An exclusive three-part Interview with Lendon Smith, MD.
OWC: What are some of the causes and cures for ADD/ADHD? Do you recommend diagnostic tests for nutritional deficiencies? Are there obvious signs of deficiencies other than the ones mentioned previously?
Dr. Smith: Over time back in the 1960s and 70s, I began to notice there were certain common symptoms and signs amongst the "hyper" children I saw who had been pre-diagnosed by the teachers.
In addition to being 80% boys, they were usually blue-eyed blondes or green-eyed redheads.
About half of them had dark circles under their eyes (a give-away that they were eating something to which they were sensitive. Not necessarily allergic, but at least sensitive.) In most cases, that sign indicated a dairy sensitivity.
That stimulated me to ask about any ear infections the child had as an infant. Almost all had suffered from a few of those painful conditions. This is another clue that dairy products may account for some of the symptoms. Next question I asked the mother: "Does he drink milk?" Her answer: "Oh, yes, he loves it. Isn't he supposed to drink it?" Well, yes and no. If a person loves something, it suggests that he is allergic, addicted, or sensitive to it. Like chocolate or booze.
Next question for the mother: "Anything unusual about the pregnancy with him?" Many, but not all, of the mothers responded with some or all of the following problems:
Overwhelming food cravings (sweets, chocolate, dairy, pickles, or whatever)
Some mothers had delivery problems like:
Still other mothers reported problems during early infancy:
Some had all of the above; but some had none of them.
Then there followed the ear infections, as well as high fever and screaming after the vaccinations. He was a "touchy" kid.
My next question: "Does he have mood swings? Is he a Jekyl-and-Hyde person?" If yes, it is due to fluctuating blood sugar, as sugar (glucose) is a substance that the brain needs in a constant supply.
Then the physical exam started. He noticed what I was doing and needed constant reassurance that I was not going to hurt him. The heart was beating, and as I moved the stethoscope around to hear the different heart sounds, he would ask, "Can't you find it?" When I looked in his ears, and usually noted some retraction of the eardrums, he acted a if he could hear the light. The abdominal exam was difficult because he was so ticklish -- -- exquisitely so. I had to forget the hernia exam, even though I had backed him up against the wall by this time. These patients were usually of wirey and/or athletic build; they were rarely obese.
Because so many of these patients had some or all of the above symptoms and signs, it suggested to me that they had a vitamin or more likely, a mineral deficiency. I did some blood and hair tests. All of them, yes, all of them, had a calcium and magnesium deficiency, despite the fact that many were drinking a quart of milk a day. Apparently they could not absorb the calcium from the dairy products because of their sensitivity. The intestines were rejecting it. It also explained why they loved the milk: somehow the body was telling them to drink it to get the calcium.
Another possibility: when they had ear infections, they were put on antibiotics and those frequently needless use of powerful drugs could have wiped out the friendly bacteria and allowed the yeast, candida to grow, or at least produce an intestinal dysbiosis, and poor absorption. As I mentioned previously, but can't stress enough, there is this rule: If you love something, you are probably sensitive to it.
Just to recap some of my previous statements, after a few years of trying to be a good diagnostician, I accumulated these findings:
1. If a person is ticklish, goosey, sensitive, and notices everything in his environment, as he is unable to disregard unimportant stimuli, it means that he is low in magnesium, and possibly calcium. Muscle cramps and trouble relaxing or going to sleep also suggest low magnesium and calcium. These symptoms correlate nicely with the hair test showing low levels of these two minerals.
2. Poor dream recall is related to a need for vitamin B6.
3. A history of eczema or dry, scaly skin usually means a person is low in the essential fatty acids. These acids are also necessary for brain function. The nutmeg-grater feel to the skin on the thighs and back of the upper arms is usually a Vitamin A deficiency. White spot on the nails is due to low zinc.
4. A bad self-image could be the result if the parents, teachers, and classmates who are all screaming at him to sit still, shut up, and constantly asking disparagingly "What are you dong now?"
Ritalin works in just 30 minutes, while the minerals and the other supplements and diet changes take about three weeks to achieve results. The whole family has to stop the desserts, sugars, white flour, and "put-downs". Too many questions and commands lead to the poor self image.
OWC: Are Ritalin and other stimulant drugs being over used or at least oversubscribed? Is there a proper place for these drugs? Are there any children who can't be helped in any other way? If so, what % would you say fall into this category?
Dr. Smith: There is no doubt that these stimulant drugs are being over-prescribed for these out-of-control children. If, however, the prescribing doctor feels he/she has no alternative for the child who has been "diagnosed" by the teacher who is trying to scrape this child off the wall, the drug seems mandatory. "If it works, the child needs it" seems to be the motto.
Those of us working with these children like Dr. Doris Rapp and Dr. Billy Crook have no doubt that this is usually "a physiological screwup" and not a disease. (One reason it is called a disease is that insurance companies need a standard diagnosis before they will pay for the treatment.) ADHD and ADD have been now called diseases and have a diagnosis code number, for the psychiatrists along with the previously mentioned "disease" called dyscalculia.
ADHD will subsequently soon become a palpable disease called a neurosis when the child gets depressed and even suicidal if he is put down at every turn by teachers, parents, and his peers.
The only proper use for these drugs for a vast majority of kids -- -- as I have come to realize -- -- is that it will temporarily control the restless behavior.
If it works, it is not a "Ritalin deficiency", but likely a magnesium, calcium, or vitamin B6 deficiency. I have learned from my naturopathic and herbal therapists that our topsoil is becoming deficient in several minerals. The farmers are putting nitrogen, phosphates, and potassium (NPK) on the soil and their plants grow and look healthy but magnesium, zinc, selenium and other valuable minerals are depleted.
At the height of the dust bowl, the US Department of Agriculture put out a "white paper" saying that the minerals in the top soil were deficient and people may have to supply their own with supplements to avoid sickness and problems like early aging, heart attacks, joint problems, and surliness.
The point seems to be that sometimes we cannot get everything we need for healthy living from eating foods from the store or maybe even from organic farms, although those will likely be better.
Then, on top of that, if we or our children are eating the "Standard American Diet" (SAD) our nutritional status will only be worse. If a person has even one cavity, he is flawed already, and it is a clue that other nasties are just around the corner.
Maybe, a small percent, like ten percent or less of "hyper" children may need the drugs to calm them, mainly because they have had some sort of injury to their nervous system that diet will not touch.
Many of those, however, can be still be salvaged with neurodevelopment therapy. I have seen the work of those therapists and know of the miracles they can perform. Homeopathy is a well-known and sometimes surprising type of treatment, that has saved many of these "throw away" children before they give up and go into crime for their kicks.
There are so many side effects from the stimulant drugs, I would recommend that the diet modifications, outlined elsewhere, should be tried first. These children realize they are not so bad and will even start to smile and laugh. It helped me. I was the class clown in the 6th grade, because the teacher did not know what to do with me besides making me the "humor editor" of the class newspaper.
Don't give up on these children! Remember Edison, Sir Winston Churchill, and Einstein.
Excellent Web Sites for Further Information:
Continue to Part 3 (of 3) of the Interview
Books Written by Lendon Smith:
The Children's Doctor -- 1969
Encyclopedia of Baby and Child Care -- 1972
New Wive's Tales -- 1974
Improving Your child's Behavior Chemistry -- 1976
Feed Your Kids Right -- 1978
Foods for Healthy Kids -- 1980
Feed Yourself Right -- 1982
Dr. Smith's Low Stress Diet -- 1984
Dr. Smith's Diet Plan for Teenagers -- 1986
Vitamin C as a Fundamental Medicine -- 1988
Hyper Kids Workbook -- 1990
Happiness is a Healthy Life -- 1992
Feed Your Body Right -- 1994
How to Raise a Healthy Child (Hardcover or Paberback) -- 1996
The Infant Survival Guide -- 2000
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Continue to Part 3 (of 3) of the Interview