With an estimated 50,000 Australian children living with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), herbal pharmacist David Foreman reveals how you can support the mental fitness of your kids through diet, exercise and supplements – and a large dose of care and understanding.
“Too many try to find a magic pill to address health issues such as ADHD. The use of pharmaceuticals – while being the best solution for some – is, in my opinion, not the answer for a child’s needs.” So says David Foreman, aka “The Herbal Pharmacist”, who uses his expertise in physiology, pharmacology and natural medicine to educate people about how they can take control of their own health and happiness the natural way. This at-a-glance reference guide explains how to support children using his 4 Pillars of Great Health.
• Difficulty paying attention and concentrating, forgetting instructions, moving from one task to another without completing anything.
• Impulsive, easily losing control of emotions, accident prone.
• Overactive with constant fidgeting and restlessness.
Remember, not all children who are inattentive, impulsive and overactive have ADHD. If you think your child has ADHD, talk to your healthcare professional.
“I can’t say it enough: increasing exercise will help kids burn off that extra energy, as well as improve circulation and mental fitness,” says David. And when he says exercise, he means fun exercise like playing ball, swimming and any other game that gets you up and out. David recommends getting into the routine of arranging physical playtime after school so that by the time you sit down with the homework, the kids are physically tired and ready for mental stimulation.
A healthy diet
“We are what we eat – and this is especially true for kids,” David stresses. “Diet changes can play a huge role in how happy and well placed your kid is in school.” Remember, many drinks and foods are hidden sugar bombs so make sure you read the label. When you start cutting down on sugar and refined foods, you may also notice a boost in your child’s immune system.
Care and understanding
“Don’t do that! Stop that! Come here right now!” If your child has ADHD, chances are they get more criticism than praise. But kids with ADHD need even more praise than other children. “It’s quite simple – you need to help give your kids confidence in their ability to control their behaviour,” David explains. Remember, what you say is how your kids will see themselves, so help build their inner voice into one of confidence and positivity.
“When it comes to supplementation, the foundation is a good multivitamin and mineral,” says David. “The selection of special needs supplements can get a bit crazy, so here are the three supplements that I would use with my own child as a ‘shotgun’ approach with ADHD.”
“Sticking with my belief of giving the body the tools it needs and it will fix itself, B-Complex is key. B vitamins, more specifically B6, folic acid and B12, are important for neurotransmitter production. I would start with a basic B-Complex (in addition to the vitamins found in a multivitamin). Note that getting excessive on certain B-vitamins, especially B6, can be detrimental to your health. Taking excessive amounts of any supplement should only be done under the supervision of a qualified healthcare professional.”
“Science has discovered that many children with ADD/ADHD are magnesium deficient. Besides being important for these children, I always recommend magnesium to be taken with B-Complex. B6 in particular works hand in hand with magnesium in the body. Magnesium is also responsible in some aspects of neurotransmitter production. As little as 200mg per day can provide noticeable changes in your child.”
“Deficiencies of essential fatty acids (EFAs) has been seen in children with ADHD. I recommend the use of fish oil as your source of Omega 3s. I remember as a child, people saying fish was ‘brain food’. Now as the Herbal Pharmacist, I understand what people were talking about. Fish oil is an excellent source of EFAs. It is high in both EPA and DHA. Of these two, DHA is the important nutrient. DHA has been linked to improving memory and many aspects of mental health, including ADD/ADHD.”
Increase - Fibre, Good fats (EFAs), Whole foods (veggies and fruits).
Decrease - Sugar, Refined foods (white foods), Bad fats (refined oils, animal fats), Dairy.
A positive self-image based on strengths
Why not look into some of the research in positive psychology to help identify your – and your child’s – psychological strengths and resources? Unlike skills, strengths are about our relations to people and the world around us. Examples include our capacity to love and be loved, kindness, fairness, forgiveness, self-regulation, gratitude, hope, humour, curiosity, bravery and zest. By being aware of your strengths, you can use them to overcome adversity and deal with difficulties. Sign up for free and take the VIA character strength test for children and adults at Dr Martin Seligman’s Authentic Happiness site (www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu).
If this doesn’t get you where you need to be in three months, the addition of other nutritional supplements may be required.
Test for allergies
“Don’t forget that many different foods can be triggers for poor attention, hyperactivity and behaviour,” says David. “Food additives like artificial flavours, colours and preservatives can play a huge role in the health of your child. If you’re worried about your child’s behaviour, why not have your child tested for allergies and sensitivities?”
• ADHD isn’t an illness, but a developmental problem that can cause poor concentration and control of impulses.
• It can affect children’s learning and social skills, as well as family functioning.
• About 3-5 of every 100 children in Australia have ADHD. It’s more common in boys than girls.
Want to know more? Follow David Foreman’s Herbal Pharmacist Podcast by visiting www.herbalpharmacist.com