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Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

The diagnosis of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is controversial and evokes passionate debate among healthcare professionals, policy makers, educators, and parents. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), ADHD is a neuropsychiatric disorder that includes inattentiveness, impulsivity, and hyperactivity.

The good news is that several integrative interventions have been shown to help maintain focus and attention. For example, supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B6 and magnesium, as well as undergoing neurofeedback therapy, have benefited those affected by ADHD in studies.

Causes and Risk Factors

No single factor has been identified as a definitive cause of ADHD, instead it is more likely due to several variables:

  • Genetics
  • Environmental factors
  • Brain injury
  • Diet
  • Sleep disorders, which may also be a cause of ADHD-like symptoms

Signs and Symptoms

ADHD is defined primarily by persistent impulsivity, hyperactivity, and inattention.

Symptoms of impulsivity include:

  • blurting out an answer before a question is finished
  • difficulty waiting one’s turn
  • interrupting or intruding on others during conversations

Symptoms of hyperactivity include:

  • fidgeting with hands or feet
  • leaving one’s seat inappropriately, like during a meeting
  • difficulty working quietly

Symptoms of inattention include:

  • making careless mistakes during work
  • difficulty staying focused during work
  • difficulty organizing tasks and activities

Diagnosis

There is no single diagnostic test for ADHD; instead, diagnosis is a process that rules out factors such as learning disabilities and anxiety, which may cause similar symptoms.

Conventional Treatment

  • The most widely used drugs to treat ADHD are brain stimulants, including methylphenidate (available in many forms, including Ritalin).
  • Amphetamine-based drugs including Dexedr

Novel and Emerging Strategies

  • Neuropsychiatric EEG-Based Assessment Aid monitors brain waves to aid ADHD diagnosis.

Dietary and Lifestyle Considerations

  • A growing body of research indicates dietary changes can substantially improve ADHD symptoms:
    • Avoid foods high in sugar as it may help limit reactive low blood sugar symptoms, which may mimic ADHD symptoms
    • Eat a nutritious breakfast
  • In one study on children and adolescents, neurofeedback was as effective as methylphenidate in treating attention and hyperactivity symptoms.
  • Exercise may have a positive impact on ADHD symptoms in both adults and children.

Integrative Interventions

  • Omega-3 fatty acids: A UK-based study on school children found that omega-3 fatty acid insufficiency was very common and associated with ADHD-related symptoms.
  • Phosphatidylserine: Phosphatidylserine supplementation in children diagnosed with ADHD resulted in significant improvement in ADHD symptoms including inattention, impulsivity, and short-term memory.
  • Acetyl L-carnitine: In a randomized double-blind trial, acetyl L-carnitine had a beneficial effect on hyperactivity and social behavior in individuals with ADHD.
  • Vitamin B6 and magnesium: A study on children with ADHD found that supplementation with magnesium and vitamin B6 led to improvements in hyperactivity and school attention.
  • Zinc: Children with ADHD treated with Ritalin for six weeks received better behavioral ratings from teachers and parents when they also took zinc sulfate compared with children who received Ritalin and a placebo.