Controversial Treatments for Children With Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
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By Sam Goldstein, Ph.D.
Megavitamins and Mineral Supplements
The use of high doses of vitamins and minerals, including currently marketed anti- oxidants such as vitamins A and E, pycnogenol and ginkgo biloba are based on the precepts of orthomolecular psychiatry. According to this theory, some people have a genetic abnormality which results in increased requirements for vitamins and minerals. The anti-oxidants are marketed as substances that remove "free radicals" from the blood stream which are hypothesized to cause learning, attention and behavioral problems as well as accelerate aging.
In the early 1970's it was claimed that treating hyperactive and learning disabled children with high doses of vitamins could decrease these problems. Proponents of this theory also claim that learning and behavior difficulties are also due to deficiencies in minerals such as potassium and sodium as well as trace elements such as zinc and copper.
Although vitamins are synonymous with health leading to an intuitive appeal to this approach, there is a lack of scientific evidence to support that these additives exert a significant difference in the lives of children with AD/HD. Although these substances are natural which lends an aura of safety, excessive use of these substances can in fact cause health problems.
Anti-Motion Sickness Medicine
Advocates of this theory believe that AD/HD is caused by problems in the inner ear system. They believe that there is a relationship between AD/HD and problems with coordination and balance. This theoretical relationship is thought to reflect a dysfunction in the inner ear system since this system plays a major role in balance and coordination. To treat AD/HD, a mixed array of medications, including anti-motion sickness medications and several vitamin like substances are recommended. Using these medications, proponents of this approach have claimed a success rate in excess of 90%. Unfortunately, these results are unpublished and not subject to verification.
This theory is not consistent with what is currently known about AD/HD. There is no body of research that supports a link between the inner ear system and attentional processes. Anatomically and physiologically there is no reason to believe that the inner ear system is involved in attention and impulse control in other than marginal ways. In the single controlled study of this theory, researchers evaluated the use of anti-motion sickness medication to treat developmental reading disorders. The results failed to support the theory. This approach to treating AD/HD is inconsistent with current knowledge and is not supported by research findings.
Candida albicans is a type of yeast which lives in the human body. Normally yeast growth is kept in check by a strong immune system and by friendly bacteria in the body. When the immune system is weakened or when friendly bacteria are killed by antibiotics, candida can overgrow. This may lead to the vaginal yeast infection known as candidiasis and less commonly in infections of the skin, nails, and mouth.
Those who support this model believe that toxins produced by yeast overgrowth weaken the immune system. This makes the body susceptible to many illnesses, including AD/HD and other psychiatric disorders. The treatment program is designed to discourage the growth of candida in the body. This two-pronged approach includes the use of anti- fungal medication such as nystatin and a low sugar diet. Other aspects of the treatment approach include an elimination diet to rule out food allergies and the use of vitamin and mineral supplements.
Although it is recognized that candida can cause infections of the vagina, mouth, and skin, there is little evidence to support the idea that it also causes the host of other illnesses listed by advocates of this approach. Little evidence is provided to support these theories. Instead, anecdotal data and testimonials are offered as proof that the approach is effective. The theory is not supported by evidence and is not suggested as a helpful treatment for AD/HD.
This article originally appeared on Dr. Sam Goldstein's website in 2000, samgoldstein.com, and is reprinted here with permission.