we still need to get to the core issues causing it. For example, your child might be experiencing gut pain with bloating, diarrhea or constipation every time he eats wheat or dairy. This may cause aggression, disturbed sleep, repetitive behaviors, etc. Removing these possible allergens and following a gf/cf diet, may ease the distress and bloating, correct bowel function, and eliminate some of the behaviors.  But the core issue still needs to be addressed in order to completely heal the gut and eliminate all the behaviors associated with its dysfunction.  Is there an in-balance of the gut flora due to yeast or bacteria? Are there viruses or heavy metals disturbing the gut? Is it a leaky gut that doesn’t allow for proper absorption of nutrients?

Once I started down the path of “what can I do to help my child” outside of pharmaceuticals, I learned of the Feingold and gf/cf diets.  Then my research led me to The Autism Research Institute (www.autism.com) and their DAN! project. DAN! stands for Defeat Autism Now!  The ARI trains physicians with research they have gathered on the biomedical treatment of autism. Their guiding principle is simply stated: “remove what is causing harm, and add what is missing.”

So I began with cleaning up my sons’ diet by removing all artificial ingredients (including sweeteners), colors, flavors and preservatives, MSG, high fructose corn syrup/corn syrup, and nitrites/nitrates.  Suddenly, both my children became calmer, quieter and less impulsive.  Then I added in a children’s multi-vitamin with high doses of B6 and magnesium called Super Nu Thera, by Kirkman Labs.  My son with autism was 4 years old and still wasn’t potty trained. One week on Super Nu Thera, and he developed “the pee pee dance”.  He was potty trained within a few months with behavior therapy. This was unattainable until then. Believe me, I tried EVERYTHING to potty train him. I was onto something! I found a DAN! doctor on the ARI website and our son’s biomedical journey began.

To help you with your child’s biomedical journey out of autism, see the links below:

http://www.autism.com/treatable/index.htm

http://www.autism-society.org/site/DocServer/Pages_47-50EH.pdf?docID=10452

http://www.tacanow.org/medical/parents-role.htm

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