Attention deficit–hyperactivity disorder (ADD or ADHD) is defined as age-inappropriate impulsiveness, lack of concentration, and sometimes excessive physical activity. ADHD has been associated with learning difficulties and lack of social skills. Obviously what constitutes “normal” in these areas covers a wide spectrum, and thus it is unclear which child suffers true ADHD and which child is just more rambunctious or rebellious than another. No objective criteria exist to accurately confirm the presence of ADHD. ADHD often goes undiagnosed if not caught at an early age, and it affects many adults who may not be aware of their condition.
What are the symptoms of ADHD? ADHD is generally recognized by a pattern of inattention, distractibility, impulsivity, and hyperactivity estimated to affect 3 to 5% of school-aged children. Learning disabilities or emotional problems often accompany ADHD. Children with ADHD experience an inability to sit still and pay attention in class, and they often engage in disruptive behavior.
How is it treated? The main drug treatment for ADHD, Ritalin® is similar to amphetamine drugs. Although methylphenidate is a stimulant, it has a paradoxically calming effect in people with ADHD.
Dietary changes that may be helpful: The two most studied dietary approaches to ADHD are the Feingold diet and a hypoallergenic diet. The Feingold diet was developed by Benjamin Feingold, M.D., on the premise that salicylates (chemicals similar to aspirin that are found in a wide variety of foods) are an underlying cause of hyperactivity. In some studies, this hypothesis does not appear to hold up. However, in studies where markedly different levels of salicylates were investigated, a causative role for salicylates could be detected in some hyperactive children. As many as 10 to 25% of children may be sensitive to salicylates. Parents of ADHD children can contact local Feingold Associations for more information about which foods and medicines contain salicylates.
Lifestyle changes that may be helpful: Smoking during pregnancy should be avoided, as it appears to increase the risk of giving birth to a child who develops ADHD.
Lead and other heavy-metal exposures have been linked to ADHD. If other therapies do not seem to be helping a child with ADHD, the possibility of heavy-metal exposure can be explored with a health practitioner.
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