Yes, ADHD Can Be Successfully Treated Without Pharmaceutical Medication

Kathryn Taketa-Wong professional pic

     Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the least understood conditions of modern society.  First recognized in 1980, it is now seen as having three main aspects:  inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.  Inattention involves difficulty staying focused, wandering off task, and being disorganized.  Hyperactivity is expressed by the need to move around constantly, even in situations where it is not appropriate.  Impulsivity is where the individual is acting without thinking of the consequences, having little control over delayed gratification, interrupting others.  These behaviors are not due to defiance or lack of comprehension, but are beyond the individual’s ability to control.

      The causes of ADHD can be difficult to pin down:  brain chemicals, lack of discipline, too much TV, genetic disorder, pesticides, food additives?  In addition, studies show that a fetus exposed to alcohol and tobacco is 2.4 times more likely to develop ADHD.  Diet has also been implicated.  Adolescents with diets high in fat, refined sugar, and sodium are two times as likely to be diagnosed with ADHD as other kids.  Additional studies have also linked ADHD to diets deficient in omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for brain development and function.

     There is also the issue of over-diagnosis.  There are at least fifty medical conditions that can mimic ADHD symptoms.  Here are a few of the main ones:  low blood sugar, food allergies, learning disorders, hypo or hyperthyroidism, adrenal imbalances, metabolic disorders, sleep problems, iron and/or vitamin deficiencies.  Without a thorough review of the other possible causes of the ADHD symptoms, a child can be put on medication unnecessarily.  That’s why when I treat a child with those symptoms, I begin by looking for underlying medical conditions to be certain we are actually dealing with ADHD.

     Sometimes, pressure to start a child on medication comes from teachers, who are struggling with a disruptive student.  This is often because the child may have trouble focusing, doing homework, or staying on task.  The all-too-typical situation is the parent then talking to a pediatrician about the situation and the doctor handing them a prescription for a stimulant medication on the spot.  This is because in ADHD, individuals tend to produce inadequate amounts of dopamine and norepinephrine, brain chemicals that help to regulate mood, attention, and focus.  They also tend to fidget a lot because the movement and stimulation cause the body to produce more dopamine and norepinephrine.  Many of them like video games because they provide constant auditory and visual stimulation.  ADHD medications provide stimulation to the brain, which is why individuals with ADHD don’t feel the constant need to fidget and move all the time.  This why stimulants can have the paradoxical effect of calming a hyperactive child. 

     While putting children on medication can make a difference for some, many parents are concerned because of the potential side effects and also because they worry about their child having to take a stimulant drug for the rest of their lives once they start on it.  The most common side effects I see in children is a decrease in appetite.  Their hunger diminishes and they tend to lose weight, so they don’t get enough nutrients for a developing body and brain.  Stimulants also increase heart rate and blood pressure and can cause problems with sleep.  Some children also get moody and irritable.  Others can experience a rebound after the medication wears off and wind up worse than they were.

     When it comes to treatment, I first look for underlying medical conditions to rule them out as the causes of the ADHD symptoms.  If testing reveals those to be normal, we then move to working with the family on a natural approach.  I have many families that come to me because their child is on an ADHD medication and they want to decrease their dose or wean their child off of it.  I have seen many children improve just with a change in the diet that moves them away from artificial flavors, dyes, preservatives, pesticides, and other chemicals.  I also may recommend certain supplements that have a similar effect on the brain as pharmaceuticals but without the side effects.

     It definitely takes a commitment from the parents, because giving medication is easier.  But the easy way isn’t necessarily the best or most healthful one.  Fortunately, when the family is dedicated to giving the natural approach enough time to work, they are usually very happy with the results.  Many have been successful in reducing the dosage of ADHD medication or weaning their child off of it altogether.

 

New Understanding: How to Successfully Treat Autoimmune Diseases

New Understanding: How to Successfully Treat Autoimmune Diseases

      Autoimmune disease rates have been escalating dramatically over the past 30 years, some by up to 23%.  These diseases occur when the immune system, which is supposed to attack invaders like bacteria, viruses, fungi and yeast instead attacks one’s own body.  The medical and scientific community does not know exactly what causes autoimmune conditions like type 1 diabetes, celiac disease, lupus, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and Crohn’s disease. (More than 100 autoimmune diseases have been identified). 

     The immune system is comprised of white blood cells, lymph nodes and the whole lymph system, the spleen, tonsils, and bone marrow (which makes white blood cells).  It also makes certain types of chemical messengers, while some types of white blood cells make proteins called antibodies.

     The immune system can send out cells that act like Pac-Man, gobbling up bacteria and viruses. It also makes free radicals, which act like miniature bombs to blow up the invaders. Essentially, the whole process is designed to create inflammation in the body that is targeted at killing bacteria, viruses, yeast, and other things that can cause disease.

     For example, with rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system attacks joint tissue, which can cause very bad pain and disfigured joints.  With lupus, the skin, joints, and internal organs are affected.  In multiple sclerosis, the immune system eats away at the protective coating around the nerves, preventing them from functioning properly.

     Fortunately, there are a few pharmaceutical medications that disrupt specific aspects of the autoimmune process, but for the most part, the conventional approach is usually either steroids or other medications that suppress the entire immune system.  These drugs aren’t specific, and because they affect the whole immune system, not just the area of the disease, the immune system as a whole is weaker than it should be.  This can result in the person being more susceptible to infections.

     While we don’t know exactly what causes autoimmune diseases, a critical part of treating them is healing the digestive system.  Every patient I’ve seen with an autoimmune disease has been helped to some extent by adopting a specific diet to heal the gut.  Some patients who undertook very restrictive diets, like the Autoimmune Protocol Diet, enjoyed dramatic improvement.  This is because new research is finding that the gut is very important in regulating the immune system.  Good bacteria in the gut actually communicate with the immune system cells there by exchanging chemical messages.  When the gut gets balanced and there is no inflammation there, the immune system benefits regardless of what part of the body is affected by an autoimmune disease.

     For example, researchers in Israel and Germany have noted that the increases in autoimmune diseases have occurred in too short a time to be caused by genetic changes.  Focusing instead on other causes, they discovered a strong correlation between the skyrocketing use of industrial food additives in processed food and the increase in autoimmune diseases.  The studies revealed that processed foods damage the intestinal lining, increasing the likelihood of developing an autoimmune disease.

     Other stressors on the immune system include pollution, exposure to toxins, and lack of sleep.  People who work night shifts long term have a higher risk of developing autoimmune diseases and cancer, as well.  When we don’t get enough sleep, our bodies are missing out on a major time when it repairs damaged cells or fixes mutations in DNA.

     While I have found that pharmaceutical medications are often still needed in managing autoimmune diseases, using diet and natural remedies to regulate the immune system  can bring major improvements and in some cases even lead to remission.  I typically focus on working with patients to develop a healing diet as a foundation.  I will also recommend certain types of probiotics and natural remedies to help heal the gut and regulate the immune system, along with regular acupuncture.  The acupuncture helps reduce pain and inflammation and strengthens the internal organs.  Over time, patients with an autoimmune condition are usually able to live healthier, happier lives with less dependence on medication.

 

To Avoid Colds, Get Enough Sleep

To Avoid Colds, Get Enough Sleep

     Beginning in the eighties, sleep started getting a bad rap, as if it was something to avoid.  People didn’t want to miss out on anything.  The “anything” was likely to be work, as that decade saw the beginnings of the communication revolution in business and the impetus to “do it now”.  It started with pagers, evolved to fax machines and then cell phones.  By the mid-nineties, dial-up Internet came on the scene, and the pace of life has only sped up since then with the advent of smart phones.    

     Recently, researchers at the University of California, San Francisco conducted the first sleep study of its kind, using special technology to measure actual sleep time.  They established base lines for the study’s participants and then administered a cold virus.  Those with less than 6 hours sleep the week before were 4.2 times more likely to come down with a cold.

     While technology has certainly altered our lifestyles dramatically, our bodies haven’t changed in tens of thousands of years.  We need sleep.  It is not a luxury, but a necessity.  Sleeping less than 7 hours a night is associated with diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, stroke, weight gain, and depression.  It is also linked to weakened immune function, increased pain, more errors, and greater risk of accidents. 

    Along with good food and sufficient exercise, getting enough sleep is essential to good health.  It sounds easy enough, but I have many patients who have trouble sleeping.  Work schedules, family commitments, commuting time, certain illnesses or conditions, stress, emotional difficulties, all can contribute to insufficient sleep.  If this sounds like you, I invite you to call my office at 808-783-0361 and request a no-charge phone consultation.  There are many things I can do to help.  Find the article here.

Heartburn Medicine Can Do More Harm Than Good

Heartburn Medicine Can Do More Harm Than Good

     As they say on TV, “Talk to your doctor….”  Only talk about getting OFF heartburn medication.  Heartburn medicine is one of the most widespread examples of the conventional approach to disease.  None of the drugs cure the condition and continued use can actually harm the body, sometimes seriously.  Yet, apparently, 15 million Americans would rather take the medication than change their ways.

     The class of drugs is called proton pump inhibitors, or P.P.I.s.  They are prescribed for acid reflux, which is a serious disorder involving corrosive stomach acid reaching the soft tissues of the esophagus.  The constant irritation can cause serious damage and even lead to esophageal cancer, which is frequently fatal.  In addition to heartburn, it can cause a persistent dry cough, sore throat, frequent throat clearing, bloating, difficulty swallowing, and more.

     While the acid reflux requires treatment, the medications are linked to side effects and complications including nutrient deficiencies, joint pain and infections, bone fractures, heart attacks, and dementia.  Certainly, the treatment should not be worse than the disease.  Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be.  There are any number of lifestyle changes that can help.

     Eliminating acidic foods and adding high-fiber foods is very helpful one-two improvement.  Fiber improves digestion and reduces pressure on the lower region of the esophagus.  A combination of raw and cooked vegetables will support healing.  A wide selection of raw fruits should be enjoyed daily.  These changes assist in losing weight where necessary while returning the body to a healthier state.  Developing a regular exercise routine will increase circulation of lymph, which helps to remove toxins from the body.

     If all those measures don’t eliminate acid reflux, it should at the least allow for the lowest possible dose of a P.P.I.  The condition is serious and important to get under control, so, as they say on TV, talk to your doctor about getting off your heartburn medication.  Read the article here.

New Medical Uses For Oil From Cannabis Plant

New Medical Uses For Oil From Cannabis Plant

     To fulfill the commitment I have to my patients I believe I must be a student as well as a teacher.  There is more knowledge and more information about the science of medicine than any one person can ever hope to know, so I feel I should always be learning.  My intention is to consistently give my patients the very latest treatment approaches based on the best, evidence-based, cutting edge research.

     I recently attended a conference on Maui for naturopathic physicians.  One important take away from that meeting concerns the ways that cannabidiol (CBD) oil extracted from hemp is proving to be an important medicine. 

     CBD oil extracted from hemp is not a controlled item and may be purchased online legally.  It is classified as a food grade substance rather than as a drug, so one does not need a medical marijuana card to use it.  We see this food grade hemp in hemp milk, breads, and clothing.  CBD oil taken orally is proving to be of benefit for children who are afflicted with seizures or seizure-like symptoms.

     I have recommended oral CBD oil for a number of my patients and have found it helpful.  For children with epilepsy who are not responding to pharmaceutical anti-seizure medications, the frequency and intensity of seizures have decreased, sometimes dramatically.  CBD oil is also helpful for anxiety and for moderating aggressive behavior in children with autism, and seems to have other benefits as well.  One family whose child was not having seizures reported that there was improvement in expressive language.  

     There is also evidence that CBD oil can help reduce neuropathy from chemotherapy (nerve pain and nerve problems).  It seems to help with the nausea associated with chemo as well.  If I determine that a patient would benefit from CBD oil, I can recommend dosages that I have seen be most helpful for that individual’s condition.

Being Uninformed Is Something I Never Want Happening With My Patients

Being Uninformed Is Something I Never Want Happening With My Patients

     “You mean you’re actually going to spend 45 minutes with me in an office visit?”  I hear that a lot from my new patients.  They are comparing what we do to the conventional approach to primary care, which typically consists of 15 minutes with the doctor and a prescription. 

     There is so much more to healing than taking pills that I hardly know where to start.  And that’s why my office visits are so different.  I want my patients to understand what is going on with them.  I can’t do that until I have first taken the time to carefully listen to what is on their mind and to ask them questions about it.  But what about questions that patients should be asking me?

     I am very happy that two cancer specialists have written an article that advises patients on what to ask their doctor(s).  Honestly, when patients ask me questions, it helps me be a more effective physician, because uncertainty about dosage, timing, the meaning of certain symptoms, etc., can interfere with a patient’s ability to comply with my recommendations.

     When it comes to informed patients, I am committed to being a leader in the field.  It is good medicine for patient and doctor alike.  Find the article here.

 

Our Locations

Downtown
Sacred Healing Arts
1188 Bishop St # 1509
Honolulu, HI 96813

North Shore
Sacred Healing Arts
62-203 Lokoea Place
Haleiwa, HI 96712

Fax: 808-792-3336

Get Directions

Get Direction on Map »