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ADHD; Our Journey of Food, Health & Knowledge.


{disclaimer: some of you will have your own mama-wolf-hackles go up while reading this. You may think that I’m off my rocker, and that there are legitimate cases of ADD & ADHD out there. Perhaps. But I’m pulling the “This is my blog and I can say what I want to” card. Also, I am not a doctor – so do not take this post TO your doctor and wave it in his or her face claiming they are a quack … I don’t condone you stopping any medication for your child without the supervision of a doctor, nor do I condone any crazed lunatics calling me or anyone names on this post or anywhere else. This is my opinion, based on my research and my own personal experiences.}  

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I’ve been wanting to tell of tell people about our journey through the symptoms of ADHD for quite sometime now. I have spoken about it here and there, and to only close friends and family,  but never ‘from the beginning’.

THIS IS A LONG STORY – BUT ONE WITH MUCH HEART, INSIGHT and INFORMATION – Bear with me!

When my oldest son was 6, he was attending a very prestigious private school in Calgary. One that came highly recommended academically, spiritually and socially. 
I wanted to the best for my son – of course, and who doesn’t – and being a single parent, I felt this type of school would be a support system. I needed a school who would take care of my boy.Easy right? Well, nothing is ever easy or that black & white.
Moms for Real Food Initiative Blog - ADHD Our Journey of Food, Health and HappinessDuring one overly serious parent teacher interview, I was broad-sided by the grade 1 teacher, vice principal and resource teacher. They had concerns about my sons inability to concentrate, behave “appropriately” and pay attention. Their concern was that he was hyperactive and might have an attention disorder. Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder: ADHD.
What? My son?!? 
This was my thought process…“Of course he’s active – he’s a boy, and very lively, loud and hyper!” 
They staff of this super prestigious school wanted me to immediately take him to the doctor and get him medication
I felt my mama-wolf-hackles stand up. I felt like they’d already given up on him. And I felt cornered.
I refused to medicate him; but I agreed to take him to the doctor, and I agreed to have him tested. However, I made it perfectly clear, that under no circumstances was I going to be bullied into making my son take medications he might not need.
Denial. Disbelief. Shame. Stress.
Why is this happening? 
How can it be? 
Like I need one more thing!
There were many “follow-up” meetings with the resource teacher. She only wanted updates as to medication and therapy. Not once was I recommended any kind of in-school testing (which was, and is still now available to any parent who’s child is suspected of a disorder.). After months (9 to be exact) of testing with specialized pediatricians, child psychologists, reading books on ADHD, talking to my own doctor, talking to my aunt who is a youth mental health counselor … I felt defeated.
He did indeed fit the diagnosis of ADHD. 

I’m going to interrupt my story here, and tell you where I stand now. What these years have taught me, and give you a little insight and information.

I will not call ADHD a disorder, or disability, as I don’t feel it is.
I will call it a symptom of a disease
Why? Let me break it down for you in layman’s terms, because I am after all a layman! … And … lets be honest, we’re all done with being giving information that is obtrusive, slightly demeaning, and not entirely accurate. Right?
A Disorder: {ADHD} is a mental disorder or mental illness of the brain, where the brain reacts differently or inappropriately to it’s surrounding. Not acting “Normal”. Mental disorders are generally defined by a combination of how a person feels, acts, thinks or perceives based on their brain function.
A Disease: ref: dis – ease; is a medical condition where the body as an organism reacts adversely {through symptoms and signs} to what it’s exposed to. It can be a virus, micro-organism, allergy, food etc. The body then reacts with symptoms such as behavior, pain, organ failure, social distress, and death.

I’m going to show you how changing the way I thought about food, myself, my family and my health directly effected my sons ADHD symptoms.

So, here is where {most} North American doctors and I clash, I don’t believe {in most cases, not all} ADHD or ADD to be a disorder, I believe it to be a disease that is completely reversible and treatable without the use of drugs and backwards thinking.
WHUUUTTT?? Allow me to continue …
In my experience, doctors like to look at a symptom and mask it.  
They have giving into our “Instant gratification society mentality” and turned the medical community into a fast-food-style-doctoring. Pushing patients through with minimal effort, research, or diagnosis. Handing you a prescription because it gets you out of the exam room, and makes you happy that there’s a Magic Pill to cure you/your child.

They have forgotten how to look deeper into the cause of the symptom! Masking a disease by telling us its hereditary, and that it can only be controlled  with a drug instead of getting down to the meat of it- finding out what it really is-  is a lazy, and ludicrous way of approaching health.But, what’s even more ludicrous, is we have come to expect it. We literally sit and wait for the Magic Pill of Health to be perscribed to us, instead of wanting to find out what is really going on.

This has to change, people. But it can only begin with us.

We also need to understand the correlation between what our bodies are exposed to and it’s reaction to that exposure. 
Garbage in – Garbage out: sometimes it’s not in the form of fecal matter, but rashes, behavior, mood, mental illness, autoimmune diseases, intestinal and stomach disease and so on.
Remember what a disease is? Your body (a living organism) reacting differently or adversely to something else?

I know, I know, why buck the system?

  • I’m a mom. 
  • A mom who’s son was diagnosed at 6 (2003) with ADHD. 
  • And I’m a mom who refuses to believe there is no cure.

ONWARD

With doctors and health practitioners agreeing with my son’s apparent diagnosis, I gave up. 
What next? 
Medication trials and parenting classes
So, off we went to a government run parenting class specifically designed for disorder driven parenting. I want to say that this experience with a good one – we learned to socially treat the symptoms of ADHD through discipline, consistency and the importance of child to parent communication. We also learned that counseling the parent and child are of the utmost importance – even more than any medication.(Some pediatricians will downplay this very important part of your ADD/ADHD journey.)
Also, we began all the medication trials to find which one made him “less zombie like, and more learning beneficial”.
We tried:
Ritalin {Methylphenidate} – nope, the boy didn’t eat, or sleep, or function. Tried several doses, no-go.
Adderal {Amphetamine Stimulants} – even worse, barley ate, walked around not speaking, felt nauseated. Again, tried several doses but he couldn’t shake the zombie-like tendency.
Concerta – first full dose, then half dose, then the smallest dose for a 3 year old (he was 7) and viola! The perfect combination of attention, no hyperactivity and complete  compliance in class. However, we still had to fight to eat, and his mood was very low: bordering on depression. Sleeping patterns completely disrupted. But the teachers were happy – and tha’ts all that matters – right???
This whole system made me sick to my stomach. I felt like I had no control, like my son was sentenced to a life of trouble and sadness with this diagnosis – a banner flying over his head “I’m not normal!”

I felt like everything was wrong – but what choice did I have? I’m not a doctor!  I can’t prescribe or diagnose, or figure it all out! 

Moms for Real Food Initiative Blog: ADHD Our Journey of Food, Health ad knowledgeIn the end – I had my (now 8 year old) son on his proper dosage of medication, the teachers* were happy, I was “Certified Fit for Parenting” because of my nifty certificate of Parenting 101 Class completion. I showed all my health providers I’d done my due diligence, and my part in this disorder … according to what they suggested, recommended and thought appropriate.

In it all, I noticed a disturbing thing  … a trend in parenting and background of children diagnosed with ADHD. 

  • Most had some sort of history of parent-to-child stress/trauma in the form of single parents, blended families, absent parents, fostering, or substance abuse.
    And many had a history of this kind of disorder; “I was like this a kid too – they just didn’t have a name for it.”  
  • Everyone (including us!) consistently fed their children fast food; McD’s, Doritos, Sunny D, Ritz Crackers, pre-made meals etc. and the like. 
  • We all had severe emotional issues, issues with dealing with stresses, ideas about food being a comfort, inability to cope with children and with exes, coping with exes and addiction, dealing with parents and addiction, childhood traumas etc.


But I stuffed it. Like I did everything else. Because I did not trust my own instincts. 

We went on for another 3 years of medication. Another 3 years of coping.
However, and this is a big however! During this time, and while watching my zombie-like child- who was now a far cry from the bubbly, outgoing, loving child he had been – I decided there was more to this. There had to be a better way to deal with this. And there had to be something I could doI must play a part in this somehow! Moms For Real Food Initiative Blog: ADHD - Our Journey of Food, Health and Knowledge
Even if I didn’t, even if I came up short at the end, I needed to exhaust all my options before completely throwing in the towel and accepting this disorder. I needed to stop ignoring my inner-voice and child. And so, began a journey of my own. 
You can call it my compulsion for seeking the truth.I  started first with personal counseling; there were issues I knew I had in which I did not deal well with. I knew these issues effected myself, my relationships and my son. I also knew this was something that could be fixed, not fast and not easily, but it could be fixed.I also began speaking to, and reading research by reputable (and some not-so reputable) holistic doctors about the topic of ADHD.
I found out how  all other countries outside North America, it is not considered a brain disorder, but a mental disease … and completely treatable. 
I learned that in countries like France it’s treated with counseling, social context problem solving, diet and psychotherapy for the family.
We boiled the problems down, we pin-pointed the core issues in me, my boy, our family and our habits – both physically and emotionally. We found we both have  a minor learning disability – but, it is so minor and so amendable!
The more I read, the more I learned, the hungrier and thirstier I became for more. Then I continued reading … and reading … and reading about food: preservatives, additives, chemicals, processed sugars, starches, sodium, GMO’s. And how they all alter your mood, physiological system, nervous system, and brain function.Moms For Real Food Initiative Blog: ADHD Our Journey of Food, Health and Knowledge

THEN, I began noticing that most of the reactionary symptoms from exposure to MSG, sodium based preservatives, added sugars; high fructose corn syrup, refined sugar, food dyes, GMO’s, pesticides all mimic “symptoms” of ADHD!

WHAT! You mean to tell me I can control these symptoms? Seems too easy.
Ok – right now I’m going to tell you something.
This was not an easy task.  I went to my own doctor and pleaded with her, stated my case and asked for him to be taken off his meds. She agreed, but under her and the specialized pediatrician’s help.(I am blessed with a very open minded GP, who is from the UK, and who supports holistic intervention just as much as traditional N.A. medicine)
Then, we had to flip your food intake 360 degrees. Just a note (a BIG note): when you have a child {and adults} who are  addicted to all the aforementioned foods, this kind of change is like walking into a burning house with a squirt gun.

It took me 4 years of familial re-education: My son, myself, my husband, my parents, his parents … etc.  Teaching everyone how to feed ourselves properly.

And we are still learning 10 years later! 

Eat Fresh – Buy Local – Know what you eat. 
We have had many days of crying, complaining, going without food (because you eat what’s made in our house, we’re not a restaurant), whining, more complaining, yelling (at me), pouting, door slamming, second guessing, feeling defeated, feeling empowered, losing tempers, gaining control, seeing results and seeing adverse attitudes.
We have had to become “Label Nazis”; reading every label, on every food. Asking where the meat comes from, how it’s processed, what fillers are used?
Making a choice to be healthy …  and it IS a choice ….

  • Choosing to stop buying all the foods that have more then the basic ingredients
  • Choosing to eat only fresh
  • Choosing to ignore the PRE’s: pre-baked, pre-cooked, pre-made, pre-frozen etc.
  • Choosing to “be the bad guy” and saying NO to your children when they beg for crap.
  • Choosing to learn how to make healthy alternatives
  • Choosing to do the hard, but greatly rewarding, work
  • Choosing to {sometimes} be looked at as the “crazy” in the family, & be OK with it

RESULTS: At 16, my son was re-tested. A certified school board hired psychologist came and did the days-long tests. He came back with a completely clean slate – no ADHD here. 

Not one symptom. 

“He must have been mis-diagnosed in the beginning.” So, I told him our story. He sat, smiled, and shook my hand. 

“You hit the nail on the head Mrs. Loeppky. Keep it up.” And out he walked.

Now at 21, he till eats the occasional crap food, of course, he is after all a teenager. However, he also knows exactly why he feels like crap when he does. He’s a stellar young man, with a bright, calm, attention laden future … all because of food, hard emotional work and taking the time to figure out what the disease is within the symptoms.

What else have I learned?

  • We all, including our beloved doctors, need to be so much more proactive in our health. 
  • We need to be so much more self-reliant and self-sufficient and self-assured. Enough so we never second guess our “mama-wolf-hackles”. 
  • We need to learn from other societies as well. Don’t be afraid to look outside your realm of comfort for the answers to your and your children’s health issues.

I’m not saying I have all the answers, I certainly do not!  I can, however, certainly attest to the fact we are what we eat

What we put into our bodies, what we put into our minds and souls, what we think of ourselves, our emotional coping – these things are all joined! They are all a symbiotic relationship.

As moms, I think, once we can get that all straight, we will be unstoppable.

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