• 27-10-2015

    Treatments for ADHD

    By Dr. Andrew Eberding, N.D.

    For years people have been expressing concern about the number of children who are now prescribed Ritalin or Adderall for managing behaviour and concentration.  A question that should be kept in the back of every parent’s mind is, “Do these drugs really work?”

    When I ask this question, the parents of my patients often look at me stunned.  They tell me how much better behaved and focused their child is when medicated.  I think it is obvious in the short term children do have better attention and impulse control.  These are the facts that get distributed to doctors and patients’ parents, but is it the complete truth of the matter? 

    It is the long-term results which matter the most for the child and everyone around them. What most parents and patients have not been told is ongoing tracking of behaviour and academic achievement has shown disappointing results. Comparisons between treated and untreated groups show equivalent educational success and comparable behaviour after several years.  To make matters worse, people treated as children with these medications are smaller in adulthood compared to their peers and are subject to numerous other side-effects along the way (depression, high blood pressure, headaches and numerous others). 

    These drugs are actually stimulants, bringing up the question, “How does stimulating someone’s brain calm them down?”  Originally, experts theorized ADHD patients had different brain connections resulting in this contradictory effect.  But we now know this is not true as many healthy people (especially studying college students) have similar effects when they self-medicate to help focus.  Studies have shown that all children respond the same when medicated.  Basically, when given a boring or repetitive task to do people are more successful if they take a stimulant. However, the treatment does not improve a person’s ability to learn material.

    The problem that I see is the positive effects fade over time; the medication simply becomes less and less effective at making any difference in a helping a person function.  This is similar to the effects of caffeine; initially, it gives an energy boost but eventually, with prolonged use, you are boosting from a lower energy state than your original one. Indeed, you may be worse off then when you started, because you have adapted to its presence.  Stimulants’ effectiveness in treating ADHD is gone after 3 or more years when tracked by research.

    So where does this leave patients and parents who feel they need do something?  Giving children medications does not help manage the cause of the condition, yet the vast majority of research that is funded is targeting drug development.  This is not because there is a lack of interest in other treatments but designing and managing studies of other interventions is inherently more complex and costly.  Clinical experience has shown other changes, such as counselling, lifestyle and nutrition can make a big difference.  The challenge is the condition is caused by a single factor and without professional training it can be very difficult to determine what changes are going to have the greatest impact.

    As a Naturopathic Doctor who treats ADHD patients some of many issues I find in need of correction may include:

    -   Body Chemistry: This can only be determined through laboratory testing. Some examples are iron levels, electrolytes, excesses of metabolites, blood sugar management and thyroid hormone levels.

    -   Nutrition: Food sensitivities, imbalance in types of fats available, overexposure to food additives, insufficient individual vitamins and minerals and a deficit of healthy flora.

    -   Inadequate Detoxification Pathways: often due to constipation, overexposure, genetic vulnerability or organ dysfunction.

    -   Lifestyle factors: Sleep inadequacy, anxiety and stress management, activity levels and counselling may need to be addressed; these changes require more time and effort from the patient, the family and the society in general.

    This is just a framework and by no means covers off all the possibilities of changes that may be required.  As with any medical intervention, no two patients are ever identical.  Each patient presents a new puzzle to solve before a patient can achieve their optimum mental and physical state.  From my perspective, medications are simply a bandage that needs to eventually be removed; if you are not treating the underlying problem you might discover you are just masking the real challenge.


    • 21-10-2015

    How to Overcome Emotional Eating

    By Dr. Allana Polo, N.D.

    I always tell my patients dieting is just one piece of the puzzle. Anybody can follow a strict regimen if they really focus on it, but treating the underlying cause of WHY you are overweight, WHY you are turning to food when you are stressed out, sad, angry or bored is really the issue. WHAT void is that food filling? WHAT feelings do you experience when you overeat? These are all questions that need to be addressed in order to see lasting weight loss for a lot of people.

    You can take steps to control emotional eating and related cravings. Most communities have therapists or psychologists that specialize with disordered eating (and we do here at Polo Health). There are also programs like Overeater’s Anonymous that help target these issues. To help curb emotional eating, try some of these helpful tips:

    • Manage your stress- If you find yourself turning to food when you are stressed out, try something to relax such a meditation, exercise or yoga;

    • Stop and think about your hunger before eating- Is your hunger physical? Will eating something healthy curb your hunger? Or are you craving something bad for you?;

    • Keep a Diet Diary- Write everything down, no matter how small or how unhealthy. If you track your food along with your mood and hunger levels, it may help you see long-term patterns of how your mood affects your eating habits;

    • Reach for support- You may be more likely to give into urges if you don’t have a support system. Talk to friends and family and get them involved in your healthy lifestyle, let them help you make healthy choices. Call them if you feel the urge to eat and let them talk to you to help you through it;

    • Keep busy- You may notice that you snack when you are bored or distracted. Instead of mindlessly snacking, immerse yourself in something. Get busy around the house, or leave and go outside away from the kitchen and for a walk. Call a friend and do something enjoyable, but do not pace around the house and in and out of the kitchen;

    • Avoid Temptation- If you are known to give into cravings, get rid of junk and comfort foods from the house. If you do not have them on hand, they can’t be a problem. If you feel emotional, do not head for the grocery store. Make sure you are feeling calm and in control before being placed in front of snacks;

    • Avoid depriving yourself- When people begin to lose weight, they cut out major food groups, avoiding them like the plague and they end up eating the same thing over and over again. Does that sound like you? Unfortunately, this may make your cravings stronger and harder to ignore. If you let yourself enjoy an occasional treat along with more variety, you may find carvings easier to ignore when they happen;

    • Get adequate sleep- If you are not getting at least 6-8 hours of sleep, you may be turning to food for an energy boost. Take a nap or start looking at your sleep patterns;

    • Change your mindset- if you are craving something and can’t get it out of your head, switch your focus to something else. Look outside your window, glance at a picture on the wall, notice the flow of traffic outside, and watch a tree blowing or swaying, listen to your favorite song, or try to hear something laughing down the hall. This sensory input can help curb cravings by removing your focus on food in that moment;

    • Don’t beat yourself up- If you do have an episode of emotional eating, forgive yourself and start fresh the next day. Try to understand the experience and prevent it from happening again. Give yourself credit for making changes that will lead to better health, and understand that it is a process that will take time;

    • Try therapy- If you have tried self-help and other options, it may be time to consider seeking help from a medical professional who specializes in emotional or disordered eating. Therapy can help with a number of issues, including your motivation and coping skills.

    Always reach out for help when you feel overwhelemed by your relationship with food. Talking with your naturopath can help clarify your concerns and issues, so that a plan can be made for how you will meet your healthy life goals. You can overcome emotional eating.