ADHD or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder affects 8%-12% of children worldwide. In order to be diagnosed a child must display the symptoms of ADHD for six or more months. The following is a detailed explanation of the symptoms of ADHD.
Symptoms of inattention include:
• Being easily distracted and missing or forgetting details
• Having difficulty focusing on one thing at a time; frequently moving from one activity to another
• Becoming easily bored with a task after a very short time unless the task is enjoyable
• Difficulty staying organized and completing homework
• Appearing to not listen when spoken to
• Daydreaming, moving slowly and becoming easily confused
• Difficulty following directions
• Difficulty processing information as quickly and as accurately as others
Symptoms of hyperactivity include:
• Having a hard time sitting still during times when other children are sitting still
• Talking continually
• Seeming to touch or play with everything; moving from one object to another
• Difficulty performing quiet tasks or activities
Symptoms of impulsivity include:
• Extreme impatience
• Difficulty controlling emotions or blurting out inappropriate comments
• Seemingly no regard for consequences for decisions made
• Difficulty waiting for a turn in play activities
• Interrupting others
Causes of ADHD
There is much debate regarding the cause of ADHD. Current research, however, does not pinpoint one particular cause but many possible causes. Further these possible causes may influence or interact with each other to create a complex group of symptoms which are diagnosed as ADHD. To date some possible causes that have found some scientific support are:
• Environmental toxins
• Nutritional deficiencies
• Food allergies or intolerances
Environmental Toxins and ADHD
In some studies, children with ADHD have been found to have higher levels of lead in their blood. Other studies have found higher blood mercury levels in children with symptoms of ADHD. A study of 4704 children in the United States found higher rates of ADHD in children who were exposed to tobacco smoke in utero. Further, a Canadian study found that higher levels of manganese in drinking water were associated with hyperactivity in school children. Finally, newly released reports of a nationwide study of over 1100 children found that those children who tested positive for trace amounts of commercial pesticides in their urine were twice as likely to display symptoms of ADHD.
Nutritional Deficiencies and ADHD
Several studies have investigated the affects of nutritional supplementation and specialized diet on the symptoms of ADHD. One study found that a comprehensive multi-vitamin and mineral supplement helped to reduce sleep difficulties and gastrointestinal issues significantly. Behavior and languages difficulties were changed but those changes were not deemed significant. Children with ADHD have been found to be significantly deficient in Omega-3 fatty acids. Some studies have indicated that supplementation with Omega-3 fatty acids reduced symptoms of hyperactivity and inattention. Two studies found a combination of fish oil (which contains Omegas 3, 6 & 9 fatty acids) and evening primrose significantly improved symptoms of ADHD as rated by parents. Another study found a combination of Vitamin C and flax oil (a source of Omega-3 fatty acids) improved symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity and learning and social difficulties. Supplements of carnitine and zinc have also shown significant affect on symptoms of ADHD.
Food Additives and ADHD
Some studies have linked sugar and food additive intake to worsened symptoms of ADHD. One study indicated that the artificial color, tartrazine, significantly increased ADHD symptoms. Other food additives and colors which may worsen ADHD symptoms are benzoate, nitrates and monosodium glutamate.
Curtis, L. T., Patel, K. (2008) Nutritional and environmental approaches to preventing and treating autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): A Review. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 14 (1), 79-85. DOI: 10.1089/acm.2007.0610