How Can We Help Kids With ADHD? Holistic Help For Distracted Kids

As a mother and a health practitioner I field a lot of questions about ADHD (attention deficit/ hyperactivity disorder).  People wonder if their child should be formally evaluated, if they should give medications, and are there any alternative treatments for ADHD. I believe that attention challenges are likely caused by a variety of sources.  So, unfortunately, there is not one thing that will “fix it.”  However, there are some non-medical ways that may help children to be more successful in school and home.

As a parent of a child with ADHD I understand how overwhelming it is, some days, to simply get out the door and off to school.  I also understand how easy it is to get anxious about changes. For example, changing your child’s diet.  Hopefully we can create a balanced diet without making our lives out of balance? Can we?

I am going to share just a few supportive approaches. I use the word supportive, rather than alternative, for a reason. It is essential to have a care team that may include several health professionals; a psychologist, your pediatrician, an occupational therapist, a pediatric psychiatrist, the school, and others.

Some of these approaches may seem difficult, or even impossible. Living with a hyperactive kid is difficult enough, right? But, consider how much easier life could be, if your family could get through a couple of tough months of change, but the result was a happier, more balanced child.

Before I talk strategy, it must be said that while I LOVE to help support kids with ADHD, I do not treat ADHD.  Nor am I anti-medication either.  However, we all can agree that it is desirable to reduce or avoid medications whenever possible.  That said, even a child on medications can benefit from dietary strategies. And, while medications can help to manage the difficult behaviors, there are non-medical approaches that can address some of the causes of AHDH.

I am not going to give much explanation of how these interventions work, each topic merits entire articles and studies of their own.  Please use this information as a starting point for learning more. And, please do contact me with your questions or for support.

FEINGOLD DIET  (see  Feingold.org, or the book Why Can’t My Child Behave?)

The Feingold Diet has been around since the early 1970’s.  Very briefly, the Feingold Diet eliminates certain food additives, artificial colors, artificial sweeteners and certain fruits. One of the best things about Feingold is that YOU DON’T HAVE TO FOLLOW IT FOREVER! Many parents report seeing changes, even dramatic changes, in their child’s behavior in days.  After 8 weeks avoiding the restricted foods/ ingredients you add them back, one at a time, observing for reactions.  You may find a just a few things that exacerbate your child’s attention issues, and avoiding them may offer a little relief for everyone.

GLUTEN FREE/CASEIN FREE DIET

There are several theories about gluten and casein. One of the issues is the opiate-like effect of these foods on the brain.  That’s right, opiate-like. The proteins from gluten [gliadorphin] and casein [casomorphin] are the culprits.  They react with opiate receptors in the brain, thus mimicking the effects of opiate drugs like heroin and morphine.  That may explain why some kids seem “addicted” to mac and cheese, or pizza.  What does this have to do with ADHD? It may be the rise and fall of these opiate-receptor stimulating compounds cause irritability and poor cognition.  If your child is one that cannot seem to follow two-step directions, or has meltdowns that remind you of Jekyll and Hyde, this approach may be a good one for you.  It is important to remove BOTH gluten and casein, and it may be important to taper off slowly, or you could really unleash a monster when withdrawal symptoms begin!

DIGESTIVE ENZYMES

If totally eliminating gluten and casein seems impossible you might look as digestive enzymes. As an enzyme nutrition practitioner, I recommend digestive enzymes to EVERYONE who comes into my office. There are certain specific ones that can help break down gluten and casein in the digestive system.  My experience has been great with enzymes when we are also careful with diet, AND remember to take them!

CHIROPRACTIC

See how this child’s head and shoulders tilt to the left? The horizon makes it obvious. Kids do not usually complain of back pain. Posture is a much better indicator that would be chiropractic may be beneficial.

Last but not least, consider chiropractic. The chiropractic approach is supportive to the child with ADHD due to its balancing effect on the nervous system.  All functions of the body are controlled by the nervous system.  It is easy to see how kids can get out of alignment with sports, slips and falls, slumping over tablets, etc.  Kids do not typically complain of back pain, but pain is not a good indicator for kids.  Look at your child from the back. Look at the heights of their shoulders and ears, are they unlevel? Look at the symmetry of movement when they walk. do their hips and arms move symmetrically? Often even the untrained eye can see that things are out of alignment. My kids get adjusted regularly and they look forward to it. I love seeing children in my office! They are fun to work with, they heal quickly and I love to watch them grow.

These are just a few of many approaches which can support your child, whether they are taking medicine or not.  There is much, much more to look at; food allergies, digestive health, nutrient deficiencies, sensory issues, chemical sensitivities.  A good member of your ADHD support team will not only be able to help choose what laboratory tests or interventions may be helpful, but will also direct you to resources, make appropriate referrals and be willing to cooperate with your child’s other caregivers.

There is nothing I wouldn’t do for my kids to help them be as happy and healthy as they can be. As a parent, I am sure you feel the same. Don’t forget, you are not alone. Those of us that have kids with ADHD can help each other, to share what we’ve learned or to just to say “I know what you’re going through.”

Wishing you Health and Happiness,

Dr. Rebecca Gould DC

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TGIF!!!!! Again!!!!!

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Having fun is a top priority for me. I love parties, holidays, birthdays, snow days . . . You name it! But, in order to keep my indulgences in line with my health goals I need to be reasonable about how and when I kick up my heels.

A piece of cake or a few adult beverages will not have a significant effect on your long term health. The most important predictors of long term health, more important than genetics, are your habits. Many of us are in the habit of finding frequent reasons to celebrate with food and drink. And sometimes we wait to start “getting healthy” until after Mother’s Day, or school lets out, or until after Memorial Day, or until . . . But, what if you could reel in the ways you celebrate, and your justifications for treating yourself? Would that help you move toward what you really want for your health in the long run?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on celebrating!

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Are You Willing to do What Successful People Do?

Effective-Ways-to-Create-Healthy-HabitsAs a health coach I occasionally work with clients who move toward their goals like an arrow toward a bulls-eye. More often however, there are times in the journey to health when people really battle to stick with their health program. Why is that? What is it that separates the two groups?

I can identify certain qualities and patterns in my clients and colleagues who have been successful in achieving their heath goals and the health coaches I have met who have achieved long-term health and ultrahealth:

Successful people have a strong and detailed image of what they want to achieve.

Nearly always, in the process of getting healthier, the initial momentum toward health is geared toward getting out of pain, physical or mental. Focusing on getting out of pain is a limited mindset and will only carry you so far, because the will to stay on track gets smaller as the pain gets smaller. The most successful people I work with do not focus on their pain. They have a big, clearly defined future outcome. If you are struggling to stay on track it will be helpful to examine where it is you are hoping to go, and in what ways EXACTLY life will be improved when you get there.

Successful people do not plan for failure, but they do plan for Very Special Circumstances.

My most successful clients are consistently maintaining a high confidence level. If they are going to a wedding or a big holiday is coming up they do not plan to fail.  I am not saying that they stay on their health plan 100% every day. Nobody does that! But, suppose their health program says “No Cake.” They may plan to have a piece of cake in a Very Special Circumstance.  Successful people plan when and how much they will deviate from their health program. Planning a deviation turns a slice of cake from a mess-up to an acceptable treat. What do many of us do after we “mess up?” We really beat ourselves up – and then that drives us to really go off the rails. So, don’t mess up, PLAN.

Successful People Don’t Make Excuses

Everyone makes mistakes; failures to plan ahead, poor choices, distractions from priorities.  However, successful people do not spend a lot of time justifying mistakes. Mistakes are learning experiences. Excuses do not change the outcome of a mistake, except to maybe make you feel better, which can make is easier to have the same misstep again.

Successful People’s Goals Are Woven Into Their Daily Routines

Routines, routines, routines. I would challenge any of us to identify a successful person who does not have strong routines surrounding their area of excellence.  The activities that support your healthy choices need must be on the schedule FIRST. A healthy routine cannot be made cramming your workout or trip to the grocery store in while you are scrambling to do other things. Is it daunting to imagine scheduling yourself to exercise or meditate or preparing healthy food? Try setting just one appointment for self-care this week. As you add healthy routines, track your progress. Just as it is essential to have a detailed vision of the future you desire, it is also essential to review progress as part of your routine.

Successful people are not afraid to fail

Simply put, you must be sometimes in the position to fail or you will never have the ability to succeed.  Fear of failure is the shortest route to not-even-gonna-try. One mental experiment you might try is the “What’s the worst possible outcome?” Sometimes the worst case possibility, unlikely as it is, isn’t even that scary.

We sometimes avoid striving to be better because we are afraid it will be “too hard.” There’s a choice between the difficulties of adopting the mindset of success, better habits and routines OR the difficulty of living with the things that you wish were better about yourself, which difficulty do you choose?

Whatever the path you are following, winding or straight, feel the joy in your journey, keep learning and always be kind to yourself!

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I love what I do!

I am so fortunate to have a wonderful vocation that allows me to be a force for good in peoples’ lives.  Here are a few of my favorite things about my work as a chiropractor and enzyme nutrition practitioner:

Explaining chiropractic. As a chiropractor and enzyme nutrition practitioner I specialize in the restoration and maintenance of health.  The goal and purpose of a chiropractic adjustment is to remove interference in the body’s nerve system.  When interference is removed the body can do what it should do naturally; Self-heal and self-regulate. Chiropractic, when explained in a simple way, is something that most people understand intuitively.

Watching the changes. Sometimes improvement in health is instant and very noticeable, but sometimes the changes are more subtle.  I love it when a client says they notice that they have been sleeping better, or have less fatigue, or can more easily feel when their body is out of balance.

Listening. It is a privilege to be able to help people achieve their goals, and I make sure I have plenty of time to listen to my clients’ stories.  I want to fully understand what clients’ concerns are, but even more importantly, I want to know how improving their health will make their lives better.

Working with kids. In many cases children require only small adjustments or small dietary changes to experience big improvements in their health.  Working with kids is awesome!  In children the amazing power of the body to heal can be seen most easily.

Teaching. My free community health classes are always a fun way for me to share information that helps people to live healthier lives.  I have also helped future chiropractors learn enzyme nutrition at Logan College, a role that I was truly honored to fulfill.

Learning. In addition to my degree in chiropractic I have spent many, many hundreds of hours studying health and nutrition.  I study  current research articles on a weekly basis and travel far and wide to attend seminars throughout the year.  I do this because I am dedicated to continually developing my knowledge and clinical excellence as a practitioner to serve my clients in the best possible way.

Creating hope. I have had the wonderful experience of helping people who had difficult health situations who thought no one could help them, or who were told that their health concerns were “all in their head.”  I have years of experience assisting clients with difficult challenges, I study and research to be the best I can be, and I have a team of experts a phone-call away.  It is a wonderful transition to see despair become hope, and to guide hope into action, and to see action create changes for better health.

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Don’t Bring Me Down!

Who do you have in your live that supports you to make healthy decisions? I talk to many women, some men too, but mostly women, who want to embrace better health habits. Do their husbands/partners support them? Cheer them on? Sometimes they do not. Some people see their life partner as a barrier to getting healthy. That stinks! Here are some of the sabotage strategies I have heard about from my clients.
  • Scare – “Hmmmm, water aerobics. My aunt’s friend tried that and she nearly drowned!”
  • Ignore – “Oh, I forgot you were trying to eat healthy when I brought home your favorite ice cream, which I did because I love you.”
  • Boycott – “Fine, but I am NOT eating that rabbit food!”
  • Ridicule – “It’s just like the time you took up Tae Bo! I’ll make room for your new juicer in the attic next to your Abdominizer.
  • Negate – “I looked that up, and there was a very negative online review.” Even His Holiness The Dalai Lama, kittens and rainbows have negative online reviews. A negative review should not be the excuse for rejecting something for which there is overwhelmingly positive evidence.
  • Enable- “It’s just a couple beers, it’s not like you have an actual drinking problem.”
  • Tempt – “Just have a few bites of this bacon-wrapped burrito, I’ll split it with you.”

So, where does that leave you. Do you need a partner? Someone to support you to change for the better? I say, get someone who is trying to get healthier too. Phone a friend! Go to a meeting! Get a therapist! Hire a life coach! Maybe when you set an example of health that partner of yours will be inspired. But don’t be held back from your AWESOMENESS! It’s your body and your life.

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Habits of Health

Optimal Health is a journey taken one step, one habit, and one day at a time.” — Dr. Wayne S. Andersen

A week or so ago I was looking at Facebook, as I am wont to do, and my attention was caught by an image of a masculine hand with a fire-engine red right thumbnail. And the post said if I painted my thumbnail red it could save my life. I thought this might be a variation on a rubber wrist-band campaign, but I clicked on it and I think my life has actually been changed. You see, the creator of the video, Steve Babcock, found himself habitually engaged in the super dangerous practice of using his smart phone while driving. As he states on his website “Inspired by my daughter’s technique of tying a piece of yarn around her finger to remember something for school, I decided to paint my thumbnail red so every time I picked up my phone from behind the wheel, all I would see was a big red thumb reminding me to put the phone away. As silly as it sounds, it totally worked. And now my hope is that it’ll work for everyone else.”

Nice!

I did not even have to paint my thumbnail red. When I pick up the phone in the car I think about Steve’s video and I put it down. Or leave it in my purse altogether. No text or call is so urgent that I should risk my life, or anyone else’s. I have thought about the video posting often because he says, of using the phone while driving, that it was just a bad habit he had gotten into. Just a bad habit. Sounds pretty innocuous, but bad habits can kill you.

In his book, The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg discusses the science of habits. In an interview with Duhigg on NPR he discussed his own frustration with habits. “I’m successful at a lot of things. . .And yet there were things in my life that I felt like I couldn’t control, eating for instance. I would just snack all the time. When I wanted to make myself go exercise in the morning, I couldn’t get myself out of bed to go running. I would come up with excuse after excuse. And it drove me crazy because if I’m so good at some things, why don’t I have control over these small little patterns?”

Sound familiar? For most people I work with it is a struggle to do what we desire to do: Create the habits that will sustain us and improve our health and our lives.

Something becomes a habit, in part, because repeated behaviors create a synaptic pathway in the brain that gets stronger with more repetition. Most undesired habits have an immediate up-side, pleasure. For example, the pleasure value of playing video games until 2:00 o’clock in the morning. In the moment, immediate pleasure outweighs the theoretical value of getting a good night’s sleep. Not that the value of a good night’s sleep is theoretical, but in the moment the immediate pleasure is a fact and the outcome of adequate sleep is a concept. The immediate pleasure of the third scoop of ice cream outweighs the concept that poor diet contributes to overweight and obesity. The immediate pleasure of checking or sending a text message in the car is greater than the abstract concepts that 11 teens die every day in texting-related car accidents and it is likely that 4,000 people will die this year in distracted driving accidents.Bad habits create a synaptic pathway tat is like a rut in your brain. And it is hard to get out of a rut.

So, understanding the difficulty of giving up an in-the-moment pleasure for a more healthful ideal, how can we effectively adopt the habits of health?

One step can be to take an honest assessment: What habits you desire to adopt and what habits do you choose to break. Sometimes these come in pairs. “Create a habit of morning exercise” goes with “eliminate the snooze-button habit.” Most people will find it best to change habits by focusing on moving toward something you they want (more optimal fitness) and some will be more motivated by moving away from that which you do not want (being out-of-shape).

For a habit you wish to adopt Duhigg suggests finding a reward.The reward does not need to be big and it does not need to make sense in context with the habit you seek to adopt. In the NPR interview he discusses a study in which, in part, people rewarded themselves for exercising with a small piece of chocolate. Chocolate seems to go against the intended goal, but the small reward can help to reinforce the good behavior and create a a new synaptic pathway, associating exercise with pleasure.

Another technique to creating a new, healthy habit is using a cue. For example, always setting your workout clothes out the night before, or having an regularly appointed time or group with whom to exercise.

Yet another technique for improving health through our habits is by creating a vision board. A vision board is a visual representation for what you want your life to be like. It is a collection of magazine photos, words, quotes, and other inspiring things that you put in a place where you will see it on a daily basis. Your vision board can be made to inspire you to better health habits, financial success, career satisfaction, anythign you want. A healthy habits vision board can serve as a daily reminder fo your goal for a healthier future.

I would love to hear your habit stories. Is there a habit you have struggled to break or adopt and succeeded? How did you do it? Share your story on our Facebook page.

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Secret Sugar – Not Just In Your Valentine’s Day Candy

Have you gotten off the Sugar high or the winter holidays yet? I hope so, because it is almost time for Valentine’s Day. We all know that too much sugar is bad for our health. Over consumption of sugar can lead to tooth decay, digestive stress, poor immune function, diabetes and will trigger went gain (and the many, many health problems that come from overweight and obesity.)

So, you may be planning to avoid eating so much chocolate this Valentines Day. That’s great. There are also sources of hidden sugar in your diet. Moderation of all sources of sugar will help you to move toward optimal health.
So what are some of these “hidden” sugars?
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Yogurt. Ok, I have harped on yogurt before, but, I still see people eating it so I guess my work is not done.  Plain yogurt has about 12 grams of sugar in the form of lactose, or milk sugar, in a serving. For people who tolerate dairy well, plain yogurt in moderation can be a fine addition to the diet and may be beneficial by providing healthy bacteria to the digestive tract. Once that yogurt is flavored, however, all the heath benefits go out the window. I was at the grocery store yesterday getting some plain, organic yogurt and I saw Almond Coco Loco Greek yogurt. Yikes! I know someone out there is thinking this 21 gram sugar bomb  is a healthy snack. That’s five sugar cubes plus a little more. These yogurts are desserts, not healthy snacks,  and should be consumed as moderately as a dessert or, perhaps, not at all.
Bread, pasta, cereal, crackers. Everything that you eat that your body will use for energy will be turned into glucose by the body. Glucose is the energy currency of the body, it makes your engine run. Carbohydrate rich foods like bread, especially white bread, are converted into glucose by the body quickly compared to, for example, meat or green vegetables. So, even if something does not taste sweet if it rapidly converts into glucose, aka sugar, in the body that food is part of your overall sugar consumption.
Sports drinks. Very few of us really need a sports drink to “replace electrolytes” after a work out. We just don’t. And sometimes we choose a sports drink because we think it is a healthier choice than a soda. It isn’t. A typical sports drink contains five teaspoons of sugar in a twelve ounce serving, and the servings are often three times that size. So find an alternative way to hydrate. But not with cranberry or orange juice. Cranberry juice cocktail has an amazing 12 teaspoons of sugar in a twelve ounce serving, and orange juice, in a tie with Coke, has ten.
Coffee drinks. Of course we know that a caramel mocha cafe latte with whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles has a bunch of sugar in it. What about the more modest cousin to those confectionary coffee drinks, the simple cafe latte with skim milk? As a college student I worked at a coffee shop and I recall making lattes with espresso and steamed milk, I would not have thought it had sugar in it. A survey of a couple of nationwide coffee shops show their unsweetened and unflavored medium non-fat lattes to have between 18 and 21 grams of sugar. Say what? As it happens, milk has about 13 grams of sugar per cup. And some coffee chains add a touch of sweetener to their “unsweetened” drinks. Same goes for soy milk that they use in most coffee shops, at least 13 grams of sugar in an 8 ounce serving.   If you’re cutting back on sugar you’d be better off with regular drip coffee and a splash of half and half.
Salad dressing. Another source of hidden sugar is salad dressing. There are sweet dressings, like raspberry vinaigrette, for which the sugar content would not surprise you. Even non-sweet dressings, like Ranch, have sugar in them. Reduced fat dressings can have five times more sugar than the regular versions because in order to make the non-fat version as similarly appealing as the full-fat version the manufacturers up the sugar. Read the nutrition label, you might be surprised. One way to cut back on sugar is to make your own dressing, of course. Try a simple oil and vinegar dressing with lemon or spices for flavor. When you do use prepared dressings use them sparingly. It is easy give yourself a larger portion than you intended. If you use less and toss your salad well you will be happy with the result.
Granola bars. Even If you have been passing up the chocolate chip granola bars and choosing the more austere oats and nuts varieties you are likely getting a minimum of 11 grams of sugar. A clif bar has over 20 grams, a power bar has 23 and the “no-added sugar” Lara bar has 14-20 depending on the variety. Granola bars have been a snack mainstay in our house in the past, mainly for the kids.  Portable, shelf stable, kid-friendly. However, we are kicking the granola bar habit. Some of our better on-the-go snack choices are almonds and fresh fruit, hard boiled eggs, low-fat string cheese or celery and sunflower seed butter. Theses snacks are not as quick as grabbing a granola bar but they are easy enough and the kids are just as happy.
A Happy and Healthy Valentine’s Day to all!
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