What Is Attention Deficit Disorder?
Attention deficit disorder is a behavioral condition defined by specific subjective criteria in the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association (DSM-V). This book describes three types of the disorder:
- Predominantly inattentive
- Predominantly hyperactive/impulsive
- Combined type
Symptoms are behavioral, and the diagnosis is determined by observations in at least two settings. The following symptoms are commonly associated with attention deficit disorder:
- Lack of focus
- Poor concentration
- Low self-esteem
- Easy frustration
- Explosive anger
Males are more frequently diagnosed with attention deficit disorder than females.
What Your Doctor May Tell You About Attention Deficit Disorder
Doctors believe that the cause(s) of attention deficit disorder is unknown. Treatments from an MD will likely address the most serious symptoms, and usually include medication and counseling. Attention deficit disorder can occur at any age. Children and adults with it have variations of symptoms, and thus require different priority in treatments.
Another Way to Think About Attention Deficit Disorder
Attention deficit disorder may or may not be a true disability. Attempts to have it classified for educational purposes have failed. Clearly, whatever is going on affects multiple systems, with different systems affected in each individual, related to his/her bio-individuality. The ability to attend can be related to:
- Visual processing issues
- Auditory processing issues
- Sensory processing issues
- Retained primitive reflexes
- Food sensitivities and intolerances
- A neurotransmitter imbalance such as catecholamines
- Environmental toxins such as lead and pesticides
- Airway issues such as obstructive sleep apnea
Evaluating all these areas, rebalancing the body, and bringing it back to health requires removing the possible triggers from the external and internal environment, and adding necessary nutrients through food and supplementation.
ADHD Checklist to Start
Consider lifestyle contribution:
- Is your child getting 10 hours of sleep per night (or more if your child is under 10)?
- An hour of exercise or movement per day?
- Drinking half his body weight in ounces of water?
Make dietary changes:
Is your child craving and eating primarily a refined carbohydrate, high sugar, trans-fatty acids and fast food diet? Eliminate all processed foods, and eat a whole foods diet. Gluten- and dairy-containing foods are commonly known to produce an inability to focus when eaten.
- Eat whole foods
- Buy organic foods
- Remove all GMO foods
- Remove all fast and processed foods
- Remove all foods with:
- Artificial colors
- Artificial ingredients
- With an elimination diet, remove potentially inflammatory foods such as:
- Strictly limit:
- Refined salt
- Refined carbohydrates
- Consider implementing a low glutamate diet and/or the Feingold diet
Include plenty of good quality fats, such as:
- Coconut oil
- Olive oil
- Wild salmon
- Organic chicken
- Organic turkey
- Grass-fed ghee
- Pasture-raised eggs
- Grass-fed beef
- Essential fatty acids from:
- Cod liver oil
- Hemp seeds
- Flax seeds
- Evening primrose oil
- Borage oil
- Walnut oil
Remove vegetable oils such as:
Include plenty of high-quality proteins with every meal, such as:
- Pasture-raised eggs and chicken
- Grass-fed beef
- Wild-caught fish
Heal the gut with special diets such as:
- GAPS (Gut And Psychology Syndrome) Diet
- Paleo diet
- GF/CF (gluten-free/casein-free) diet
- Body Ecology Diet
- Modified Atkins Diet (replaces the Ketogenic diet)
Learn more about healing diets and foods.
Use digestive aids with your practitioner’s guidance:
- Betaine hydrochloric acid
- Digestive enzymes with DPP-IV for gluten and casein intolerances
- Proteolytic enzymes
Clean up your environment:
Have you identified and removed possible environmental triggers, such as mold, dust, pet dander, and electromagnetic fields (EMFs)? Have you identified and removed possible toxic exposures in the home from purchased products, such as detergents, soaps, lotions, and other cleaning and personal care products?
- Remove animals (both live and stuffed!)
- Remove carpets
- Use non-toxic cleaners
- Use non-toxic building materials
- Green your home
Avoid exposing your child to chlorine, fluoride, and bromine because all three are in the same family as iodine and can displace iodine in the thyroid gland.
Ask your pediatrician to run some laboratory tests for:
- Possible food sensitivities and allergies
- Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA) IgG, IgA, IgE and IgM
- Nutritional deficiencies in vitamins and minerals. The NutrEval by Genova Diagnostics Labs covers the following areas:
- Cellular energy
- Mitochondrial metabolism
- Neurotransmitter metabolism
- Vitamin deficiencies
- Toxin exposure
- Detoxification need
- Bacterial and yeast overgrowth
- Gluten and casein sensitivities
- Organic acids: The organic acid test by Great Plains Laboratory for:
- Yeast overgrowth (Candida)
- Other microbial infections
- Comprehensive Stool Analysis by Genova Diagnostic Labs to identify:
- Altered gastrointestinal function
- Bacterial/fungal overgrowth
- Chronic dysbiosis
Add fermented foods and probiotics daily:
These will keep the gastrointestinal system and microbiome healthy and strong which in turn will keep the immune system strong.
- Eat kefir yogurts
- Eat fermented vegetables
- Eat umeboshi plums (very alkalizing)
- Eat miso soup, if soy is tolerated
Some good probiotics are:
- Gut Pro
- Dr. Ohirra’s Live Cultured Probiotics
- Garden of Life
- Klaire Labs
Use herbs, essential oils and natural supplements with your practitioner’s guidance:
- Cod liver oil
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D3
- Flaxseed oil
- Stinging nettles
- Micelized A (water soluable vitamin A)
- Milk thistle
- Red clover
- N-acetylcysteine (NAC): prevents upper respiratory infections for those prone to chronic infections
- MSM transdermal cream
- Epsom salts bath
Help your child detoxify:
- Ionic foot baths can help detox unwanted pathogens and are easy to do with children
- Infared saunas can detox heavy metals through the skin by sweating. However, this form of detoxification may not be suitable for young children who lack the ability to sweat.
See a myofunctional dentist or orthodontist:
Many children with attention deficit disorder have narrow sinus passages that contribute to a lack of a proper amount of oxygen going to the brain. This may initially be caused by a tongue tie which can lead to an overarched and high palate. A large majority of these children snore and may have obstructive sleep apnea. Myofunctional orthodontics and dentists using palate expanders such as an ALF device can remediate this issue.
Learn about retained primitive reflexes:
Most, if not all, children with neurodevelopmental disorders including learning disabilities, have retained primitive reflexes. Find a therapist that is trained in integrating primitive reflexes, which can cause imbalances in the way your child’s brain performs.
See a chiropractic neurologist at a Brain Balance Center:
The Brain Balance program can help balance the right and left brain hemispheres and make neural connections to extinguish primitive reflexes.
See a neurofeedback practitioner:
Neurofeedback is approved as a level-one intervention by the American Academy of Pediatrics for ADD and ADHD, which are learning disabilities. Even if your child doesn’t have ADD or ADHD, they may still benefit from neurofeedback. Find a practitioner that can perform a QEEG (quantitative electroencephalograph) brain map first so you can understand how your child’s brain works.
See a sensory-integration occupational therapist (OT):
These OTs address a variety of sensory issues with a child using hands-on equipment. This type of therapy calms down the nervous system to help integrate the senses and retained reflexes.
See a chiropractor:
A chiropractor can perform spinal cord adjustments, which can improve communication in the nervous system.
See a craniosacral practitioner:
Craniosacral therapy can reestablish central nervous system functioning. These practitioners use approaches rich in vestibular, proprioceptive and tactile input and may also do oral motor therapy.
See a behavioral/developmental optometrist:
A developmental optometrist can check for convergence and tracking problems with your child’s vision. He or she can correct these issues with vision therapy, lens and prisms. Doing so can improve hand-eye coordination and school performance.
See an auditory therapist:
Many children with learning disabilities have auditory processing problems that may be causing problems with focus and concentration. An auditory therapist can devise a listening program that is specific to your child’s needs. Auditory Integration Therapy (Berard) or Sound Stimulation (Tomatis) can retrain the brain, calm down the nervous system, reduce sound sensitivities.
Find a therapist doing Brain Gym:
A Brain Gym practitioner can have your child do exercises for sensorimotor coordination, self-calming and self-management.
See a homeopath or naturopath:
See a well-trained acupuncturist:
Acupuncture can help lower stress and anxiety associated with sensory processing.
See a NAET or BioSET practitioner:
Children with Sensory Processing Disorder typically also have food allergies and/or food sensitivities and intolerances. NAET (Namudripad’s Allergy Elimination Technique) and BioSET are two non-invasive methods of allergy elimination.
Sensory therapies and tools:
- Super brain yoga
- Rock climbing
- Weighted vests, blanket and belts
- HANDLE therapy
- Sensory Learning
- Tool Chest
- Squeeze Machine
- Music therapy
- Sensory gym
- Deep pressure brushing therapy
- Sensory tactile toys
- Has your child had many infections treated with antibiotics? If so, consider lab testing for high levels of antibodies to organisms, such as strep and other bacteria and viruses, as well as an evaluation of gut bacteria, including yeasts and Candida.
- Did your child have a difficult birth that included a long labor, forceps or vacuum aspiration, or low APGAR scores? Consider an evaluation by an osteopath, craniosacral therapist or chiropractor for structural impediments.
- Is your child feeling stressed, anxious or upset? Consider family therapy, a school change, or other support.
- Consider alternative interventions, such as homeopathy, neurofeedback, essential oils, reiki, or energy medicine.
Still Looking for Answers?
Sources & References
Akinbami, L.J., et al. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder among children aged 5-17 years in the United States, 1998-2009. NCHS Data Brief. 2011(70):1-8.
Archer, T., et al. Physical exercise alleviates ADHD symptoms: regional deficits and development trajectory. Neurotox Res. 2012;21(2):195-209.
Baker, B.H., et al. Association of Prenatal Acetaminophen Exposure Measured in Meconium With Risk of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Mediated by Frontoparietal Network Brain Connectivity. JAMA Pediatrics. 2020 Sep 28;e203080.
Bennings, M.A., et al. Colonic transit times and behaviour profiles in children with defecation disorders. Archives of the Diseases of Childhood. 2004 Jan;89(1):13-6.
Bernfort, L., et al. ADHD from a socio-economic perspective. Acta Paediatr. 2008;97(2):239-45
Bertelsen, E.N., et al. Childhood Epilepsy, Febrile Seizures, and Subsequent Risk of ADHD. Pediatrics. 2016 Aug;138(2). pii: e20154654.
Blum, K., et al. Attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder and reward deficiency syndrome. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment. 2008 Oct;4(5):893-918.
Boat, T.F., et al. Prevalence of Learning Disabilities. Mental Disorders and Disabilities Among Low-Income Children. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2015 Oct 28. 16.
Borre, Y.E., et al. Microbiota and neurodevelopmental windows: implications for brain disorders. Trends Mol Med. 2014 Sep;20(9):509-18.
Bradstreet, J.J., et al. Biomarker-guided interventions of clinically relevant conditions associated with autism spectrum disorders and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Altern Med Rev. 2010 Mar;15(1):15-32.
Braun, J.M., et al. Association of Environmental Toxicants and Conduct Disorder in U.S. Children: NHANES 2001-2004. Environ Health Perspect. 2008 Jul;116(7):956-62.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Data and Statistics on Children’s Mental Health. Accessed 2 Sep 2020.
Ceylan, M.F., et al. Changes in oxidative stress and cellular immunity serum markers in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Psychiatry Clin Neurosci. 2012;66(3):220-6.
Cortese, S., et al. Association between attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and asthma: a systematic review and meta-analysis and a Swedish population-based study. Lancet Psychiatry. 2018 Sep;5(9):717-726.
Cortese, S., et al. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, iron deficiency, and obesity: is there a link? Postgrad Med. 2014;126(4):155-70.
Darling, A.L., et al. Association between maternal vitamin D status in pregnancy and neurodevelopmental outcomes in childhood: results from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). Br J Nutr. 2017 Jun;117(12):1682-1692.
Erskine, H.E., et al. The global burden of conduct disorder and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in 2010. J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2014;55(4):328-36.
Egset, K., et al. Magno App: Exploring Visual Processing in Adults with High and Low Reading Competence. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research. 07 Jan 2020.
Fletcher, J., National Bureau of Economic Research. The effects of childhood ADHD on adult labor market outcomes. Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research; 2013. 25 p.
Joinson, C., et al. Psychological Difference Between Children With and Without Soiling Problems. Pediatrics. 2006 May;117(5):1575-84.
Hertz-Picciotto, I., et al. Organophosphate exposures during pregnancy and child neurodevelopment: Recommendations for essential policy reforms. PLoS Med. 2018 Oct 24;15(10):e1002671.
Hodgkins, P., et al. Risk of injury associated with attentiondeficit/ hyperactivity disorder in adults enrolled in employer-sponsored health plans: a retrospective analysis. Prim Care Companion CNS Disord. 2011;13(2).
Kawatani, M., et al. Evaluation of oxidative stress status in children with pervasive developmental disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder using urinaryspecific biomarkers. Redox Rep. 2011;16(1):45-6.
Liao, T.C., et al. Comorbidity of Atopic Disorders with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. J Pediatr. 2016 Apr;171:248-55.
Mahmoud, M.M., et al. Zinc, ferritin, magnesium and copper in a group of Egyptian children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Ital J Pediatr. 2011;37:60.
Millichap, J.G., et al. The diet factor in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Pediatrics. 2012 Feb;129(2):330-7.
Morris, C.R., et al. Syndrome of allergy, apraxia, and malabsorption: characterization of a neurodevelopmental phenotype that responds to omega 3 and vitamin E supplementation. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine. Jul-Aug 2009;15(4):34-43.
Mossin, M.H., et al. Inverse associations between cord vitamin D and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder symptoms: A child cohort study. Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 2017 Jul;51(7):703-710.
Peltier, M.R., et al. Maternal Hypothyroidism Increases the Risk of Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in the Offspring. Am J Perinat. 2020 Oct 21.
Physician’s Postgraduate Press. Managing ADHD in Children, Adolescents, and Adults With Comorbid Anxiety in Primary Care. The Primary Care Companion to The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. 2007;9(2):129-38.
Sabuncuoglu, O. Understanding the relationships between breastfeeding, malocclusion, ADHD, sleep-disordered breathing and traumatic dental injuries. Med Hypotheses. 2013;80(3):315-20
Scassellati, C., et al. Biomarkers and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder: a systematic review and meta-analyses. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2012;51(10):1003-19 e20.
Schmitt, J., et al. Atopic eczema and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in a population-based sample of children and adolescents. JAMA. 2009 Feb 18;301(7):724-6.
Sucksdorff, M., et al. Maternal Vitamin D Levels and the Risk of Offspring Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2019 Dec 18.
Swanson, J.M., et al. Etiologic subtypes of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: brain imaging, molecular genetic and environmental factors and the dopamine hypothesis. Neuropsychology Review. 2007 Mar;17(1):39-59.
Telford, C., et al. Estimating the costs of ongoing care for adolescents with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 2013;48(2):337-44
Verlaet, A.A., et al. Nutrition, immunological mechanisms and dietary immunomodulation in ADHD. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2014;23(7):519-29.
Wang, H.L., et al. Case-Control Study of Blood Lead Levels and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Chinese Children. Environmental Health Perspectives. 2008 Oct;116(10):1401-6.
Warner, B.B. The contribution of the gut microbiome to neurodevelopment and neuropsychiatric disorders. Pediatr Res. 2019 Jan;85(2):216-224.
Weiss, M.D., et al. Effectiveness outcomes in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. J Clin Psychiatry. 2006;67 Suppl 8:38-45.
Zablotsky, B., et al. Prevalence and Trends of Developmental Disabilities among Children in the United States: 2009-2017. Pediatrics. 2019 Oct;144(4):e20190811.
Zaigham, M., et al. Prelabour caesarean section and neurodevelopmental outcome at 4 and 12 months of age: an observational study. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth. 2020 (20)564.
Bock, Kenneth. Healing the New Childhood Epidemics: Autism, ADHD, Asthma, and Allergies: The Groundbreaking Program for the 4-A Disorders. New York, NY. Ballantine Books, 2008.
Campbell-McBride, Natasha. Gut and Psychology Syndrome: Natural Treatment for Autism, Dyspraxia, A.D.D., Dyslexia, A.D.H.D., Depression, Schizophrenia, 2010.
Crook, William. Help for the Hyperactive Child: A Practical Guide Offering Parents of ADHD Children Alternatives to Ritalin. Square One, 2007
Giustra-Kozek Jennifer. Healing Without Hurting: Treating ADHD, Apraxia, and Autism Spectrum Disorders Naturally and Effectively Without Harmful Medication. Howard Beach, NY: Changing Lives Press, 2014.
Guyol, G. Who’s Crazy Here?: Steps for Recovery Without Drugs for: ADD/ADHD, Addiction & Eating Disorders, Anxiety & PTSD, Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, Autism. Stonington, CT: Ajoite Pub., 2010.
Lambert, Beth, et al. Brain Under Attack: A Resource for Parents and Caregivers of Children with PANS, PANDAS, and Autoimmune Encephalitis. Answers Publications, 2018.
Mackarness, Richard. These Can Make You Ill: Not All in the Mind. BN Publishing, 2018.
Philpott, William H., et al. Brain Allergies: The Psychonutrient and Magnetic Connections. Los Angeles: Keats Publishing, 2000.