By Nyema Hermiston, Naturopath
Many children who have been medicated for ADHD, stay on medication until their adulthood, but there are other ways of dealing with this growing problem. Every kid wants to feel happy and enjoy their day, so if they’re constantly out of sorts, there is sure to be a good reason for it. With most ADHD kids, their ADHD is not ‘them’. If there is no obvious reason why a child is hyperactive,
can’t learn, continually misbehaves with all the best management techniques not helping, there is almost certainly an underlying metabolic or physiological reason for their symptoms. Because there is no blood or lab test that can diagnose ADHD, it is a most frustrating condition to live with and treat. When kids with ADHD, ODD (or similar) receive specific, personalized internal treatment, they are able to settle down, begin to learn, interact with their family and enjoy life more. The trick is finding the underlying cause of the array of symptoms, for which there is some testing that can be done. For this reason, a naturopath should assess your child with ADHD.
Diet is sometimes all that’s needed – take out sugar, processed foods, and additives from the diet and you have a different child. Just adjusting food can make a huge difference. You’ll know this when you have a child who is a devil on sugar and an angel off it.
Some ADHD kids respond well to a low salicylate diet. The low salicylate diet was developed in the 1970s when Doctor Feingold from the US developed the Feingold Diet which has helped a lot of children slow down and start learning. The website has charts of foods with low to high salicylate in them. It would be great if ADHD treatment was as simple as making dietary changes. But for some kids, the best low sugar, low additive, organic and fabulous diet makes absolutely no difference. There is another reason for their ADHD, which has to be found to get the desired result of a calmer child able to learn, socialize, respond to discipline and enjoy life.
Hair mineral analysis, where a sample of hair is sent to a lab, reveals the nutritional status of essential minerals and if there is an imbalance of copper and zinc. Many children who have ADHD show extra-high levels of copper in their hair analysis – sometimes two or three times higher than normal. High copper levels can even influence hair color. Have you noticed how many ADHD kids have red hair? One documentary I saw was about five kids who were on a special behavioral program for ADHD and four of them were redheads!
High copper levels can be caused by a metabolic problem known as Pyrrole disorder, or kryptopyrroluria, which can be tested for via an integrative GP or naturopathic practitioner. Time and time again, lowering copper levels has a really positive impact on kids. It’s not necessarily a simple thing to do, but with good nutritional treatment, it can be done. It can be quite a sobering moment when you realize that all ‘that behavior’ is actually your child dealing with a mineral imbalance.
There’s even science behind the notion of high copper levels and hyperactivity. The Pfeiffer Medical Centre has a long history of treating mineral imbalances relating to mental health in children and adults. Nutritionists, naturopaths and integrative doctors all over the world now use the Pfeiffer Protocol to treat children with ADHD and other mental challenges. Mineral imbalances that cause behavior disorders were researched by the physician and biochemist Doctor Carl Pfeiffer (1908-1988), who was involved with the development of orthomolecular psychiatry, which uses nutritional supplements in large doses to treat mental illness. He ran the Pfeiffer Treatment Center in Illinois and conducted a 12-year study which led to him classifying behavioral disorders into four categories based on trace mineral patterns. His work includes conditions caused by copper and zinc imbalance, called ‘kryptopyrroluria’. Two of Doctor Carl Pfeiffer’s publications are Nutrition and Mental Illness: An Orthomolecular Approach to Balancing Body Chemistry (1988), and Mental and Elemental Nutrients: A Physician’s Guide to Nutrition and Health Care (1976). Both are well worth the read. There are two successfully treated cases of high copper in unmanageable children in Good News for People with Bad News – one of them diagnosed with ADHD, the other not. These kids were in an undiagnosed wilderness for years, until they had treatment addressed to the cause of their behavior. The best way to have your child nutritionally assessed is to see a naturopath or integrative doctor.
Nyema Hermiston first worked as a Registered Nurse in New Zealand, UK and Australia. After reading her way through all the books on nutrition that she could, she trained as a naturopath in Sydney, Australia. Nyema practiced full-time as a natural therapist there for ten years and currently practice in New South Wales with her naturopath husband Jon Gamble. She is now looking squarely at almost 30 years in practice. As a culmination of her years of delving, in November 2014, Nyema published a book of 41 patient interviews with people from seven countries: Good News for People with Bad News. In 2007, she co-authored Treat Your Child Yourself – A Parent’s Guide to Drug-Free Solutions for Common Complaints with her husband, now in its second edition. She found that, once parents are armed with enough information, they find the confidence to treat childhood ailments at home. Nyema also manages a blog jam-packed with valuable information.