In most circumstances, medication for hyperactivity can be stopped during the summer and resumed when school starts in the fall. This regimen may limit some of the long-term side effects of these drugs. After a summer without medication, it may be useful to permit your child to attend the first several weeks of school without medication. Consider this a trial period to determine whether your child can do without drugs. (Always talk to your doctor before discontinuing any medication for any length of time.)
SOME FACTS ABOUT HYPERACTIVITY
Although many parents of energetic children ask their doctors about hyperactivity it is not a common disorder. According to an article in the British Journal of Psychiatry, only 3 percent of children are actually diagnosed with an attention deficit hyperactive disorder.
Hyperactivity is ten times more common in boys than in girls.
The exact cause or causes of hyperactivity are unknown. The medical community theorizes the disorder may result from genetic factors; chemical imbalance; injury or disease at or after birth; or a defect in the brain or central nervous system, with the result that the mechanism responsible for controlling attention capabilities and filtering out extraneous stimuli does not work properly.
As many as half of all hyperactive children have fewer behavior problems when put on a diet free of such substances as artificial flavorings, food colorings, preservatives, monosodium glutamate, caffeine, sugar, and chocolate.
Before trying any other treatments, begin by eliminating refined sugar and food additives from your child's diet. Read labels carefully, and eliminate processed foods that contain artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, and preservatives, commonly listed as benzoates, nitrates, and sulfites. Common food additives also include calcium silicate, BHT, BHA, benzoyl peroxide, emulsifiers, thickeners, stabilizers, vegetable gums, and food starch.
Salicylates are often implicated in hyperactivity. These are a bit trickier to eliminate from the diet; they occur naturally in addition to being used as additives. A number of popular fruits and vegetables contain salicylates, including almonds, apples, apricots, bananas, blueberries, cherries, grapes, grapefruits, lemons, melons, nectarines, oranges, peaches, plums, prunes, raisins, raspberries, cucumbers, peas, green peppers, hot peppers, pickles, and tomatoes.
A study cited in the journal Pediatrics reported that more than 50 percent of hyperactive children showed fewer behavior problems and had less trouble sleeping when put on a restricted diet. The diet that helped was free of all artificial and chemical food additives, chocolate, monosodium glutamate (MSG), preservatives, and caffeine.
For an in-depth look at diet and hyperactivity, investigate the findings described by Dr. Benjamin Feingold in his book Why Your Child Is Hyperactive (Random House, 1975). Dr. Feingold says that his study and clinical practice have convinced him that eliminating all synthetic food additives from a child's diet will resolve hyperactivity. The book offers explanations, food lists, recipes, and menus to help you design a diet for your child.