ADD, ADHD, and Other Improbable Diagnoses

By Hugh Riordan, M.D.

All too often in standard medical approaches, when a symptom complex is given a name, in depth thought about the symptom complex ceases. Instead, a “cookbook” approach, designed to suppress symptoms, is used.

… a normal group of people will have a tenfold difference in their need for any single nutrient.

That is why when I ask a new patient “what have previous doctors said of the causes of your hypertension, arthritis, or attention deficit syndrome,” they invariably relate that no underlying cause, or causes, were ever discussed or even mentioned.

In my opinion, the reason for this is that all medical doctors are trained in the acute medical model. Such training is very useful if you are bleeding, broken, or having a heart attack, because rapid action is what is needed; almost automatic non-reflective responses are essential. It is because of that training that we have a superb acute medical surgical care system. That same training tends to interfere with the evaluation of non-acute medical problems which persist over a period of time.

What is needed in the evaluation of sustained illness such as ADD, ADHD, and hypertension is an awareness that such illness is multifactorial, with multiple causes that come together to produce illness. In the case of essential hypertension, we know that the acute medical response is to promote the notion that medication must be taken for life. At The Center, we use a more thoughtful approach that asks the question, “Why is the person’s body finding it necessary to raise its blood pressure?”

Using that approach, we know that underlying causes may include inadequate tissue of magnesium or potassium, too great a body burden of heavy metal, such as lead and cadmium, adverse food reactions, hidden infections, emotional constipation, and other factors.

Similarly, the acute medical model dictates that a child with ADD or ADHD must require medication to suppress the unwanted symptoms. But here at The Center we ask the question, “Why is this kid climbing the walls, being obnoxious, unable to focus attention, and having all the behaviors parents face with this burden and endure to the point of total exasperation?”

From nearly four decades of evaluating and treating hyperactive children, we understand something of the biochemistry of behavior. We know that ADD is not a deficiency of medication. We know that adverse food reactions, hidden yeast problems, trace mineral imbalances, specific nutrient deficiencies, parasites, and various metabolic disorders, as well as emotional factors, are involved in attention deficit problems.

Speaking of nutrient deficiencies, we know from the work of Dr. Roger . Williams that a normal group of people will have a tenfold difference in their need for any single nutrient. People, including children who have illness, may have an even greater range of nutrient needs.

To get a better idea of how our needs may vary, every person who has a health concern should read The Wonderful World Within You written by Dr. Williams.

To get an idea of what may be causing the specific child to act inappropriately, it is essential, in my opinion, to precisely measure what is going on metabolically in that child. Once underlying problems are detected, the treatment becomes rather obvious. Over time, with appropriate treatment, most children with ADD or ADHD respond positively.

Seeing such children blossom is a privilege. And, nothing is more satisfying than years later seeing a fine, intelligent, productive adult who came to The Center as a child to eliminate unwanted, distressing, destructive behavior. That type of feedback, which we are so often privileged to receive, motivates us to continue with our mission.

Editor’s note: Just a couple of thoughts to add to Dr. Riordan’s comments about The Center’s approach to chronic or sustained disease in contrast with the standard acute care model, as it applies to ADD, ADHD, and chronic disease in general. “When children who exhibit learning and/or behavioral disorders are examined by a number of specialists, the diagnosis is more closely related to the orientation of the specialist than it is to the essential problems facing the child. “-from the Kellogg Report, presented in 1980.

Children who have been seen by eight different specialists, commonly have eight different diagnoses, ranging from hyperactivity to dyslexia to autism. These diagnoses do not indicate the cause of the problem and do not suggest any specific treatment, as Dr. Riordan mentioned.

Abram Hoffer, M.D., Ph.D., pioneer in orthomolecular medicine, feels very strongly about the negative impact of refined sugar on the human organism. He wrote in 1996, “If we do not try to improve the nutrition of our children, not only of children suffering from ADD, but also of almost every child in our high-tech society, we can look forward to another millennium of chronic illness, perhaps so severe as to threaten the species.”