CBN.com – (CBN News) Today, there are millions of children diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD -- kids who are hyperactive, or unable to concentrate.
Most of the treatment has focused on giving kids stimulant drugs like Ritalin. But there are concerns about the long-term side-effects of those drugs.
And there is also a growing movement to get away from drugs. Brain researcher Russell Blaylock says ADHD drugs can lead to brain diseases later in life.
He says, "The big question (is), are we producing a lot of children that, when they become 40 and 50 years old, they're going to end up with Parkinson's disease?"
Blaylock recommends nutrition as a better alternative to treating ADHD.
Physician Don Colbert agrees. He has written a booklet on overcoming Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and hyperactivity naturally.
Another key, these two doctors say, is to let an abundance of fruits and vegetables crowd out the junk food from a kid’s diet.
Blaylock says it is a difficult initial task to gather the good foods and supplements and avoid all the bad foods, but it is well worth it for the long term -- for the whole family.
And, he says that every child, as well as adults, whether ADHD or not, should avoid a range of food additives that are toxic to the brain. The technical name for these toxins is excitotoxins - the title of one of Blaylock's books.
Excitotoxins cause nerve cells to be hyper, damaged, or they may even kill brain cells. Although often called MSG or glutamate, dozens of food additives have these toxins.
And those additives have stealth names that hide their toxicity, such as aspartame, flavoring, hydrolyzed protein, broth, and soy protein isolate.
In practice, that means avoiding the majority of grocery items such as box mixes, prepared soups, flavored chips, and canned tuna.
But healthy choices, such as canned tuna that has only tuna and water, or another that has the ingredients tuna, olive oil, and salt.
"ADHD kids, in particular, when they're exposed to monosodium glutamate or one of the excitotoxins in food, it really throws them out of kilter -- they become excessively hyperactive," Blaylock explained.
A related no-no for the ADHD brain is sugar. Sugar, strangely enough, can actually bring on abnormally low sugar levels in the blood. And that increases glutamate release in the brain, yet another excitotoxic cause of hyperactivity.
Kids would do better to eat fresh fruit like apples – they are sweet, but they carry many nutrients, especially in the skins.
But you should be cautious of buying just any apples. Organic apples may be best because regular apples are often high in brain-harming pesticides.
Plus, Blaylock warns, it is best to avoid fruit in juice form because it can cause low blood sugar, and thus increase excitotoxins in the brain.
On the positive side, multivitamins with minerals are important for normal brain function. Kids' varieties should include iron, which is essential for brain growth and development.
And indeed, there are other brain-boosting minerals as well -- zinc and magnesium -- whether from multivitamins, individual supplements or food.
"Magnesium is really important in brain function,” Colbert said. “Again, magnesium comes mainly from seeds and nuts. About 75 percent of the population is low in magnesium intake."
But there are minerals that interfere with normal brain function, and parents need to consider avoiding these toxins:
- Tap water often has aluminum added by water treatment facilities
- Many vaccines contain both aluminum and mercury
- Dental fillings known as amalgams contain mercury.
Again, on the positive side, probably the most basic brain supplement of all, one that kids (and adults) should be taking—are fish oils that feed the brain like no other substance. Fish oils contain omega-3 fats.
Recognizing the importance of those fats, supplement makers are producing more and more options designed for kids. Fruit flavors like lemon and strawberry make omega-3’s easier to consume.
The most crucial omega-3 fat is called DHA. Some products concentrate the DHA to make the fish oil even more powerful for kids' brains.
"People who consume more EPA, but particularly DHA, have a reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, macular degeneration -- these nerve disorders where they need that fat to make the nerves work," said nutrition analyst Bill Sardi.
For helping prevent ADHD in the first place, Blaylock says pregnant and nursing women should take omega-3s and avoid excitotoxins.
Blaylock said, "The brain undergoes rapid growth in the last trimester of pregnancy, all the way to age two. That's where 80 percent of all brain growth occurs. If they're exposed to these products, it severely interferes with the formation of these brain pathways."
Omega-3 oils are critical during this period, because the DHA provides the raw ingredients of the brain, and it blocks excitotoxins.
So what overall strategy should parents use? Blaylock says a cold turkey approach to junk foods is best, otherwise, you continue to stimulate kids' appetites for addictive tastes.
But Colbert suggests that parents use a gradual approach, at least for a portion of their strategies.
"It's taking these children and going through the withdrawals -- the sugar withdrawals, the caffeine withdrawals, the video game withdrawals -- it's really tough,” Colbert admitted. “So that's why they have to get a plan, they have to do it maybe as a group. Many of these parents will have to get together and start weaning them off it slowly, so they don't crash them."
And a gradual weaning from medication can be accompanied by introducing dietary changes -- dietary changes that mean better brain health for the entire family.