Medication, dedication … or something else entirely? Why are so many of our kids unwell?

By Alive & Well

Last weekend I read an opinion piece in The Australian about the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation that children diagnosed with ADHD could be treated with the psycho-stimulant drug Ritalin from the age of 4.

via weheartit.comThe author, sociologist Frank Furedi, argued that “the targeting of preschoolers … is an integral part of a disturbing tendency to advocate medical and pharmaceutical intervention as a legitimate option for the management of childhood behaviour.”

He says that “parents throughout the Anglo-American world face considerable pressure to medicate their children,” instead of being supported to assert their authority.

On that score, I couldn’t agree more

However, Mr Furedi goes on to suggest that ADHD is just a medical label for run-of-the-mill bad behaviour: “a cultural redefinition of the normal existential problems of childhood” like fidgeting, excessive talking and inability to concentrate.

That’s where he loses me. There’s a big difference between a toddler who likes to chat and one who is genuinely unwell. And that’s what’s missing from the discussion (at least here in Australia).

When we think about these sorts of challenges – ADHD, autism, learning difficulties and so on – there’s a tendency to default to medication, or blame the parents. And maybe sometimes those responses are justifiable.

But in many cases, there’s something else

In Argentina, when a child presents with ADHD-like issues such as irritability or inability to sit, the first thing a paediatrician does is test their nutritional status and gut health.

When they do that, they’re essentially seeking to understand why the child might be behaving that way. Could it be parasites in their intestines? Could it be an imbalance in the gut? Could it be they’re eating food they’re allergic to, or absorbing too many toxic additives that have been banned in many European countries?

For many years now, studies have shown that up to 65% of children with ADHD have parasites, and up to 75% have Leaky Gut Syndrome.[1]

That means that for the majority of kids with ADHD, there’s a genuine underlying health issue that’s triggering and/or exacerbating these behaviours. And for some, as we heard from Dr David Carpenter from the University of Albany in New York this week, part of the problem is exposure to lead, mercury and PCBs.

Sure, sometimes a lack of parental authority might be a factor. But most of the time, for ADHD in particular, the problem is that our kids are actually unwell – and what they need is nourishing foods and supplementation, and a calm, supportive environment in which to heal.

In an era of fast food and even faster living, that’s sometimes a big ask. But before we look for solutions in the bottom of a pill bottle or dismiss the problem altogether, we need to try.

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1. Dr Michael R. Lyon, ‘Is your child’s brain starving?’, MD Mind Publishing, 2002