Diet, Allergy and Nutrition in ADHD and Autism

Hyperactive Children's Support Group - June 2001

Dr Neil Ward, Senior Lecturer in Analytical Chemistry at Surrey University, opened the conference with a run down of the common symptoms manifested by hyperactive, ADHD and autistic infants and children, and the malfunctions which might be involved: genetic, enzyme, endocrine, immune system, multi allergy, nutritional deficiency and diet - the only area not to have been medically studied.

Nutritional supplementation normally focuses on EFAs, B vitamins, zinc, chromium, copper, iron, magnesium, calcium, amino acid chelates and flavenoids. Dr Ward also pointed out that many ADHD children were zinc deficient and that tartrazine causes a huge output of urinary zinc.

He deplored the increased use of Ritalin, a habit forming amphetamine with many similar properties to cocaine. (Up to 20% of children in certain US schools are on Ritalin.)

Brenda O'Reilly, the founder of Autism Unravelled, described the work done on sulphation in Birmingham by Rosemary Waring. Lack of sulphates in the gut can prevent the proper passage of food, and lead to a leaky gut. Added digestive enzymes (of which Secretin is one) may stimulate the release of pancreatic fluids and improve absorption.

Brenda also described how a blockage or constipation may cause runny diarrhoea around the blockage, and toxic residues in the gut. High dose supplementation can be very effective but if there is a serious bowel infection and a blockage, nutritional supplements could ferment in the bowel causing further toxification. This might explain why such supplementation can also be very unsuccessful.

Finally Brenda pointed out that child migraineurs and older ADHD children were both affected by artificial sweeteners and orange, and that work done 15 years ago assessing the sensitivities of ADHD children, although it did not include sweeteners used in toothpaste or perfumes used in household products, was still valid: 89% reacted to colourings, 72% to flavourings, 60% to MSG, 45% to all synthetic additives, 50% to cows milk, 60% to chocolate, 40% to orange.

Dr Brian McDonough, a GP with a special interest in Nutritional Medicine, suggested that ADHD stemmed from a genetic predisposition combined with environmental triggers. ADHD children appeared to have slower brain activity (sluggish activity in the frontal lobes) due to a lack of dopamine and noradrenaline.

He described how the gastrointestinal tract has as many neurons as the spinal cord and how MSG and Aspartame travel, not via the blood, but via the gut/brain axis.

He explained the importance of Essential Fatty Acids in the structure of the brain and eyes, especially for the developing foetus, and suggested that ADHD children may not convert EFAs properly. He also pointed out that boys need 3 times more EFAs than girls and that symptoms of deficiency include rough skin on thighs, buttocks and inner arms and hard ear wax.

Dr Clive Jones, Hon. Clinical Research Fellow in Psychiatry at University College London, pointed out that waiting lists for ADHD consultants currently ran at 15 months and no support was offered meantime. He described the rejection and low self esteem felt by older ADHD sufferers which in teenage and early adulthood can often lead to alcoholism and drug addiction.

Diet & Autism - Marilyn le Breton

As part of this conference Marilyn le Breton described her success with her son, Jack, and a casein, gluten, MSG & Aspartame free diet. (Her book, Diet Intervention and Autism - A Practical Guide - Published by Jessica Kingsley @ £12.95 describes their regime and progress in detail.)

Marilyn suggested that the peptide breakdown of gluten and casein in autistic children is not properly completed. The resulting peptides, gluteomorphine and caseomorphine, pass through leaky gut walls into the blood stream - effectively making autistic children morphine addicts. This theory would explain both the ‘drugged’ behaviour of autistic children, their very high pain threshold, and their screaming fits when deprived of their next ‘hit’ of morphine producing casein or gluten proteins.

Autistic children also appear to be hypersensitive to certain additives, including excitotoxins such as MSG and Aspartame, which are tolerated by normal children.

Rigorous exclusion of all four, in certain children, can produce extraordinary results.

First published in 2001

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