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An Alternative to Ritalin

An Alternative to Ritalin

March 01, 2018


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When asked about her thoughts on the use of Ritalin in young children, Delia A Strondl, a registered counsellor and Health24 ADHD expert said: “For those whom it works, it works wonderfully; for those where it doesn't work it leaves a child in a subdued, often withdrawn state where his/her personality ceases to exist.” 

ADHASA supplied Health24 with a study funded by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institute of Mental Health. The study showed that, for some children, the benefits of stimulants may be far outweighed by the risks attached – especially if there is a history of cardiac abnormalities. The results of the Research Project show that there may be a connection between ADHD drugs and sudden death among children which in the USA strikes 1 in 10 000 children. This is regarded as a rare occurrence and no direct link has been suggested. However the research has drawn attention to the potential risks for stimulant medication in children. 

The side effects of the side effects

Strondl said that she agrees that Ritalin is prescribed too readily.  And from the parents she has spoken to, the doctor made the diagnosis, and said the child should be put on Ritalin - end of story.  “For those children where Ritalin does not work, severe side effects are experienced, leading to a multitude of medications to deal with the side effects of the side effects. I believe later in life there is a chance of addiction. 

These children have long since forgotten what 'normal' feels like, and it is for this reason that they turn to medication or narcotics in search of that 'normal' feeling“, told Strondl.

“Too often, doctors do not provide parents with the alternative options such as play therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, neurotherapy, biofeedback and physiotherapy or even remedial,” she said.

Children with suspected ADHD should be referred to these kinds of therapies (play, occupational, and reflex, as needed) as well as these support therapies.

Diet and healthy eating

Says Heather Picton, an ADD/ ADHD consultant: It is impossible to predict how a child will benefit from a change in diet, but changes are often obvious in improved behaviour, concentration, academic ability, sleep, general health and social interaction.

Parents should avoid all artificial colourants, flavourants and antioxidant preservatives such as purchased cakes, pies, hamburger patties, fish fingers, packet soups and sauces, processed meats and polonies, fruit squashes and fizzy drinks states Picton’s article. “Avoid foods that tend to aggravate ADHD and precipitate symptoms in your child”, she says.

A single protein and complex carbohydrate breakfast will provide three hours of your child’s best concentration. Regular snacks every two to three hours, such as a peanut butter or tuna sandwich, homemade plain white popcorn, plain biltong, cheese or nuts will maintain concentration. Between five and six pm in the evening is usually the most difficult hour of the day.

A healthy snack usually helps calm the child, but make sure it’s small enough not to spoil supper, and always avoid sugar on an empty stomach.

 “It would be nice to have fruit at hand when the child wants to nibble, but children want sweets,” she says. She suggests that even though it is hard to deny a child sweets, care should be taken in the quantity and the type of sweet given to the child. Suitable sweets would be homemade fudge, and sweets that contain only natural colourants and natural flavourants.

Supplements should also be taken:

Supplementation is very important for raising EFA levels, and high levels may be needed especially in the earlier stages of moving to a healthier eating lifestyle:

  • Omega 3 - Fatty Fish Oil e.g. unflavoured cod liver oil.  Capsules: halibut liver oil, cold pressed salmon oil.  Flaxseed oil contains both the omega 3 and omega 6 series of EFAs
  • Multivitamin and mineral supplement, to assist the metabolism of the Fatty Acids.  These must also be free of synthetic colourants and synthetic flavourants.  Some preparations contain the EFAs, but usually not enough.

Picton comments that other supplements may be required and that these depend upon the child’s unique individual requirements....

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