Monday, 24 February 2014

ADHD, body and mind, and...sugar

What is ADHD? Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder - an amalgamation of attention deficit issues and hyperactivity.

Children - and adults - who are deemed ADD/ADHD are impulsive, hyperactive, and fail to pay attention for a long time. Its prevalence is growing affecting around 1.3% of children in the UK.

The condition causes its sufferers to become easily distracted often with a short attention span. Children with ADHD may also find it difficult to interact and play with other children as they don't exhibit safety awareness or courtesy when it comes to taking turns and often become aggressive. ADHD is directly associated with school failure, exclusion and poor future prospects. Counselling Directory UK

This commentary is not about the very small minority who present extreme symptoms and whose condition may be neurological (something chiropractors/osteopaths are often good at dealing with, especially when the child had a traumatic birth or who has suffered whiplash injuries affecting the spinal column, notably around the cervical vertebrae or to the cranium itself).

This commentary is about the 'normal' children who fall into being labelled as ADD/ADHD - children who have difficulty settling down 24/7, around the clock, not just sporadic bursts of hyperactivity which we all get at times.

Behavioural problems are certainly evident - they're not made up and can be stressful for parents and teachers. The cause - as with most illnesses and stresses - is not a single thing but there certainly are issues that cover the general problem that we as parents, tutors, teachers, coaches, etc. can deal with.

I asked a student once to define ADHD and explain it to me.
Attention Deficit Hyper Disorder...I have trouble concentrating. 
Okay...what about this text book? How long can you read this for?
Oh, about forty minutes, then I lose concentration.
I had to laugh. "My (academic, PhD level) colleagues can't take ten minutes of it, it's so dry!"

In the case of this student, it was her lack of study skills that let her down. Her note taking was unorganised, that's all. That meant that she could not grasp the major themes from the detail and was a bit lost. I taught her to sort out her notes and her marks went from a D to a B rapidly.

Yet someone had told her that she had a label. Ah, rip it off and start again!

Children are not designed to sit still

Some children I've met have a lot of energy. They're fit and healthy and bounce around and want to run all day and climb trees and play tag and chase each other. Quite normal. But then our schools expect them to conform and sit down behind a desk and concentrate on tasks non-physical. Is it surprising that the teachers' favourite kids tend to be the well behaved? I.e., those who have conformed and sat quietly for most of the term doing the work the teachers set. We expect that all the kids settle and conform, but we should be asking ourselves are we not asking the wrong thing of our children and thereby comparing the unsettled, energetic children on a false hypothesis?

Such children usually do not have a problem settling down to work on what they enjoy or do school work in a very quiet setting without distractions.

Indeed, there may be something to say for individual desks in rows and a commanding teacher who insists on quiet, focused attention. Some may struggle anyway, as being behind a desk is not natural to our evolved notions of motion and energy deployment, but in an environment that has an enforced quietude all pupils have a chance of getting on with concentration without their neighbour chatting away about what he or she did on the weekend: enough to drive any adult to distraction - and our kids are much less trained than we are in coping with external distraction and noise!

But there is also the issue of having children be quiet and still when it runs against our drive to act.
Again, we maybe labelling what is really natural as something unnatural or wrong merely from a desire to have children conform to the expectations of the classroom and school.

Wherein lies the value of conformity? There are many great values - leadership, innovation, creativity, energy, musicality, well as the core values of honesty, integrity, sincerity, generosity, kindness, discipline, and so on. But with children who can't sit still, it's not these values that are respected.

A very temporary student, aged 8 or 9, of mine (whom parents and I agreed was not ready for tuition...) had a very low ability to sit and concentrate for a few minutes. We managed 8 minutes I think but what was the point? Watching him run around with such an excess of energy was a delight in itself - and his humour and infectious smile will take him further in life than being a conformist. His skills lay with his hands and I was pleased to hear that he worked with his father a lot (a landscaper). A lesser mind may have diagnosed 'ADHD' and 'your kid needs to be on ritalin...' Gee.

The adult who looks at an energetic child and feels tired needs to change their perspective. Energy and the inability to conform to a desk job is not a bad things. We all calm down eventually but there's no rush to calm down as it were: we should instead be viewing children's energy as a source of joy and pleasure!

When we expect them to "calm down" and "behave" and be more sedentary we're imposing false strictures that can eventually repress their natural inclination to run around and be a kid.

On the other hand, is the child a victim of biochemical or environmental issues that debilitate him or her from concentrating at any task?

I have a few books on ADHD which give tips on dealing with the symptoms of the disorder rather than with the causes. The causes are wafted away as if they were an irritant or irrelevant. Because if you are in business to deal with the symptoms (a) you will find may symptoms that fit your bill (b) if you've got the taxpayers' credit card, you can always get more money for your corner by pitching a clever marketing campaign (lobbying for funds) by finding more clients and (c) by dealing with the symptoms and the causes, your clients will never get better. More worringly:

ADHD diagnosis is often made on the subjective observations of teachers or guardians, based on signs that nearly every child will display at some point. Aggravating factors, such as diet or home environment, are oftentimes overlooked entirely. - Dr Mercola

It is more economical, ethical, and rewarding (all in one) to aim for the causes of a problem than the symptoms. Sure, some symptom based procedures are highly applicable such as adjusting the pace of teaching or the media used (which in a one-to-one setting happens naturally - we know, as tutors, when the child's attention drifts and we can either encourage the stretch - that extra minute of focused work to train them to concentrate further, or change to a different task to rest the fatigued part of their brain. We see great results working one to one, because we and they can adjust and grow.)

But let's review some of the causes that can be easily adjusted in people's lives by looking at the body and the mind.

Body and Mind

If your body's under serious attack from toxins, if your gut is struggling to brain will suffer. The brain is the body is the brain - this is the view of integrative medicine which is finally catching up with what complementary therapists have been saying for centuries - what happens in and around your body will affect how you think ... and vice versa.

For most of the modern period, western medicine - fantastic at surgery - has tended to compartmentalise the body, so severing the brain from the physiology of the body. The blood-brain barrier has led many medical thinkers to decapitate the mind from the workings of the body and to dismiss the impact of diet on thinking or thinking on health. Yet when we think of pain, we can create pain; when we think of humorous things, we can laugh ... the placebo and nocebo effects baffle materialists who have forgotten that the mind is intricately embedded in the body, yet for those of us who take a more holistic or integrative approach, there is no mystery.

If you think you can't concentrate. Guess what, you're telling your body, "I'm the kind of person who cannot concentrate ... I just can't do it ... see what I mean?"

Think differently and you'll get a different result.

But now let's focus on the corporeal side of life and what bio-chemical factors may be hindering a person's ability to concentrate.


Probably the number one cause of erratic thinking and physiology - something that can be changed in a minute. CUT THE SUGAR!

Sugar does not just mean white process stuff you put in your tea or the horrid fizzy drinks or so-called energy drinks (read the label!)...sugar also means carbohydrates - bread, pasta, cereals, rice are all carbohydrates which raise insulin levels which in turn can cause hypoglycaemia or low blood sugar (because you've spiked the sugar levels in your body for a few minutes, they're going to come plummeting down): this can cause irritability, anxiety, and ... a lack of concentration.

Many adults go to work on a bowl of cereal (maybe with toast, orange juice, jam... yep, sugars!). Think about the adverts of the ideal home with the cereal bowl out and milk ready to pour - then wonder why they are hungry by 11am and need to grab a muffin (more sugar!) with a coffee (to keep awake as the pancreas works overtime) with perhaps a dash of sugar (or worse, an artificial nerve agent called a sweetener....very Orwellian marketing). Lunch? A sandwich with a chocolate bar...more sugar. Then a pasta (sugar) dinner with sauce (spot the sugar in the sauce)...

While adults may store the sugar in a higher than needed fat deposit around the body, children may just need to run around to burn off the extra carbohydrates flooding their body. Not going to do that well by sitting down!

Review the Standard American Diet (which is the same as ours and Europeans to some extent or less, but the abbreviation for the American kind is more obvious: SAD).

SUGAR, SUGAR, far as the eye can see.

The first thing to help perennially inattentive children is to look at their diet and to remove all sugars. Yep, they'll crave it...they'll demand it! They're addicted, you see.

John Yudkin was one of the first to outline the dangers of sugar in the 1970s. More recently, Candace Pert, a woman who just missed the nobel prize in chemistry, argues that sugar should be classified as a class-A drug, because it is so addictive.

Read labels - you'll be amazed what you'll find sugar in. It's in salad dressing for heaven's sake! Olive oil, bit of vinegar, herbs...and sugar.

So the first thing to tackle is high sugar level products and to change your thinking about what you're putting into your own and your children's bodies.

When I take my children around the supermarket I point out the names of the aisles: that's the diabetes alley (fizzy drinks), that's the dead food alley (crisps and sugary snacks), that's chemical alley...industrial cleaners for the home (which then bleed into the water table, rivers, and seas - ever want to see an effect of that? Look up 'the Mississippi dead zone').

Provocative thought - not of my making this time:

As explained by The Sons of Liberty host Bradlee Dean, who also writes for The D.C. Clothesline, ADHD was merely a theory developed by Eisenberg. It was never actually proven to exist as a verifiable disease, despite the fact that Eisenberg and many others profited handsomely from its widespread diagnosis. And modern psychiatry continues to profit as well, helping also to fill the coffers of the pharmaceutical industry by getting children addicted early to dangerous psychostimulant drugs like Ritalin (methylphenidate) and Adderall (amphetamine, dextroamphetamine mixed salts).

"ADHD is fraud intended to justify starting children on a life of drug addiction," said Dr. Edward C. Hamlyn, a founding member of the Royal College of General Practitioners, back in 1998 about the phony condition. Adding to this sentiment, psychiatrists Peter Breggin and Sami Timimi, both of whom oppose pathologizing the symptoms of ADHD, say that ADHD is more of a social construct than it is an objective "disorder."

Learn more:
Certainly that puts us in a spin...yet we still have to deal with behaviour hyperactivity and inattentiveness. So rather than put our children on pills (many of my pupils have come to me on heavy duty drugs which then affect their sleeping habits, so they need another pill...the drugs begin to affect their liver and hormones) look first and foremost at their DIET. Then I'd look at cranial-cervical issues before moving onto other environmental factors. Do your research, avoid the drugs except in dire medical emergencies (all medical products have a role).

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