ADHD/ADD is one of the most common neurobiological disorders that affect children. It is characterized by problems such as lack of attentiveness, lack of task completion, impulsivity and hyperactivity. The exact cause for this condition is unknown, but likely is a combination of factors, individualized to that patient’s environment, physiology, and genetic predisposition. The incidence is approximately 3%-5% of young children. Though symptoms may start as young as 3 years of age, the diagnosis is generally made after the child enters school, around the age of 7.
The common mainstream medicine approach to ADD/ADHD is quite simple. You first get a diagnosis that is often done solely through parent/teacher questionnaires, then cognitive therapies are recommended, and then medication is generally prescribed. Unfortunately, medications often don’t work for children and can come with harsh side effects making other symptoms such as anorexia, anxiety, or tic-like behaviors appear. In addition, many ADD/ADHD medications can cause nutrient depletions over time, which can make the ADD/ADHD worse, in addition to creating more systemic problems.
What we believe is missing from that treatment paradigm is an effort to evaluate the biological root cause of what is making a child have ADD/ADHD symptoms in the first place. Our integrative and functional medicine approach to this diagnosis is different. We evaluate:
- Genetics – Often children with ADD/ADHD have problems in their genetic methylation pathways, which can lead to dysfunction in how neurotransmitters are synthesized. By identifying a child’s particular set of weaknesses, known as single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs, we can target nutraceutical interventions to support their methylation.
- Gut/Brain Connection – Many leading scientists now call our guts are “second brains” or enteric nervous systems due to the direct connection from our brain via the vagus nerve to our guts. This bi-directional connection serves as an information highway, so that the health of our gut has a direct impact on the health of our brain. Unhealthy guts can lead to unhealthy brains, so we feel like it is essential to evaluate and manage gut related issues when managing ADD/ADHD.
- Metabolic/Endocrine Pathology and other Toxicities – Children with ADD/ADHD can often be misdiagnosed if they have other contributing factors such as anemia, metal toxicities, and/or thyroid disease. Our evaluation and management of ADD/ADHD also take into account these biological systems of the body, giving attention to the interconnectedness of other systems outside of the brain.
- Nutrition- Optimizing nutrition is more than just eating more fruits and vegetables. In a perfect scenario, a child would get all of their nutrients from whole, non-toxic, grass fed and chemical free foods grown in nutrient rich soils. Unfortunately, this is nearly impossible to do, especially with picky eaters and the prevalence of processed food laden with artificial dyes. We will look to how specific diet changes can improve your child’s ADD/ADHD symptoms.
- Pharmacogenetics- We are not all or nothing practitioners. While we evaluate and eliminate any potential physiological causes for ADD/ADHD, a small percentage of children can benefit from short-term medication therapy, especially when you are working on correcting their underlying causes. Pharmacogenetic testing helps guide a clinician’s choice of medication based on that patients genetics. When you understand how a patient might respond to a medication based on their own genetic makeup, you can chose medications that are more a personalized and less harmful fit for that patient.
- Cognitive and Behavioral Therapies- We believe in a holistic approach to ADD/ADHD and this includes other psychotherapies that we do not offer in our clinic. However, we have a referral network built on like-minded practitioners that know the value of our work, and in combination to theirs, can lead to the best outcome for the child. We can write prescriptions for referrals and therapies as necessary for children under our care.
The success of our treatment approach is based on our comprehensive, individualized treatment of ADD/ADHD. There are evidence-based alternatives to pharmaceutical treatments and we work side-by-side our patients and their parents to overcome the diagnosis of ADD/ADHD.