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For additional information see the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association web page on ADD and also's page.



By : ZOLTAN P. RONA, M.D., M.Sc.

image of 2 children

Taken from "Childhood Illness and the Allergy Connection" by Dr. Zoltan Rona, Prima Publishing, 1997.

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD a.k.a. hyperactivity) affects thousands of infants, children, adolescents, and adults. It shows up as abnormalities in behavior like hyperactivity, learning disorders and communication problems in early childhood with some remission occurring before birth and that, left untreated, continue to suffer from the condition into adulthood. ADD affects more boys than girls with a ratio of 3:1. A high percentage of hyperactive children have blond hair and blue eyes and suffer from what appear to be allergic signs and symptoms. In the history of an ADD child, the mother often describes that, during pregnancy, there was a great deal of fetal movement and very hard kicking.

As infants, hyperactive babies are often colicky, sleep poorly or very little and cry or scream a lot. In childhood, they look restless and fidgety and eat poorly. In the more severe cases they may be "rockers" or "head bangers" rejecting affection and mothering. As the child becomes older, there is a very noticeable rushing from one thing to the next, a shortened attention span and easy distractibility. Behavior can become destructive with poor coordination and general clumsiness. Some hyperactive children have trouble integrating what they see and hear due to visual perception abnormalities which, in turn, leads to inabilities to understand basic concepts.

Other conditions that have been documented to occur in many ADD children are eczema, asthma, chronic infections, hay fever, headaches, stomach aches and fungal infections of the scalp, skin and nails.

Symptoms in Infants and Young Children

  • crying
  • inconsolably screaming
  • restlessness poor or little sleep
  • difficult feeding
  • refuses affection and cuddles
  • head banging or rocking fits or temper tantrums

 Symptoms in Older Children 

  • impulsiveness, clumsiness, constantly moving destructive or disruptive behavior
  • accident proneness, bouts of fatigue, weakness and listlessness
  • aggressiveness, poor concentration ability, vocal repetition and loudness
  • restlessness, school failure despite normal or high IQ
  • poor sleep with nightmares
  • poor appetite and erratic eating habits
  • poor coordination
  • irritable, uncooperative, disobedient, self-injurious nerve

Causes of ADD

  • genetic abnormalities, birth injuries, hormonal imbalances, psychological or emotional problems, biochemical imbalances caused by toxic heavy metals (lead or cadmium excesses), food allergies, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, amino acid deficiencies toxins from chronic infections with bacteria, fungi (e.g. candida overgrowth) and parasites digestive enzyme or stomach acid deficiencies, environmental hypersensitivities, especially to food dyes, chemicals and additives multiple food cravings and delayed (Type II-IV) allergies dyes, chemicals, inhalants, and other irritants hypoglycemia or sugar hypersensitivity
  • ADD children should be thoroughly tested and treated by diet changes and nutritional supplements before resorting to amphetamine-like drugs like methylphenidate (Ritalin ).

Tests to Consider

Routine blood and urine tests hormonal tests for thyroid, adrenal, pancreas (enzymes, insulin, glucagon) insulin and glucose tolerance tests.   Vitamin and mineral testing including hair mineral analysis livecell microscopy.   Also CDSA and Comprehensive Parasitology gut permeability testing food and chemical allergy testing amino acid analysis

Drugstore Children

Certain allergy medications have been reported to have adverse side effects on learning and behavior because they affect the central nerve system. For example, the use of the anti-asthma drug, theophylline has been significantly correlated with reports of inattentiveness, hyperactivity, irritability, drowsiness and withdrawal behavior, these negative side effects being directly proportional to the length of use. The use of this medication may also cause learning disabilities. Corticosteroids are other drugs used to treat asthma, allergic rhinitis and other allergic conditions. Unfortunately, these drugs, whether swallowed or inhaled, have a direct and indirect impact on the central nerve system. They have been documented to cause a change in brain electrical activity, mood changes, changes in sleep patterns, increased irritability and even psychotic reactions. Children on continuous steroids for at least a year have been reported to have lower performance on standardized academic achievement tests for reading, verbal memory and mathematics. Commonly used prescription and over the counter antihistamines have been reported to cause slower reaction time on visual-motor tasks, worsened attention and cerebral processing speed and drowsiness. Antihistamines can cause sedation, dry mouth, and irritability. There is also some suggestion that antihistamines are associated with a greater cancer risk. Decongestants have been associated with visual hallucinations in some children. While spokespersons for the medical profession tend to minimize such side effects, they can be of significant concern to parents of children with ADD or learning disabilities (LD).

Nutrient Deprived Children

Micronutrient deficiencies or dependencies (e.g. zinc) can have deleterious effects on both short and long term memory. White spots on the nails could be a sign of zinc deficiency even when blood tests for zinc are normal. The expression, "No zinc, no think" is not without merit. Many studies have shown that zinc supplementation is helpful with memory, thinking and I.Q. The best way of getting zinc is to optimize the diet. The most recently published RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) for adults is 15 mgs. per day. The richest sources of zinc are generally the high protein foods such as organ meats, seafood (especially shellfish), oysters, whole grains and legumes (beans and peas). Studies show that cognitive development can be impaired when there are low iron blood levels. Deficiencies in B vitamins, particularly vitamin B 1 and choline may also be involved. Toxic heavy metals such as cadmium and lead can accumulate in the body and cause both hyperactive behavior and learning disabilities in some susceptible children. A hair mineral analysis can reveal whether or not these toxic heavy metals are building up in the body. The good news is that, with a natural program of vitamins and minerals, accumulations of lead and cadmium can be removed from the system. Since amino acids are the precursors to the neurotransmitters, low levels can lead to neurotransmitter deficiency. Higher than accepted levels may lead to neurotransmitter excess. One example of amino acid excess causing hyperactive behavior occurs with the artificial sweetener, aspartame. Some children are highly sensitive to aspartame and scrupulous attention should be aimed at keeping this potential neurotoxin out of the child's diet. In children who consume large amounts of aspartame in soft drinks or other processed foods, amino acids can be significantly abnormal. Once the amino acid levels are determined, treatment can be aimed at balancing brain chemicals more accurately. A history of allergies has been reported by many authors for behavioral problems like being overtalkative, irritable, inattentive/distractible, hyperactive, impulsive, difficult to handle, drowsy/sleepy, mean, withdrawn, and euphoric. ADD/hyperactivity has been particularly connected with food allergies, chemical allergies and salicylates. The ELISA/Act blood test can reveal the immune system's reactions to over 300 foods and chemicals. In many ways, this blood test is similar to other ELISA tests which measure antibodies to viruses, bacteria and fungi. For more information on the ELISA/Act test and doctors in your area who can order it for you, contact

Serammune Physicians Laboratories
1890 Preston White Dr., Suite 201
Reston, VA

Dr. Russell Jaffe is the immunologist who developed this test and made it available to physicians in Canada and the U.S. He can be reached for further information at SPL Ltd. Conventional medicine treats ADD children with Ritalin and similar amphetamine-like drugs. These stimulant medications work fairly quickly and, for many kids, this is effective treatment, especially in the case of the child about to be expelled from school or causing the family to fall apart. On the negative side, amphetamine-like drugs are only effective in about 70-75% of cases. In many cases, increased hyperactivity occurs after the last dose of the day has worn off. The child may have trouble going to sleep, difficulty getting up the next morning and experience a loss of appetite. The risk of marginal deficiencies in iron, zinc, calcium, B vitamins, protein, etc. increases. Amphetamine-like drugs do not address the cause of ADD/Hyperactivity. It's akin to taking an aspirin for recurrent headaches. The pain temporarily goes away but the reasons for the headaches remain a mystery. The majority of parents do not like the idea of medicating their children. Some parents reluctantly medicate their children only because they are pressured by teachers, schools and dogmatic physicians to use stimulant drugs. Further, there are no long term studies showing that medicated children do better in the long run academically, emotionally and otherwise compared to the children of parents who say no to drugs.

The Read Causes

Like the other chronic diseases of our times like multiple sclerosis (MS), lupus, cancer, asthma and autoimmune disease, ADD is at epidemic levels in the post-industrial revolution era. Childhood learning problems are also on the rise. Some argue that this is because of better recognition and objective testing but respected authors like William Crook and Lendon Smith strongly disagree. 

Learning disability (LD) was not a major problem for children growing up in the early 1800's and as late as 1950, there was only one child in each classroom with LD or ADD. Today, it is more like five or six. Ritalin, other amphetamine like drugs or intense psychotherapy have done nothing to change the dramatic rise in incidence of these diagnoses because they do not address the source of the problem. The answers to why a child develops LD or ADD lie in the field of genetics, environmental toxicology and nutrition. Although genetics, infections and brain damage (trauma) have been cited as causes of ADD and LD, these cases are quite rare compared to causes like a dysfunctional home, heavy metal toxicities, nutritional deficiencies, and food and chemical allergies.

The majority of cases are caused by an immune defect and allergies to food additives, preservatives, chemicals, or inhalants. To deal adequately with this illness, we must address all these potential imbalances. Some of the nutritional deficiencies that correlate with LD or ADD are calcium, magnesium, iodine, iron and zinc. On the other hand, high copper, lead, cadmium and aluminum levels have also been seen in learning disabled children.  

Aside from diet changes excluding food and chemical allergies, there are many natural treatments including a long list of vitamins, minerals, herbs, amino acids, essential fatty acids and enzymes. The treatments all depend on the case history, physical examination and the results of biochemical tests. Evening primrose oil is a common remedy recommended for ADD children. It and numerous herbs have anti-inflammatory and anti-allergy properties through their ability to modulate prostaglandin levels, the hormones responsible for inflammation, pain, allergic reactions and other aspects of the immune system. Based on the findings of biochemical tests, a personalized nutritional program of diet and supplements can be recommended. Work with a health care professional familiar with nutritional remedies.


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- Carter, C.M. Effects of a few foods diets in Attention Deficit Disorder. Archives of Diseases of Childhood . 69, 1993, pp. 564-568.
- Crook, William G. Solving the Puzzle of Your Hard-to-Raise Child, Jackson, Tennessee:Professional Books, 1987.
- Crook, William G. Detecting Your Hidden Allergies, Jackson, Tennessee:Professional Books, 1988.
- Crook, William G. The Yeast Connection Handbook, Jackson, Tennessee:Professional Books, 1996.
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- Rapp, Doris J. Allergies and the Hyperactive Child., New York, New York: Cornerstone Library, (Simon & Schuster), 1979.
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- Smith, L. 1983. Feed Yourself Right. New York: McGraw-Hill.


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