Recently published in the BMJ (British Medical Journal) on May 31, 2016…
…researchers found that the stimulant methylphenidate (commonly prescribed for children to treat ADHD: Ritalin, Daytrana, Concerta) increases the risk of cardiac arrhythmias.
It’s back-to-school time… a time when children are often diagnosed and treated for ADHD (average age of diagnosis of ADHD: 7 years old.)
11% of the American pediatric population is awarded a diagnosis of ADHD…
…with about 6% of all of our children in the United States actively on a Rx medication to treat it.
With that many children being medicated, it’s very important for us all to be aware of the latest medical literature, so that we are aware of the risks of using prescription stimulants in the pediatric population and so that everyone can be aware of the alternatives to Rx treatments.
- Researchers examined the data in the South Korean National Health Insurance claims database for a 4 year period (2008 – 2011.)
- Researchers looked at patients aged 17 or younger, with a recorded diagnosis of ADHD, on the Rx drug methylphenidate, and having a cardiac event such as an arrhythmia, heart attack, stroke, or heart failure.
- The found 1,224 patients that met this criteria and experienced a cardiovascular event during these 4 years. They then examined the timing of the event after introduction of the methylphenidate prescription… classifying them as being between 1-3 days, 4-7 days, 8-14 days, 15-28 days, 29-56 days, and over 57 days after start of the Rx treatment.
- Methylphenidate increased the risk of cardiac arrhythmia by over 60% over all, and that risk more than TRIPLES for patients with congenital heart disease.
- The risk for cardiac arrhythmia remained significant throughout ALL the different risk periods… rising to a 100% increased risk during the first 1 – 3 days after the start of the methylphenidate exposure.
- There was an increased risk of hypertension during the first week of exposure (4-7 days after onset.)
- There was an increased risk of heart attack (myocardial infarction) a week after introduction of the Rx (from days 8-14, 15-28, and 29-56 days post Rx therapy.)
This study is published right on the heals of another important study that came out last fall, looking at over 12,000 children in the United States, Canada and Europe…
…that revealed that there was very minimal effective change from the Rx medication use, but that the children’s lives were incredibly altered, with the vast majority of children having an increase in sleep difficulty and a loss of appetite while taking the medication.
- The average age was 9.7 years old (3 years old to 18 years old)
- Treatment ranged from 1 day to over a year, with 75 days being the average length.
- The change reported by teachers in the behaviors of the medicated students was rated at a change of only 6 points on the ADHD-RS scale, which represents a bare minimum of difference on that rating scale.
- What WAS found to be a significant difference was an increased risk of adverse events including sleep disturbance and decreased appetite.
- Children on the ADHD medications had a 60% higher risk of trouble sleeping and a 266% greater risk for decreased appetite.
Restorative sleep and a good nutritional intake (as reviewed below!) are the two things a growing child absolutely needs to develop appropriately!
The minimal benefits were so incredibly inadequate to risk the very high rate of side effects that physicians are now being urged to curb use of these medications — a very surprising admission from the world of conventional medicine that maybe drugs are not the answer here!
Are there are other answers?
What can you do holistically for your child instead of medication?
1. Good sleep helps with ADHD
Sleep problems have long been considered a hallmark of ADHD…
…leading to reduced quality of life, reduced level of functioning and reduced school attendance.
A study published on January 20, 2015 in the British Medical Journal, has found that even a simple, brief sleep intervention with ADHD children provides lasting benefits that lead to improved sleep and decreased ADHD symptoms.
- 244 families of children (aged 5 – 12 years old) with ADHD were given sleep hygiene counseling (setting a routine bedtime, removing electronics from the bedroom, avoiding caffeine, etc…) during two different consultations.
- The control group had the same aged children and the same diagnosis but control families received only routine clinical care and no sleep counseling.
- The results showed that after only two sessions focused on supporting sleep, not only did the sleep problems improve, but the actual ADHD symptoms, quality of life, and even memory improved as well!
- There was a significant decrease in sleep problems, an increased average sleep duration time, a marked and significant decrease in ADHD symptoms, improved assessed working memory and recall, and parents and teachers both reporting improved behavior and improved daily functioning.
These improvements were sustained at both the 3 month assessment AND the 6 month assessment, showing that addressing sleep problems can lead to substantial and sustained benefits for children with ADHD, over and above the effects of any medical interventions or medications.
Want help getting your child to sleep more soundly?
That’s why I wrote and illustrated this bedtime book for parents to use to help create a soothing nighttime routine for their child, ADHD or not.
Because helping your child develop good sleep habits, the kind that allow for deep, restorative sleep, is one of the best things you can do to support your child for a lifetime of good health.
2. Allow spontaneous activity for your children!
Wondering if sitting still at a school desk all day long is actually healthy for your child?
Wondering why this is still the mold we are trying to fit children into?
Hop over here to read more about why prolonged sitting is so deadly and how to prolong your life (and your child’s life!) by getting up, moving about more and allowing them to get up and fidget more too!
3. Use Omega 3 supplements instead of the Rx meds.
We’ve known for quite a while that Omega 3 fatty acids are absolutely fabulous for the body… especially the brain.
Fish oil (specifically Omega 3 fatty acids) literally calms the body from head to toe.
Everything, and I mean everything, works more smoothly in our bodies with fish oil… skin is calmer, hair is shiner and softer, our cardiovascular system is more resilient, our joints are more protected, our muscles get less sore and recover from stress and injury faster, our chances of senile dementia lessen… incidences of stroke and heart attack decrease… it’s just fabulous, whole-body-anti-inflammatory stuff.
The Journal of the Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry recently published the results that Omega 3’s were effective in treating ADHD.
- Researchers studied over 700 children on Omega 3 supplementation and found a significant improvement in both measured inattentiveness and hyperactivity… as measured by clinicians and as reported by the parents of the children in the studies.
- Previous research has shown that there is a difference in Omega 3’s in both plasma membranes and erythrocyte membranes of ADHD patients as compared with their healthy peers. So supplementation would make sense, based on the fact that it would help rebalance and stabilize those membrane imbalances… as well as act as a general anti-inflammatory to the central nervous system at large.
- Not only is this large meta-analysis study great news for families who have failed “conventional” medical approaches (meaning medicating them with Rx hasn’t worked) but also to families who are hesitant to risk the crazy toxic side effects offered from prescription meds.
And the side effect profile is a nice bonus: Side effects like decreasing your child’s lifetime risk of heart attack and stroke… side effects like softer skin and hair and less inflammation throughout the entire body, including the brain. Possibly softer stools and burping, depending on dose. If your child experiences softer stools from fish oil, you can just cut back on the dose. For some of us more constipated souls, more regular, normal stools from fish oil are just another welcome side effect.
The prescription meds used to treat ADHD, both the stimulant drugs and non-stimulant drugs, have side effect profiles like hypotention, bradycardia, heart block, syncope, sedation, and somnolence.
These results are so exciting, because the effects seen from Omega 3 supplementation (and in particular, eicosapentaenoic acid) were seen to be effective in studies that were as short as 7 weeks long, which means Omega 3 supplements work quite quickly in helping treat ADHD.
You may notice a supportive difference as early as two months on fish oil supplements!
Good children’s Omega 3 supplements I recommend include:
4. Serve broccoli.
A small but important study showed that a component of broccoli and broccoli sprouts (sulforaphane) can help give autistic patients a significant boost to social skills and verbal communication… naturally!
Published Oct 13, 2014, researchers studied 40 males between the ages of 13 and 27… all who had moderate to severe autism. 26 received broccoli sprout extract (50 to 150 umol daily) and 14 received placebo and measured the results after 18 weeks.
The results were impressive — almost half showed measurable improvement in several different areas including social and verbal skills.
46 % of participants had measurably improved social and verbal skills after taking broccoli-sprout extract for over 4 months, compared to only 3% of the placebo group. Benefits included: improved social interactions, improved eye contact, improved verbal communication, decreased repetitive movements, decreased irritability and decreased hyperactivity
Dietary sulforaphane (found in both broccoli and broccoli sprouts) is healthy and has a recognized low toxicity profile, so it appears to be very safe to recommend a broccoli rich diet to patients with Autism. Hopefully this positive and encouraging but small study will be repeated on a larger scale, for a longer period of time, and with female autistic patients as well!
5. Or… for adults, consider broccoli sprout supplements.
If you can’t routinely get broccoli into your diet but you want to increase your intake of sulforaphane, consider broccoli sprout supplements like these. Ask your doctor before use in children.
To naturally supporting your child’s amazingly VIBRANT energy flow!!!
P.S. Another great all natural treatment idea includes homeschooling!!!
I’m personally a big fan of homeschooling in general… and in particular, for children diagnosed with ADHD.
Boxing these bright and multi-focused children into a square isn’t the answer.
Removing the child from the square would remove the need to “medicate” in the first place.
Learning to live with and even thrive with each child’s own learning style and see it as a strength in the long run will help these unique children thrive in life.
Not all kids can learn sitting down.
Not all kids can learn straight from a textbook.
For years, my son ate most of his meals standing up.
Would I medicate him so he would sit to eat?
That would be insane.
Would I likewise medicate him so he would sit to learn?
My recommendation for ADHD children is to homeschool them and supplement with child formulation of fish oil or other Omega 3 supplement, focus on high quality sleep, and lots of healthy physical activity daily.
They’ll be thanking you when they have fabulous skin, hair, brain power and digestion well into their senior years, and less chance of stroke and heart attack.