With thousands of children being labeled with ADD, ADHD or related behavioral conditions, we seem to be facing a true epidemic. What could have caused such a crisis in our children? Is it too much television, violence in our society, overcrowded schools? While these and other factors may contribute to the problem, the most fundamental cause is linked to the deterioration in our diets and our children’s diets.

When a child’s nutritional status is evaluated using an organized biochemical approach through laboratory testing, we discover that children with ADD and ADHD have so-called “hidden” food allergies and/or profound nutritional deficiencies, mainly involving minerals, amino acids and essential lipids (fats). These deficiencies are significantly related to behavior but vary a great deal from child to child.

See Dr. Volpe on Houston’s NBC News on Jan 20, 2012:
Can foods help children with ADD, ADHD?

As a result, predetermined or one-size-fits-all protocols are unlikely to help. When medical researchers tested the addition of a single nutrient such as fish oil to or the removal of refined sugar from an individual’s diet, the results showed no change. While many people may have therefore concluded that diet and nutrition are not significantly involved in causing ADD and ADHD, an alternative view is that they are indeed linked, but that multiple factors need to be considered concurrently and vary from one person to another.

Most parents know that their children’s diet is less than perfect, but feel unable to do anything about it or don’t know where to start. Some end up feeling that medications are the only solution. While medications may be unavoidable in a time of crisis, they are designed to control the symptoms of ADD or ADHD, not correct the underlying cause(s), and in the long run the problem may not be resolved. Medications do not identify stress factors that, if adequately addressed, can lead to recovery.

Dr. Volpe’s approach begins with a careful review of each child’s unique history, without regard to any previous diagnosis. Although children may share a common diagnosis, the cause(s) of their condition may be quite different and therefore each case requires careful evaluation. Different situations call for different types of laboratory testing, and Dr. Volpe discusses the options thoroughly with the parents.

Based on a child’s test results, Dr. Volpe develops and carefully reviews with the parents a specific treatment program that addresses their child’s individual needs. Though nutritional supplements are almost always called for, he recommends that they be introduced gradually so that any reaction can be promptly identified and the program is as easy as possible for parents to manage.

Targeted dietary changes may also be necessary. When children reject certain foods, it is often because they cannot digest them and therefore don’t feel well when they eat them. The goal is to improve and support their body’s digestive abilities, then gradually identify nutritious foods they will accept and also enjoy.

Foods like wheat, refined white sugar and milk and chemicals such as MSG, Nutrasweet, food colorings and preservatives may be irritating to certain children and contribute to behavioral and/or learning problems. While a child’s diet may contain many of these products, sometimes only minimal changes are required. The main objective is always to switch to a more nutritious diet of unprocessed whole foods, but the way to succeed is through a step-by-step, non-confrontational approach.

The answers to a child’s condition may come from many different directions. Neurofeedback has proved to be very beneficial for many children. If necessary, Dr. Volpe refers parents to other appropriate resources, including study aids, therapists, and/or support groups.

While the natural approach to ADD and ADHD may require significant changes and a greater effort than just taking a few pills, the outcome can be very rewarding for parents and children alike. Ultimately, our children may become our best teachers in helping us understand how deeply health, behavior and lifestyle choices are intertwined.

Evaluation, Treatment and Followup

Dr. Volpe performs a comprehensive initial evaluation (one and one-half hours) consisting of an in-depth history and exam. At this appointment, parents will be given preliminary information on dietary modifications and will also be apprised of various treatment options. Appropriate laboratory tests will also be discussed, though initially only dietary changes may be recommended.

  • The first followup visit (45 minutes) is scheduled to discuss dietary changes and/or test results, usually 2 to 4 weeks after the first appointment. In addition to a detailed explanation of any test results, parents will receive a written report and plan based on their child’s results that will include dietary changes and targeted nutritional supplement program.
  • Thereafter, parents are strongly advised to make monthly follow-up appointments (20 to 30 minutes as needed). Because Dr. Volpe understands the difficulty of making dietary changes and introducing supplements to their children, parents are encouraged to stay in close touch with the office either through email or phone so that challenges can be addressed if they occur.
  • If neurofeedback is selected as part of the treatment, Dr. Volpe recommends weekly sessions. 20 to 60 sessions may be required to reverse ADD and ADHD, depending on the severity of the condition. The length of treatment can often be reduced when neurofeedback is combined with a targeted therapeutic nutritional program.