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.

 

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.

 

Consumer reports finds supplements are not always safe. Some are even causing liver damage. Here are some answers.

Consumer reports  finds supplements are not always safe.  Some are even causing liver damage.  Here are some answers.

     As a naturopathic doctor, I received extensive nutritional training in medical school and continue to research nutrition for my patients.  I do my own investigation of supplements and herbs before recommending them to my patients and offer prices that meet or beat online retailers like Amazon.  For most conditions, I can put together a nutritional regimen based on foods and supplements rather than prescribing pharmaceuticals. 

     The medical researchers who did the investigation on supplements are especially concerned about body building supplements and green tea extract, used in many weight loss products.  But many other supplements are also problematic.  Liver damage is very serious and can be irreversible, even life threatening.  However, supplement manufacturers can voluntarily register with NSF, a non-profit organization that has a program of Good Manufacturing Practices which assures that what’s on a supplement’s label is accurate.  I have included a link with a listing of these supplement companies.  (Unfortunately, most conventional medical doctors are not trained in nutrition and are not familiar with which supplements are certified by NSF.)  http://info.nsf.org/Certified/GMP/Listings.asp?Program=DIETSUPP

     I know that even though the listing on that link is valuable, it can still be confusing to know which supplements are safe and right for your condition.  Because the situation is serious, if you are not a patient of mine and want to purchase supplements that are safe, effective, and reasonably priced, please call the office at 808-783-0361 and mention this Facebook post.  (Click on the picture below to read the full article.)

 

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 »