Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is the most common pediatric neurodevelopmental disorder in North America. Approximately 11% of children 4-17 years of age have been diagnosed with ADHD, with boys being more than twice as likely as girls to have current ADHD. These children have difficulty with focus, attention, and concentrating on tasks. They may struggle to control their impulsive or hyperactive behavior, which can manifest as fidgeting, restlessness and obsessive tendencies. ADHD is a disorder involving brain chemicals related to attention, called neurotransmitters.
The development of ADHD involves genetic, social, environmental and biochemical factors. Naturopathic treatment emphasizes addressing these underlying issues to treat the cause of the inattentive and hyperactive symptoms. Studies have shown essential fatty acids necessary for proper brain function are commonly deficient in children with ADHD, and supplementation produces positive results in behavior. Mineral deficiencies, food allergies and chemical sensitivities have been identified as contributing factors, that need to be evaluated for each child.
Exposure to environmental toxins, including heavy metals such as lead, mercury, aluminum, and arsenic, can cause damage to the nervous system and are known to impact children’s development. Lead toxicity is associated with hyperactivity and learning difficulties. Abnormal levels of amino acid levels, substances derived from protein which are needed to form neurotransmitters, have been found in children and adults with ADHD. Additionally, deficiencies of certain B vitamins, low vitamin D levels, and improper thyroid functioning are risk factors for the development of ADHD.
Recent studies have found that nutritional supplementation to correct biochemical imbalances is of equal efficacy to conventional drug treatments for ADHD, without serious side effects. Appropriate biomedical testing and treatment for the underlying causes of ADHD can produce significant behavioral improvements, allowing children to learn more effectively, reduce anxiety, and improve school performance.