By Laura Ory
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, November 14, 2005
Students concerned about the side effects of their attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder medications may want to explore alternative treatments like changing their diets, a pediatrician said Thursday.
Dr. Sandy Newmark, a pediatric integrative medicine specialist, presented information about alternative methods to dealing with ADHD as part of the SALT Center Speaker Series.
Newmark said there is a lot of "hysteria" surrounding the use and misuse of ADHD medications, including Ritalin.
"They're not as good or as bad as people say," Newmark said.
Although ADHD medications may cause a decrease in appetite, they are not damaging to the liver, kidneys or brain as some may claim, and they are not addictive, Newmark said.
Complaints about ADHD medications causing a loss in creativity or a change in a patient's attitude are worrisome, Newmark said, and therefore such drugs should not be the first and only treatment for attention-deficit patients.
Other treatments include removing food coloring, preservatives, processed sugars and flour from the diet and replacing them with more protein, Newmark said.
These methods, along with adding omega-3, an essential fatty acid, and zinc to the diet, have had a profound impact on reducing ADHD symptoms, Newmark said.
Patty Zeigler, a systems and industrial engineering business manager at the UA, said she decided to remove all preservatives, food coloring and processed foods from her son's diet when he was diagnosed as "hyperactive" about 30 years ago.
Zeigler said her son's kindergarten teacher recommended he take medication but she decided to try changing his diet first.
"Three months later the teacher raved about what a difference the medication made," Zeigler said. "I didn't tell her he wasn't on it."
Homeopathy, which is based on taking smaller doses of a drug rather than the suggested amount, and cranio-sacral therapy, which uses touch to improve the functioning of the central nervous system, are other alternative methods for treating ADHD, Newmark said.
Ashley Klein, a learning specialist at the SALT Center, said she wasn't diagnosed with ADHD until she was a sophomore in college.
ADHD medications have helped Klein, but she believes that her diet and exercise habits still have an effect on her symptoms.
"Something that works for one person, may not work for others," said Klein, who works with students with ADHD and learning disabilities. "I do recommend that they try different approaches, but they should also talk to their doctor."