Diet, Supplements and ADHD: A Video Testimony

I have been preaching this for years but, as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. So if you have a few minutes and the topic interests you, click on this link and watch a video of a child and his parents taped at his school:

A world awash in chemicals

We have long suspected that chemicals interact with one another, creating destructive synergies, but this has been difficult to prove since very few studies have ever looked at the combined effects of multiple chemicals. This applies not only to chemicals in the environment, like pesticide residues or plastics, but also to medications, most of which are also chemical compounds. Although medications are studied for safety, these studies are only performed on one medication at a time, even though they may very well interact with one another and with other chemicals thereby creating new compounds with different and unknown safety profiles.

Now the tip of the iceberg may be starting to emerge, as a new study from Duke University looked at the interaction between the pre-term labor drug terbutaline (Bethine), for which one million prescriptions are written every year, and ubiquitous pesticide residues. The study used rats, but it is very likely that the results apply to humans as well since rats have consistently been shown to be more resistant to chemicals than we are.
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Ritalin linked to cancer

Here’s more of the same. If you want my opinion, every single one of these patented chemicals will be found to be dangerous sooner or later. I don’t mind if people choose to put them in their own bodies, but to force them on their children?

This study comes from right here in Houston at MD Anderson. After decades of booming sales, including a 500% climb from 1991 to 1999, could Ritalin really cause cancer?

Although this was a small study, its results were nevertheless dramatic. Researchers followed 12 children who took average doses of Ritalin over a period of three months and found that every one of them experienced a significant increase in the level of chromosome abnormalities, a condition that sets the stage for developing cancer later in life. Apparently the study was the first one ever to look for chromosome-damaging effects of Ritalin in children.

In a Houston Chronicle interview, Dr. Martin Legator, professor of toxicology at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) and chief researcher in this study, stated that Ritalin, like smoking, ‘doesn’t mean you’ll get cancer. It’s a risk factor.’

The reporter reminds us that this study is only the latest to cast doubt on ADHD medications. Only last month, Canadian authorities suspended sales of Adderall following reports of 20 deaths, while US regulators logged seven deaths of children taking Ritalin and Concerta, and Strattera was found to cause potentially fatal liver damage.

New evidence reveals downside of ADHD drug

When Strattera was approved a few years ago, many hailed it as a major breakthrough in the treatment of ADHD. Finally, an ADHD drug that wasn’t related to cocaine and wasn’t an amphetamine! I heard some very educated people say that this drug was going to be safe because it wasn’t a stimulant.

New evidence has now led the FDA to require a warning for Strattera. Apparently a “small percentage” of children on this drug can develop severe liver injury that progresses to liver failure and death. Warning signs of trouble include itching, jaundice, dark urine, tenderness on the right side of the abdomen, or “flu-like” symptoms. Wonderful!

After the Vioxx episode and now this, I would suggest that the next time you hear of a breakthrough treatment you keep a safe distance from it.

For more information on the new Strattera warning see

Large study finds dyes, preservatives cause hyperactivity

Dr. Ben Feingold, a pediatric allergist, said it as early as 1973: additives in foods cause hyperactivity in sensitive children. What followed was a succession of biased industry-sponsored studies aimed at discrediting Dr. Feingold’s findings. Then the food industry continued along its merry way of creating ever more additive-laden foods and marketing them to children.

For many of us natural practitioners, and for parents who are not so quick to medicate their children and instead observe their behaviors carefully, Dr. Feingold was never wrong. Now a large double-blind placebo-controlled British study is providing further confirmation for this.

The study (Arch Dis Child 2004; 89: 506-11. doi: 10.1136/adc.2003.031435) can be found online at It looked at nearly two thousand three-year-old children, separating them into different groups based on prior hyperactive behavior and the presence of allergies. In each group, children were either given a diet free of dyes and sodium benzoate (a preservative commonly found in soft drinks), or a diet containing these additives.

Researchers concluded that “the effect of food additives and colorings on hyperactivity is substantial” and in fact comparable to that seen in some medication studies. They further stated “the potential long-term public health benefit is indicated by studies which have shown that the young hyperactive child is at risk of continuing behavioral difficulties, including the transition to conduct disorder and educational difficulties.” In other words, just covering up a problem without addressing its root causes is likely to lead to continuing and escalating trouble as children grow into adulthood.

Interestingly, the researchers also found that the negative effects of these additives were independent of prior hyperactive behavior or allergies. What this means is that these chemicals are simply bad, with no redeeming qualities. I’m all for a free country but someone out there should be watching out for the health of our children and removing these dangerous chemicals from our food supply!

The brain on meth

Neurotoxicity – or toxicity to the brain – of drugs and other chemicals has traditionally been very difficult to establish in humans. In animals, neurotoxicity can be demonstrated by giving a rat or other test animal a drug before sacrificing it and then looking at its brain under a microscope.

For humans this is obviously not an option, and since the effects of toxic drugs in humans can be subtle – or may only occur years after exposure – establishing cause and effect can be close to impossible.

The effects of methamphetamine (meth) on the brain had previously only been studied in rats. We have dramatic photographs of sections from normal rat brains alongside the brains of rats pretreated with meth that show widespread scarring and loss of brain cells. Some of these pictures were published in the excellent book “ADD and ADHD, Complementary Medicine Solutions” by Charles Gant MD, PhD.
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Lithium: a frequently overlooked mineral supplement

The issue here is that lithium has a terrible but undeserved reputation. At huge prescription doses, lithium remains the most effective way to control bipolar disorder. The fact that a natural mineral can be so effective is, in itself, a remarkable thing. However, such enormous doses – usually exceeding 900 mg of lithium carbonate – can be toxic and cause permanent kidney damage with long-term use, and this is where the bad reputation comes from.

At doses that are about or more than 1,000 times smaller, lithium is a natural trace mineral supplement with no known toxicity or other side effects. In fact, minute amounts of lithium occur naturally in our diet and, even though this mineral is not considered essential and there is no RDA for it, studies have shown that it plays an important role in human nutrition. According to one study, people with diets deficient in lithium have higher rates of hospital admission for a wide range of mental disorders (1). Other studies have correlated lithium deficiency with aggressive behaviors in both humans and animals (2).
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Zinc sulfate found to help children with ADHD

There is yet another study that shows a positive therapeutic relationship between diet or dietary supplements and ADHD. Supplements contain nutrients that are – or at least should be – found in our everyday diet. Therefore, if supplements can somehow help lessen the severity of or even correct ADHD, this proves that there is a causal link between food and attention deficit/hyperactivity.

In a study I reviewed a few months ago, some children were given Ritalin and others a long list of vitamins and other nutrients. This was a shotgun approach whereby children taking the supplements were given everything under the sun instead of specifically what they needed. Nevertheless it worked, and the study found similar improvements in both groups (1).
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The Dark Side of ADHD Drugs

Most of the medications prescribed for ADHD are either closely related to cocaine (Ritalin and similar drugs), or are classified as amphetamines (Adderall and others).

Amphetamines and cocaine alike are known troublemakers, causing such undesirable side effects as permanent brain damage, heart valve damage, and other serious problems. However, ADHD drugs have been consistently hailed as breakthroughs, marvels of modern science, and their safety was rarely questioned.

In reality there were simply no long-term safety studies on these medications. I have searched for such studies on Medline and was surprised to find that many of the studies relating to safety lasted a grand total of two weeks. If you have a little time, go to and find out for yourself.
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New law stops educators from urging use of Ritalin

Texas has adopted two new laws protecting children and parents. The first bans school employees from recommending psychotropic drugs such as Ritalin or suggesting a diagnosis for students. The second prevents parents from being reported to state officials as neglectful solely because they refused to place a child on psychiatric drugs or refuse psychiatric or psychological treatment or testing. The new Texas laws are believed to be the strongest of their type in the nation in that they are broad and cover all psychiatric drugs and treatments.

Amino acid carnitine found to help ADHD

Amino acids are natural building blocks of protein. They can be obtained from food and some, including carnitine, can also be made in the body from other amino acids. Carnitine plays a critical role in the metabolism of fatty acids, a process whereby fats are burned for energy. This particular process can be disturbed in individuals with ADHD, leading to a buildup of toxic fatty acids.

Some experts consider carnitine deficiency to be rare because this amino acid is plentiful in food and the body can also make its own. In reality, deficiency may be far more common than believed, either because of poor diet, or because carnitine production may be inefficient in certain people.

The beneficial effect of carnitine supplementation depends on the presence of B complex vitamins, particularly vitamin B2 (riboflavin). Without enough of these vitamins carnitine is ineffective, so it makes sense that these nutrients should always be supplemented together to improve outcomes.
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Studies Confirm Effectiveness of Neurofeedback for ADHD

Neurofeedback is a form of biofeedback in which a patient is connected to an EEG machine through the placement of sensors on the surface of the scalp. It is a completely non-invasive process because a gel is used to hold the sensors in place. The EEG machine “reads” the electrical impulses that come from the brain and reproduces them on a computer screen.

Since there are certain brain frequency patterns that are associated with inattentiveness and hyperactivity, while other patterns are more desirable, individuals learn through repetition to train their brains to produce frequencies that are more beneficial for focused attention.

This process has been compared to weight training for building muscles. Proponents of this technique often state that the brain acts like a muscle and can “grow” and become more able to focus through training.

Although there have been several studies on neurofeedback and most of them have had positive outcomes, this technique has not been endorsed by mainstream medicine for a variety of reasons, including the lack of double-blind studies.

One study that was conducted at the Family Psychology Institute in Endicott, New York, followed 100 children and teens over a period of one year. All of them had been diagnosed with ADHD and were taking Ritalin; however, only half the children also received weekly sessions of neurofeedback.

After one year all of the children were doing better, but only those who had received neurofeedback continued to show improvements after they stopped taking Ritalin. In addition, children in the neurofeedback group showed a greater degree of improvement.

JAMA States: “Pay Attention: Ritalin Acts Much Like Cocaine”

The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) is not known for being friendly to alternative medicine. However, a recently published article (JAMA 2001;286(8):905-6), describes something many have known or suspected for a long time: that Ritalin acts a lot like cocaine.

The article states that, although Ritalin has been prescribed to treat ADHD for forty years, “psychiatrists and pharmacologists have never known how it worked.” Quite a shocking admission, considering that an estimated 6 million American children are on the drug, some as young as four.

Through advanced imaging techniques, researchers found what the article calls “startling results”: that “instead of being a less potent transport inhibitor than cocaine, methylphenidate (Ritalin) was more potent,” and that “the data clearly show that the notion that Ritalin is a weak stimulant is completely incorrect.” The only significant difference between the two drugs is that Ritalin ├Čtakes about an hour to raise dopamine levels, whereas inhaled or injected cocaine hits the brain in seconds.

Finally, the author states that “the long-term dopamine effects of taking methylphenidate (Ritalin) for years, as many do, are unknown.” You may draw your own conclusions.

How to recognize food allergies in your child (or yourself)

Food allergies can be difficult to understand and to explain, and yet they cannot be ignored as they play a major role in children’s health. A wide array of symptoms, from chronic ear infections to hyperactivity, bedwetting or even grinding teeth can often be resolved when one or a few offending foods are identified and removed from the diet.

Some of the confusion may originate from the very word “allergy” because it immediately evokes images of sneezing, congestion or hives – yet these symptoms are rarely seen with what are known as “hidden” food allergies.

When foods do cause reactions such as sneezing or hives, they do so through the same mechanism as allergies to mold, dust or pollen. Sometimes smelling a food is enough to set off the reaction and, in extreme cases, we may hear of a child who went into life-threatening anaphylactic shock after smelling a peanut. Reactions to these substances tend to be immediate, and as a result the allergies are easy to identify. They can also be confirmed by skin testing, a process whereby a tiny amount of allergen is injected beneath the skin.
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Major campaign focuses on children’s health catastrophe

The Center for Children’s Health and the Environment, founded by a group of physicians and scientists from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine (New York City), recently began running full-page ads in The New York Times addressing the current crisis in children’s mental and physical health and its possible underlying causes. Ad themes and related information, including lengthy scientific papers on which the ads are based, can be found on the authors’ website at

The authors and sponsors of the ads, all listed on the website, belong to conventional medical and research communities and have the highest credentials. Every statement contained in the ads is supported by extensive scientific data, although this information is generally not reported in the media and most of us are not aware of it.
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Thiamin (Vitamin B1) Deficiency and Carbohydrate Consumption

A study published in the International Journal of Vitamin Nutrition Research (2001;71(4):217-221) reveals that an increase in the consumption of total carbohydrates to 55%, 65% and 75% of total calories induces a progressive deficiency of vitamin B1. The deficiency is directly proportional to the percentage of total calories derived from carbohydrates. This study does not imply that all carbohydrates should be avoided, only that high-carbohydrate diets trigger this vitamin deficiency. The reason is that thiamin is used up in the body to break down carbohydrates and it is not adequately replenished by any amounts of this vitamin, whether the vitamin occurs naturally or whether it has been added to “enriched” carbohydrate products. This study is particularly interesting for several reasons. First, our diet has been progressively shifting towards higher carbohydrate consumption, and this is especially true in children’s diets. In addition, thiamin deficiency is associated with high anxiety and many of the symptoms of ADHD. Derrick Lonsdale, MD, a proponent of natural treatments for
ADHD, recently published a paper in which he describes successful treatment of many children with ADHD using significant doses of thiamin in addition to dietary management
(Clinical Practice of Alternative Medicine; Volume 2, Number 3, Fall 2001; pages 196-203).

New Research on Essential Fatty Acids, ADHD and Depression

Two new studies published in major medical journals evaluated the effects of essential fatty acids. The first of these studies (Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry 2002;26(2):233-9) looked at forty-one children diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia over a 12-week period. Some of the children received a place bo (olive oil), while others received a mix of essential fatty acids containing EPA, DHA and AA from fish oil, and GLA from evening primrose oil. At the end of the trial period, children treated with essential fatty acids experienced significant improvements while the children taking the olive oil did not improve at all. So are dyslexia and ADHD nothing other than symptoms of fatty acid deficiency? B. Jacqueline Stordy, Ph.D. makes a compelling case for this in her interesting book, The LCP Solution (ISBN 0-345-43872-8). The second study (Am J Psychiatry 2002;159(3):477-9) focused on twenty people diagnosed with major depressive disorder. Some of them received a placebo and others fish oil in addition to their antidepressant medication. In the words of the researchers “highly significant benefits of the addition of the omega-3 fatty acid (fish oil) compared with placebo were found by week three of treatment”.

Alternative Therapies for ADHD Found to be Effective

An article entitled ├ČAlternative treatments for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: does evidence support their use? (Altern Ther Health Med 2002;8:68-74) points out a need for alternatives to medication in the management of ADHD. Many children do not tolerate medications and the risks associated with long-term use have not been fully evaluated. The authors also noted that there are few studies validating alternative treatments, primarily because none of the significant financial interests that are likely to fund large-scale studies are backing them. Many alternative approaches are also individually tailored and do not lend themselves to current-day study designs in which all the participants must receive the same medication.
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Thyroid Dysfunction And Environmental Chemicals

A recent study (Environmental Health Perspec, June 2000;108 (Suppl 3): 433-438) reveals that certain common environmental chemicals can alter thyroid function by acting directly on the thyroid or by affecting centers in the brain that regulate thyroid function. These chemicals, known as PCBs and dioxins, are widespread in today’s environment. This may explain why low thyroid function and many related disorders, including depression and weight gain, have become so common.
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CDC Finds Link Between Mercury in Vaccines and Children’s Disorders

It is standard practice for many pharmaceutical companies to use Thimerosal, a mercury-containing preservative, in childhood vaccines. Exposure to mercury is known to cause various symptoms, including sensory disturbances, movement abnormalities and cognitive impairments. Children who receive the full range of recommended vaccines may take in a cumulative amount of mercury that exceeds the federal limits on exposure for adults.

A May 2000 study in the Journal of Pediatrics (Vol. 136, No. 5, pp. 679-681) showed that it is possible to measure a significant increase in mercury in the blood of vaccinated infants.

Last June, a Congressional report1 charged that both the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the FDA had allowed members with financial ties to drug companies to play prominent roles in making decisions about vaccine approval.

After claiming for decades that vaccines are completely safe, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices reported that a new preliminary, large-scale study indicates that there is a statistically significant association between mercury from vaccinations and neurological disorders, including tics, ADD, language and speech delay, and other non-specific neurodevelopmental delays. This study is available from