Identify and curb hyperactivity with these tips from Naturopathic Doctor Tanya Lee
by Dr. Tanya Lee, N.D.
Hyperactivity is a common behavioral problem that mainly presents in children, and appears to be a growing concern in our homes and classrooms. Symptoms such as excessive movement, poor focus/concentration on everyday tasks, disturbed sleep, poor appetite, and low frustration threshold are just some examples of how hyperactivity can manifest in your child. Often parents will think of the term ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and wonder if their child may be placed in this category. ADHD is an extreme case of hyperactivity and diagnosis of ADHD is usually done by a psychiatrist or pediatrician and is often required to be qualified for medication.
There really is no one medical test that confirms the diagnosis as we do not yet know the cause of hyperactivity andADHD. Diagnosis is based on a checklist of symptoms, and the professional opinion of the specialist. A hyperactive child is commonly diagnosed ADHD if the above symptoms occur in more than two locations (mainly home and at school).
Hyperactivity is a frustration issue for the parent as these children generally do not develop great peer relationships, have conflict with authority, have trouble with academic performance, and as a result, develop low self-esteem.
Conventional medication has shown positive results in helping control symptoms of ADHD and hyperactivity, but is often associated with many unwanted side effects, as well as unfortunate decision for the parent to put their child on a strong chemical synthetic medication over an extended amount of time. Fortunately, a wealth of new information has recently emerged that supports and widely accepts that nutrition plays a large role in the risk and management of hyperactivity/ADHD.
First off, a recent study by Howard (2011) published in issue of Journal of Attention Disorders found that children who had grown up eating a “standard Western diet” consisting of high daily intakes of saturated fats, sodium, and refined sugars and low levels of good omega-3 fats, fibre and folate, had a high risk of developing ADHD by the age of 14. Children who were eating diets that were the reverse of the previous diet actually had lower risk of developingADHD.
Many other studies have shown that deficiencies of certain nutrients have been linked to ADHD. Low consumption of vitamin C and fruit, low levels of essential fatty acids (EFA) in a child’s diet, and low levels of magnesium, zinc and iron in the blood, all have research backing up the notion that these may be linked to development of ADHD and the severity of its symptoms.
Artificial food colours (AFCs) have also been shown to worsen symptoms of ADHD. A 2011 study published Stevens et. al in the Clinical Pediatric Journal (Philipines) showed that removing AFCs from diet improved symptoms of ADHDin a subgroup of children, and when put back in to the diet, symptoms returned. Restrictive diets have been also shown to improve ADHD symptoms, making food sensitivities a possible suspect in the development of ADHD.
Now what is the conclusion from all these facts and studies? A diet full of nutrient-rich healthy foods provides can help prevent hyperactivity and the development of ADHD. Children who already exhibit symptoms of ADHD can also benefit from the addition of these nutrients in their daily diet.
1. First of all, I would recommend that you take your child to see a qualified healthcare practitioner to help guide you through the steps that need to be taken prevention, diagnosis or treatment. Pediatricians, psychiatrists and naturopathic doctors in combination will help cover all your bases.
2. Try reducing the amount of wheat, dairy, and sugar from the diet. These have been well-known to cause hyperactivity and attention issues in many children and the removal can not only help with hyperactivity, but also improve skin, digestion and other imbalances your child may suffer from.
3. Food allergy/chemical sensitivity testing should be done in order to help narrow-down your list of dietary culprits that may be exacerbating the hyperactivity symptoms.
4. Increase good amounts of fatty acids in your child’s diet – raw nuts (no peanuts!) can be added to the diet,pending any sensitivities your child may have to nuts. Fish oils (high in DHA), olive oil, flax oil are also great to add to your child’s daily diet – drizzle over steamed veggies, add to a fruit smoothie in the morning!
5. Iron and zinc deficiency can contribute to hyperactivity and the development of ADHD. A good multivitamin containing these nutrients can help. Zinc is found in nuts (especially brazil nuts and pumpkin seeds) and iron is found in good quality meats.
6. Herbal medicines, homeopathic medicines and vitamin/supplement therapy have helped many children control their hyperactivity. Qualified healthcare practitioners such as naturopathic doctors can help in this area.
Dr. Tanya Lee is a naturopathic doctor currently practicing in Toronto and Milton Ontario. Tanya was drawn to the naturopathic profession for its core beliefs in treating the whole person. Dr. Lee practice general medicine, with a special interest in children’s health, women’s health and pregnancy. For more information on Dr. Lee and her practice, please visit, www.tanyaleend.com .
Tanya Lee, BSc (Hons), N.D.
Infinity Health Centre
39 Lower Simcoe St.
Toronto, ON M5J 3A6
Health Centre of Milton
400 Main S. E Suite 210
Milton, ON L9T 1P7