I receive many letters and phone calls from parents and teachers trying to find safe and rational alternatives to giving Ritalin or other drugs for children who are hyperactive and/or exhibit an attention deficit disorder. If it were my child, this is what I would do:
Clean up the child’s diet, eliminating junk foods-especially those containing artificial flavors or colors-and make sure he or she drinks plenty of water, rather than soft drinks. It is important to rid the body of the sugary junk foods not only because of the harm they themselves do and because they squeeze real food out of the diet, but because most of them contain the artificial flavors, colors, and other additives Dr. Ben Feingold warned about. Some very poorly designed and poorly conducted research was done in the late 1970s to try to discredit Dr. Feingold’s work on hyperactivity caused by food additives. Much of this “research” was paid for by the junk food industry, and, as you can imagine, the researchers claimed to have shown that Dr. Feingold was wrong. In fact, Dr. Feingold was right.
Determine whether allergies are a cause of the problem. Unfortunately, most allergists have been trained to believe that allergies, especially food allergies, cause only asthma, hay fever, and hives. They do not realize that allergies can also affect the brain. The old skin-scratch tests don’t work for brain allergies, and while certain blood tests may be helpful, the best approach can be undertaken by parents as a do-it-yourself project.
Excellent books are available to help parents identify and remove from the child’s diet foods to which he or she may be allergic. Related reactions may include hyperactivity, learning disorders, tics, autism, and seizures. I suggest obtaining several of these books and reading them carefully so that you become your own expert. Allergies to milk products are a real possibility, as are allergies to wheat, chicken, eggs, chocolate, and certain other foods.
After you’ve done what you can to clear the child’s diet of both junk foods and foods to which the child might be allergic, consider megavitamin therapy as a means of correcting the metabolic problems. A 1979 study in the Journal of Biological Psychiatry compared the effectiveness of Ritalin versus high dosage vitamin B6 for a group of hyperactive boys who had already demonstrated a positive response to Ritalin. This was a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of the sort favored by the medical establishment. The results showed vitamin B6 to be somewhat better than Ritalin in controlling hyperactivity. B6 is certainly safer, as well as cheaper. Although the study was published fifteen years ago in a mainstream psychiatric journal, no one has taken the trouble to repeat it.
Dr. Rimland passed away in 2006; he is greatly missed.