by Samuel C. Zeiler M.S., C.N.

I find it disturbing with the increase in numbers of children I see and hear about who receive recommendations for undergoing therapy with Ritalin and other drugs to “quiet” the mind. Certainly, the drugs do work to hide the symptoms of a much deeper problem. They do not correct the underlying factors of cause.

The problem, from my professional perspective as a clinical nutritionist, is one of multiple dietary imbalances compounded by increased stress and environmental factors. Consider these alarming facts.

Recent statistics indicate that 25% of our children are clinically overweight. The most popular vegetable in American society is the potato in the form of french fries. The most frequently purchased item in the grocery store is prepackaged meals. The average adolescent consumes six carbonated soft drinks per day.

Our fast-paced, fast-food, fast-everything, convenience oriented, sedentary lifestyle has put demands on our bodily systems that were never intended. In the process of preparing packaged and fast-foods, most of the available nutrients and fiber are removed. Couple this with the fact that most children avoid eating raw vegetables and fruits for one reason or another.

How does this relate to ADD and ADHD? Consider that the brain runs on vitamins, minerals, oxygen and blood sugar in a combinations that are called neurotransmitters. Under stress and a diet high in simple carbohydrates, the natural brain function uses up the neurotransmitters and can only replace them if the necessary building blocks are present. These building blocks come from fresh fruits and vegetables, essential fats and high quality, protein sources.

Due to genetic predisposition and variations in environment, diet and exercise, some children are more noticeably affected with neuro-developmental disorders. Neuro-developmental disorders like ADD and ADHD can be helped with a return to a proper food regimen and specific supplementation designed to restore the building blocks for brain and neurotransmitter development.

A change in lifestyle is most beneficial over time, not drugs. Specifically, diet, exercise and environment. Environment plays an important role in developing habits that improve health instead of degrade health. We are all born with a full complement of life factors and due to our environment (mental, emotional and physical) we follow a process of slow destruction, status quo or growth. Our resilience to disease and mental processes is partially determined by our environment. For example, a house where mold is present can impair immune and brain function because the body is using many resources to keep the mold from infecting the cells. This takes a lot of cellular energy that is then not available to operate the nervous system properly and other body functions at peak efficiency.

This all sounds pretty complex and is when all the interactions in our bodies are considered. Suffice it to say that all conditions occurring in our bodies, including ADD and ADHD have a significant relationship to nutritional status.

Where does one begin? The environment, physically, mentally and emotionally is a good place to start. The presence of toxins in our homes create health challenges for everyone. I recommend removing all household chemicals at least. Replace them with environmentally safe products with no fragrances.

Mold from an overly damp environment or poor ventilation can cause a myriad of health challenges including neurologic disturbances. Clean up the mold that may or may not be visible. Keep the house well ventilated with fresh clean air. A filter system may be additional benefit in more polluted or high pollen areas.

On an individual level, improving the diet will clearly improve neurologic function. This means:

Remove all processed foods made from white flour, corn syrup and sugar.
Eliminate dairy products.
Eliminate sweets and high starch foods.
Eliminate processed meats (i.e. hot dogs, hamburger, sausage etc.)
Eliminate carbonated beverages in any form.
Include a wide variety of raw vegetables to equal 3 cups per day.
Increase raw, fresh fruit to 3 half cup servings daily minimum.
Sip plenty of filtered water throughout the day.
Include chicken, cold water fish, and vegetable protein.
Include essential fats like pure virgin olive oil and nut oils.

Because we are all biochemically unique, it is necessary to evaluate each individual for specific nutrient deficiencies to further support the body in correcting and healing itself. The same is true for exercise except in the case of walking, which we all could benefit from. I recommend 35-40 minutes per day of relaxed walking. This helps the mind focus and stimulates all body systems to function more efficiently.

For more information, please contact Samuel C. Zeiler MS, CN at or by phone: 206-365-1030.

This information is provided by OSPI and New Horizons for Learning, funded by a development grant from the Discuren Charitable Foundation.

Office of State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Special Education
P O Box 47200
Olympia, WA 98504-7200
(360) 725-6088
E-mail: Kathy Bartlett