The ADHD Epidemic… What’s really going on?
Has anyone looked at the list of criteria for an ADHD child lately? In my mind its pretty ridiculous…based on these symptoms I believe just about every young male child will pass with flying colors and be awarded with the diagnosis of ADD or ADHD.
There is no debate that ADHD diagnoses have skyrocketed over the past decade…but WHY?? Are we really living in a time where such a large percentage of our children are unable to manage their behaviour, their temperament, their focus, their impulsivity, and their ability to learn?
What I can tell you is that as much as I think this “condition” is very much over diagnosed I HAVE seen a significant rise over the past 15 years in the number of children I see in clinic that do have significant challenges in managing their behaviour and attention, and if you ask just about any teacher who has been in the field long enough they will often tell you exactly the same thing. So what’s in the water that’s impacting all of our kids in such a negative way?
There is an ever growing list of possible reasons for the rise in ADHD…everything from changes in home dynamics and parenting, both parents working, less focused attention to our children, the increase in screen time and the fast paced nature of our modern world, the refinement of our foods, the increases in chemicals, GMO’s, sugar, and the ever increasing food sensitivities we see. We also can’t forget the sedentary nature of our kid’s lives, less physical activity, obesity, video games, the EMF pollution, and the tremendous increase in vaccinations….this potential list of causative factors could go on and on depending on which expert you decide to talk to.
What I have become extremely curious about over the past year in regards to ADHD is whether or not there are any measurable changes in the pathways that govern how people think, feel and act…in a nutshell, our brain chemistry. The problem I kept coming up with was finding a reliable way to clinically assess which pathways were out of balance, why they were out of balance, and ultimately how to correct it so these children can get their brain chemistry back in check and improve the trajectory of their life.
I was elated when I heard Dr. Walsh talk about the biochemical therapy that the Walsh Research Institute teaches doctors. Founded on over 35 years of clinical research, a massive database of over 1.5 million chemical assays from testing over 10,000 patients with behavioural disorders and 5,600 patients with ADHD it has been discovered that approximately 90% of these people have significant imbalances in brain chemistry that can be corrected.
What I have found most impactful from this training is that we can now narrow down with accuracy which pathways are not functioning properly and with precision, know how to treat it with targeted nutritional therapy. In order to do this a detailed clinical intake is required as well as specific labs through blood and urine. Both the clinical symptoms and labs are weighted equally in making the diagnosis. There can be several different imbalances, sometimes referred to as biotypes, at play causing a child to display behavioural and ADHD symptoms. Each biotype is treated uniquely, this is why it s vastly important to figure out the root imbalance. For example, when we look at ADHD there are actually 7 different chemical imbalances that are often at the root of the problem. A child may have any one or combination of them. Each biotype has its own set of unique symptoms based on the way that it is affecting brain chemistry. For example one biotype that involves an elevated copper:zinc ratio can lead to elevated levels of noradrenalin causing symptoms such as episodic rage, poor attention and hyperactivity, where as a different biotype involving a pyrrole disorder may cause a severe deficiency of zinc and B6 leading to decreased levels of serotonin and dopamine causing the child to have poor stress control and explosive anger. Both of these children may be diagnosed with ADHD but the treatment is completely different.
I love this approach because it is very individual, systematic and clinically reliable. In my opinion every child struggling with symptoms of ADHD or a behavioural disorder should get tested first to see if there are any brain chemistry imbalances at the root of the problem. For certain biotypes, medications such as Ritalin can be quite effective with others it can make things worse, yet if we understand the root imbalance we can often correct it through nutritional therapy with little to no side effects.
I strongly believe that there are a number of factors, both biophysical and psychosocial, contributing to the rise of ADHD and behavioural disorders in our children. Yet many of these factors can act as epigenetic switches affecting brain chemistry. For example, emotional or physical trauma, nutritional imbalances, heavy metals and toxin exposure can all alter epigenetic gene expression potentially setting in motion brain chemistry imbalances.
I am a firm believer in the need for good parenting and a loving environment, teaching kids ways to self-regulate, getting them to move their bodies and become more active and eating healthy foods yet if there is a chemical imbalance all of these strategies are limited. For example, imagine being asked to do mindfulness techniques or cognitive/behavioural therapy if your body is physically jacked up on adrenalin or you don’t have enough serotonin or dopamine to actually focus or feel good…it is virtually impossible. Once the underlying imbalance is corrected then the child can more fully embrace all of these strategies and move towards a life that is much less struggle and much more fulfilling.