ADHD and Fish Oil
I am a naturopathic physician with nearly 20 years of experience developing breakthrough nutritional products.I also have extensive television and radio experience and have lectured widely to health professionals, the military and the public on all aspects of natural health.
Dr Myers, an expert who holds a doctorate in naturopathic medicine
Stephen Fry in my surgery during the making of the BBC TV program
Me with Lord Bragg, accepting my "Champion of the Year" award
After graduating, I was recognised as being the 'best young neurosurgeon in Britain'
When the Department for Education and Skills in Britain considered adding fish oil supplements to the curriculum at local schools in 2006, it caused quite a stir. All questions of legality aside, the idea that this would even be a step that was considered is somewhat bold. However, the idea that children aren’t getting enough nutrition in their diet is a concern that still makes educators frustrated. With all of the studies linking good nutrition with higher scores on testing, perhaps fish oil needs to be considered once again.
What is Fish Oil
Fish oil is a naturally occurring compound that’s, obviously, found in the fatty oils of fish. Composed of essential fatty acids like Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids, these nutrients act differently than regular fats, helping to add healthful benefits to the body rather than causing harmful effects. These fats need to be taken into the body via nutritional choices or supplementation as the body can not produce these chemicals on its own.
The body uses essential fatty acids to help with cellular functions as well as in the control of inflammation in the body. But aside from these functions, essential fatty acids also help the body transmit signals from one nerve to the next as well helping in the role of DNA in the body. When DNA is activated, it creates the messages needed for body functions, so adding fish oil and essential fatty acids to the body is necessary to continue these processes.
How Does Fish Oil Affect the Brain
Before one can discuss the merits of using fish oil for the management of ADHD, it’s important to learn how fish oil affects the brain in general. Since fish oil helps in the process of signalling in the brain and along the nervous system, the brain is better able to react to stimuli and things that are sent for processing. For example, if you were to burn your finger and the signalling process wasn’t working, you might not realise it for a few seconds, seriously burning the skin on your finger. But when your nervous system is working correctly, it will let you know that your finger is burning and that you need to remove it from the hot surface.
Studies have already shown that fish oil can help with mood disorders like depression and compulsive disorders (according to studies done by the University of Sheffield), so it’s not a gigantic leap to understand how these supplements might be advantageous to those with ADHD as well as ADD.
What is ADHD and ADD
These acronyms refer to the conditions of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Attention Deficit Disorder. In these conditions, children and adult have troubles maintaining their focus on the task at hand. For those suffering from hyperactivity as well, they can be restless and agitated in addition to not being able to focus. This can lead to troubles with learning as well as sitting still in a school setting. The typical way to manage this condition is through the use of Ritalin or other pharmaceutical treatments, but there can be an equal number of troubles with taking these drugs. Some children do not respond well to these drugs or they have troubles remembering to take the medication on a regular basis. In addition, the level of the drug can be hard to control in order to get the maximum benefit.
Ritalin has also been linked with dangerous side effects like heart disease, depression, insomnia, suicidal thoughts, and even strokes. However, fish oil does not have any side effects in most children, making it a better choice for those who have had troubles with ADHD drugs in the past.
What are Studies Saying about Fish Oil and ADHD
Some psychologists have read about the possible connection between fish oils and a decrease in symptoms of ADHD and ADD, so they have tried to use fish oil as a way to manage these conditions – with dramatic results. Children who have been given 1000 mg of fish oil a day have seen increased concentration and decreased hyperactivity within four to six weeks. Most of these children can be taken off any other drugs they might have been taking.
Teachers that have seen these results have noted that the children do better on their examinations and are quieter and more cooperative in the class room. Children are also noting that they are happier in school and more excited about the learning process. Instead of fearing going to class, children are ready to learn and to work with their class mates.
The idea that a school system would consider adding fish oil supplements to their daily routine in order to curb the rise in ADHD behaviours is an indication of the troubles teachers face on a regular basis. But as fish oil seems to be living up to its promises, it might be something that should be considered a bit more seriously in the future.
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