Conventional medicine with the aid of the pharmaceutical industry has embraced the use of drugs to treat ADHD. These therapies include psychostimulants, antidepressants, amphetamines and other medications with significant side effects and adverse effects which may be serious and even life-threatening. The cause or etiology of ADHD is unknown but practitioners of alternative medicine believe that nutritional deficiencies, food additives, and environmental toxins may all contribute to a disordered neurotransmitter system, widely believed but unproven to be the basic problem. Questions about the neurobiological effects of conventional therapy and their induced neurotoxicity have parents with children diagnosed with ADHD looking into using complementary or alternative medicines. A number of research studies have shown promising data on dietary supplements such as essential fatty acids, minerals such as magnesium and zinc, amino acids such as L-tyrosine, vitamins such as pyridoxine and supplements such as Pycnogenol. Let’s look at these.
Long chain omega-3 fatty acids play an important role in inflammation and
cell membrane fluidity in the nervous system. They are believed to increase serotonin
levels and neuro-transmission. Omega-3 fatty acids have to be obtained through
the diet and low levels of these polyunsaturated fatty acids are reported in
the plasma and red cells of children with ADHD
Pycnogenol is an extract from the French maritime pine bark and is found to contain a concentrate of polyphenols known for their antioxidant properties. Oxidative stress has been thought to contribute to onset and development of ADHD. Patients with ADHD have depleted dopamine and norepinephrine levels possible due to a dysfunction of their neuro- transporter systems . Researchers have found significantly increased levels of total damage to DNA in patients with ADHD compared to healthy controls of similar age. When ADHD patients received Pycnogenol for one month, results revealed improved attention, visual-motor coordination and concentration and significantly reduced hyperactivity in children. Researchers reported a significant relapse in symptoms occurring after cessation of the supplement. Pysnogenol has an excellent safety record and is recommended at levels of 1 mg/kg/day body weight.
Magnesium and Zinc play numerous biological roles. Magnesium helps regulate certain nutrients (particularly glutamate) in the brain. (When overactive, glutamate is responsible for too much calcium into the brain and resultant cell death). Magnesium is found in depleted levels in children with ADHD. Combining high doses of magnesium with pyridozine or B6 gives both greater efficacy and parents report improvement in social interaction and decreased aggressive behaviors. A magnesium/B6 regime can start at 6 mg/kg/day for magnesium and 0.6 mg/kg/day for vitamin B6.
Among its biological roles, zinc is required for normal brain development. It is an essential cofactor for the transformation of B6 to an active state and for the conversion of tryptophan to serotonin. It is needed for dopamine metabolism, modulates melatonin and helps with essential fatty acid conversion. Many studies suggest that a zinc deficiency can delay cognitive development, lead to impaired concentration and plays a role in hyperactive behavior. Zinc levels in children correlated with severity of symptoms. Zinc depletion is thought to result from synthetic chemicals found in food additives. Studies of treatment with zinc resulted in significant improvement in hyperactivity, impulsivity and socialization scores. It is believed that zinc’s greatest role is to support magnesium, B6 and essential fatty acid intervention.
Mainstream medical therapy has sought to increase brain concentrations of neurotransmitters using drugs with significant riks of neurotroxicity. Brain neurotransmitter concentrations can be modulated using nutritional supplements such as 5-hydroxytryptophan (5HTP). This supplement is the precursor of serotonin and L-tyrosine is the precursor of L-dopa in turn the precursor of dopamine. Both 5HTP and L-tyrosine are thought to be utilized by the brain to favorably balance brain neurotransmitters.. One pilot study of 85 children with ADHD intervention with both 5HTP and L-tyrosine improved symptoms in 67% of the subjects.
Nutritional supplements in addition to dietary changes appear to offer the opportunity to attain significant improvement in ADHD. Some of the data is preliminary but b ecause of their possible benefits and their record of safety, these additions to an overall therapy can be implemented without producing toxicity or other problems.
For supplies and further information consult Marie Cargill.