50 Conditions That Mimic ADHD
Article Description: ADHD is diagnosed by health professionals who form their opinion by observing a child’s behavior. There are no brain scans, blood tests, or anything else definite that is used during diagnosis. The problem with this is there are many other problems that have the same symptoms of ADHD. Only settle for the diagnosis of ADHD after checking out all of these problems and many more.
Date of Publication:11/9/2003
50 Conditions That Mimic ADHD
ADHD Parents Support Project
ADHD is diagnosed by health professionals who form their opinion by observing a child’s behavior. There are no brain scans, blood tests, or anything else definite that is used during diagnosis. The problem with this is there are many other problems that have the same symptoms of ADHD. Many parents, because of not knowing, settle for ADHD as a diagnosis before looking at everything. For example, any problem dealing with the fuels of the body: water, food, blood and air can cause behavior problems. Water, food, blood and air to the body are just like gas and oil to a car. If you put bad gas or have old or the wrong oil in your car, it will act up just like a child acts up when eating foods they are allergic to, drinking or breathing contaminated water or air or having blood disorders.
There are also many medical, biological, emotional and mental conditions that mimic ADHD also. For those who are searching for reasons behind their child’s behavior, here are some possibilities. Only settle for the diagnosis of ADHD after checking out all of these problems and many more.
Meaning of Codes:
! – Conditions most over looked.
* – Other good possibilities to check for.
** – Definitely check if there is a family history of the condition.
*** – General problems you can think about yourself and check if you see fit.
Rare – Rare conditions but still good to check for and know about.
1.(! 1.) Hypoglycemia (Low Blood sugar) Low blood sugar can stem from thyroid disorders, liver or pancreatic problems, or adrenal gland abnormalities, or even an insufficient diet. Hypoglycemia can display the same ADHD like symptoms.
2.(! 2.) Allergies: 15 to 20 percent of the world has some type of allergy. A person can be allergic to nearly anything so check for all forms. Food is one of the primary causes of allergic reactions. Just like the Car and human analogy stated above. If a child eats food they are allergic to, the body will not run properly and that may affect behavior. Everyone has different sensitivities to allergens so just because you aren’t affected does not mean your child won’t be also. (Some examples, Allergic reactions to food dye, milk, chocolate, and grains, ect)
3.(! 3.) Learning disabilities: If the primary place of behavior problems is at school, learning disabilities may be the cause of ill behavior. One of the main things that affect a child’s self-esteem is how well they do in school. If a child has an undiagnosed learning disorder that makes school much harder and sometimes impossible. Children with undiagnosed learning disabilities are labeled as lazy, stupid, and many other downgrading opinions that affect self-esteem. And many times when a child’s self-esteem is at jeopardy they try to make up for it in other sometimes-nonproductive ways such as acting out, bullying, or becoming the class clown.
4.(! 4.) Hyper or hypothyroidism: An imbalance in metabolism that occurs from an overproduction or underproduction of thyroid hormones. This imbalance may cause a variety of behaviors and may affect all body functions.
5.(! 5.) Hearing and vision problems: If a child can’t see or hear properly, school and daily things in life are nearly impossible and it may cause ADHD like symptoms especially in educational settings.
6. (! 6.) Mild to high lead levels, even in the absence of clinical lead poisoning: research shows that children with even mildly elevated lead levels suffer from reduced IQs, attention deficits, and poor school performance. Lead is the leading culprit in toxin-caused hyperactivity..
7.(*1.) Spinal Problems: Some spinal problems can cause ADHD like symptoms because if the spine is not connected to the brain properly nerves from the spinal cord can give the brain all of signals at once making a child rambunctious and always on the go.
8.(*2.) Toxin exposures: Children are more vulnerable to toxins than adults. Such as pesticide-poisoning (Eating vegetables and fruit not washed thoroughly, they can be exposed to them by playing outside on the ground), also by gasoline fumes, and herbicides. Inside there are also many toxins. Disinfectants, furniture polishes and air fresheners are toxins that can affect some children’s behaviors. Beds and carpets are one of the most dangerous places in the house because they are full of different types of dust, and other toxins. Toxins can cause hyperactivity, attention deficits, irritability, and learning problems.
9.(*3.) Carbon Monoxide poisoning: Thousands of children each year are exposed to toxic levels of this gas each year. Sources include gas heaters, and other gas appliances such as fireplaces, dryers, and water heaters.
10.(*4.) Seizure disorders: The most overlooked is the absence seizure. During an absence seizure, the brain’s normal activity shuts down. The child stares blankly, sometimes rotates his eyes upward, and occasionally blinks or jerks repetitively, he drops objects from his hand, and there may be some mild involuntary movements known as automatisms. The attack lasts for a few seconds and then it is over as rapidly as it begins. If these attacks occur dozens of times each day, they can interfere with a child’s school performance and be confused by parents and teachers with daydreaming.
11.(*5.) Metabolic disorders: They reduce the brain’s supply of glucose, the bodies fuel and can cause ADHD like symptoms.
12. (*6.) Genetic defects: Some mild forms of genetic disorders can go unnoticed in children and display some of the same symptoms of ADHD. Mild forms of Turner’s syndrome, sickle-cell anemia, and Fragile X syndrome are some examples. Almost any genetic disorder can cause hyperactivity or other behavior problems, even if the disorder isn’t normally linked to such problems. Many genetic diseases disrupt brain functions directly, through a variety of paths. A simple blood test can rule out genetic disorders.
13.(*7.) Sleeping disorders or other problems causing fatigue and crankiness during the day.
- Anemia, aplastic
- Anemia, general
- Anemia, iron deficiency
- Anemia, sickle cell
- Anemia, vitamin deficiency
14.(*8.) Post-traumatic subclinical seizure disorder: It causes episodic temper explosions. These fits of temper come out of the blue for no reason. Some of these seizures can be too subtle to detect without a twenty-four-hour electroencephalogram (EEG).
15.(*9.) High mercury levels: One of the most interesting things regarding high mercury levels is that it can relate to dental fillings. Children who have mercury amalgam fillings in their mouth and grind their teeth are at risk of high mercury levels. American dental associations are defensive on the subject of mercury fillings but many European countries have discontinued the use of them because of side effects. There are also other causes of high mercury levels.
16.(*10.) High manganese levels
17.(*11.) Iron deficiency: Iron is an essential component of hemoglobin, the oxygen carrying pigment in the blood. Iron is normally obtained through the food in the diet and by the recycling of iron from old red blood cells. The causes of iron deficiency are too little iron in the diet, poor absorption of iron by the body, and loss of blood. It is also caused by lead poisoning in children.
18.(*12.) B vitamin deficiencies: Many experts believe that one of the main causes for inattention, hyperactivity, impulsivity, temper tantrums, sleep disorders, forgetfulness, and aggression are caused by faulty neurotransmissions a problem with the neurotransmitters in the brain. Vitamin B-6 is a necessary vitamin used in the making of neurotransmitters that affect behavior. A lack of this vitamin or really any other vitamin can cause a child to act inappropriately.
19.(*13.) Excessive amounts of Vitamins: Excessive amounts of vitamins can be toxic to the body and may cause the same ADHD like symptoms. It is possible to overdose when taking vitamins so make sure you contact a physician and check for vitamin deficiencies before taking extra vitamins.
20.(*14.) Tourette’s syndrome: Tourette’s syndrome is a rare but disruptive condition. It involves multiple tics (small, repetitive muscle movements), usually facial tics with grimacing and blinking. Tics may also occur in the shoulders and arms. This is usually accompanied by loud vocalizations, which may include grunts or noises, or uncontrollable (compulsive) use of obscenities or short phrases. The tics are worse during emotional stress and are absent during sleep. The cause is unknown. It occurs most often in boys, and may begin around age 7 or 8 or not until the child is in his or her late teens or early twenties. It may, at times, run in families. This disorder can be mistaken for not being able to sit still or impulsive behavior.
21.(*15.) Sensory Integration Dysfunction: Sensory Integration Dysfunction is the inefficient neurological processing of information received through the senses, causing problems with learning, development, and behavior. These children are over-sensitive or under-sensitive dealing in touch, taste, smell, sound, or sight. For example, some of these children crave fast and spinning movement, such as swinging, rocking, twirling, and riding the merry-go-round- without getting dizzy. These children may move constantly, fidget, enjoy getting into upside down positions and be a daredevil. These children may become overexcited when there is too much to look at words, toys, or other children. They may cover their eyes, have poor eye contact, be inattentive when drawing or doing desk work, or overreact to bright light. These children often act out in an attempt to cope with their inability to process sensory information such as acting out in crowded or loud places.
22.(**1.) Early-onset diabetes: Symptoms include aggression, depression, and anxiety. If you have a family history of diabetes checking for this is a must.
23.(**2.) Heart disease: It affects blood and oxygen flow to the brain affecting brain function that in-turn affects behavior.
24.(**3.) Cardiac conditions: It can reduce the supply of blood, oxygen and nutrients to the brain. Defective blood vessels between organs to the brain.
25.(**4.) Early-Onset Bi-Polar disorder: Also know as child-like Bi-polar. The experts state that 85% of children with child-like Bi-polar also meet the criteria for ADHD. The symptoms are extremely close. Most people when they think of Bi-polar disorder, think of Adult like Bipolar which mood swings happen over a somewhat long period of time. In child-like Bipolar, the mood swings can happen many times within a twenty-four hour day, known as rapid cycling. At one moment they’re calm and the next minute they could be in a full fledge temper tantrum. Some of the symptoms are Distractibility, Hyperactivity, impulsivity, separation anxiety, restlessness, depressed mood, low self-esteem, and many more. Early-Onset Bi-polar should be ruled out before ADHD is considered mainly because they are treated with different medications if you choose medications that is. ADHD is treated with stimulant medications which will make a Bipolar child worse possibly psychotic.
26.(***1.) CAPD (Central Auditory processing Disorder) will sometimes occur in children who have had a history of ear infections and/or PE tubes. Symptoms include distractibility, inability to follow a set of verbal instructions, “space out”, etc.
27.(***2.) Worms: Such as Pinworms lay their eggs in the anal area, causing tickling and itching, which are most bothersome at night. The lack of sleep from this type of infestation can cause crankiness or bad behavior during the day. When asleep, nightmares may be present. This problem is mostly found in very young children preschool to kindergarten because of primitive toileting skills, they tend to put their fingers in their mouths, and they participate in a lot of hands-on activities with other kids and with pets. Roundworms, hookworms, and tapeworms are other examples that can make a child display ADHD like symptoms. Worms cause hyperactive behavior, learning problems, depression, or attention deficits by making children miserable on the inside.
28.(***3.) Viral or bacterial infections: When a child is affected by an infection that might cause problem behavior.
29.(***4.) Malnutrition or improper diet: Many children in the United States do not eat a well balanced diet. A proper diet is necessary to growing children. An improper diet can affect a child’s behavior in an ill way.
30.(***5.) Head injuries: Such as the postconcussion syndrome. Some of the symptoms include Irritability, emotionality, memory problems, depression, and sleep disturbances. A concussion can disrupt brain functioning causing ADHD like symptoms.
31.(***6.) Dietary Factors: (For example to much caffeine and sugar) At doses as low as 250 milligrams a day, a level many American children exceed- caffeine can cause rambling speech, attention and concentration problems, agitation, heart palpitations, insomnia, and hyperactive behavior. In a way, it is true we are what we eat.
32.(***7.) Some disorders such as anemias reduce oxygen to the brain causing disturbance in the brains chemistry causing ADHD like symptoms.
33.(***8.) Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) or Fetal alcohol effects (FAE): FAS is a name that doctors use to describe the damage done to children’s brains and bodies when their mother drink heavily during pregnancy. It is the leading form of mental retardation today. Prenatal alcohol impairment, however, also comes in a milder form called fetal alcohol effects (FAE). Children with FAE often don’t look disabled, and they tend to score in the low-normal or even normal range of intelligence. But these kids arent normal. Their mal-developed brains cause them to exhibit a wide range of behavior problems, including hyperactivity, attention problems, learning disorders, and ethical problems such as stealing, lying, and cheating.
34.(***9.) Intentionally or unintentionally sniffing materials such as modeling glue or other house hold products.
35.(***10.) Some drugs:, (both prescription and illegal) can cause the brain to atrophy, leading to disturbed cognition and behavior. If your child routinely takes prescription or over-the-counter medications for asthma, hay fever, allergies, headaches, or any other condition, consider the possibility that the drugs are causing or contributing to behavior problems.
36.(***11.):A beta-hemolytic streptococcus: (better known as “strep.”) Although these bacteria are most commonly thought of as the cause of strep throat. Left untreated, strep can cause rheumatic fever and a movement disorder called Sydenham’s chorea. Moreover, recurrent infections can lead, in susceptible children, to a group of symptoms collectively known as PANDAS (Pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders) Some symptoms of PANDAS include obsessive-compulsive behavior, Tourette’s syndrome, hyperactivity, cognitive problems, and fidgeting.
37.(***12.) Lack of exercise: “Hyper Couch Potatoes” are children who aren’t moving enough. Some children because of lack of exercise may seem as though they are always in motion, but often that motion is in fits and spurts: leaping up from a chair, spinning around in the lunch line, bouncing in a chair while watching TV. Quite a few hyperactive children actually do not get enough sustained, strenuous exercise to stay healthy mentally and physically. Exercise can make people happier, less anxious, less hyperactive, and less depressed. One reason is that exercise increases serotonin levels in the brain exactly what Prozac, Elavil, and similar drugs do.
38.(***13.) Gifted Children: Gifted children often display ADHD like symptoms because most of the time they are bored with what other kids their age are doing. Behaviors associated with Giftedness are poor attention, boredom, daydreaming, low tolerance for persistence on tasks that seem irrelevant, their judgment often lags behind their development of intellect, their intensity may lead to power struggles with authorities, and they may have a high activity level. They may need less sleep compared to other children, and they may question rules, customs, and traditions. If your child scores above average on IQ tests, aces exams, has no trouble with homework, has no apparent learning disabilities, and primarily exhibits his or her problems mostly at school, maybe seeking a more challenging class or school would help.
39.(***14.) Emotional problems: Kids who are experiencing emotional problems most often display ADHD like symptoms. For example, kids who are constantly subjected to bullying at school can display ADHD like symptoms. These are normal kids that act out because they are scared. They experience sleeping problems, sadness, and they develop physical symptoms, especially if they think those symptoms will keep them home from school. Often they can’t concentrate in class, partly because they are worried and partly because they are suffering from sleep deprivation. Really any emotional problem at school or home in which a child is having trouble coping with can result in ADHD like symptoms.
40.(***15.) Some kids are spoiled and undisciplined: A number of children labeled hyperactive are merely under-disciplined children. They tend to run their household and get away with anything. Dr Syndey Walker stated this problem best of why parents under-discipline their children. He stated that he blamed not the parents but on the psychological experts who have counseled parents for several decades that children are fragile, easily traumatized little flowers who could be ruined for life by a cross look or a scolding which is very untrue. Children need firm discipline and strict rules not abuse but setting rules and standards and demanding those standards be met, and giving consequences when your rules are broken. Labeling undisciplined kids as ADHD who are not gives them an excuse for their misbehavior, which will often make it worse.
41.(***16.) Spirited children: When dealing with spirited children the problem usually does not lie with the child but with society’s perception of what normal childhood behavior is. Many normal children, according to some people, display ADHD like symptoms not because they are hyperactive or lack sufficient attention spans but because the person forming the opinion has unrealistic standards of how a child should behave.
42.(***17.) Lack of understanding and communication skills: One of the main reasons why a child acts out and throws temper tantrums when they have a problem is because of their lack of understanding of a problem and lack of expressing how they feel. Children do not have the vocabulary or know how to express their emotions like adults do, that’s why many act out when they are in a difficult situation. They are not able tell you something is wrong so they show you instead. This is one reason why any emotional or medical problem can cause acting out behavior in children.
43.(Rare 1.) Early stage brain tumors: Found rarely in children but should still be considered. Statistically, this diagnosis may not be important but to individual families, they assuredly are.
44. (Rare 2.) Brain cysts: Another rare cause of hyperactivity but should still be considered when searching for the reasons behind displayed ADHD like behavior.
45. (Rare 3.) Temporal lobe seizures: The Temporal lobe is a part of the brain. Any brain malfunction can cause inappropriate behavior. That’s why conducting brain scans is a must when trying to figure out behavior problems.
46. (Rare 4.) Klinefelter syndrom: A Genetic disorder in which a male has an extra X chromosome (XXY). Many individuals experience learning, behavior, and social problems. A degree of subnormal intelligence appears in some affected individuals. Many affected individuals are skinny and taller than most of their peers. A simple blood test can rule this disorder out.
47.(Rare 5.) Genetic Disorder XYY: The extra Y chromosome has been associated with antisocial behavior.
48. (Rare 6.) Porphyria: A hereditary enzyme-deficiency disease. Enzymes are very important to our body’s chemical reactions. Really nothing occurs in our body without enzymes. A lack of enzymes causes body malfunctioning which can cause ill behavior.
49. (Rare 7.) Candida Albicans infestation (Yeast Infection): Candida infestations cause hyperactivity in children. Most children who do suffer from Candida infestations have some underlying problem frequently an immune disorder, or a disorder affecting carbohydrate metabolism and thus altering blood sugar levels. So immune disorders can cause other problems that also have the same symptoms of ADHD.
50. (Rare 8.) Intestinal parasites: Parasites rob the body of needed nutrients which in-turn affects behavior.
Non-Drug Treatment of ADD/ADHD
Exclusive Interview with Lendon Smith, MD
Lendon H. Smith earned his MD degree and began the practice of medicine almost 55 years ago and has fought for children’s health and nutrition issues for over three decades. Dr. Smith was among the first to caution against sugar, white flour, and junk food known to contribute to sickness, hyperactivity, obesity, allergies, and many illnesses in children and adults.
He has authored or co-authored 15 books, dating back to 1969. He appeared on the Phil Donohue Show more than 20 times and The Tonight Show 62 times. He was awarded an Emmy for his “My Mom’s Having a Baby” after-school special. Dr. Smith has had a truly illustrious career, going from US army medic to pediatrician to national bestselling author.
For more information, you can try his website (www.smithsez.com) that is currently being upgraded.
Optimal Wellness Center (OWC):You have been active on the issue of behavioral problems in childhood for many years. How did you first get involved with the issue of ADHD and related behavior disorders?
Lendon Smith, MD:My father was a pediatrician and he believed that behavior was more genetic than environmentally produced. I was going to be a psychiatrist from about age 15 on. I felt that if we straightened out one generation, every one, including their children, would be normal after that – Freudian concept (wrong!).
In my fourth year in medical school I attended a lecture by a Portland pediatric neurologist. In the 1930s he was in charge of a home for “oddball” children. One of his clients was a wild and crazy girl. He told his nurse to give her a dose of bromide. She reached up and by mistake got hold of the benzedrine bottle. In about 30 minutes the girl was asleep.
The doctor said to the nurse, “That bromide works.” The nurse said, “What did you say?”
Of course she had to fill out an accident report, but the two of them could not believe the therapeutic results. They repeated the maverick dose the next day and the girl calmed down again. The doctor wrote a paper about this and it was reported in one of the pediatric journals. He noted that most of the kids he was seeing for this same syndrome had had some sort of “hurt” to the nervous system at birth such as:
- Cord around the neck
- Second of twins
- Collapsed lungs
He felt it was a “hurt” to the part of the nervous system that had to do with self-control. He had no idea why a stimulant had this calming effect. We now know that it is because there is not enough norepinephrine in their limbic system, the part of the brain that is supposed to filter out unimportant stimuli.
This serendipitous result of an accident has now allowed the psychiatrists and pediatricians to prescribe this type of narcotic drug to 4,000,000 kids on any given school day, and even pushed some of them into psychosis and homicide.
I was one of those drug-pushing pediatricians for a couple of decades. Then it became clear to me that there was a pattern to the behavior of these children. Genetics is there, of course, and can result in “hurts” to the nervous system, but my patients were 80% boys. I found in examining them — – trying to find some common denominator that I could use as a diagnostic criterion — – that they were exquisitely ticklish.
They were unable to disregard unimportant stimuli.
That is why they have trouble in the classroom with 30 other kids burping, coughing, passing gas and dropping pencils. The teacher says, “Charlie, sit down and stop moving around.” No wonder home schooling is becoming popular.
Blood tests were not helpful, but hair tests showed me that they were all low in calcium and especially magnesium. No wonder they craved chocolate. (There is more magnesium in chocolate than any other food on earth.)
I began to treat them with oral doses of 500 mg magnesium and 1000 mg calcium daily. It took three weeks, but 80% of them were able to get off Ritalin or dextroamphetamine, or whatever stimulant they were on. It did not work on all of them. As time went by, I had them take vitamin B6 if dream recall was poor and essential fatty acids if they had dry skin or a history of eczema. If they had ear infections as infants, they were taken off milk.
As time went on, I found it worked on adults if they had symptoms of ticklishness and inability to disregard unimportant stimuli. Apparently these people have some enzyme defect, genetic or nutritional, that prevented them from making norepinephrine, a stimulant, which we all now recognize is made to help the filtering device in the limbic system do its job.
It is too bad that psychiatrists have failed to recognize that if a stimulant acts as a calming agent, then they must shore up the flagging enzyme that is under-producing. This all fits with the damage that we have done to the top soil. It is washing and blowing away and with it, the magnesium. The psychiatrists have made ADD/ADHD a disease, like pneumonia.
It is actually a syndrome due to a defect in the screening device of the brain. I understand that since they had made it a disease they can be compensated for treating it. Another rule they have used: “If the Ritalin works, they need it.” Sort of like a Ritalin deficiency.
They had another one: “Dyscalcula” if one is bad at math. They are good with words. For instance, they know that vegetarian is an Indian word meaning: “poor hunter.”
OWC: Is ADD/ADHD a single disorder with a single cause or optimal treatment or is it more of a broad term to describe nearly all children with behavior problems?
Dr. Smith:I am glad you said “disorder,” because as I mentioned previously, the condition is not a bona fide disease, but a collection of symptoms and signs that seems to get in the way of a child being educated. The teacher or school administrator is usually the one who suggests that the child see a doctor for the behavior problem (psychiatrist or pediatrician), whom they know will put the kid on Ritalin or a similar drug.
The doctor hears the story from the parents that her child (usually her son) will be thrown out of school unless something is done. She has tried isolation, spankings, standing in the corner, etc, but nothing seems to work. She also knows that a one-to-one situation would be effective.
The teacher may write down the symptoms noticed: restlessness, talkative, doesn’t seem to listen, forgetful, short attention span, distractible, class clown, wants attention, may be a bully, as well as a few other related symptoms and signs.
The doctor knows what to do. Usually without even an exam, except a quick look in the eyes, and a listen to see if his heart is beating, the doctor reaches for his prescription pad and writes one out for Ritalin, 5 mg, #20 (or one of the newer drugs of the same type). “Try one or two in the morning after breakfast, and see what the teacher says. It may wreck his appetite, however.”
The next day, the very first day of treatment, his attention span is better and he cannot eat his lunch. It works. It is a miracle. The doctor is called and thanked profusely. He assumes since it works that the boy needs it.
When I became familiar with nutrition, I found that if a stimulant drug had a calming effect like the above, it meant that the child did not have enough norepinephrine (a stimulant) in his limbic system, and that I could help with a good diet and some supplements which should shore up the enzymes in his brain that make that neurotransmitter.
- If he had ever had ear infections, I stopped his dairy products, and added calcium 1,000 mg, usually at bedtime.
- If he was ticklish, I added magnesium – 500 mg is usually safe for child or adult.
- If he was a “Jekyll and Hyde” type of person (severe mood swings), he had intermittent low blood sugar and he needed to nibble all day to keep his blood sugar up. Or at least eat some additional protein and less carbohydrates for better maintenance of blood sugar levels. No sugar or white-flour junk food.
- If he could not remember his dreams, he needed vitamin B6 – 50 mg is about right.
- If he ever had eczema or dry scaly skin, he is to take the essential fatty acids.
- If he had dark circle under his eyes, he was eating something to which he is sensitive. Milk, wheat, corn, chocolate, eggs, citrus. Usually it is his favorite food.
I often ask these children what they like to eat. I often get a smart-alec answer, like, “rutabagas, turnips, parsnips, and broccoli.” (The mother is sitting in her chair shaking her head.) People tend to eat the food to which they are sensitive. It is like the alcoholic who has low blood sugar. The child who loves milk is usually sensitive to it. They continue to drink dairy products, because somehow they need the calcium, but they are so sensitive to it, it does not get absorbed. Blood and hair tests will reveal the deficiencies.
OWC: What are some of the causes and cures for ADD/ADHD? Do you recommend diagnostic tests for nutritional deficiencies? Are there obvious signs of deficiencies other than the ones mentioned previously?
Dr. Smith: Over time back in the 1960s and 70s, I began to notice there were certain common symptoms and signs amongst the “hyper” children I saw who had been pre-diagnosed by the teachers.
In addition to being 80% boys, they were usually blue-eyed blondes or green-eyed redheads.
About half of them had dark circles under their eyes(a give-away that they were eating something to which they were sensitive. Not necessarily allergic, but at least sensitive.) In most cases, that sign indicated a dairy sensitivity.
That stimulated me to ask about any ear infections the child had as an infant. Almost all had suffered from a few of those painful conditions. This is another clue that dairy products may account for some of the symptoms. Next question I asked the mother: “Does he drink milk?” Her answer: “Oh, yes, he loves it. Isn’t he supposed to drink it?” Well, yes and no. If a person loves something, it suggests that he is allergic, addicted, or sensitive to it. Like chocolate or booze.
Next question for the mother: “Anything unusual about the pregnancy with him?” Many, but not all, of the mothers responded with some or all of the following problems:
- Nausea for all the nine months
- Not much weight gain during the pregnancy
- Threatened miscarriage with spotty bleeding
- Overwhelming food cravings (sweets, chocolate, dairy, pickles, or whatever)
- Emotional stress (e.g., stress from mother-in-law)
- Fetus was always moving in the uterus (“he once kicked so hard, he knocked me out of bed.”)
Some mothers had delivery problems like:
- Placenta previa
- Precipitous delivery
- Nurse tried to hold him back
- Big baby — – over 10 pounds
- Small — – under 4 pounds
- Blue coloring at birth
- Needed the incubator for a few days
Still other mothers reported problems during early infancy:
- Could not latch on to breast feeding
- Constant colic for the first several weeks
- Required many formula changes
Some had all of the above; but some had none of them.
Then there followed the ear infections, as well as high fever and screaming after the vaccinations. He was a “touchy” kid.
My next question: “Does he have mood swings?Is he a Jekyl-and-Hyde person?” If yes, it is due to fluctuating blood sugar, as sugar (glucose) is a substance that the brain needs in a constant supply.
Then the physical exam started. He noticed what I was doing and needed constant reassurance that I was not going to hurt him. The heart was beating, and as I moved the stethoscope around to hear the different heart sounds, he would ask, “Can’t you find it?” When I looked in his ears, and usually noted some retraction of the eardrums, he acted a if he could hear the light. The abdominal exam was difficult because he was so ticklish — – exquisitely so. I had to forget the hernia exam, even though I had backed him up against the wall by this time. These patients were usually of wirey and/or athletic build; they were rarely obese.
Because so many of these patients had some or all of the above symptoms and signs, it suggested to me that they had a vitamin or more likely, a mineral deficiency. I did some blood and hair tests. All of them, yes, all of them, had a calcium and magnesium deficiency, despite the fact that many were drinking a quart of milk a day. Apparently they could not absorb the calcium from the dairy products because of their sensitivity. The intestines were rejecting it. It also explained why they loved the milk: somehow the body was telling them to drink it to get the calcium.
Another possibility: when they had ear infections, they were put on antibiotics and those frequently needless use of powerful drugs could have wiped out the friendly bacteria and allowed the yeast, candida to grow, or at least produce an intestinal dysbiosis, and poor absorption. As I mentioned previously, but can’t stress enough, there is this rule: If you love something, you are probably sensitive to it.
Just to recap some of my previous statements, after a few years of trying to be a good diagnostician, I accumulated these findings:
1. If a person is ticklish, goosey, sensitive, and notices everything in his environment, as he is unable to disregard unimportant stimuli, it means that he is low in magnesium, and possibly calcium. Muscle cramps and trouble relaxing or going to sleep also suggest low magnesium and calcium. These symptoms correlate nicely with the hair test showing low levels of these two minerals.
2.Poor dream recall is related to a need for vitamin B6.
3. A history of eczema or dry, scaly skin usually means a person is low in the essential fatty acids. These acids are also necessary for brain function. The nutmeg-grater feel to the skin on the thighs and back of the upper arms is usually a Vitamin A deficiency. White spot on the nails is due to low zinc.
4.A bad self-image could be the result if the parents, teachers, and classmates who are all screaming at him to sit still, shut up, and constantly asking disparagingly “What are you dong now?”
Ritalin works in just 30 minutes, while the minerals and the other supplements and diet changes take about three weeks to achieve results. The whole family has to stop the desserts, sugars, white flour, and “put-downs”. Too many questions and commands lead to the poor self image.
OWC: Are Ritalin and other stimulant drugs being over used or at least oversubscribed? Is there a proper place for these drugs? Are there any children who can’t be helped in any other way? If so, what % would you say fall into this category?
Dr. Smith: There is no doubt that these stimulant drugs are being over-prescribed for these out-of-control children. If, however, the prescribing doctor feels he/she has no alternative for the child who has been “diagnosed” by the teacher who is trying to scrape this child off the wall, the drug seems mandatory. “If it works, the child needs it” seems to be the motto.
Those of us working with these children like Dr. Doris Rapp and Dr. Billy Crook have no doubt that this is usually “a physiological screwup” and not a disease. (One reason it is called a disease is that insurance companies need a standard diagnosis before they will pay for the treatment.) ADHD and ADD have been now called diseases and have a diagnosis code number, for the psychiatrists along with the previously mentioned “disease” called dyscalculia.
ADHD will subsequently soon become a palpable disease called a neurosis when the child gets depressed and even suicidal if he is put down at every turn by teachers, parents, and his peers.
The only proper use for these drugs for a vast majority of kids — – as I have come to realize — – is that it will temporarily control the restless behavior.
If it works, it is not a “Ritalin deficiency”, but likely a magnesium, calcium, or vitamin B6 deficiency. I have learned from my naturopathic and herbal therapists that our topsoil is becoming deficient in several minerals. The farmers are putting nitrogen, phosphates, and potassium (NPK) on the soil and their plants grow and look healthy but magnesium, zinc, selenium and other valuable minerals are depleted.
At the height of the dust bowl, the US Department of Agriculture put out a “white paper” saying that the minerals in the top soil were deficient and people may have to supply their own with supplements to avoid sickness and problems like early aging, heart attacks, joint problems, and surliness.
The point seems to be that sometimes we cannot get everything we need for healthy living from eating foods from the store or maybe even from organic farms, although those will likely be better.
Then, on top of that, if we or our children are eating the “Standard American Diet” (SAD) our nutritional status will only be worse. If a person has even one cavity, he is flawed already, and it is a clue that other nasties are just around the corner.
Maybe, a small percent, like ten percent or less of “hyper” children may need the drugs to calm them, mainly because they have had some sort of injury to their nervous system that diet will not touch.
Many of those, however, can be still be salvaged with neurodevelopment therapy. I have seen the work of those therapists and know of the miracles they can perform. Homeopathy is a well-known and sometimes surprising type of treatment, that has saved many of these “throw away” children before they give up and go into crime for their kicks.
There are so many side effects from the stimulant drugs, I would recommend that the diet modifications, outlined elsewhere, should be tried first. These children realize they are not so bad and will even start to smile and laugh. It helped me. I was the class clown in the 6th grade, because the teacher did not know what to do with me besides making me the “humor editor” of the class newspaper.
Don’t give up on these children! Remember Edison, Sir Winston Churchill, and Einstein.
Excellent Web Sites for Further Information:
Be sure to “tune in” next week when our interview with Lendon Smith, MD continues.
Optimal Wellness Center:There is currently a lawsuit against the maker of Ritalin and a psychiatric group for conspiring to create an all-encompassing diagnostic criteria for ADD/ADHD, which some claim could be interpreted to include nearly every kid in the US. Do you have any opinion on this issue?
Lendon Smith, MD:I know little of what the lawsuit claims, but I understand that psychiatrists have added a number of “psychiatric diseases” to their list of diseases for which they can be compensated by the insurance companies. They are up to at least 400 now, I believe. They have even added such bizarre conditions such as “dyscalcula”, a condition of being poor in math.
I was a bed-wetter as a young child, and the psychiatric textbooks claim that it was because I hated my mother. The bed was soft and warm, like mom, and because I resented her (did I really?) I was paying her back for real or imagined putdowns. It was “Pee on you, Mom.” as the manifestation of this deep-seated hostility. I found out after a few years of this, if I did not drink milk, I did not wet the bed. I was not my mother; it was the mother cow. So much for psychiatry.
They do make things up.
They HAVEto find someone to blame.
Who is around that is an easy target? Mom
The same goes for ADD/ADHD. Almost all children so touched with this syndrome eventually get a bad self-image, as all they hear are derogatory comments and commands like “sit down” or “stop that”. Commands and questions like these are put-downs and tend to give a child a bad self-image. So the end result could have some psychiatric determinants.
When I started practice in 1950 there were a few thousand children in out country on “speed” or Ritalin for hyperactivity.
Now it is up to about 4 Million children a day getting Ritalin on school days.
The company keeps manufacturing the drugs because psychiatrists and pediatricians are prescribing them. The lawsuit might encourage doctors, parents, and teachers to look for some CAUSATIVE factors, such as nutritional deficiencies to explain the problem. It is not a disease.
Can we blame the government, or the “dust bowl” or the farmers for this careless handling of our topsoil? It used to be three feet thick. It is now down to an average of six inches.
OWC:Are there steps that parents can take, starting even during pregnancy to help reduce the risks of behavioral problems like ADD/ADHD?
Dr. Smith:A woman should not marry a man who is an incipient alcoholic (read: has hypoglycemic tendencies, a precursor to alcoholism), or has some of the obvious ADD symptoms and signs (excessively ticklish, restless, overreacts to stimuli), or is an obvious jerk and stupid, too. The meal at the wedding reception should have no booze for either wife or husband, and carrot cake.
She should start taking nutrients as soon as the couple decides to have a child — – if they can predict this sometimes unpredictable event. Folic acidis a must to start before conception. He needs zinc, and they both should be on essential fatty acids, magnesium, calcium, and the B complex.
Vitamin C, starting at 1,000 mg a day for the first three months and then moving up to 5,000 mg a day until delivery day, has been shown to provide a more care-free pregnancy, a baby with few allergies, and an increased chance of being able to breastfeed successfully. (Dr. Frederick Klenner)
She should aim to gain about 30 pounds during the pregnancy.
The baby is more likely to be healthy and free of allergies. She should not drink cow’s milk every day, if at all, and rotating the other ingredients of the diet would be important to prevent the possibility of allergies. No one should eat foods that come in packages.
Do not have sugar or white flour products in the house: someone will eat them!
Organically grown foods are better.
However, they still may not contain all the minerals needed for health. She should aim for breast feeding for the first year of the baby’s life at a minimum. A lactation expert can help plan for that activity.
If possible, a home birth is less traumatic than a hospital one. Nurse, nurse, nurse is the smart way to feed the baby. No solids for the first six to eight months and then maybe some steamed zucchini or homemade applesauce to start. One might wonder about the vaccines, which we now know can be factors in the production of neurological symptoms.
Love and limits are the rules for rearing a non-neurotic child.
Ear infections should not be treated with antibiotics, if possible, as their use may lead to overgrowth of the yeast, Candidiasis and dysfunction of the intestines. These infections are a give-away that the child is eating something to which he is sensitive or even allergic, like cow’s milk. (If the mother is drinking cow milk, those sensitizing proteins could be in her breast milk.)
There are safe natural methods of treating these infections. She can place a little vitamin C powder on her nipples every day and the baby will suck it off. The dose is about 100 mg of C per day per month of age: the six-month old would get 600 mgs a day. The dose would be 1,000 mg daily at one year and about 2,000 mg per day at age two, then decide how much daily for life after that age.
Preventing infections and the use of antibiotics should keep the baby’s intestines functioning optimally. The dysbiosis of the gut may lead to improper nutrient absorption and nutritional imbalances. (From Dr Billy Crook)
If the child shows any of the telltale signs of hyperactivity like ticklishness, overreaction to sights and especially sounds, they would lead the alert parents to suspect incipient ADD. Magnesium in the 300 to 500 mg amounts daily should help. Once the parents are shouting and scolding more than they are complimenting and rewarding the child, then some psychiatric screw-up may be on its way secondary to the neurologic or nutritional defect.
Parents should be able to say nice things to their child twice as often as they give commands or ask questions.
Be nice to your child, hyper or not. He/she is the one who will put you away in a nursing home some day.
- Bedwetting after age five years may be a clue about food sensitivities or low magnesium. (Magnesium can help the bladder muscles stretch and hold the required amount so the child may stay dry all night.)
- White spots on the nails are not a clue that the child has a lover; it is a sign of low zinc intake.
- Dry skin or eczema suggests low intake of essential fatty acids.
OWC:Is breastfeeding protective against ADD? If so, how is it protective?
Dr. Smith: No doubt about it.
Breastfeeding is protective in warding off the risk of developing ADD and a host of other problems.
The essential fatty acids and many other substances present are important for the development of the brain. The breastfed baby has a slightly higher IQ than the strictly bottle fed baby. Breastfed babies have fewer infections, and hence require fewer antibiotics than the bottle fed ones. As previously discussed, if antibiotics are used for every infection that comes along, the infant and child (and adult) is likely to develop the candida yeast infection in the intestines with its attendant problems of malabsorption or dysbiosis.
Also, the immune system does not learn anything; it is not strengthened when antibiotics are used. In addition, breastfed babies are more likely to develop a better set of jaws and optimally spaced teeth. (Dr. Weston Price.)
The benefits of breastfeeding are not limited to the substances in the milk itself. Closeness and bonding are an important part of growing up.
Babies breastfed are more likely to be secure — – not spoiled— -secure.
The best years of my life were spent in the arms of another man’s wife — – my mother.
OWC:What is your opinion of “Ferberization” of infants? (This is the allowing of infants to “cry it out” in their cribs)
Dr. Smith:I think that this concept sounds like an abomination of what parenting stands for. I understand this is what the Third Reich advocated, because in the 30s and 40s, the Nazi idea was to rear a tough Aryan race of children who would be obedient, used to stress, and learn to rise above the pain.
The Nazis had blue-eyed blonde true “Aryans” mate and reproduce, but the children were placed in nurseries with tough, no-nonsense nurses (like Elsa Koch) who “supervised” their care. The infants were only fed and changed at set intervals. Holding and cuddling was not allowed. The children thus treated — – or not treated — – in their infancy grew up to be stupid.
Love and cuddling conquers all.
If your baby cries, pick the poor thing up and try to find out what the matter is. Many people cannot believe that their baby could be hungry. You must remember that the stomach can empty itself in just an hour and a half. Assume that hunger is the cause. If the distressed little thing vomits, and then feels better, assume their is somethng wrong with the milk. It is most likely a sensitivity to cow milk.
Babies NEED people whom they can trust. They need to feel secure, and I might add, and a feeling that they are wanted.
OWC:What is your opinion of infants co-sleeping with their mother and/or parents?
Dr. Smith: William Sears in his writings and speeches advocates that infants sleep with their mothers. He even made a sling that the mother could wear so that the baby would always be near her and feel her motions and even hear her heartbeat, which would remind the baby of the wonderful life in the uterus.
Those wonderful, safe days of long ago; where are they now when we need them?
When babies sleep with or near their parents, especially mom, they are not being spoiled, they are being made to feel secure and accepted.
There were enough lights, sounds, and other stresses during childbirth that I would imagine that after birth, the poor kid must have a serious headache, at least. If he is a boy he might have a penis ache also, from the amputation of his foreskin. He needs all the comfort and warmth possible.
When we consider the rapid rate of growth in those first few weeks, the baby has to be fed frequently, and who best to satisfy that need? Mom, of course. I figured out how fast the baby was growing in those first few weeks. If we extend that growth curve straight up, and the baby continued to grow at the same rate, by the time he is 10 years old, he would be about 20 feet tall. He needs to be fed frequently and sleeping with mom allows this to happen during the night more easily for both mother and child.
The father should at least be “allowed” to change, cuddle, and find the lost pacifier under the bed. Let him know he is important in child rearing. He should even sing to his baby.
It would be helpful to have a crib-like device fastened to the adults’ bed somehow so the mother can easily slide the baby straight over to her nice warm bed.
OWC:What is your opinion of the Feingold Dietfor ADD? It seems to get a decent amount of attention. Do you think it is effective? Are there points you agree or disagree with?
Dr. Smith: About 30 years ago, I met the late Dr. Ben Feingold, an allergist in San Francisco. He had found that many people were sensitive to aspirin. They often developed asthma, nasal polyps, skin rashes and even irritability and odd behavior, including hyperactivity. When he had these patients, often adults, stop using aspirin, the symptoms, including surliness and hyperactivity disappeared.
That started the whole Feingold Association. He discovered that aspirin or salicylates were also in many foods, including citrus, some berries, and other fruits and some vegetables. Mothers of children with hyperactivity could tell when her child ate some of the forbidden foods. It certainly worked for some children.
I was on a panel of doctors talking to parents of these children, and asked him why he did not eliminate sugar while he was at it. Ben’s reply was “I bit off a little more than I could handle with the salicylate business.”
Eliminating salicylates still works for some. There are Feingold Associations in almost every city in the US.
Thanks Ben. You are one of our heroes.
Books Written by Lendon Smith:
- The Children’s Doctor – 1969
- Encyclopedia of Baby and Child Care – 1972
- New Wive’s Tales – 1974
- Improving Your child’s Behavior Chemistry – 1976
- Feed Your Kids Right – 1978
- Foods for Healthy Kids – 1980
- Feed Yourself Right – 1982
- Dr. Smith’s Low Stress Diet – 1984
- Dr. Smith’s Diet Plan for Teenagers – 1986
- Vitamin C as a Fundamental Medicine – 1988
- Hyper Kids Workbook – 1990
- Happiness is a Healthy Life – 1992
- Feed Your Body Right – 1994