Clicking on the ARTILCE links will now take you to the new website. If you still want to read this page, just scroll down. Thanks for visiting.

ARTICLE #1 ADD/ADHD and Behavioral Problems: Nutritional Causes, Prevention, and Therapy

ARTICLE #2 Natural Approaches to ADD and ADHD

ARTICLE #3 ADD/ADHD and Diet (with links to recipes)

ARTICLE #4 Food Coloring and Behavior

ARTICLE #5 Testimonials on ADD/ADHD and Food Coloring

ARTICLE #6 Tartrazine: A Real Yellow Menace

ARTICLE #7 Food Additive Guide: What's Good, What's Bad

ARTICLE #8 ADD/ADHD Specific Lab Tests

ARTICLE #9 Things to Rule Out, Things to Know

ARTICLE #10 RITALIN use Linked to Chromosomal Abnormalities

LINKS:, Why to Avoid Ritalin, Drug-Free Alternatives, Dangers of Ritalin, Ritalin: Wonder Drug or Cop-Out?, Diet and ADD/ADHD, The Ritalin Fact Book

ADD/ADHD and Behavioral Problems: Nutritional Causes, Prevention, and Therapy

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has become a medical craze of unparalleled proportions. As many as 20% of children (some estimates are higher), the majority of them boys, are now on Ritalin or Dexedrine, both of which are addictive stimulants. About 35% of all children referred to mental health clinics are referred for ADHD. It is one of the most prevalent of all childhood "psychiatric" disorders, although ADD/ADHD is a common diagnosis for adults as well.

With Attention Deficit Disorder and Behavioral Problems sometimes running in families, some doctors are convinced that a genetic component is driving this condition, while others believe that there may have been damage to the brain during pregnancy or delivery, or from drug or alcohol use during pregnancy, from infectious diseases, toxemia, overexposure to radiation, etc., while after birth, ADD may result from meningitis, seizures from fever, head injury, encephalitis, or heavy metal toxicity. Other practitioners disagree and cite lack of evidence for any of these claims, going as far as calling ADD another example of "scientific" medicine inventing a psychiatric label when it cannot explain, resolve, or find a physiological cause for specific medical symptoms.

Since there is no conclusive test to prove whether someone is suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder, the diagnosis of either ADD or ADHD is highly subjective, although in 1998 the Eastman Kodak Co. by chance discovered a novel approach to spotting the disorder: They found that the temperature in the fingertips of ADD/ADHD patients fluctuates differently from non-ADHD patients, which may lead to the commercial development of a more accurate diagnostic tool to better and faster assess this condition.

Proponents of drug therapy claim that symptoms of ADD are caused by neurological dysfunctions within the brain and point to studies done with PET scans confirming that there is a definite difference in brain functions between groups of individuals diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder, and those without it. According to their theory, specific chemicals called neurotransmitters may be lacking in individuals with ADD, and where subsequent to taking medication, brain activity appeared to be much more like that of the normal group. They also claim that the areas of the brain in the ADD group with below-normal brain activity are known to be associated with such functions as attention, concentration, as well as planning and organization. Those same proponents also stress the relative "safety" of these stimulant drugs, and that they are unquestionably successful in decreasing hyperactivity, while at the same time improving attention span in approximately 70% of those treated (maintaining that only 5-10% will get worse). As a result, these drug-treated children supposedly feel better about themselves and enjoy better self-esteem, with no evidence that being treated for years with stimulant drugs will have a greater likelihood of abusing drugs or narcotics during their adolescent years.

However other research shows that many children who have taken drugs for Attention Deficit Disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder continually have drug addiction problems with either legal drugs and/or illegal drugs for the remainder of their lives. One reason for this could be that they have been conditioned to believe that taking drugs will solve life's problems and difficulties.

Ritalin (methylphenidate) is classified among Schedule II controlled substances, which have a high abuse potential with severe psychic or physical dependence liability and in general, are substances that have therapeutic utility. Schedule II drugs include amphetamine (Dexedrine), cocaine, morphine, codeine, opium, oxycodone (Percodan), pentobarbital, and others. Ritalin has been sold on the black market as a form of speed. Some side effects encountered with these stimulants include personality changes characterized by a state of excitement, confusion, depression or withdrawal, as well as irritability, restlessness, sleeping problems, loss of appetite, weight loss, stomachache, headache, rapid or irregular heartbeat, elevated blood pressure, and sometimes muscle twitches of the face and other parts of the body, which could lead to Tourette's Syndrome. There is also some controversy of whether these stimulant drugs cause suppression of growth.

Children / Adults diagnosed with ADD/ADHD may fit one or more categories:

Vision or Hearing problems in children - when undetected - may sometimes lead to an inaccurate diagnosis of Attention Deficit Disorder.

Hyperthyroid or Hypothyroid problems can both trigger a number of attention-disruptive symptoms. Serum levels may, or may not be within a normal lab range, however false positives or false negatives with thyroid panels are not uncommon. While elevated / irregular pulse or nervousness are commonly experienced with hyperthyroid functions, apathy, fatigue and trouble concentrating are some symptoms encountered with hypothyroid functions. Spinal alignment problems at T4-T6 can also trigger similar symptoms. Supplements such as PABA, magnesium, or manganese (as individually indicated) will generally help with mild hyperthyroid activity, while iodine and/or Vitamin B6 may be helpful with very mild hypothyroid activity. Exposure to bromine-based fire retardants used in carpets, mattresses, upholstery, furniture and some electronic equipment have also become suspect for causing a number of medical conditions, including hypothyroidism. Animal research has linked behavioral problems, as well as neurodevelopmental and attention deficit hyperactivity disorders to bromides. The European Union has already banned some PBDE (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) compounds for these reasons.

Food Intolerances or Allergies are high on the list of offenders to provoke ADD/ADHD or other behavioral symptoms and problems. While milk, eggs, nuts, shellfish, wheat and soy products are common triggers for people with food sensitivities or allergies, simple sugar(s) have more of an effect on mood and hyperactivity than many other dietary factors, although some "experts" on ADD or ADHD continue to challenge or dispute that fact. Additional problem sources to consider include pets, mold, artificial food coloring and preservatives, artificial sweeteners (aspartame), dust mites, caffeine, and tobacco smoke.

Calcium and/or Magnesium deficiencies are very common causes of ADD and ADHD. Since they are always accompanied by light and/or restless sleep, along with daytime sleepiness, they are easy to spot and easily remedied through supplementation or a change in diet.

High Copper and low Sulfur - with or without elevated Aluminum - represent one of the most common causes of ADD/ADHD. Symptoms typically include a "foggy" mind, lack of concentration, and poor memory. This particular chemical pattern is as common with kids as it is with adults, and requires not only supplementation of copper antagonists (molybdenum, chromium, sulfur (MSM), or Vitamin C - as individually indicated), but also avoidance of beverage or food sources high in copper and aluminum. Copper sources include cocoa / chocolate products, coffee, tea, soy products, liver, nuts, seeds, shellfish, wheat germ..., while aluminum sources include drinks packaged in aluminum-lined containers (tetra packs) and certain (antacid / stomach) remedies.

Tyrosine is an amino acid that the body uses to synthesize dopamine and norepinephrine, the two neurotransmitters believed to be involved in ADHD. Some studies have shown that children with ADD may have lower levels of tyrosine, which can be increased through supplemental or dietary sources. L-Tyrosine supplementation is contraindicated when on certain medications, or with specific medical problems, so a consultation with a practitioner is important for proper evaluation.

Recreational Activities have a major impact on brain chemistry. The types of videos watched, or the type of music listened to are just two examples of stimuli that have the ability to shape or affect mood, personality and behavior. Research has started to find connections between children playing violent video games, followed by measurable aggressive behavior. The increase in dopamine production in the brain during video game play is no different than smoking marijuana, or a person being injected with amphetamines, or the ADD drug Ritalin. The change in brain chemistry is the first hard evidence that video game playing is addictive, like a dose of speed. Accordingly, these kids are addicted to raised dopamine levels, and can't concentrate on anything without them.

Studies have attributed similar effects on the brain when listening to music, particularly in regards to learning and studying. Classical music, with an average 50-70 beats per minute was optimal for learning. Interestingly, it also provided health benefits such as lower blood pressure, lower muscle tension, and a slower pulse rate. In every one of several human and animal studies done of having subjects listen to Mozart versus Hard Rock, the effects of classical music were in comparison to the control group consistently of a calming, soothing nature, while the Hard Rock group invariably lead to an aggressive, or even violent behavior.

It is not difficult to understand how the influence of the hypnotic rhythm and beat of Heavy Metal Rock music induces a drug-like effect that removes inhibitions, morals, and incites rebellion and aberrations of conduct.

Statistics are even more convincing: In different experiments, mice listening to classical music ran a maze from 25% to 70% faster than those who were not listening to any music. "Modern" music (Punk Rock, Rap...) had them run the maze anywhere from 20% to 300% slower! Another study showed that listening to the classical music of Mozart can improve an IQ score by up to 13 points, while "Rock and Roll" has a reverse effect.

Lack of Parental Discipline is what many people believe to be the most widespread cause of ADD, ADHD, and other behavioral problems, and they may not be too far off the mark. While this will hit a raw nerve with those parents whose children can do no wrong (no matter how ill behaved they are), it is very obvious that most kids nowadays lack a respect of authority, and they all seem to very much know their rights - particularly that governments protect the action of children through various legislations and even step in against those parents who see fit to teach their kids some rules and hands-on discipline.

* * *

Times have certainly changed... particularly in regards to mental health! Visiting shopping malls, hair salons, or even many of the better dining establishments can be quite an awakening experience in the way many of them see fit to musically entertain their customers. Emphasis used to be on providing a relaxing atmosphere with ambient 'elevator-type' of background music to enhance that shopping or dining experience. Now, one establishment is trying to outdo the other by greeting the customer right at the door with their canned heavy-metal beat, which is only challenged by the tinted sports car driving by with its mega-watt entertainment system creating a sonic boom within a 3-mile radius.

In most cities, searching from one end of the dial to the other, one is hard-pressed to find a radio station that still caters to normal, well-adjusted, non-medicated adults, who prefer to get through the day without having their brain tortured with that driving beat.

Likewise, videographers used to pride themselves in applying every possible skill to stabilize their shots and trying to provide smooth video footage for their audience. Now, their pieces of "art" consist of rapidly zooming in and out a minimum number of times per minute, tilting their cameras side to side, while continuously moving around as if suffering from an 'Ants-in-the-Pants' syndrome. In turn, video editors complement these "master pieces" by trying to utilize every possible strobe effect, bright, flashing light and head-spinning transitions their editing equipment has to offer. What used to be an excuse for amateur home video has graduated into acceptance with many commercial TV stations.

The reward for sitting through these news, commercial, documentary or Hollywood-style video exhibits could be a pounding headache for those who still enjoy the possession of an unadulterated brain, while the sound-enhanced flashing of animated cartoons is just waiting to give some kids the ultimate trip in form of a brain seizure - as happened to hundreds of Japanese children some time ago. I guess, spending "quality time" with kids to some parents means a healthy dose of interactive video games, or an afternoon of watching "educational" TV, where dragons and space invaders annihilate one another.

Just like a change in life style is preferable to numerous dietary attempts when trying to lose weight, a change in life style / recreational activities, and nutrition - if indicated, is also preferable to drug therapy with children (and adults) when dealing with ADD or ADHD. Admittedly, with the cult-like following the video, music, and motion picture industry enjoys, and considering the number of prescriptions that are written for mental health problems every year, this seems like a difficult - if not impossible task.

Copyright © 2000-2004 Ronald Roth

back to top

Natural Approaches to ADD and ADHD

Gary Post, DC, DACBN, CCN

In the past few years Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has been gaining more and more attention. In the schools we see teachers and administrators much more alert to categorizing students with this problem - rightly and sometimes wrongly. We also see increasing prescriptions written for Ritalin, the drug of choice. It's interesting to note that 80% of all Ritalin prescriptions in the world are written in the United States and that from 1990 to 1994 the amount of Ritalin prescriptions had more than doubled from 1 million to 2 million. This according to Dr. James Swanson, professor of pediatrics.

These factors obviously raise the question as to what's going on? Is the problem spreading in epidemic fashion? Is the problem being more popularized and so the diagnosis is no longer being "missed"? Is the problem being misdiagnosed due to changes in our cultural structure (i.e. loss of discipline in home and school)? Or, are behavioral problems becoming so rampant that doctors are feeling compelled or under pressure to utilize drugs to balance out deficits from other aspects of our society?

The answer is probably a little bit of all of the above. However, the real question is can we address the issue of ADD/ADHD naturally and effectively without having to resort to drugs?


ADD/ADHD is not new. It was initially recognized by George Still and published in the British Journal Lancet in 1905. Still described it then as a disorder of "moral behavior associated with wanton destructiveness". In the 1930's and 1940's it was described as minimal brain dysfunction syndrome (MBD). Early medical treatment in the 1930's utilized amphetamine sulfate (dexadrine) with Ritalin coming into use in the 1950's.

In the mid 1980's the current terminology, attention deficit disorder with or without hyperactivity, became popular. This was through the publication of DSM-III.

While ADD and ADHD are technically two separate entities they overlap each other, and in many children, they are found together. For the purpose of this article, I shall refer to both of them together unless specifically indicated otherwise. It should be noted here that ADD/ADHD is not a type of learning disability but many children have problems with learning and some do have learning disabilities. It is a disorder of performance not skill.


ADD is recognized as a syndrome that includes problems in concentration and attention. Some symptoms include children appearing spacy, sluggish, unorganized, easily forgetful, inattentive and unable to follow through.

ADHD is a syndrome that includes problems with attention, impulsiveness, and hyperactivity. It may also include some of the above ADD symptoms.


There are no "tests" to diagnose ADD/ADHD. It is diagnosed from the history and clinical assessment. The diagnosis is made by the person's symptoms fulfilling 6 of 9 of the below listed diagnostic criteria. The symptoms must be present to a degree that is judged maladaptive and inconsistent with developmental levels.

Inattention Diagnosis: (Must persist for 6 or more months) 6 or More Out of the Following 9 Symptoms

1) Often fails to give close attention to detail or makes careless mistakes in school, work, or other activities.

2) Often has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities.

3) Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly.

4) Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores or duties in the workplace. (Not due to oppositional behavior or failure to understand instructions)

5) Often has difficulty organizing tasks or activities.

6) Often avoids, dislikes or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort. (Such as schoolwork and homework)

7) Often looses things for tasks or activities such as toys, school assignments, pencils, tools, etc.

8) Often is easily distracted by extraneous stimuli.

9) Often is forgetful in daily activities.

Hyperactivity Diagnosis: (Must persist for 6 or more months) 6 or More Out of the Following 9 Symptoms

1) Often fidgets with hands and/or feet and squirms in seat.

2) Often leaves seat in classroom or in other situations in which remaining seated is expected.

3) Often runs about or climbs excessively in situations which is considered inappropriate. ( In adolescents or adults may be limited to subjective feelings of restlessness)

4) Often has difficulty playing or engaging in leisure activities quietly.

5) Often is "on-the-go" or often acts as if "driven by a motor".

6) Often talks excessively.

7) Often blurts out answers before a question is completed.

8) Often has difficulty waiting for his/her turn.

9) Often interupts or intrudes on others. (Butts into conversations or games)

Joe F. Lubar, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a leading authority on the use of neurofeedback in the treatment of ADD/ADHD, has just published an article in "Biofeedback" in which he states that much research has been done in the past ten years on ADD/ADHD. The results suggest the following conclusion:

1) There is a deficit in the functioning of the prefrontal regions and the central cortex of the brain (via EEG patterns of the brain).

2) The deficit is manifested in terms of decreased cereberal metabolism, decreased oxygen utilization, and perhaps decreased blood flow to these regions.

3) There is a deficit in dopaminergic transmission from the brain stem to these areas and in some cases an overproduction of norepinephrine.

Lubar's research has also shown that EEGs of ADD/ADHD patients exhibit altered theta and beta brain wave activity. Specifically, he found that hyperactive individuals had lower theta/beta ratios than controls, while inattentive individuals had higher theta/beta ratios. He also showed in the same study that Ritalin had no overall effect on cortical EEG when measured in 19 different locations.

Differential Diagnosis

While it is important to differentially diagnose ADD/ADHD from medical disorders, developmental disorders, and/or psychiatric disorders it is also important to note that there is frequently a co-existing diagnosis in one or more of the above categories.

It is essential that patients with ADD/ADHD be evaluated for allergies, malnutrition, and blood sugar-handling stress.

1) Allergies.

70% of ADD/ADHD individuals have food, chemical, and/or environmental allergies. Often you will find "allergic" children with recurrent ear infections, sinus infections, lack of energy, swollen glands, as well as the whole ADD/ADHD behavioral pattern. Allergies can trigger all of this. These patients may also exhibit many similar changes in brain physiology as ADD/ADHD. By successfully treating the allergies you will often find patients "improve remarkably with respect to all their symptoms".

2) Malnutrition.

60% of malnourished children will develop ADD/ADHD. They are also prone to recurrent sickness and infections. This was shown in a study by Dr. Galler, a pediatrician who studied malnourished children in the Caribbean.

3) Blood Sugar-Handling Stress.

70% of all ADD/ADHD individuals have abnormal glucose metabolism. This may manifest as hypoglycemia with all of its attendant symptoms as well.

The importance of the assessment for these conditions cannot be over-emphasized. In the presence of ay of the above conditions, any treatment of ADD/ADHD not addressing them will almost always yield unsatisfactory results. This obviously suggests that in certain cases they may be the true underlying causative factors of the ADD/ADHD condition. Thus, ADD/ADHD may be but a symptoms of a larger problem. Also, it should be noted that in the presence of food or chemical allergies, often removing the offending substance will resolve the case without the need to resort to any other means.

Finally, it is important to note that there is a clear genetic propensity to ADD/ADHD, so inquiry and evaluation of other family members may be indicated.


Nutritional treatment based on the above noted findings would be targeted to:

1) Increase cerebral blood flow

2) Increase oxygen utilizaton to the brain, specifically the cortex

3) Increased dopaminergic transmission (for ADD)

4) Reduce norepinephrine production (for ADHD)

5) Increase serotonin levels (extrapolated from increased norepinephrine production for ADHD)

6) Normalize theta and beta brain wave activity (for both ADD and ADHD)

Some nutrients that could be clinically considered include:

1) Ginkgo Biloba ( increases blood flow and oxygenation of tissues, helps attention and concentration, studies show it to increase beta wave and decrease theta waves, clinical dose is about 240mg three times a day for adults, for ADD)

2) Pycnogenol (OPC) (increases blood flow, increases capilary permeability, studies show improved brain wave patterns, clinical dose may be at 600-800mg/day, anitoxidant activity, for ADD and ADHD)

3) 5-Hydroxytryptophan (amino acid precursor to serotonin, for sleep disorders and emotional stability, for ADHD)

4) L-Phenylalanine ( precursor to formation of dopamine and thus norepinephrine production, for ADD)

5) L-Glutamine (precursor to formation of GABA which exerts a calmative effect via its action as an inhibitor of synaptic transmission in the CNS, for ADHD)

6) B Vitamins especially B3, B6, B12 (intimately linked with mental emotional states, acts as co-enzymes in a multiplicity of critical biochemical reactions, imbalances associated with neuro-psychiatric disorders, for ADD and ADHD)

7) Calmative Herbs (many herbs either singly or in combination can cause an inhitory response on the CNS, some herbs include chamomile, passionflower, skullcap, blue verbain, and valerian root, for ADD and ADHD)

8) Calcium and Magnesium. (muscle relaxant, imbalances have been found in association with depression, for ADD and ADHD)

9) Chromium Picolinate (for aid in blood sugar regulation, for ADd and ADHD)

While this list of supplements may appear extensive, it should be noted that many children respond favorably to even limited but well-targeted nutritional intervention.


In conclusion, while ADD/ADHD is not new it is, for a multiplicity of reasons, currently being diagnosed much more frequently. There are also clear indications that this condition is associated with very real changes in brain physiology.

It is always crucial to assess for the presence of allergies, malnutrition, and/or blood sugar-handling stress in these cases. Clinical nutrition can make a significant positive impact in the control and improvement of ADD/ADHD diagnosed individuals. It will also frequently avoid the need for medication as well as provide insights and answers to many other health problems that have chronically plagued these individuals.

back to top

ADD/ADHD and Diet (with links to recipes)

In looking for the causes of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD/ADHD), diet takes a forefront.

The brain is a hungry organ that cannot function at optimal levels without the proper fuels. To keep the brain functioning at top performance, ADHD diets packed with brain boosting essential fatty acids and amino acids is a must.

Not surprisingly, the majority of parents who call the Attention Deficit Disorder Help Center say their Attention Deficit or hyperactive child is a finicky eater.

Numerous studies on diet’s role in the causes of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD/ADHD) show benefits from either adding foods or eliminating items from the diet.

Incorporating ADHD recipes packed with brain foods for this neurological disorder can naturally alleviate many symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD/ADHD).

ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS: Numerous studies show that children with the symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD/ADHD) have lower levels of essential fatty acids. Studies also show that lower levels of essential fatty acids can result in problems with learning, behavior, temper, sleep, and immune function.

Your brain is about 60 percent fat, with Omega-3 essential fatty acids the most abundant fat in your brain. This essential fatty is extremely important for communication and transmission between brain cells.

Because the body does not make essential fatty acids, they are only available through our diets or through supplementation.

The best source of Omega-3 fatty acids is cold water fish like salmon, herring, tuna, cod, flounder, trout and shrimp. Other sources of essential fatty acids (Omega-3 and Omega-6) are nuts, soybean, walnut oil, olive oil and flaxseed oil.

AMINO ACIDS: Amino acids, the building blocks of protein in the body, literally feed the brain. Amino acids promote the production of various neurotransmitters and enzymes critically needed in the brain for communication between brain cells, smooth and balanced cognition and fluid transition from thought to disciplined action.

Foods high in complete protein are excellent sources of amino acids. Good sources of complete proteins include meat, fish, eggs, dairy products and soy. Yogurt is the only animal-derived complete protein that dieticians recommend for frequent use in the diet.

For vegetarians, brown rice served with beans, seeds, nuts or wheat make a complete protein. All soy products also make a complete protein.

In addition to essential fatty acids and amino acids, ADHD recipes to combat the causes of Attention Deficit Disorder should also include ample amounts of zinc, Phosphatidyl Serine (PS), a natural extract of lecithin, and "B" vitamins.

"B" VITAMINS: B vitamins help form neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers of the nervous system. Pyridoxal phosphate, a B-6 member, is pivotal in the synthesis of the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine and gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA).

A Saint Joseph Hospital (Pennsylvania) study found low serotonin levels as possible causes of ADD/ADHD in hyperactive children. The researchers observed a significant increase in serotonin when introducing a B-6 supplement.

ZINC: A number of studies point to an association between zinc deficiency and the symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD/ADHD).

A 1996 study, published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, revealed a significant correlation between zinc and fatty acids, in that both were decreased in children displaying the symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD/ADHD).

In looking for dietary causes of ADD/ADHD, an Ohio State University found a relationship between zinc deficiency and response to stimulant medicine (such as Ritalin) among people with the symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD/ADHD).

PHOSPHATIDYL SERINE (PS): PS, a neural-membrane supportive, is a natural extract of lecithin and often used as a supplement for the symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD/ADHD).

Many clinical trials of memory loss, mood, cognitive performance and learning ability show that PS can optimize cognition.

In a study of twenty-seven children with the symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD/ADHD) all but two children showed improvement in learning capacity and behavior when given 200-300 mg of PS daily for four months.

To get a healthy sampling of nutrition to fuel the body and brain, your child should eat plenty of green, leafy vegetables, fish at least twice a week, nuts and fresh fruits.

Mothers of finicky eaters especially know this diet structure can be near impossible to reach. That is why supplementing the diet with brain feeding nutrients is so important for children.

Food allergies and sensitivities can also mimic the symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD/ADHD).

The top food culprits producing causes of ADD ADHD symptoms are: sugar, chocolate, eggs, milk, wheat, colors/additives/flavors, and corn.

Eliminate these items from the diet (it won’t be easy given today’s eating standards) for two weeks. After that time, introduce one item back into the diet every couple days.

If you notice a return of symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder with an item added back in, you might have found the causes of the ADD/ADHD symptoms. You will want to keep those foods to a minimum in the diet.

By eliminating the top food allergy culprits from the diet and then slowly introducing them back in, you can determine if diet produces causes of ADD/ADHD symptoms.

Even if certain foods do not seem to produce causes of ADD/ADHD symptoms, do consider keeping your child on a nutritionally sound diet that includes a high-quality nutritional supplement. A sound diet will help in many areas of the child’s life.

A study conducted on 220 preschool children demonstrated that children who lack optimal amounts of essential nutrients experience reduced attention span and intellectual ability.

The same researchers conducted a study, which showed that students' ability to think was reduced when kept on a nutritionally poor diet.

Another study reported sugar (one of the diet elements in the elimination diet) as a possible instigator of aggressive behavior, causes of ADD/ADHD hyperactivity, and attention problems exhibited by children with symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD/ADHD).

The recipes selected for the ADHD Recipes section are simply and generally kid friendly – ADHD recipes that all but the finicky eaters should enjoy.

We encourage you to try some of these ADHD recipes and submit some of your own to help add to other readers’ ADHD recipes.

Food Coloring and Behavior

One of the most widely used food colorings is FD&C yellow dye #5 or tartrazine. Tartrazine is added to almost every packaged food as well as many drugs, including some antihistamines, anitbiotics, steroids, and sedatives. In the United States, the average daily per capita consumption of certified dyes is 15mg, of which 85% is tartrazine. Among children the consumption is usually much higher.

A recent study was designed to determine the effect of tartrazine on behavior in hyperactive children. Two hundred children were included in a six week open trial of a diet free of synthetic food coloring. The parents of 150 children reported behavioral improvement with the diet, and deterioration of behavior on introduction of foods containing artificial colors. Thirty four children (23 suspected reactors, 11 uncertain reactors) and 20 control subjects, aged 2 to 14 years were studied in the double-blind, placebo controlled portion of the study.

Placebo, or one of six dose levels of tartrazine (1,2,5,10,20 and 50mg) was administered randomly each morning, and behavioral ratings were recorded by parents at the end of each day.

The study identified 24 children as clear reactors (19 of 23 "suspected reactors", 3 of 11 "uncertain reactors", and 2 0f 20 "control subjects"). Reactors displayed irritability, restlessness, and sleep disturbances. A clear dose response was obtained. With doses greater than 10mg, the duration of effect was prolonged.

These results support the Feingold Hypothesis. Not surprisingly, the study was not performed in the United States. The study was conducted at the Royal Children's Hospital, University of Melbourne, Australia.

Testimonials on ADD/ADHD and Food Coloring


I was wondering if anyone has any experiences with food colorings (specifically Yellow 5 and Red 40) triggering ADHD behavior.

Our 5 year old son has been diagnosed as ADHD by his doctor but not “officially” tested. We have a reward system for encouraging positive behavior (cooperating, sharing, listening etc). Recently on two separate occasions he chose a 7-11 Slurpee as a reward. Each time after eating the Slurpee, he became very irritable, began pulling on his tongue and sticking his tongue out, and became argumentative and oppositional.

On other day he ate (as a reward for demonstrating positive behavior) Starburst Jellybeans and began the same negative behavior as after the Slurpee. I clipped the ingredient list and researched the individual ingredients. There is a lot of controversy over Yellow 5 and Red 40 food colorings triggering ADD symptoms. Both these colorings are in Starburst Jellybeans and I suspect (but do not know for certain) they are present in Slurpees.

Given my son’s experience, I am convinced there is a link between Yellow 5 and Red 40 and his behavior. My wife and I are going to try to eliminate Yellow 5 and Red 40 from his diet to see if it impacts his overall behavior.


I got a video from the library on ADHD and there was suppose to be an experiment done, where those common additives were put under the tongue and some kids went berserk.

I know caffeine really effects me, after about an hour after I drink it, I get a funny rebound feeling, like I used to get on the ritalin though not near as bad.

I think brain chemistry is probably very sensitive and unknown, and according to the video sensitivity to those chemicals can trigger uncontrollable behaviour in some kids. If your kid only acts like that when he eats and drinks that stuff then try to get him to want something else. Alergies are things you have to stay away from.

back to top

Tartrazine: A Real Yellow Menace

by Margo

Tartrazine (also known as "FD&C Yellow Number 5" or "E-102" in Europe) is a coal-tar derivative that is used to color foods, cosmetics, and other products. It is literally industrial waste. I have a strong sensitivity to this substance, and believe there are many others out there as well who (perhaps unknowingly) have the same problem. If you get mysterious hives or sometimes wake up with swollen eyelids, this could be the culprit.

Tartrazine is also reputed to be a catalyst in hyperactivity/ADD, other behavioral problems, asthma, migranes, thyroid cancer, and lupus!

Have you noticed how many children are being diagnosed as "hyperactive" these days? There is research that shows there might be a link (and that dietary changes can help.) Many of the children on Ritalin or other behavioral drugs are probably just eating a diet rich in toxic food additives that are approved by the government as safe. Some schools have noticed a major difference in pupils' behavior after banning snacks with tartrazine.

Ironically enough, some of the drugs for these conditions contain tartrazine and are probably just making the problem worse! I stop just short of declaring it a conspiracy on the drug companies' part, but it's something to think about.

Why do food companies use it? It's simply cheaper than natural alternatives. The important nutrient beta carotene can be used to achieve a similar color, but it costs more for the manufacturer. Can you imagine having the idea to put coal tar waste into food as a coloring? As with many of the evils in this world, it all comes down to "the bottom line" (aka greed.)

What products contain tartrazine?

Here is a list of some of the things that often (but not always!) contain tartrazine:

prescription and non-prescription pharmaceutical drugs

skim milk



orange colored cheeses

Kraft Macaroni and Cheese ("Kraft Dinner")

Orange colored snacks (cheezies, Doritos, etc.)


Gelatin and pudding desserts

Ice Cream

Mountain Dew


other artificially colored drinks

boxed breakfast cereals


canned fruits and vegetables


breads, cakes, and other baked goods (especially ones that contain "candied fruit")


alcoholic drinks (especially mixed drinks like sours but also some beer!)






birth control pills


This is only a partial list of things to look out for tartrazine in. It's hiding in all kinds of places you wouldn't expect such as chocolate pudding and even caviar, so watch out and check those labels!

In the United States, manufacturers are required to indicate that a product contains tartrazine on the label. In Canada, labels are only required to say "colour." In the United Kingdom and Europe, tartrazine is referred to as "E-102" though it has been banned in Norway and Austria.

There is currently a petition at the FDA to have tartrazine BANNED in the USA! Please email your comments and experiences with this toxic substance to the US government (no matter what country you live in!)

Sometimes products (especially those imported from Asia) have tartrazine that isn't declared on the label! This example of an FDA enforcement report mentions several labeling violations.

My Story

For about 10 years, I had mild eczema on one of my hands which came and went. I used a prescription cortizone cream which helped the itching some, but never got rid of the skin problem completely. When the condition started appearing on my face and neck, I started to worry. Every few weeks, I would get red circles and swelling around my eyes and mouth, as well as spots on my neck. These red spots would appear in the same places every time, and take up to 5 days to heal. After a few months, the redness never healed completely, it just varied in severity.

The first doctor I saw gave me a weaker cortizone to put on my face which burned my skin and did not help the healing. The second doctor I saw told me I had "idiopathic" hives, which meant there was no discernable cause. He offered to give me a pill regimen to "suppress my immune system." I decided I needed my immune system more than ever and declined. The third doctor I saw gave me allergy tests which came up negative. He gave me a long list of food items to avoid and said to re-introduce them one at a time so I would know which had been the problem. I realized that it had been the vitamins I was taking, which contain tartrazine. The time period I had been ill matched up perfectly with the amount of time I'd been taking the pills.

When I started avoiding tartrazine my face finally cleared up and my hand healed completely for the first time in several years!

I am happy that I now know what the problem is, but the prolonged daily exposure from the vitamins has made me extra-sensitive to tartrazine. I have learned which foods to avoid in general, but every once in awhile something sneaks through and the symptoms come back. Unfortunately, now even a small amount of tartrazine triggers a painful (and unattractive) reaction that lasts for five days.

In many ways, I am glad this happened to me, because it has made me adopt a much more natural diet, which has had a profound influence on my health. I have also become an almost-vegetarian (I eat fish once in awhile) after learning about the additives and hormones put into animal feed. Chickens are often fed dyes to make the eggs and flesh look nicer! I encourage everyone to eat less meat, consider giving up red meat and poultry, or eat organic meats and free-range eggs. (I do not believe that eating meat is morally wrong, but I do believe that the way most modern farm animals are treated and drugged up is.)

Look into it and educate yourself, then make up your own mind.

back to top

Food Additive Guide: What's good, What's bad



orange-yellow colour; derived from the root of the curcuma (turmeric) plant, but can be artificially produced; used in cheese, margarine, baked sweets and fish fingers


Riboflavin, Riboflavin-5'-phosphate

'Vitamin B2' and colour; occurs naturally in greenveges, eggs, milk, liver and kidney; used in margarine and cheese



FD&C Yellow No.5; known to provoke asthma attacks (though the US FDA** do not recognise this) and urticaria (nettle rash) in children (the US FDA** estimates 1:10 000); also linked to thyroid tumours, chromosomal damage, urticaria (hives) and hyperactivity; tartrazine sensitivity is also linked to aspirin sensitivity; used to colour drinks, sweets, jams, cereals, snack foods, canned fish, packaged soups; banned in Norway and Austria


Quinoline Yellow

FD&C Yellow No.10; used in lipsticks hair products, colognes; also in a wide range of medications; cause dermatitis; banned in Australia, USA and Norway


Yellow 7G

yellow colour; the HACSG* recommends to avoid it; people who suffer Asthma may also show an allergic reaction to it; typical products are soft drinks; banned in Australia and USA


Sunset Yellow FCF, Orange Yellow S

FD&C Yellow No.6; used in cereals, bakery, sweets, snack foods, ice cream, drinks and canned fish; synthetic; also in many medications including Berocca, Polaramine, Ventolin syrup; side effects are urticaria (hives), rhinitis (runny nose), nasal congestion, allergies, hyperactivity, kidney tumours, chromosomal damage, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, indigestion, distaste for food; seen increased incidence of tumours in animals; banned in Norway


Cochineal, Carminic acid, Carmines

red colour; made from insects; rarely used; the HASCG* recommends to avoid it


Azorubine, Carmoisine

red colour; coal tar derivative; can produce bad reactions in asthmatics and people allergic to aspirin; typical products are confectionary, marzipan, jelly crystals; banned in Sweden, USA, Austria and Norway



FD&C Red No.2; derived from the small herbaceous plant of the same name; used in cake mixes, fruit-flavoured fillings, jelly crystals; can provoke asthma, eczema and hyperactivity; it caused birth defects and foetal deaths in some animal tests, possibly also cancer; banned in the USA, Russia, Austria and Norway and other countries


Ponceau 4R, Cochineal Red A

FD&C Red No.4; synthetic coal tar and azo dye, carcinogen in animals, can produce bad reactions in asthmatics and people allergic to aspirin; banned in USA & Norway



FD&C Red No.3; red colour used in cherries, canned fruit, custard mix, sweets, bakery, snack foods; can cause sensitivity to light; can increase thyroid hormone levels and lead to hyperthyroidism, was shown to cause thyroid cancer in rats in a study in 1990; banned in January 1990, but not recalled by the US FDA**; banned in Norway


Red 2G

Banned in Australia and many other places except UK


Allura red AC

FD&C Red No.40; Orange-red colour used in sweets, drinks and condiments, medications and cosmetics, synthetic; introduced in the early eighties to replace amaranth which was considered not safe due to conflicting test results; allura red has also been connected with cancer in mice; banned in Denmark, Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Austria and Norway


Patent blue V

Banned in Australia, USA and Norway


Indigotine, Indigo carmine

FD&C Blue No.2, commonly added to tablets and capsules; also used in ice cream, sweets, baked goods, confectionary, biscuits, synthetic coal tar derivative; may cause nausea, vomiting, high blood pressure, skin rashes, breathing problems and other allergic reactions. Banned in Norway


Brilliant blue FCF

FD&C Blue Dye No.1; used in dairy products, sweets and drinks, synthetic usually occurring as aluminium lake (solution) or ammonium salt; banned in Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Austria, Norway


Chlorophylis, Chlorophyllins

green colour occurs naturally in all plants; used for dyeing waxes and oils, used in medicines and cosmetics


Copper complexes of chloropyll and chlorophyllins

olive colour, no adverse effects are known


Green S

green colour; synthetic coal tar derivative; used in canned peas, mint jelly and sauce, packet bread crumbs and cake mixes; banned inSweden, USA and Norway


Plain caramel

dark brown colour made from sucrose; the HACSG* recommends to avoid it. used in oyster, soy, fruit and canned sauces, beer, whiskey, biscuits, pickles


Caustic sulphite caramel

see E150(a)


Ammonia caramel

see E150(a)


Sulphite ammonia caramel

see E150(a)


Brilliant Black BN, Black PN

coloor; coal tar derivative; used in brown sauces, blackcurrant cake mixes; banned in Denmark, Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Austria, USA, Norway


Vegetable carbon

black colour, charcoal pigment; used in jams, jelly crystals, liquorice; only the vegetable derived variety permitted in Australia, banned in the United States


Brown FK

banned in USA


Brown HT (Chocolate)

brown colour, coal tar and azo dye; used in chocolate cake mixes; can produce bad reactions in asthmatics and people allergic to aspirin; also known to induce skin sensitivity; banned in Denmark, Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Austria, USA, Norway


Carotene, alpha-, beta-, gamma-

orange-yellow colour; human body converts it to 'Vitamin A' in the liver, found in carrots and other yellow or orange fruits and vegetables


Annatto (Arnatto, Annato), bixin, norbixin

red colour; derived from a tree (Bixa orellana); used as a body paint, fabric dye, digestive aid and expectorant; used to dye cheese, butter, margarine, cereals, snack foods, soaps, textiles and varnishes; known to cause urticaria (nettle rash), the HACSG* recommends to avoid it


Paprika extract, capsanthin, capsorubin

avoid it, banned in some countries



red coloured carotenoid found in tomatoes and pink grapefruit, can cause decreasing risk of cancer


Beta-apo-8'-carotenal (C 30)

orange colour, no adverse effects are known


Ethyl ester of beta-apo-8'-carotenic acid (C 30)

orange colour, no adverse effects are known


Xanthophylls - Lutein

yellow colour derived from plants, naturally found in green leaves, marigolds and egg yolks


Xanthophylls - Canthaxanthin

yellow colour possibly derived from animal sources (retinol); the pigment is found in some mushrooms, crustacea, fish, flamingo feathers


Beetroot Red, Betanin

purple colour derived from beets; no adverse effects are known



violet colour matter of flowers and plants; seems safe


Calcium carbonate

mineral salt, used in toothpastes, white paint and cleaning powders; may be derived from rock mineral or animal bones; sometimes used to deacidify wines and firm canned fruit and veg.; toxic at 'high doses'


Titanium dioxide

white colour used in toothpaste and white paint, pollutes waterways; no adverse effects are known


Iron oxides and hydroxides

black, yellow, red colour used in salmon and shrimp pastes; toxic at 'high doses'



avoid it, banned in some countries



avoid it, banned in some countries



avoid it, banned in some countries


Latolrubine BK

avoid it, banned in some countries


Tannic acid, tannins

clarifying agent in alcohol; derived from the nutgalls and twigs of oak trees; occurs naturally in tea

back to top

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) -

Specific Lab Tests

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a condition with inattentiveness, over-activity, impulsivity, or a combination of these. For these problems to be diagnosed as ADHD, they must be out of the normal range for the child's age and development.

The following is a list of alternative medicine lab tests used to evaluate attention deficit hyperactivity disorder:

1. Amino Acid Analysis -- Amino acids form brain neurotransmitters and may play a role in certain cases of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Amino Acids Analysis Lab Test

Amino acids are compounds that combine to form protein. When proteins are digested, amino acids are left. They are the raw materials used to make neurotransmitters and other substances.

Amino acids are classified as either "essential" amino acids (which must be consumed in the diet), or "nonessential" amino acids (which can be made by the body from the essential amino acids). The Amino Acids Analysis uses a blood or urine sample to assess the levels of 40 amino acids. It provides the most precise measurement of the "essential" amino acids, the ones we cannot make in our bodies and must get from nutritional sources.

Health conditions it's used to assess

The Amino Acids Analysis is used for chronic fatigue, assessing the risk of heart disease, depression, autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, inflammation, and neurological disorders.

What's involved

The Amino Acids Analysis uses a 24-hour urine collection to identify and measure 40+ amino acids. A blood test can also be done.

How can I get this test done?

Talk to your health care professional about your symptoms and ask if this test would be useful for you. It can be done through: Great Smokies Diagnostic Laboratory

2. Food Allergy Testing -- A number of research studies have uncovered a food allergies and hyperactive behavior in children.

Food and Environmental Allergy Tests

Great Smokies Diagnostic Labs has an allergy test that looks at over 120 of the most commonly encountered types of food and environmental substances. Test results come with a personalized treatment plan for food allergy that explains food allergies, the rotation diet, elimination and reintroduction of foods, and allows patients to see at a glance what their problem foods and dietary choices are.

Health conditions this test is used to assess

Hidden allergies can cause a wide variety of symptoms, including pain, skin rash, congestion, runny nose, constipation, headache, heartburn, depression, poor concentration, hyperactivity.

3. Toxic Metal Hair Analysis -- Certain heavy metals (such as lead) can trigger hyperactivity and attention deficit. Children are particularly susceptible because their nervous systems are still developing.

Toxic Metal Hair Analysis

The Toxic Metal Hair Analysis is a test that assesses hair samples for levels of potentially damaging metals. Hair follicles are exposed to the blood supply when hair is growing, so hair levels reflect levels reflect levels in other body tissues. Some of the metals and other elements that are assessed include:








Health conditions this test is used to assess

The toxic metal hair analysis can be used for people who work in industries where they are regularly exposed to metals, such as welding, metal working, mining, battery production, aerospace work, optical fiber and lighting manufacturing, and other high technology and metal manufacturing industries. Children and post-menopausal women are also more susceptible to illness from toxic metal exposure.

What this test involves

This test involes cutting about 1/4 gram of hair - about one heaping teaspoon. Hair is generally cut at the nape of the neck, and the hair closest to the scalp is used. Because tiny amounts are taken from several places, it is nearly impossible to notice hair was taken.

How can I get this test done?

Talk to your health care professional about your symptoms and ask if this test would be useful for you. It can be done through: Great Smokies Diagnostic Laboratory

4. Essential Fatty Acid Analysis --*** Research has linked deficiencies in essential fatty acids to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Essential and Metabolic Fatty Acids Test

The Essential Fatty Acids Test measures a total of 24 fats and 17 fat ratios. It particularly examines the essential fatty acids, fats that our bodies cannot make and must obtain from food. Essential fats play an important role in regulating inflammation, forming cell membranes, and in the optimal function of the brain, nerves, eyes, skin, connective tissue, blood vessels, and every cell in the body.

Health conditions this test is used to assess

This test allows doctors to uncover imbalances associated with heart disease, high blood pressure, insulin resistance, diabetes, ashtma, PMS, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-partum depression. Inflammatory disorders, a direct result of clinical imbalances in fatty acid metabolism, are one of the most common diagnoses observed by clinicians.

What does this test involve?

Because fatty acids reside in cell membranes, the most accurate assessment is examining levels in the cell membranes of your red blood cells. This test requires an overnight fast (at least 12 hours) followed by collection of a blood sample by your doctor. The sample is then sent to the lab for analysis.

How can I get this test done?

Talk to your health care professional about your symptoms and ask if this test would be useful for you. It can be done through: Great Smokies Diagnostic Laboratory.

back to top

Things to Rule Out, Things to Know

Attention Deficit Disorder describes the characteristics of inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity that may be present in some children and adults.

Although health professionals often state that ADD/ADHD is a brain-based biological disorder caused by a brain chemical imbalance, there is simply no reliable test to prove this -- no physical or chemical abnormality validates ADHD as a medical disease. As there can be no diagnosis without a disease, what is there?

There is a description of behaviors -- symptoms -- that health professionals use as a checklist in deciding whether your child has an attentional disorder.

However, symptoms do not necessarily mean there is a disease. To determine disease, there must be an objective test (such as blood text, X-rays, CAT scans, etc.). There is no independent valid test for ADD/ADHD. Instead health professionals rely on:

1. a list of behaviors (primarily, inattention, hyperactivity, impulsivity, academic underachievement, or behavior problems),

2. diagnostic interviews,

3. anecdotal information from family and school staff.

ADD/ADHD behaviors are found in the The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision that forms the accepted guidelines for what are considered to be 'mental illnesses', or as they are more recently referred to, 'mental disorders'. This reference text is the "bible" of the mental health industry. ADD was added to the DSM-IV in 1980 and ADHD in 1987.

Before accepting a diagnosis of ADD or ADHD, parents should rule out other conditions that show similar symptoms.

Allergies and sensitivities to food (dairy, grains, peanuts, food dye) and the environment (grass, pollen, animal dander), can affect behavior.

Exposure to toxins can cause hyperactivity, attention deficits, irritability, and learning problems. Children are more vulnerable to toxins than adults. Toxins include pesticides, gasoline fumes, herbicides, disinfectants, furniture polishes, air fresheners, synthetic rugs and carpets, and beds made of synthetic materials and/or dust-laden homes.

Mild to high lead levels, even in the absence of clinical lead poisoning, is the leading cause of toxin-induced hyperactivity. Research shows that children with even mildly elevated lead levels suffer from reduced IQs, attention deficits, and poor school performance.

Fluoride is a toxic chemical that has been linked with increased lead absorption, learning disabilities, attention disorders, hyperactivity, behavior problems, mottled teeth, decreased fertility, bone loss, and decreased I.Q. Fluoride is found in most toothpastes and has been added to many area water supplies.

High mercury levels can be caused by mercury amalgam dental fillings. When children grind their teeth, they are at risk for high mercury levels in the body. Another cause is from eating large amounts of cold-water fish such as tuna and salmon.

Thousands of children each year are exposed to toxic levels and poisoned by carbon monoxide each year. Sources of this gas include heaters and other gas appliances, such as fireplaces, dryers, and water heaters.

Hearing and vision problems may cause ADD/ADHD behavior if a child can't see or hear properly -- especially in educational settings.

Children who are experiencing emotional stress (such as being bullied at school, divorce or death in family, abuse) most often display ADHD behavior. Emotionally-stressed children can experience sleeping problems, sadness, and they develop physical symptoms, especially if they think those symptoms will keep them home from school. Often they can't concentrate in class, partly because they are worried and partly because they are suffering from sleep deprivation.

When dealing with spirited children, the problem usually does not lie with the child but with society's perception of what normal childhood behavior is. Many normal children, according to some people, display ADHD behavior not because they are hyperactive or lack sufficient attention spans but because the person forming the opinion has unrealistic standards of how a child should behave.

Gifted children often display ADHD behavior because most of the time they are bored with school and what other kids their age are doing. Behaviors associated with giftedness are poor attention, boredom, daydreaming, low tolerance for persistence on tasks that seem irrelevant, power struggles, and high activity level. They may need less sleep compared to other children, and they may question rules, customs, and traditions. If your child scores above average on IQ tests, aces exams, has no trouble with homework, has no apparent learning disabilities, and primarily exhibits his or her problems mostly at school, seeking a more challenging class or school may help.

Spoiled and undisciplined children are sometimes labeled as ADHD because of their defiant and acting-out behavior. Children need structure and consistent rules to learn self-discipline. Labeling undisciplined kids as ADHD gives them an excuse for their misbehavior so that they do not learn to be responsible for their own behavior.

One of the main reasons why a child acts out and throws temper tantrums when they have a problem is because of their lack of understanding a problem and lack of expressing how they feel. This is one reason why any emotional or medical problem can cause acting-out behavior in children.

Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) describes the damage done to children's brains and bodies when their mothers drink heavily during pregnancy. It is the leading form of mental retardation today. Prenatal alcohol impairment, however, also comes in a milder form called fetal alcohol effects (FAE). Children with FAE often don't look disabled, and they tend to score in the low-normal or even normal range of intelligence, but their mal-developed brains cause them to exhibit a wide range of behavior problems, including hyperactivity, attention problems, learning disorders, and ethical problems such as stealing, lying, and cheating.

Learning Style or Learning Disabilities are often the cause of inattention and acting-out behavior. Children with a diagnosis of ADHD are typically kinesthetic learners and have difficulty with sitting at a desk doing pencil-and-paper work. When children think of themselves as 'stupid', 'lazy', or 'slow' and are seen as such, they often will be disruptive in school (e.g., class clown, bullying others).

CAPD (Central Auditory processing Disorder) will sometimes occur in children who have had a history of ear infections and/or PE tubes. Symptoms include distractibility, inability to follow a set of verbal instructions, and 'spacing out'.

Sensory Integration Dysfunction is thought to be the inefficient neurological processing of information received through the senses, causing problems with learning, development, and behavior. These children are over-sensitive or under-sensitive dealing in touch, taste, smell, sound, or sight.

Tourette syndrome is a rare but disruptive condition. It involves multiple tics (small, repetitive muscle movements), usually facial tics with grimacing and blinking. Tics may also occur in the shoulders and arms. This is usually accompanied by loud vocalizations, which may include grunts or noises, or uncontrollable (compulsive) use of obscenities or short phrases. The tics are worse during emotional stress and are absent during sleep. The cause is unknown. It occurs most often in boys, and may begin around age 7 or 8 or not until the child is in his or her late teens or early twenties. It may, at times, run in families. This disorder can be mistaken for not being able to sit still or impulsive behavior.

Infestations of Candida albicans (yeast infection) cause hyperactivity in children. Most children who do suffer from Candida infestations have some underlying problem frequently an immune disorder, or a disorder affecting carbohydrate metabolism that alters blood sugar levels. Candida infestations are now thought to be a common condition throughout the population.

Intestinal parasites rob the body of needed nutrients which in turn affects behavior.

Streptococcus bacteria, better known as 'strep', can cause rheumatic fever and a movement disorder known as Sydenham's chorea if left untreated. Recurrent infections can also lead to a group of symptoms collectively known as PANDAS (Pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders). Some symptoms of PANDAS include obsessive-compulsive behavior, Tourette syndrome, hyperactivity, cognitive problems, and fidgeting.

Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) can stem from thyroid disorders, liver or pancreatic problems, adrenal gland abnormalities, or insufficient diet.

Hyper or hypothyroidism is an imbalance in metabolism that occurs from an overproduction or underproduction of thyroid hormones. This imbalance may cause a variety of behaviors and may affect all body functions.

Some mild forms of genetic disorders can go unnoticed in children and display some of the same symptoms of ADHD. Mild forms of Turner's syndrome, sickle-cell anemia, and Fragile X syndrome are some examples. Almost any genetic disorder can cause hyperactivity or other behavior problems, even if the disorder isn't normally linked to such problems. Many genetic diseases disrupt brain functions directly, through a variety of paths. A simple blood test can rule out genetic disorders.

A commonly overlooked cause of ADHD behavior is the absence seizure. During an absence seizure, the brain's normal activity shuts down. The child stares blankly, sometimes rotates his eyes upward, and occasionally blinks or jerks repetitively, he drops objects from his hand, and there may be some mild involuntary movements known as automatisms. The attack lasts for a few seconds and then it is over as rapidly as it begins. If these attacks occur dozens of times each day, they can interfere with a child's school performance and be confused by parents and teachers with daydreaming.

Post-traumatic subclinical seizure disorder causes episodic temper explosions. These fits of temper come out of the blue for no reason. Some of these seizures can be too subtle to detect without a twenty-four-hour electroencephalogram (EEG).

Temporal lobe seizures can cause inappropriate behavior. That's why conducting brain scans is a must when trying to figure out behavior problems.

Head injuries, such as post-concussion syndrome, have symptoms that include irritability, mood swings, memory problems, depression, and sleeping problems.

Some spinal problems can cause ADHD behavior because, if the spine is not connected to the brain properly, nerves from the spinal cord can give the brain all of signals at once making a child rambunctious and full of energy.

Some drugs (both prescription and illegal) can cause the brain to atrophy, leading to disturbed cognition and behavior. If your child routinely takes prescription or over-the-counter medications for asthma, hay fever, allergies, headaches, or any other condition, consider the possibility that the drugs are causing or contributing to behavior problems.

Intentionally or unintentionally sniffing materials such as modeling glue or other household products.

Other possible causes of ADHD behavior are:

Malnutrition or improper diet

B-vitamin deficiency

Iron deficiency

Lack of exercise

Lack of sleep

Viral or bacterial infections

Early-onset diabetes

Heart disease

Brain cysts

Early-stage brain tumors

Medication Concerns

Although no chemical imbalance has ever been proven, health professionals prescribe psychostimulant medication (such as Ritalin, Strattera, Adderall) as the primary treatment in correcting the 'chemical imbalance'. In 2000, more than 19 million prescriptions for ADHD drugs were filled, a 72% increase since 1995.

However, with the known side effects of these drugs and without knowledge or evidence of long-term results on growth and development, is medication really the best option?

Parents should know that the psychostimulants normally prescribed for ADD/ADHD help all people -- with or without an ADD/ADHD diagnosis -- to focus attention more easily, depending on the dose.

However, these drugs are not without serious risk. Between the years of 1990-2000, over 569 children were hospitalized, 38 of them were life-threatening hospitalizations, and 186 died from Ritalin.

It is well known that psychostimulants have abuse potential. Very high doses of psychostimulants, particularly of amphetamines, may cause central nervous system damage, cardiovascular damage, and hypertension. In addition, high doses have been associated with compulsive behaviors and, in certain vulnerable individuals, movement disorders. There is a rare percentage of children and adults treated at high doses who have hallucinogenic responses. Drugs used for ADHD other than psychostimulants have their own adverse reactions: tricyclic antidepressants may induce cardiac arrhythmias, bupropion at high doses can cause seizures, and pemoline is associated with liver damage. -- Diagnosis and Treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, National Institute of Health

Many parents do not realize that if their child takes Ritalin or other psychostimulant medication past the age of 12, according to the 1999 Military Recruitment Manual, that child may not join the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, or National Guard until after a doctor has signed a paper stating that the person has been off the medication for four years.

Also, if a child uses Ritalin or other psychostimulant medication, the state or federal government cannot hire him or her if the job involves state secrets or national security, because that child is a Class 2 drug user.

If a child uses Ritalin or other psychostimulant medication, some insurance companies will turn down that child for being a Class 2 drug user, and may even turn down the entire family. Other health insurance companies will raise rates and write in a pre-existing condition clause, excluding some coverage for the ADD/ADHD child.

Psychostimulant medication are drugs that are commonly abused. Some unprescribed users of Adderall, an amphetamine, and methylphenidate, more widely known as Ritalin, are adults. But experts say many are young people, as young as 11, who get the drugs from peers being treated for ADD. Users often crush the pills and snort them to get a cocaine-like rush, as these drugs and cocaine have more similarities than differences.

Students who take ADD/ADHD medication are often asked to sell or trade their drugs, and many know students who have given away or sold their medication.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a study of students in Wisconsin and Minnesota showed 34% of ADHD youth, ages 11-18, report being approached to sell or trade their medicines, such as Ritalin.

There are so many concerns surrounding the diagnosis and treatment of ADD/ADHD that parents must be knowledgeable and cautious. It is usually the school that approaches parents to have an assessment for ADD/ADHD and parents often feel pressured in having the traditional drug treatment to 'correct' their child's behavior.

What should parents do if the school identifies a child with potentially having ADD/ADHD?

Have the school put their concerns and directions in writing. Hold them accountable.

If the school tells you that your child needs medication to control his or her behavior, remind them that medical help does not necessarily mean taking medication.

If you are told to sign a release for your child's medical records, ask to see that law in writing.

Whenever you have a school conference or go before a school review board, record that meeting on a tape recorder. The recorder should be in plain sight. If you are told that the meeting is confidential, remember that confidentiality is your child's right -- not the school's right.

Children who have an ADD/ADHD diagnosis normally have an above-average IQ. Ask the school why it is so difficult for them to teach the smartest kids in school.

The federal government allots over $2 billion to local school systems under the Individual Development Assistance Act of 1985. Ask the school officials how much money their school and school system gets when a child is coded as needing special education services.

Find out what percentage of students in the school system are taking ADD/ADHD medication. The average number is between 3-5%.

back to top

RITALIN use Linked to Chromosomal Abnormalities

Newswise — In a small but startling preliminary new study, Texas researchers have found that after just three months, every one of a dozen children treated for attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with the drug methylphenidate experienced a threefold increase in levels of chromosome abnormalities—occurrences associated with increased risks of cancer and other adverse health effects.

The researchers say that to their knowledge this is the first study addressing the potential chromosome-breaking effects associated with treatment of children with methylphenidate, the generic name for a group of drugs that includes Ritalin, Concerta, Metadate CD and others.

Methylphenidate is the most widely prescribed of a class of amphetamine-like drugs used to treat ADHD, with more than 10 million prescriptions written for it in 1996 alone. Between 1991 and 1999, United States sales of methylphenidate increased more than 500 percent.

Researchers at The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB) reported their detection of the chromosome abnormalities in the journal Cancer Letters. Their peer-reviewed paper is to be published several months hence, but the journal editors have made it available online in the journal’s “articles in press” section.

The authors said they undertook the study because, even though methylphenidate has been approved for human use for more than 50 years, “there are surprisingly few studies” in either animals or human beings “on the potential for serious side effects,” such as causing mutations and cancer. In 1996, a report discussing several two-year-long animal studies showed that the highest levels of methylphenidate tested caused liver tumors in male and female mice. However, similar studies in rats showed no such tumors.

The new Texas study involved researchers drawing blood from children diagnosed with ADHD before they began taking methylphenidate in order to get a baseline level of chromosomal abnormalities. Three months after the children had begun taking the drug, the researchers drew the children’s blood and tested it a second time. Chromosomes are the bodies within cells that carry the genes and genetic information. All 12 of the children whose before-and-after blood cells were studied were treated with normal therapeutic doses of methylphenidate.

Most of the abnormalities found in the studied blood cells consisted of chromosome breaks “and a higher frequency of aberrations is reported to be associated with an increased risk of cancer down the line,” said lead author Randa A. El-Zein, M.D., Ph.D., an assistant professor of epidemiology at M.D. Anderson who performed the blood studies using several techniques.

“It was pretty surprising that all of the children taking methylphenidate showed an increase in chromosome abnormalities in a relatively short period of time,” El-Zein said.

UTMB Professor of Environmental Toxicology Marvin Legator, the study’s principal investigator and senior author, cautioned, “This study doesn’t mean that these kids are going to get cancer, but it does mean they are exposed to an additional risk factor, assuming that this study holds up.” Of the 53 known human carcinogens, Legator said 48 could be detected using the chromosome analysis methods employed in this study.

El-Zein stressed that much larger studies at several medical centers are needed to confirm the results of this study and to answer other questions not addressed by it. One of these issues is the question of what happens when patients stop taking methylphenidate. “Do the levels of chromosome abnormalities go back to normal?” El-Zein said. “We don’t know.”

back to top

article #3, article #7, article #8, article #9, article #10,