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Natural Awakenings Boston

Attention Deficit Disorder – A Functional Medicine Approach

Aug 30, 2012 01:10PM ● By By Wendie Trubow


The medical community defines Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)as the inability to control behavior due to difficulty processing neural stimuli. From a Functional Medicinestandpoint, ADD is a symptom of an underlying imbalance that may originate in severalbody systems. As many parents find themselves wondering if their children have ADD, it’s worth looking at possible underlying physical causes.

A Functional Medicine approach to ADD begins by evaluating intestinal function, including the presence of food allergies and the overgrowth of inappropriate bacteria or yeast. Outward signs of gut issues may include eczema, acne, asthma, allergies and anxiety. With more than 100 million neurons, the gutplays a significant role in such brain functions as mental clarity, concentration and the assimilation of new ideas.

In 1979 researchers found that gluten and dairy foods produce “exorphins,” noting that these substancesmay have a “narcotic-like effect” on the body. Children who eat gluten or dairy may produce these exorphins and manifest such things as poor concentration, difficulty following instructions, impaired learning and difficulty sitting still. These are some of the symptoms that are typically associated with ADD.

Environmental allergies, caused by such things as dust mites, molds, pets, trees, grasses and cleaning agents, may also cause children to experience fatigue, difficulty concentrating and limited attention span, hallmarks of an ADD diagnosis. Other possible triggers include hypothyroidism, vitamin and mineral deficiencies and diets deficient in Omega 3 fatty acids, all of which have been linked to impaired thought processes.

While there is no “one size fits all” approach to well-being, there are some relatively easy steps that a parent can take to optimize a child’s function, learning and behavior: 

1. Enlist the whole family in going gluten-free for two weeks.This means avoiding bread, cake, cookies, pasta, flour, pizza and all foods containing gluten or wheat.Children are remarkably quick to heal, so parents may see improvements with days of eliminating gluten. After two weeks, add gluten to each meal for three days and notice any difference in your child’s behavior.   

2. Ensure that children takea multivitamin containing zinc, as well as the active forms of B12 (methylcobalamin) and folate (5-MTHF). Thirty percent of the population has difficulty making B12 and folate active, and these nutrients in their active forms play a critical role in mental clarity, among several other biochemical reactions in the body.

3. Finally, it’s impossible to overstate the importance of Omega-3 fatty acids on brain function.  Excellent sources of Omega 3 fatty acids include cold-water fish, flaxseed, avocados, olive oil, almonds and sunflower seeds. Alternatively, many companies producea children’s chewable “fish oil.”

Dr. Wendie Trubow is a practicing physician and Quality Director at Visions HealthCare, 170 Worcester St. (Rt. 9), Wellesley, with a second Dedham location to open in the fall. For more information, call 781-232-5400 or visit See ad on back cover.

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