For those with ADD and ADHD, paying attention is easier said than done.

By William G. Crawford, III, N.D., N.M.D.

 A puzzling, proliferative, perplexing disorder is now, and has been, affecting our children and large numbers of adults in the United States for many years. What is this affliction? In the past it has gone by a number of names, but today it is recognized as two diseases: ADD (attention deficit disorder) and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).

ADD and ADHD are "umbrella" terms used to describe children with symptoms as diverse as "he can't focus" to "she bounces off walls!"

Generally, ADD is used to describe children who exhibit a poor attention span, dreaminess, and poor organizational skills. They may be highly intelligent but have to work extra hard in school to make their grades. They are difficult to diagnose because they exhibit little or no hyperactivity. Many are misdiagnosed because teachers and some medical professionals diagnose children as having ADD only when hyperactivity is present.

ADHD is the disorder with hyperactivity; children in this category are always moving. They are fidgety, can't sit still, and teachers say they disrupt the whole class. The hyperactivity usually disappears during the teen years, yet the inattentiveness and impulsivity remain and are often problems in adult life.

At times children with ADHD also exhibit behavior and social problems. These children are the holy terrors at school and at home. They defy authority figures, push and shove other children, hit others and are often in confrontations. They cannot get along with children or adults and often are not accepted by their peers. These children have great difficulties when they grow up. Although their hyperactivity usually disappears, their inattentiveness, impulsivity, and behavior and social problems persist unless they seek professional help to correct these problems.


Although the exact cause of ADD and ADHD remains unknown, it is known that ADD/ADHD is a neurobiologically based disorder. Scientific evidence suggests that ADD/ADHD is genetically transmitted and, in many cases, results from a chemical imbalance or deficiency in certain neurotransmitters, which are chemicals that help the brain regulate behavior.

There are a number of theories about what causes this disorder. Some researchers believe the causative agent of ADD/ADHD is an injury to the nervous system. A difficult pregnancy or delivery may cause this kind of problem, as could smoking, alcohol consumption, or drug use during pregnancy. Some believe oxygen deprivation at birth or ear infections with high temperatures or even allergies could cause this type of injury or developmental problem. Another possible cause is some type of head trauma.

Some researchers believe genetic factors may also be involved. This idea is accepted by some and refuted by others. Toxic metal accumulation also may play a role. Medical literature confirms the potent neurotoxic effects of aluminum, copper, lead, and cadmium.

Nutrition and ADD/ADHD

It has been my experience, and the experience of the ADD Foundation, that nutritional imbalances can and are occurring in those affected with ADD/ADHD, and that by altering the diet, eliminating certain foods, and making appropriate lifestyle changes, ADD and ADHD patients can help themselves.

One of the first things that should be done is a tissue mineral analysis (TMA). A TMA often reveals 1) An excessively fast oxidation rate with a deficiency of the sedative minerals. In this mineral pattern, the sedating minerals calcium, magnesium, and zinc are commonly less than half of normal value. (When calcium and magnesium are deficient, malabsorbed, or underutilized, there are various problems relating to hyperexcitability, hyperkinesis, and neurotransmitters within the brain which require calcium before they can be made. If a calcium deficiency is present, there are not enough neurotransmitters being produced in the brain.)

  1. Sodium and potassium levels are usually elevated; a situation often associated with excessive irritability and inflammation. Many ADD/ADHD sufferers have increased levels of these two minerals.
  2. Toxic metal poisoning, especially aluminum, copper, lead, and cadmium toxicity.
  3. Inadequate carbohydrate metabolism due to a diet high in refined sugar and starches, or due to various coexisting mineral and vitamin deficiencies.
  4. Food allergies, especially sensitivity to the more than 3,000 food additives widely used in children's cereals and other food products.


So, what can you do nutritionally to help ADD/ADHD? I recommend the following dietary and lifestyle changes:
  1. Use green juices. Green juices have a wonderful detoxification quality, which helps abundantly.
  2. Use antioxidants, especially those known as proanthocyanidins, or OPCs. This group of nutrients combats free radical pathology quite effectively, and crosses the blood brain barrier very freely to calm free radical pathology in the brain.
  3. Get adequate amounts of calcium and magnesium.
  4. Make sure children get some fats and oils. Many vital body tissues, including the nervous system, require fatty acids. For children who are fast oxidizers, fats calm them down, provide steady energy, and avoid the energy roller coaster of hypoglycemia to which so many children are prone.
  5. Use chelating substances to detoxify and eliminate mineral toxins. Oral EDTA is a good chelating substance.
  6. Eat regular meals with your children. One of the worst aspects of modern day life is "grazing" instead of eating. Besides the questionable nutrition that results, this practice also diminishes the importance of meals, setting up children for bad nutritional habits later in life.
  7. Keep a healthy weight.
  8. Investigate potential food allergies. The May 1994 issue of The Annals of Allergy reports on researchers who described their observations on 26 children referred to their allergy practice who met the criteria for diagnosis of ADHD. When dairy products, wheat, corn, yeast, soy, citrus, egg, chocolate, and peanuts, as well as artificial colors and preservatives, were eliminated from their diets, the children showed significant improvement in behavior. When the offending foods were added back, the symptoms returned.
  9. Do not force a child to eat. A poor appetite usually indicates a vitamin or mineral imbalance. When mineral imbalances improve, appetites often increase.
  10. Do not force children to eat quickly. Hasty eating makes for poor chewing and poor digestion. Mealtime should not be used to discipline. A calm, quiet, relaxed eating environment is best for all concerned.
  11. Avoid all junk food, particularly refined sugar and refined flour, white rice, white bread, pastries, cookies, etc. These foods are deficient in zinc and magnesium, and can cause sodium and water retention.
  12. Avoid food additives. In 1973, the late Dr. Benjamin Feingold, who was a chief of the allergy clinics of the Kaiser Foundation in California, reported a food additive had been responsible for the hyperactivity in 40 percent to 50 percent of the hyperactive children he had treated.
Perhaps the most important factor in treating ADD/ADHD, and in treating any health problem, is to keep in mind the following areas of healing, which are espoused by Dr. Ernesto Contreras of the Oasis of Hope Hospital: Mind and emotion, body or physical, and spiritual or faith.

If you pay attention to these three areas, you can help.

This article is based on a chapter in Dr. Crawford's soon to be published book. William G. Crawford III, N.D., N.M.D., is president and CEO of The ADD Foundation, which is a research organization that approaches ADD and ADHD afflictions in a metabolic and nutritional manner.

Queries on the foundation can be addressed by calling 1-334-461-0660, by faxing 1-334 461-0650, or by writing to the ADD Foundation, One Office Park, Suite 404A, Mobile, AL 36609.


Ritalin is the drug of choice for treating ADHD, and it is prescribed to millions of children, mostly boys. It makes kids who have been bouncing off the walls and talking incessantly begin to sit still. They listen, they focus. Most make better grades.

Ritalin is also a mind-altering, potentially addictive stimulant that works on the brain much like cocaine does. As a matter of fact, Ritalin, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, is considered a class 2 narcotic. Other drugs in this classification are cocaine, methadone, and methamphetamines. The Physicians Desk Reference notes that Ritalin should not be used in children under six years of age, since safety and efficacy in this age group has not been established. Nor is sufficient data on safety and efficacy of long-term use available. Ritalin also comes with a very long list of adverse reactions.

These include loss of appetite, insomnia, headaches, stomach pain, weight loss, racing heart, seizures, and stunted growth.

The article "Attention!" is reproduced with the permission of AIM International
©, 1997 by AIM International.

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