Understanding the Shifts in Human Nutrition – The Role of Chemicals (Part 2)

In last week’s article I began to analyse the ways in which our perceptions of the food we eat differs from that of our forebears. I pointed out that it would be very difficult for any modern person to maintain that all of his or her food supply is completely natural (one of the central aspects of a ‘pre modern’ understanding of food). The main reason for this is the fact that many chemicals are finding their way into our diets. Among these chemicals the most important, and harmful, is pesticides.
Continue reading “Understanding the Shifts in Human Nutrition – The Role of Chemicals (Part 2)”

Understanding the Shifts in Human Nutrition – The Role of Chemicals (Part 1)

crop-sprayerWith last week’s article I began to touch on the subject of how our perceptions of food changed over the past few decades. I did this by pointing out how food was viewed in the past. When asked to describe food as a category past generations would very likely have used the following words: Scarce, Seasonal, Natural, Fresh, Hard work. Continue reading “Understanding the Shifts in Human Nutrition – The Role of Chemicals (Part 1)”

Understanding the shifts in Human Nutrition (1) – The way we ate

horn-of-plentyIf you monitored this site over the past few months you would have seen quite a few discussions on the effects of food on our emotional and physical well being. We specifically discussed the positive impact that a Low-GI diet can have on the life of someone dealing with the symptoms of ADD/ADHD. We also tracked some of the not so positive effects of the ‘blood sugar rollercoaster’ that is an unfortunate part of the experience of way too many people. Over the next few weeks we will take all of this information to the next level by looking at practical ways in which you can make ‘Low-GI’ part of your life. Continue reading “Understanding the shifts in Human Nutrition (1) – The way we ate”

Truly Happy Holidays (Even with ADD/ADHD) – Part 3

In the previous article we focussed on ways in which nutrition related challenges that are thrown up by the holiday season can be overcome in ways that will not leave you looking like a sad cross between the Grinch and the Scrooge. It is, however, the case that the challenges posed to people dealing with ADD/ADHD by this happy time of the year range far beyond issues of food and drink. Many parents will tell you that they experience a definite spike in the severity of symptoms that cannot necessarily be attributed to the excess so often associated with the season. Very often the reasons for this can be traced back to: 1) Lack of sleep 2) Overstimulation and 3) Lack of physical activity. This article will discuss ways in which you can effectively address these issues so that your holidays can indeed be truly happy.

Compensate for late nights. In the previous article I noted that you should work towards making your home a safe nutritional haven during the excess that comes with the holidays. The same principle applies when it comes to sleep and getting enough rest. Your child will probably have many opportunities to stay up late (Christmas parties, sleepovers, visits to friends etc.). Completely denying him/her these opportunities is not an option. You should, therefore, make sure that you make the most of evenings when no events are planned. Try to stick as closely as possible to your normal routine and get your child to bed at the same time as normal (or preferably even earlier). In this way at least some of the sleep debt will be ‘paid off’. I realise that it is very difficult to maintain this kind of discipline during the holidays but it is well worth doing so.

Develop active holiday traditions: I have often called attention to the way in which inactive and sedentary lifestyles can contribute to the severity of ADD/ADHD symptoms. This problem is compounded during the Christmas season when most of us seem to be especially sedentary. Vast amounts of food and the cold outside obviously only makes this worse. Addressing this lack of activity will obviously not be easy. I do, however, know of several families who took steps to incorporate ‘active activities’ into their holiday traditions. Why don’t you do the same this year and begin a new tradition in your family? It can be anything: Tenpin bowling, ice skating or a brisk walk after the Christmas lunch. Working of all that food cannot be a bad thing and can even contribute to some cherished holiday memories!

Make the most of the opportunity to give: The gift giving associated with Christmas can often feel like hard work but it can also be a great opportunity if you are dealing with ADD/ADHD in your family. You can, for example, give a gift designed to improve family ties, concentration and cooperation (cleverly designed as a board game). Another possibility is audiobooks for those with a non-visual ADD/ADHD influenced learning style. The options are endless. Ask yourself the simple question ‘What kind of gift would be most helpful in this situation’ and then have fun to get the right gift in such a way that it is not perceived as obviously ‘educational’!

Manage sensory inputs: Many kids with ADD/ADHD are also extremely sensitive when it comes to sensory inputs. This means that a variety of unregulated inputs can tip them over into a kind of meltdown. There is obviously a very real danger of this happening during the holiday period, what with the loud music, bright lights, new experiences and new toys swirling around? It would obviously be very difficult to minimise or regulate these inputs but be careful to do what you can. Turn the volume of your music system down, turn holiday lights from flashing to solid every now and then and also follow the advice on nutrition listed in the previous paragraph. Another tip that might be very difficult to follow is to stagger the times when your kids are allowed to play with their new presents. I am convinced that the lights, sounds and textures of so many new playthings can be enough to tip an already unfocussed brain over the edge. Convincing the owner of that brain that it might be a good idea to spend time enjoying one plaything to the full before moving on to the next might be a massive challenge however. If your children are mature and understanding I would certainly recommend that you follow this strategy.

I really hope that you do not regard ME as a relative of the Grinch for raising all of these issues that can make the holidays a challenged for those dealing with ADD/ADHD. My purpose is certainly not to spoil Christmas but to help you and your family to enjoy it to the full as you meet these challenges head-on. I trust that you will read these tips in this light and that you will have a fantastic and fulfilling time with your loved ones. Happy holidays!

Trouble in the bloodstream? (ADHD Misdiagnoses 4)

Zecke auf menschlicher HautIn our look, over the past few weeks, at the problem of ADD/ADHD misdiagnosis we came across some possible causes that seemed very straightforward and logical when you stop to think about them. I suppose most intelligent people would be able to come up with the hypothesis that giftedness or lack of sleep could cause symptoms akin to those of ADD/ADHD if they analyze the issue for a while. There are however some possible causes for ADD/ADHD misdiagnosis that are so ‘strange’ and unexpected that they remain undetected for years or even decades. Continue reading “Trouble in the bloodstream? (ADHD Misdiagnoses 4)”

Lack of Sleep Possible (ADHD Misdiagnosis 3)

child-sleepingOver the past few weeks we had a look at the very real problem of ADD/ADHD misdiagnosis. The bottom line of much of that was said is that it is very important to research alternative explanations for ‘ADD like symptoms’ before meekly accepting a diagnosis. This is because it is, sadly, often the case that those making a positive diagnosis have a vested interest in doing so. In some cases an ADD/ADHD misdiagnosis could be due to some rather unusual explanations (For example: Some kinds of bacteria mimic the effects of ADD/ADHD, more on this next week). In other cases the explanations are rather more mundane. This is perhaps nowhere more true than in the case of the role of sleep (or rather the lack thereof) on general health and behavior. Millions of mothers throughout the ages have sworn by the fact that their kid’s behavior gets worse for every extra hour of sleep that they did not get. It turns out that modern science is confirming this bit ‘folk wisdom’. Continue reading “Lack of Sleep Possible (ADHD Misdiagnosis 3)”

Attention Deficit. What Kind?

distracted1We are, as you are no doubt aware if you check in regularly, busy with a series examining the impact of diet on the effects of ADD/ADHD. We have already looked at the desirability of a Low-GI diet; this was followed up with a discussion about nutrition and brain function. The last few articles in the series dealt with the negative impact of ‘sugar rushes’ and what we can do to prevent them from occurring.

With the next few articles we will delve a bit deeper into the issue of how our diets can make a real difference in the process of conquering ADD/ADHD. Before we can do that, however, we will have to take a brief look at the issue at the heart of ADD/ADHD: Attention.

We are sometimes so used to an acronym that we completely forget what it stands for. I suspect that this is often the case with ADD/ADHD. This is a pity since the acronym accurately describes the problem that we are dealing with, a problem with paying attention, an ‘attention deficit’. The difficulties that people dealing with ADD/ADHD experience when it comes to attention lies in two related but distinct areas:

•    Some people find it very difficult to focus
•    Other people find it very difficult to deal with distractions Continue reading “Attention Deficit. What Kind?”

Truly Happy Holidays (Even with ADD/ADHD)

Well here we are again! Rapidly approaching the end of another year, with all the attendant festivities. You would have to be a real Scrooge if you are not at least a little bit excited about the tinsel, the carols and the decked out windows. If, however, you are the parent of a child with ADD/ADHD (or perhaps dealing with the condition yourself) you will quite likely also be approaching the holidays with a distinct feeling of dread. Why? Simply because you realize that the holiday period can often be filled with many of the things that are guaranteed to aggravate the condition. This is a sad place to be in, especially as it is not uncommon for some parents with ADD kids to wish that the whole thing can simply be over with: Which is obviously the exact opposite of what most of us would regard as the ideal emotions associated with Christmas.

So can it be different this year? It certainly can! This will, however, only be the case if you approach the holidays in a proactive ‘ADD/ADHD’ busting way. Being aware of the possible dangers and having a strategy in place to counteract them. It is, therefore, a good idea to remind ourselves once again about the exact nature of the factors that are guaranteed to negatively influence the behavior of a child with ADD/ADHD. I will now proceed to list some of them; together with a brief reminder of where/how you are likely to encounter them during the holiday period.

Foods that score high on the Glycemic Index (GI): You may well be aware that I have written extensively about the benefits of a Low-GI diet in combatting the effects of ADD/ADHD. There are few times of the year when it is as difficult to adhere to this kind of diet. We are constantly confronted by sugary and highly processed ‘party foods’. These foods are virtually guaranteed to launch you on the proverbial ‘blood sugar roller coaster’. With this will come feelings of euphoria and hyperactivity followed by extreme moodiness and tiredness. Certainly not the ideal way to spend what is supposed be one of the happiest times of the year.

Foods high in additives, flavorants and other chemicals: Even parents who normally exercise strict control over the diets of their children struggle to maintain vigilance during the holiday period. The temptation to adopt a ‘It’s Christmas after all’ attitude and to turn a blind eye is just too great. This means that it is quite likely that your kids will put things in their mouths that you would never normally allow including foods containing the kinds of chemicals that will almost certainly make hyperactivity, lack of focus, mood swings and other hallmarks of the conditions worse.

Lack of sleep: There can be no question that lack of sleep is one of the most serious contributors towards aggravated ADD/ADHD (it can even mimic classical ‘symptoms’ in children who do not actually have the condition). Parties, family gatherings, light night trips to enjoy Christmas lights all contribute to shrinking sleep times during this time of the year. Denying kids the chance to stay up late every now and then during such a magical time would perhaps be especially ‘Scrooge like’, so the lack of sleep will have to be managed in the best way possible.

Lack of physical activity: As a general rule of thumb we could say that the more sedentary a person is, the more serious the presentation of ADD/ADHD symptoms will be. This is because the body does not get the chance to ‘burn off’ some of the extra sugars etc. that are present in the system. In many households the holidays can be described as ‘especially sedentary’. The cold weather outside combines with an abundance of television and video gaming to guarantee this.

The special pitfalls of the holidays are obviously well known to those who are keeping an eye on their weight. The fact that most people eat lots of extra calories in the form of highly processed and chemically ‘enhanced’ foods combined with temporary changes in lifestyle makes this a perilous time. I firmly believe that this problem is compounded in the case of those dealing with ADD/ADHD. Their brains are already so highly sensitive to even the slightest changes in the environment that the veritable deluge of undesirable elements that assail them during the holidays could very easily tip them over the edge of serious consequences. If you have already spent a few holiday periods with kids with ADD/ADHD, this will obviously not be news to you. The elements listed above should therefore be viewed as some of the greatest challenges that you face if you want to spend a peaceful and fulfilling Christmas. Please check back again next week when I will being to discuss exactly how some of these challenges can be overcome.

Gifted or ADHD? (ADHD Misdiagnosis 2)

giftedLast week we started our look at the huge problem of ADD/ADHD misdiagnosis. The true extent of this problem becomes apparent when you stop to analyse the diagnosis rates over the past decade and also the rate at which ADD/ADHD medication is prescribed. The results of such an analysis will astound you! When plotted on a graph it appears as if the ADD/ADHD ‘industry’ can look forward to being one of the few ‘growth industries’ left in the wider economy! So what is happening? It seems that we are either facing an epidemic of catastrophic proportions or a diagnostic system that is driven by something else besides clinical accuracy. It is my conviction that the latter is the case and that vast numbers of people receive incorrect ADD/ADHD diagnoses (with life changing implications) every year. I want to repeat that I believe that the reasons behind these wrong diagnoses are: Continue reading “Gifted or ADHD? (ADHD Misdiagnosis 2)”