ADD / ADHD, ADD / ADHD Medication, ADD / ADHD Treatment, Food and Drink

Part three of this look at natural remedies for ADD / ADHD is on Vaxa’sAttend. This is sold through a web site called No More ADD and is a classic long-copy advert. If the product is as good as the marketing then we won’t need Ritalin for much longer.

So what herbs are in Attend? Vaxa list the fifty or so ingredients and provides a hyperlink for an explanation of each one. Browsing through the list, I spot Hypothalamus. As this is part of the brain it strikes me as an unusual ingredient for a herbal remedy. The extra information on this ingredient says it is an animal product (but not which animal it comes from) and claims it is an appetite suppressant. Why you want an appetite suppressant, especially one from an unknown animal’s brain, in a herbal remedy for ADD / ADHD, I don’t know.

Of course, the actual ingredients do not matter much because this is a homeopathic remedy where each ingredient is diluted many hundred or thousands of times. In fact, according to science and common-sense, a homeopathic remedy is just water. Wikipedia sums it up best:

…homeopathy defies the laws of chemistry by claiming efficacy for high dilutions of substances, at times to a point where it is unlikely that even a molecule of the original ingredient is present.

There is no evidence that Vaxa’s Attend will work. There is no known scientific reason why it could work. Any improvements people get from this effect can be ascribed to the Placebo Effect, the regression fallacy and/or the Forer effect.

In these articles on natural remedies for ADD / ADHD, none of the three treatments have offered any evidence that they work. Listol does at least include ingredients that have a reasonable connection to ADD / ADHD. Neither Attend or Focus ADDult has any meaningful evidence to explain their ingredient list let alone their supposed benefits.

Previously on Myomancy: ADD / ADHD Natural Remedies: Part 1; ADD / ADHD Natural Remedies: Part 2; ADD / ADHD Diet and Nutrition

ADD / ADHD, ADD / ADHD Medication, ADD / ADHD Treatment, Food and Drink

Following on from Part 1 of ADD / ADHD Natural Remedies, the second most common non-medication, natural remedy for ADD / ADHD is Focus ADDult from Native Remedies.

This herbal remedy for ADD / ADHD is aimed specifically at adults and they claim it will:

  • Improve focus and ability to concentrate
  • Increase attention span
  • Boost memory functioning
  • Increase motivation and energy levels
  • Increase study skills
  • Boost immune functioning and protect against illness
  • Reduce distractibility

It does this through three herbal ingredients: Centella Asiatica (Asiatic Pennywort), Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) , Panax Ginseng.

Centrella Asiatica has been linked with increase blood flow and healing in wounds and also with cognitive improvements. However these studies are all animal related and nothing to do with ADD / ADHD. Whilst Rosemary tastes delicious with lamb there it nothing to indicate it can help with ADD / ADHD. There is some speculation that chemicals in Rosemary will inhibit acetylcholinesterase that play a part in memory but there is no direct evidence to support it.

Ginsing is more complicated because there has been a reasonable amount of research done on it. Starting in the 1940’s in Russia, Ginsing was taken by the Soviet olympic team and since the cold war ended, it has been studied in the West. However its effects, if any, appear subtle because some studies find significant reductions in stress and improvements in quality of life, but other studies find no benefit.

Looking at the herbs used in Focus ADDult it seems to me that they have included three herbs with only the remotest link to ADD / ADHD. I suspect their inclusion was far more to do with price and availability than scientific evidence of their effectiveness on ADHD.

Previously on Myomancy: ADD / ADHD Natural Remedies: Part 1; ADD / ADHD Natural Remedies: Part 3

Read about Focus ADDult on the Myomancy Treatment Database

Research: Effect of Centella asiatica on cognition and oxidative stress in an intracerebroventricular streptozotocin model of Alzheimer’s disease in rats; Double-blind study of a multivitamin complex supplemented with ginseng extract.

ADD / ADHD, ADD / ADHD Medication, ADD / ADHD Treatment, Food and Drink

If you search in Google for ‘ADHD Natural Medicine’ you find lots of mention of alternative medicine or herbal remedies for ADD / ADHD but no evidence that any these natural treatment works.

One of the top names in this field is Listol, made by Progressive Health . They make very specific claims about how Listol can help with the symptoms of ADD / ADHD.

Listol is a natural supplement that may help children and adults with ADD/ADHD by removing toxins from the body while enhancing memory and learning.

And then go on to say:

Children with ADHD are deprived of certain nutrients which cause a malfunction in the metabolization of linoleic acids and affects the absorptions of essential fatty acids. Listol adds these nutrients back …

What scientific justification do they use for these claims? A well documented list of ingredients for Listol as it happens. It is a credit to Progressive Health that have not only listed Listol’s ‘all natural’ ingredients but have identified the specific research why that vitamin, mineral or herbal extract is included. Looking closely at the list, some of the studies date back to the 1970’s and quite a number of them are experiments on animals. One study, on Zinc and ADD / ADHD, that we covered in yesterday’s article on ADD / ADHD Diet and Nutrition , shows zinc works only slightly better than a placebo.

The crucial piece of scientific evidence for Listol is missing. A study where children are given Listol and the results recorded. It is impossible to say whether Listol works or not because its not been tested. This might explain the diclaimer

[Listol] is not intended to be used as a substitute for any medication. Rather, it should be part of a nutritional program that can be beneficial for your health.

Read about Listol on the Myomancy Treatment Database

Also on Myomancy: ADD / ADHD Natural Remedies Part 2; ADD / ADHD Natural Remedies Part 3; ADD / ADHD Diet and Nutrition

ADD / ADHD, ADD / ADHD Treatment

GSR, or to give it its full name Galvanic Skin Response, is a method of detecting the level of electrical conductivity in the skin. Its a technique used in lie detectors and biofeedback because there is a link between the skins ability to conduct electricity and the emotions a person is feeling.

Now Jason Alster is using it in his practice in Israel to help children with ADHD.

Many ADHD clients- upon producing a stable GSR after a biofeedback assisted relaxed concentration technique – will claim when asked-that this is the first time ever they felt what relaxation /concentration is. This may be compared to someone not having ever tasted a tasty food like an orange. You can’t describe it to them. However, once they taste it- they know what it feels like. So too, it turns out, with the sense of relaxation, focus in ADHD. When asked to compare this sensation with the sensation of an ADHD medication- the majority of ADHD people will say that the natural biofeedback induced sensation is better than medication- and medication does not “feel well” even though it does help them concentrate. This shows that medication like Ritalin has a different mode of action working to help ADHD than natural and behavioral methods.

New Concept in Testing and Helping ADHD using GSR Biofeedback

ADD / ADHD, ADD / ADHD Treatment, Balance & Coordination, Books

Stopping ADHD or to give its full title ‘Stopping ADHD. A Unique and Proven Drug-Free Program for Treating ADHD in Children and Adults’ combines in-depth knowledge, good writing and clear examples distilled from the authors life-long experience and academic knowledge of learning disabilities.

When I see any book or treatment I have rule of thumb, my quackary test, to guide me on its credibility. Firstly is it referred to as a ‘breakthrough’. This is usually a sign of hype by the book’s editor who really means ‘I’ve never heard of this before’. The bigger the font used, the less credible the book looks.

Secondly, how many things does does it claim to treat. The longer the list of illnesses and psychological problems something claims to help, the more I become suspicious. Assessing a treatment’s effectiveness on a single problem is a long, expensive and difficult task so the more problems they list, the less likely they have done any credible studies.

How does Stopping ADHD fair?

Well the book is focused on ADHD and nothing else so that is a good start but it does have ‘breakthrough’ on the cover. As it is in a small font size and comes from a quote by Lawrence Greenburg, developer of the TOVA ADHD diagnostic test it has some credibility.

Having judged the book by its cover, what about the contents? On reading it I was pleased to find its focus was the Symmetric Tonic Neck Reflex (STNR). This is one of a number of primitive reflexes that newborn children have. This reflex ties the movement of the neck, arms and legs together so that movement of one of these parts results in the movement of the others. This helps the baby learn basic movements such as sitting up and beginning to crawl. The STNR fades away as the baby learns to crawl and then walk, actions that require independent movement of the neck, arms and legs.

The central position of Stopping ADHD is that ADHD occurs in children who have retained their STNR and that this impacts on their education and development. The authors suggest that this occurs when a child has not crawled for long enough before walking. This creates problems when the child goes to school and is asked to sit at a desk and write. To write, you must use the arms but in the ADHD child, the arms and legs cannot move independently. This results in two outcomes. Either the child finds they have to jump up and move whenever they are asked to do writing. Or they contort themselves in such a manner that they can restrain the reflexive movements of the legs. It is here where the book really excels. It gives a clear, logical path between the STNR, a well documented biological / neurological factor, and behaviour in the classroom.

The second half of the book focuses on the treatment method developed at the Miriam Bender Achievement Center that the authors cofounded. The treatment, simply put, consists of the child on their hands and knees crawling whilst an adult provides gentle resistance to the limbs or torso. Through these movements the child loses their STNR and learns to move their limbs independently. This allows the child to sit and move as other children.

The book’s full title claims this to be a ‘unique and proven’ way of treating ADHD and it is in this the book falls a little short. Whilst the actual exercises are unique, the general principal is not. The STNR and the rest of the primitive reflexes have been central to the INPP research and approach to treating learning difficulties for thirty years.

The claim that it is a proven treatment is also problematic. I am sure this treatment works for lots of people who visit the authors’ clinic because the science behind it is solid and well documented. However there is a lack of proper study on the actual treatment. In the appendix the authors write up a study they did with a local elementary school but there is no indication that this study was ever published in a peer-reviewed journal.

This is a good book. The first half is excellent and should be read by parents and teachers alike. The treatment itself is logical and has the same basic principals as other effective treatments. I am however doubtful of how well a parent can read this book and then implement the treatment with their child. This is not a criticism of the book which explains the treatment well but merely a reflection of the fact that delivering treatments like this is a skilled task learnt from years of hands-on experience.

Stopping ADHD, A Unique and Proven Drug-Free Program for Treating ADHD in Children and Adults.
Nancy E. O’Dell and Patricia A. Cook.

ADD / ADHD, ADD / ADHD Treatment, Autism, Dyscalculia, Dyslexia, Dyslexia Treatment, Dyspraxia

The Scotsman newspaper has an article on Sarah Marshal, an INPP trained therapist, who operates out of a GP surgery.

Using a programme based on evidence that dyslexia, dyspraxia, attention deficiency disorder and under-achievement are linked to a glitch in young children’s reflex development skills, psychologist Sarah Marshall uses a series of simple, repetitive exercises to help her patients learn vital movement skills they should have developed while still in their pram.

Easy does it in quest to conquer dyslexia

ADD / ADHD, ADD / ADHD Treatment, Autism, Autism Treatment, Dyslexia, Dyslexia Treatment, Science, Visual

Light therapy for ADHD, dyslexia and autism is a contentious area. How could spending twenty minutes sitting in front of a flashing light help children learn to read or control themselves? I was highly skeptical until I tried it myself (see Light Therapy Follow Up). Even having tried it I could only speculate on why it had the effect it did. Now some researchers have shown that light can effect your memory.

By exposing participants to a flashing light for one second, researchers in Oxford found that participants were better able to recall a list of trigrams (semi-random groups of three letters). Most importantly the improvements only happened when the lights were flashed at frequencies on or around 10.2 Hz. A frequency related to the brain’s alpha waves and believed to be relevant to memory functions.
Alpha waves normally span the 8 to 12 Hz range but this study was looking at older people with a mean age of 78. As the brain gets older its brain waves shift slightly and 10.2 Hz is the peak frequency for those aged 80 or above. The researchers tested flicker frequencies of 9.0 Hz, 9.5 Hz, 10.0 Hz, 10.2 Hz, 10.5 Hz, 11.0 Hz, 11.5 Hz and 500 Hz. Only those frequencies in the 9.5 – 10.5 Hz range improved participants recall.
This well designed study shows a clear link between flickering visual stimulus (sometimes called photic driving) and memory performance with strong evidence that the mechanism relates to brain wave activity. However this was a test of short exposure to flicker very quickly followed by the memory test. It provides no evidence as to what happens if the exposure to the flicker is longer or to how long the effects last. Both of these points are vital to understand what, if any, effect light therapy can have on people with learning disorders

.

Here we move into the field of speculation. It is clear that brain wave patterns do relate to cognitive abilities and behaviour. It also changes as we age, notably during childhood. Is it possible that children with learning problems that are related to poor short-term memory are stuck with the alpha wave patterns of a young child? If this is the case, could repeated exposure to photic driving train the brain to have strong, more consistent alpha waves? It is possible but much more research is needed.

10 Hz flicker improves recognition memory in older people [ PDF ]. Originally spotted on the excellent Developing Intelligence who have their own informative write-up.

ADD / ADHD, ADD / ADHD Treatment, Balance & Coordination, Dyslexia, Dyslexia Treatment

Infinity Walk is a treatment for learning difficulties such as dyslexia. It apparently involves walking around in a figure of eight pattern in time to music. I can’t tell you any more than that because the website has almost no information on it. A bit more information can be found on the web site for Infinity Walk’s creator Dr. Sunbeck. Include in the site is a PDF of chapter one from her book. From the brief information included in the free chapter the concept of the ‘figure of eight’ walking is well thought out and consistent with ideas regularly discussed on Myomacy. e.g. the Asymmetric Neck Tonic Reflex, rhythm, balance and movement.

ADD / ADHD, ADD / ADHD Medication, ADD / ADHD Treatment, Medication, Science

Whilst trying to track down the source of this article on how 7 million Americans have abused ADHD drugs I came across a study about treating cocaine users who have ADHD. There is some evidence linking cocaine use to ADHD but that wasn’t the focus of the research.

98 adults who were receiving treatment for cocaine use and had been diagnosed as having adult ADHD where enrolled on a 12 twelve treatment program for their ADHD. Split into three groups, they were treated either with sustained-release methylphenidate, sustained-release bupropion or a placebo. After 12 weeks of treatment the participants where reassessed on the adult ADHD rating scale and the result were startling. All three treatments worked about the same. Yes all three, including the placebo, a fake drug that does nothing, led to a notable reduction in symptoms.

Whilst the study group of cocaine using adults is not a the mainstream population of adult ADHD sufferers it does demonstrate the striking impact of the placebo effect and how one’s self-belief can dramatically effect behaviour.
Treatment of methadone-maintained patients with adult ADHD: Double-blind comparison of methylphenidate, bupropion and placebo