Disclaimer: I am not medically trained nor am I a trained nutritionist. This post is not in any way to be used as medical advice or dietary advice. This is simply my families experience with a diagnosed medical condition and recommended dietary guidelines.
Our oldest son has always struggled behaviorally in school. His academic scores were testing at several grades above his grade level, however, he has a hard time focusing and staying on task. He also is impulsive and has a ton of energy. But he’s also a 7 year old boy who loves life and has a lot of great ideas and high self-esteem. He is extremely social and loves to be center of attention, but also is bothered when not everyone is included and involved in something he thinks is a fun time.
In first grade we had a magical teacher, there is no other way to describe her, she was magical. She took our young kindergarten graduate who thought he was terrible at reading and not smart, and turned him into a reading lover who believed he could conquer the academic world. Still the issue remained, he continued to struggle with focusing and staying on task to get his school work done. He would rather socialize, or chew his pencil, or walk around the room. After implementing as many redirections as she could and trying as many different options as she had available to her, she had the tough discussion with us about talking to our pediatrician. We had by this time become friends, and knew she truly was talking to us from her heart, and from her experience with kids his age.
So we made an appointment with a psychologist, who in the first appointment, without the paperwork from the school and also without speaking to our son, diagnosed him with Uncategorized ADHD and Anxiety. She felt that behavioral therapy as a family would work wonders for us. During our first therapy session, we had had a particularly difficult week at school, and I expressed that I was at my wits end and needed this therapy to work for us. She asked me if I was interested in medication and if I knew what dose I wanted to start him on. I was appalled. I am not medically trained, and I was a little put off by the way they came about the diagnosis to begin with, let alone being offered medication right off the bat. I politely declined, and we endured 3 months of behavioral therapy. With no changes being seen by us or the school, we chose to stop therapy and to work with him as a family over the summer.
Second grade came, and the first half seemed to go smoothly enough. Because of his ADHD diagnosis the school had implemented an IEP and he was receiving assistance thru the school. Fall conferences went well without any concerns really being brought to our attention. He still was testing well above his grade level, and he was progressing in the goals laid out in his IEP.
After Christmas break my husband and I left for a 9 day anniversary vacation, and when we came back promptly were requested to meet with his teacher regarding her ‘deep concerns’. At the meeting the teacher, the paraprofessional in his classroom, and the special education teacher met with us and told us the school had exhausted all their options and gave us several examples of how medication had helped children his age, including their own children.
We went home feeling defeated, not sure where to go from there. We aren’t 100% opposed to medications for certain things, but we really felt in our hearts that it wasn’t the right testament for us right now, and we wanted to make the most informed and educated decision possible. I brainstormed and googled different treatment options for ADHD and came across multivitamins with claims they are helpful to ADHD patients. I prayed that night for guidance in this situation, and the next day I scoured the internet for information. I emailed our psychologist, called our chiropractor, and called a local Naturopathic Doctor’s office. The psychologist told me to contact our pediatrician and we could discuss what dose of medication we want to start him on. The chiropractor said they see several children with ADHD and have families with success stories, and offered for us to come in the next day to have him scanned and for a visit regarding his medical history. The Naturopathic Doctor got us in for the next day as well for an extensive visit including his detailed medical history, blood tests, hair samples to be tested, and a urine kit to bring in for the next visit.
Our chiropractor has a scan they do which shows the overall energy level of a patient. It is supposed to come back around 100. Our sons energy level was close to 1600. The chiropractor likened it to a hummingbird in a coke bottle. We started on an adjustment plan right away and he had his first adjustment that day.
The tests from the Naturopathic Doctor came back that he has some major nutritional imbalances, he is dairy intolerant, and his adrenal gland is extremely overactive, which is also affecting his heart. Essentially, he was on an adrenaline high most of the time, with periods where he’d ‘crash’. His adrenal gland was taking up so much of his bodies resources to create more energy that during times of activity when his heart rate was supposed to increase, it would decrease because it was shunting additional blood to his adrenal gland. In order to help correct his adrenal gland, we were given several supplements to help bring his mineral levels back into an acceptable range, along with a list of foods that help give good nutrients to the body. We also were given a list of sugars to keep separate in his diet. Essentially, he cannot have fruit sugar or anything derived from a fruit sugar within 4 hours of having a refined or cane sugar or anything derived from such (I will refer to these as ‘fruit sugar’ and ‘refined sugar’ for the remainder of this post).
Me trying to read and understand the dietary guidelines regarding dairy, fruit sugars and refined sugars was like me trying to read a foreign language. I had 15 pages of information, most of it words that I couldn’t pronounce, let alone comprehend at that time. I was overwhelmed.
Luckily, I have several amazing mom friends, one of which I called up in my panic, and who helped me to straighten out my thoughts. She put it this way ‘Take it one meal at a time. First, what’s for supper? ‘ She was so right. I didn’t have to learn it all right away, even though the mom in me felt an immediate urgency to become a professional at it, I mean come on, the doctor said it was affecting his heart! But she was right, one meal at a time was all I could really do, and all I should expect of myself. I thank God for friends like her.
And so our journey started on a new dietary restrictive meal plan. I eventually learned what most of the complex words meant, and I downloaded an app on my phone to input all the information into so I’d have it handy and neatly categorized for assisting me while reading labels on foods.
I learned to read labels while shopping with a toddler and a preschooler, and started to research food brands and labels online before hitting the store because it was easier to do than in the store with the kids. I learned that brands really do matter when it comes to what gets put in our foods. I learned that how foods are processed can change the category they fall into, because while most nuts are naturally sugar neutral, the process that shells the nuts can cause them to be tainted with fruit sugars, therefore they are categorized in my household as a fruit. I learned to build relationships with vendors because I need to know where their food items come from, such as what their bees pollinated from to make the honey, because honey in and of itself is a neutral sugar, unless the bees pollinated off of fruit, then it falls into the fruit category.
I’ve learned the basics and have become pretty good at substituting ingredients to make the meal fit into his guidelines. I still refer to my app every shopping trip and to double check my ingredient list, but I’m getting more fluent at this foreign language and it doesn’t seem so foreign anymore.
I also found myself reaching out to the school professionals who were in that meeting, and explaining the choice we made, medical findings, and how it was going to take time for his body to correct itself and for behavior changes to be seen. I also had to build a relationship with them regarding not giving my son food or treats at school, and asking them to communicate with me when they knew that a treat would be given so I could send something that would fall into my sons dietary guidelines so he wouldn’t feel left out.
He began to eat breakfast at home and I packed his lunches and snacks and liquids.
I bought a juicer to make our own fruit juice so he could have something other than water.
I made sugar neutral bread for his sandwiches and it took 3 months for me to find deli meat that met our restrictions. We tried 5 kinds of peanut butter before I gave in and decided that the peanut butter sandwiches would be given on refined sugar days. Instead of Dilly Bars that his friends were having as a treat I sent a cashew-ice-cream bar covered with agave-based-chocolate to school for him.
It hasn’t been easy, and he eats a lot of the same thing week after week, but we are still taking it one meal at a time. The encouragement we get from friends and family who say they can see a difference in his energy level and his increasing ability to respond instead of react to situations helps more than they know. I actually have friends who are sending me recipes and pictures of labels if they find something that might be okay for him to have. I believe friends like these are some of God’s messengers here on earth, and I’m so thankful to have been blessed with knowing more than one!
We’ve found recently that it’s actually come to the point now where his body is no longer craving the stuff that’s not so good for it anyway. After a few months of cutting out all dairy, when he was allowed to ‘cheat’ and have a small ice-cream-sunday he became sick to his stomach from it. That was an eye opener to us all, including him, that we are in the right track.
We are continuing to have him adjusted at the chiropractor, although we are down to one time a week and his last scan showed his energy level to be at 275!
We are also continuing to see the Naturopathic Doctor and will have his levels retested soon to determine if his body is ready for a heavy metal detox and to reassess where his minerals are at.
We aren’t sure what the future holds for us, but we do feel that we are on the right track. We are counting our blessings, and taking things one meal, and one day at a time.