Local researchers find evidence that poor diet, a weak immune system and intestinal parasites are common problems for children suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder

LAST SEPTEMBER, Suzanne enrolled her children, Ryan and Cindy (not their real names) in a study on the causes and treatment of ADHD (Attention Deficit Disorder) at the Cline Medical Centre in Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada. What followed was eight weeks of rigorous lifestyle changes and extensive clinical testing at some of the top medical laboratories in the United States.

RYAN AND CINDY were two of 75 children divided into three groups:

  1. a control group undergoing no changes,
  2. a group who eliminated every possible food allergen from their diets and
  3. a group who, in addition to dietetic changes, added the essential fatty acid, DHA, to their diets.

Ryan was in group two while Cindy was in group three.

THE DIET CHANGES weren't minor.

ABOUT 75% OF THE CHILDREN in the study improved their condition, some dramatically. One little boy who chronically let off energy by talking incessantly and being disruptive, calmed down and showed his true colours. It turned out that he was a little genius, says research doctor Michael Lyon.
Another little girl lost weight and gained self esteem. Her grade average went from C to A.
A young boy who hated books started to read and lost his chronic migraine headaches.

IT'S NOT NEWS that diet has a profound influence on ADHD, Dr. Lyon says. Previous studies have proved it. The Cline Centre study confirmed it. But the Cline study had a much deeper purpose. Drs. Cline and Lyon wanted to reveal the underlying causes of ADHD. With most of the test results in, Lyon believes they have some answers.

THEY DISCOVERED that children with ADHD are deficient in essential fatty acids, particularly DHA which is derived from fish or from vegetable oils. But in order for the body to take a vegetable oil and convert it to DHA, an enzyme step has to take place. This step is blocked in children with ADHD.

The doctors found that 75 per cent of the children in their study had leaky gut syndrome.

Which means that large particules of undigested material were passing through to the body. Leaky gut affects the entire immune system which increases the frequency of infections and food allergies.

BUT THE MOST SURPRISING result of their testing revealed that 65 per cent of the children had intestinal parasites.

Results that high have only occurred in the poorest areas in Third World Countries. That startling result can probably be attributed to a depleted immune system. Dr. Lyon says. "But we don't know that this isn't endemic to Nanaimo. It might be that the water is bad or something -- it's a possibility. But it's probably more due to the fact that these ADHD kids have impaired immune system function. That's probably a more likely explanation."

TO ADD TO THE PROBLEM, parasites cause the immune system to become more hypersensitive and trigger food allergies. Most children tested had food allergies and showed marked improvement on an allergen-free diet.

DR. MICHAEL LYON is compiling the information into a book. He believes it's time to start teaching this information formally. Dr. Lyon has already been invited to teach in Washington, Arizona and at the University of Kansas. "This is going to turn into an actual disgnostic and treatment protocol for dealing with ADHD in a much more comprehensive fashion," Dr. Lyon says.

DR. LYON LIKENS ADHD to a volcano with inattention and hyperactivity right at the cone. Modern medicine only treats the tip of the cone, Dr. Lyon says. "Impulsivity, hyperactivity -- those are the signs and symptoms. Ritalin is kind of like putting a cork in it to keep all these things from spitting out and flying everywhere. But it really doesn't make sense if there are things underneath that you can deal with."

UNDERNEATH THE HYPERACTIVITY are mediators like brain neurotransmitter dysfunction, Dr. Lyon says. Below that are triggers which include food allergies, parasites and leaky gut syndrome. At the base of the "volcano" are genetic predispositions, environmental toxins, stresses and nutritional insufficiencies. Every parent may not be able to get supervised testing and treatment for their child. But every parent can start by paying attention to diet, Dr. Lyon says. Every parent can eliminate common allergens and feed their kids a nutritious, healthy diet.

IT'S A LOT OF WORK -- not a magic pill, but the effects may well be long-lasting and more beneficial in the long run. Dr. Lyon recommends two books for parents of children with ADHD: Is This Your Child? and Is This Your Child's World? both by Doris J. Rapp, MD.