This is the time of year when many parents consider the pros and cons of taking their kids off of medications over the summer. When it comes to ADHD in particular, the side effects of long-term use can be daunting, and with the absence of the constant need to "sit still and pay attention", temporarily discontinuing medication can seem like a natural course of action for kids while school is out of session.
Most children who take ADHD medication experience some type of side effect that can impact their daily lives. Some children have a hard time sleeping at night when using ADHD medication, requiring interventions such as melatonin or other sleep aids, which when used long-term can create dependency. There is also overwhelming evidence that taking stimulant medications long-term can affect a child’s physical development—an effect parents hope to mitigate during that summer break from the medicine. Several studies in the last 10 years show that children on medication for as little as three years lag behind in height and weight when compared to their peers. Still more studies have shown that long term stimulant use can have a negative effect on heart health.
For some kids what’s most noticeable and most disconcerting is weight loss, due to the fact that the medications can suppress appetite. If kids are eating too little and it becomes an issue, many doctors suggest it may be appropriate to go off the medication.
Doctors often warn against "drug holidays" because they feel that it is an unnecessary change. However, there may not be many downsides to coming off the medication, especially if tapered off over time and if the child is monitored by their parents and healthcare provider while transitioning.
Overall, a parent should consider how a "medication vacation" would affect their child’s health and well-being and make the decision that is best for their child.
A growing number of parents over the past couple of decades have decided to try a clinical blend of micronutrients during the summer, and many of them have found this alternative approach so effective that they were able to keep their child off of medication successfully. This approach may not be for everyone, since it requires swallowing four capsules with each meal or consuming several scoops of smoothie powder per day. However, independent university research (and lots of feedback from happy parents) has shown that these micronutrients are not only incredibly effective, but they also come without the long list of side effects associated with other ADHD treatments.
In fact, a recently published double-blind placebo-controlled trial showed that Daily Essential Nutrients, a specialized micronutrient therapy, is effective for children with ADHD when it comes to focus, aggression, and mood.
The idea is that the body can "repair itself" when given the ingredients it needs to do so, and many scientists agree. The typical American is deficient in almost every essential nutrient. Kids with mood disorders such as ADHD usually have higher-than-average nutrient needs above those deficiencies, due to many factors including diet, environmental factors, genetic dispositions and the demands on the brain stemming from the symptoms of ADHD itself.
Dr. Julia Rucklidge, nutrition expert and micronutrient researcher explains how this works. "Every single biochemical process that happens in our bodies requires co-factors. Co-factors are vitamins and minerals."
Over the years, Dr. Rucklidge and her team have published multiple large studies, including randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials, investigating the safety and effectiveness of specific micronutrient formulations, including the clinical formulation Daily Essential Nutrients, which is available without a prescription.
"If you've done a properly designed randomized, controlled trial using a placebo, it's hard for people to ignore you," shares Dr. Rucklidge. Her first blinded RCT was carried out exactly like a drug trial. Results showed overwhelming improvement in mental health and mood symptoms using the micronutrients. The study was published in the British Journal of Psychiatry. Since her initial study, she and her colleagues have published many more.
When it comes to nutrition, providing a single ingredient (such as one vitamin) is not enough to incite a clinical response. Dr. Rucklidge's research has found that micronutrient formulations should consist of:
The levels of nutrients provided in Daily Essential Nutrients are far higher than those that would be provided in even the healthiest of diets but are still well within the safe upper limits established by the Food and Nutrition Board. Unlike store-bought multivitamins, Hardy's micronutrients are also provided in a highly absorbable format and backed by a growing body of independent university research.
"My role at the moment is getting nutrition on the map. We've looked at it across the board with sleep...ADHD...PTSD," shares Dr. Rucklidge.
The big difference between using micronutrients and pharmaceutical medications to treat mental health is that, rather than providing a pill designed to block a biochemical process, nourishment is provided to the body, targeting the root cause of the symptoms. Follow-up blood work confirms that the patients' nutrient levels do increase, and higher nutrient levels bring the body back into homeostasis.
The studies that Dr. Rucklidge and her colleagues have completed on Hardy's Daily Essential Nutrients were not funded by Hardy Nutritionals®.
"When we observe people over a long period of time, not only do we see changes in the symptoms that we are targeting, but we also see wonderful changes in other areas as well. We hear about sleep,...stabilization of mood, they're a lot better regulated. Parents will tell us that their kids can be reasoned with now. That's what the micronutrients seem to do...they are less anxious, their mood is more stable."
If you're considering a med-free summer for your child, now would be a great time to see if micronutrients could be the long-term answer you never knew you were looking for.
Learn more at Try.HardyNutritionals.com. One-week samples available here.