Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neuro-developmental disorder characterised by difficulty sustaining attention, hyperactivity-impulsivity or a combination of both. It is currently the most common neuro-developmental disorder of childhood and symptoms can persist into adulthood. These symptoms can cause difficulty at school, home, and work, or with friends. (1, 2)
ADHD comprises of a number of symptoms from mildly inattentive to disruptively agitated and can present differently in boys and girls. ADHD contains three subtypes:
- Predominantly inattentive type
- Predominantly hyperactive–impulsive type
- Combination type
A person with ADHD can have any combination or degree of these behaviours. (1, 2)
Diagnosis and Symptoms
ADHD is a diagnosis applied to children and adults who consistently display certain characteristic behaviours over a period of time. The most common core features include:
- distractibility (poor sustained attention to tasks)
- impulsivity (impaired impulse control and impaired delay of gratification)
- hyperactivity (excessive activity and physical restlessness)
In order to meet diagnostic criteria, these behaviours must be excessive, long-term, and pervasive. A crucial consideration is that the behaviours must create a real handicap in at least two areas of a person’s life, such as school, home, work, or social settings. These criteria set ADHD apart from the “normal” distractibility and impulsive behaviour of childhood, or the effects of the hectic and overstressed lifestyle prevalent in our society. (1, 2)
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) the symptoms of ADHD are broken up into those of inattention and those of hyperactivity or impulsivity.
Some symptoms of inattention include the following: often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes; often has difficulty sustaining attention to tasks or play; often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly; often fails to follow instructions carefully and to complete tasks; trouble organizing tasks and activities; often avoids, dislikes or is reluctant to do tasks that require mental effort over a long period of time; losing or forgetting important things; easily distracted; often forgetful in daily activities. (3)
Some symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity include: often fidgets with or taps hands or feet, or squirms in seat; leaves seat when they are expected to remain seated; runs or climbs inappropriately; often unable to take part in play or leisure activities quietly; “on the go” as if driven by a motor; often talks excessively; often blurts out answers before the question is completed; may often have difficulty waiting their turn; interrupts or intrudes on others. (3)
Please note that the exact nature and severity of ADHD symptoms varies from person to person.
Who can be affected by ADHD
According to Forbes Health, August 2023 statistics, approximately 129 million children and adolescents between the ages of 5 to 19 years old, worldwide, have ADHD. More than 366 million adults worldwide have ADHD as of 2020. Boys are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD with approximately 11.9% of boys ages 3 to 17 diagnosed with ADHD currently, compared to 5.5% of girls.
Approximately 35 – 78% of children with ADHD will continue to have significant problems with ADHD symptoms and behaviours as adults, which impacts their lives, their jobs, the family dynamics and their social relationships. (4)
Causes and aggravating factors of ADHD
While the causes and risk factors for ADHD are not clear, recent studies link genetic factors, environmental factors (heavy metal toxicity) and problems with the central nervous system during development. (1, 2)
ADHD can run in families and genes which influence neurotransmitter activity in certain parts of the brain can also be genetic (2). DNA testing can be helpful to determine underlying genetic factors contributing to ADHD symptoms.
Considerable research links ADHD with high heavy metal levels, especially lead, aluminium, cadmium, mercury, manganese and copper. Testing children with ADHD for heavy metals should form part of a holistic assessment and treatment course. It should be noted that heavy metal urine testing should be done as a challenge test or else a false negative result may be seen. (1, 2, 5)
There are many research studies linking food hypersensitivities to hyperactivity and other ADHD symptoms. One study found that eliminating food components by using the Oligoantigenic Diet leads to reduction of ADHD symptoms for more than two-thirds of patients. (6) Individualised dietary advice should be dispensed, based on the results of testing and the published research information related to diet and ADHD. A number of factors need to be taken into consideration for the diet; targeting specific nutrient deficiencies, removing specific dietary indiscretions and toxins and eliminating individual.
Our approach to ADHD
If you have already been diagnosed with ADHD or suspect that this might be a problem for you or your child this is how we can assist.
Your first appointment will include a Neurotherapy Assessment which is used to analyse your brainwave activity. This assessment can determine levels of brain fatigue, levels of focus and attention, depression, anxiety and unusual activity of the brainwaves. Information from the assessment helps to doctor to know all the brain factors that are impacting on your ability to focus and concentrate, as well as the best treatment for these factors. After the assessment the doctor will do a full history and case taking as well as any necessary physical examination.
Any necessary blood, heavy metal, food intolerance or DNA testing will need to be done before the doctor then recommends the best protocol to assist with your specific needs, requirements and symptoms. This protocol will include not only natural medications but also advice on any dietary, sleep, screen time, and exercise adjustments that need to be made.
Once treatment has been started, follow up consultations will be arranged at regular intervals to monitor the response to treatment and lifestyle adjustments and make any necessary changes along the way.
A word of caution
Complimentary treatments such as homeopathy, dietary changes, herbal remedies, supplementation, and the like are often tried by parents and patients. Unfortunately, the growing over-the-counter supplement industry touts treatments apparently designed to treat ADHD, but that are inadequately formulated and therefore not effective. Although some products may be legitimately formulated and tested, many are not.
Alternative treatments are most effective when prescribed by a trained, knowledgeable and experienced practitioner with access to the latest research information on these modalities as they relate to ADHD. Alternative treatments should also rather be prescribed according to each individual’s characteristic symptoms. Possible causes, contributing factors, obstacles to cure, the individual symptoms (mental, emotional and physical), lifestyle and age of the patient all need to be considered when developing a treatment plan.
- Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, Accessed on 11 October 2023
- Mayo Clinic, Accessed on 11 October 2023
- Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, Accessed on 11 October 2023
- Forbes Health, Accessed on 11 October 2023
- National Library of Medicine; Min-Jing Lee et. al; Heavy Metals’ Effect on Susceptibility to Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: Implication of Lead, Cadmium, and Antimony
- National Library of Medicine: Individual Behavioral Reactions in the Context of Food Sensitivites in Children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder before and after an Oligoantigenic Diet; Elena Yorgidis et. al