A few weeks ago, @kay_za asked me on Twitter what I thought of Dr Hein Badenhorst’s 10 Steps before Ritalin. I was very flattered that she wanted my input, but the 140 characters allowed on Twitter wasn’t nearly enough for me to give a proper opinion. I asked her if I could do a blog post about it.
And then life’s dwang hit the proverbial fan, and I didn’t actually get to write it till now!
I hope you haven’t given up on me @kay_za!
I can’t post Dr Badenhorst’s presentation here as I do not have his permission to do so, but I have been lucky enough to hear him speak on more than one occasion and I think I can tell you what I think of his 10 points without treading on his toes. To put it simply, I agree with him. It took me years to learn these “lessons”, but I agree with him.
He begins his talk by stating- as I have- that whilst there is a place for medications like Ritalin, Concerta and Strattera (and such) in the treatment regimen for AD/HDers, there are a few things to check out first.
First on the list- hydration. Drink water people! We don’t drink enough water and its essential for our brains to function! Children are given iced tea, rooibos tea and watered down fruit juice instead of water from when they are tiny because it tastes better than water- even though our kids don’t know better! You do more harm than good by giving your child the artificial sweeteners, colourants and preservatives in these products. Add a little fresh lemon juice of you don’t like the taste of plain water! Filter your tap water and avoid fizzy drinks. You only need to lose 2% of your body’s normal water level to be dehydrated, and dehydration can be mistaken for hunger, cause headaches and lethargy! And our AD/HDer children are thirsty children!
Number two is methylation. It is “the body’s ability… to add (or subtract) methyl groups to chemical compounds“. The SA population is apparently especially prone to a genetic defect that prevents proper methylation, and high homocysteine levels contribute to depression, bad concentration and mood swings. Ring a bell?
Point three- stable sugar levels. You heard me- sugar levels!! For those who don’t know, glucose is the most important brain nutrient, but excess sugar damages nerve cells. The important thing is to use complex, slow-release carbohydrates to balance your sugar levels (whole grains, whole fruits, spinach) not chocolate! Leave out the breakfast cereals, fizzy drinks and high energy sweets.
Point number four – balanced fats. Good fats that is. Supplement with a high quality Omega 3 fish oil and cut out as much margarine and junk food as possible. The human brain is 80% water and its “dry weight” is 60% fat! If your lipidation is out of whack, you will battle with brittle nails, sinus infections and your memory will suffer. Sound familiar?
Number five on his list is supplementation. I have said it before, and Dr Badenhorst says the same- we do NOT get the nutrients we need from our food. Unless you grow your own organic veggies and eat them fresh, you are not getting the nutrients you need from your food. Take a multivitamin (which can make kids nauseous if they don’t have breakfast) and a good Omega 3 supplement, but do it CORRECTLY. Over-supplementing can actually cause or aggravate ADHD symptoms (I have spoken about diet and supplements on my blog before).
Point six- allergies. Did you know that we take in up to 5kg of artificial additives in our food in a year?! These additives can cause or aggravate allergies and children with AD/HD are more likely to battle with food allergies.
Number seven is stress! Our AD/HDers battle higher levels of stress than neuro-typical children because they have to work so much harder to achieve “normal” results in terms of behaviour and in their school work. Many of them battle to adjust to situations and changes in structure and it stresses them out!
Adequate sleep is number eight. Structured bedtimes and waking up on time.
Number nine is a healthy colon. Yup. Even for children! Ninety percent of our body’s serotonin is manufactured in the colon! Serotonin is a neurotransmitter linked to memory and learning, and incorrect levels can cause depression and anxiety. Teach your child not to “hold it in” and go to the toilet regularly, constipation can actually be toxic.
His last point is about psychology and behaviour. Our AD/HD children are stressed. Plain and simple. Think about your own attitude towards AD/HD as parent to an AD/HDer. Are you stressed and depressed about it? Do you get apprehensive and defensive when preparing for parents evening or heading for yet another doctor’s appointment? I know from my own experience, that we as parents react very badly to a diagnosis of AD/HD, sometimes taking MONTHS to come to terms with it as parents. And in that time we are working so hard to research it and learn to accept it and not telling anyone for fear of alienation and- dare I say it- being labelled, that we don’t help our AD/HDer accept it! We don’t explain it to them or tell them what’s potting. Instead we drag them from doctor to specialist and get second and third opinions. We argue with doctors, teachers and family members about how to treat it and how to deal with it- almost never involving our AD/HD child in these discussions. We mistakenly believe that what they don’t know can’t hurt them… But they do know. They know they are different, usually long before we seek out a diagnosis as parents. Our angst about it doesn’t make it easier for them to deal with it. And then we focus so much on waiting for adverse side effects from medications and changing our diets that we forget our AD/HDers have exceptional talents and abilities as people. AD/HD is a diagnosis not a personality trait. I urge you as parents to consider psychotherapy for yourselves as well as for your AD/HDer.
What Dr Badenhorst’s talk comes down to is that if you can focus on these ten points and make the necessary changes your AD/HDer may not need medication at all. At the same time, keep in mind that some AD/HDers do need meds. Don’t punish yourself or blame the doctor or school if yours is one of those children. You need to do everything in your power to help your AD/HDer grow up into a balanced adult.
Disclaimer: I am a blogger and a mom to an adult AD/HDer, I am not a professional anything. What I write is purely my opinion on things I feel strongly about, based on my experience as an AD/HDer parent.