ADD/ADHD Drugs and the Placebo Effect: Shocking New Research

PhotobucketWe are all familiar with the so-called ‘placebo effect’. This is where someone begins to feel significantly better after receiving ‘fake’ medication (usually a sugar pill or a tablet with no active pharmacological ingredients). The existence of the placebo effect amply demonstrates that the belief that a condition is being treated can sometimes be as powerful as the treatment itself. Continue reading “ADD/ADHD Drugs and the Placebo Effect: Shocking New Research”

Sleep Deprivation and ADHD Revisited

In a previous article I pointed out that lack of sleep is one of the most common reasons for ADD/ADHD misdiagnosis. (The article can be found here). It seems that I am not alone in making this observation. More and more medical professionals are pointing out the possibility of cross-confusion between ADD/ADHD and sleep deprivation. The main reason behind this is the fact that the two ‘conditions’ share remarkably similar symptoms.
One of the latest physicians to flag up the issue is Dr. Gregory Olmor, director of Pulmonary Medicine and the Sleep Lab at Akron Children’s Hospital (Click here for a video where he discusses his findings). He reminds parents that children need, on average (there will of course be individual variations), the following amounts of sleep:
Teenagers: 9 hours
6 – 12 year olds: 10 hours
Preschoolers: 11 hours
If they don’t get this amount of sleep (as is the case with many kids in our society!) children are likely to become distracted, irritable and impulsive. Sound familiar?
Any parent should, in light of the above, first eliminate sleep deprivation as a possible explanation for ‘ADHD like’ behaviour before going down the path to a full blown diagnosis (with the accompanying pressure to medicate). But how can you ensure that your child gets more, and better, sleep? Here are some practical suggestions:
Establish a strong bedtime routine: This may be difficult to work into your busy schedule but I highly recommend that you make the effort, especially in the case of smaller children. The regular repetition of a bath, followed by a drink, followed by a story (or whatever else you decide on) can be very reassuring and will help the child to make the transition from wakefulness to being ready for sleep.
Keep night time interaction to a minimum: If your child wakes up at night (perhaps due to a nightmare of a bit of anxiety about the dark) you should, of course, move in and reassure and comfort him/her. This is, however, not the time to have a deep discussion about the reasons for the nightmare or the anxiety (Save this for the morning). Settle the child as quickly, and compassionately, as possible and then withdraw to allow him/her to drift back to sleep.
Use a reward chart: If you place something on a reward chart for every night during which there were no call-outs or ‘escapes’ your children will be able to see a visual presentation of their progress. This should reinforce the importance of undisturbed sleep in their minds.
Keep distractions to a minimum: For older kids it may be necessary to have strict rules for the prevention of middle of the night ‘electronic activities’ (e.g. listening to music, watching TV, surfing the web, instant messaging etc.). This will almost certainly be resented at first but could, in time, lead to the establishment of much healthier sleeping patterns.
Encourage physical activity: It does not take a rocket scientist to work out that the more active a person was during the day, the more likely he/she will be to ‘crash’ and sleep through the night. Encouraging your kids to participate in sport will therefore not only aid their physical fitness and motor development, it could also turn them into much better sleepers.
Avoid caffeine close to bedtime: As a stimulant caffeine is famous for its powers to keep people awake. Yet many people think nothing of allowing their children to drink near industrial qualities of the stuff close to bedtime. I am not, in the first instance, referring to the caffeine in coffee (which many parents would take care to avoid) but rather to the huge amounts found in many soft drinks. Drink such as this will hit a child with a double whammy: They will put the child on the ‘blood sugar rollercoaster’ and then make sure that he/she ‘hangs on for the ride’ through being wide awake! It is my opinion that drinks like these should be avoided at any time, but especially close to bedtime.
If none of the above is effective in helping your child to get a better night’s sleep it may be necessary to seek a bit of professional help (with the focus firmly on sleeplessness and not on a possible ADD/ADHD diagnosis). A medical professional focussing on sleep related issues should be able to suggest several techniques, beyond those mentioned above, with which to send your child to dreamland quicker and for longer.
There are obviously several different products on the market that claim to ‘cure’ sleeplessness. I would personally caution against using any of them on your children until you get an independent and knowledgeable medical opinion.
Many people needlessly go down the road to an ADD/ADHD misdiagnosis when all their kids need is a few nights of proper sleep. Make sure that you are not one of them: Look into possible sleep deprivation first. Sweet dreams!

Understanding the Shifts in Human Nutrition – From Scarcity to Superabundance (Part 1)

It should perhaps come as no surprise that our perceptions of food differ from that of our ancestors. What is surprising, and not a little troubling, is how far these perceptions have moved in just a few generations. Today we interact with food in ways that would have left our great grandparents scratching their heads in disbelief. Nowhere is this shift more apparent than when it comes to the issue of food security.
For most of the history of the human race food security was one of the top concerns of just about every man and woman alive. This was because food was a perishable, finite and scarce resource. These facts manifested itself in the cycles of ‘feast and famine’ that most societies went through on a regular basis. The feast part of the cycle usually coincided with harvest time or the conclusion of the hunt. People would very often eat to excess at these times as they knew that the lean times were on their way. Lean times did indeed appear with clockwork-like regularity. They could normally be traced back to:
• Changes in the season
• Failed harvests or hunts
• The inability to keep food from spoiling
• Ongoing struggles to move food from places where it was plentiful to where it was not
The fact that food was scarce inevitably led to it being viewed as a precious commodity that should be used wisely. This does not mean that previous generations were ‘food saints’, they did however strive to use the food they had in the best possible ways. These included:
• Using as much of a particular food source as possible
• Efforts to minimise waste (“Waste not, want not!”)
• Adjusting consumption patterns to coincide with times (particularly certain seasons) when certain food sources were plentiful.
All of the above factors often translated into remarkably healthy eating patterns, especially when you consider that very few people had the opportunities for the kinds of overindulgence that are so prevalent in modern society.
It is, of course, no secret that the consumption patterns discussed above belong firmly in the past for most people. There are several reasons behind this shift:
• Improved transport links ‘shrank the world’ to such an extent that we now think nothing of eating food produced in several different countries with almost every meal.
• Pesticides and fertilisers dramatically increased agricultural yields (This did not come without a price tag attached! Please see the previous 5 articles for more information on this issue).
• Greenhouse and cooling technology allow us to virtually eliminate seasonality. We can now eat anything, anytime, anywhere.
• Industrial production methods were increasingly applied to every step of the food production process. This is nowhere more apparent than in the so-called ‘fast food’ industry where every step of the production chain is automated in the service of producing super cheap, and superabundant, food.
The purpose of this article is not to romanticise and glorify the past. No one in his or her right mind would choose to live in a society where the majority of people are not certain where the next meal will come from. The fact is, however, that the superabundance of food that most North Americans currently experience did not come without some severe consequences. The most damaging of these consequences is the ‘devaluing’ of food in our culture. The perception that food is ‘just there’ (and not a valuable resource) led to many people being much more careless in thinking about what they put in their mouths and what it is likely to do to them.
The problem is compounded even further, especially from the perspective of those who battle the effects of ADD/ADHD, by the fact that the types of food that lend themselves to successful mass production are often exactly the types of foods that should be avoided. The best way to confirm this is to pay a little visit to just about any ‘fast food’ outlet. The products on display are the result of intensive industrially inspired production and preparation methods. They are also very likely to be a) high in saturated fats b) high on the Glycemic Index and c) filled with preservatives and other additives.
It is perhaps quite easy to decry the effects of food superabundance. It is, however, much more difficult to decide what to do about it. It would surely not be advisable to wish for a return to the kind of ‘hand to mouth’ existence that many previous generations were used to. We should however recognise the fact that having so much more than what we really need is harming us in some subtle, and not so subtle, ways. Our response to this recognition should translate into some practical steps on the road towards enjoying the abundance around us without being seduced into patterns of consumption that could be very harmful over the long run. The next article will focus on ways in which this can be achieved. See you then!

Understanding the Shifts in Human Nutrition – The Role of Chemicals (Part 5)

It is my firm conviction that we need a return to ways of thinking about food that do not reduce the things that we put into our mouths to the level of just another expendable commodity. This is why I am currently focusing on the ways in which current perceptions about food differ from how previous generations viewed their ‘daily bread’. Over the past few weeks I pointed out how far modern perceptions have moved from the simple belief that food is something ‘natural’. One of the main reasons behind this profound cultural shift is the fact that more and more man-made chemicals have found their way into our food supply. Of these the most significant are pesticides (substances designed to get rid of harmful organisms) and additives (substances added to aid preservation, improve appearance or enhance flavor). Continue reading “Understanding the Shifts in Human Nutrition – The Role of Chemicals (Part 5)”

Understanding the Shifts in Human Nutrition – The Role of Chemicals (Part 4)

Last week we began to look at the ways in which the additives in our foods can have all kinds of negative consequences including hyperactivity, lack of attention and moodiness: All ‘symptoms’ that those dealing with the effects of ADD/ADHD should be keen to avoid. This week we will discuss the identification of different additives in our food supply.
It goes without saying that ‘identification’ will never be sufficient, you will also have to move beyond that to actually finding alternatives to the food sources that contain the harmful additives.
If we take a long hard look at our food supply it quickly becomes clear that there are certain types of food that are far more likely to contain harmful additives. The list presented below is certainly not the last word on the subject but it should give you a good starting point from which to begin your investigations.
Very brightly colored food: Harmful coloring is added to a variety of foods (not just fast food and candy!) to make it look more appealing.
Fruit juice: This may come as a bit of a shock since many people regard fruit juices as the healthy option when it comes to selecting beverages. The fact is that many juices contain some powerful preservatives to extend their shelf life.
Bread: Another nasty surprise! Many types of bread (especially highly processed white bread varieties) contain a host of preservatives as well as additives designed to ‘bulk out’ the flour.