Many children and adults suffer from ADHD and rely on medication to treat their condition. There are new ways to naturally help ADHD patients with an anti-inlammatory diet and brain exercises based on neurofeedback.
What is ADHD and what is happening in the brain of someone with ADHD?
Dr. Harry Schick: Okay, well ADHD has to do with a person, child or adult who has a focusing issue and a lack of attention span. So in this situation, a person is unable to stay focused on what they’re looking at or doing and is unable to process information in the proper way. For example, somebody could be looking at a book. A person could then walk across the room in front of them and the person will forget all about the book and suddenly will pick their head up and watch the person and forget they were even looking at the book. This can happen for long terms or it can happen for short term.
And what’s happening in the brain when the person is doing that is that their focusing ability, which often can be measured by brainwaves, are imbalanced. So a person will have brainwaves that are firing too high in certain areas of the brain and too low in other areas of the brain.
What role does food and nutrition play in ADHD?
Dr. Harry Schick: Well with ADHD, the other thing that we look at besides how brainwaves are firing is whether or not there is inflammation. And inflammation in the brain makes it virtually impossible for a person to function well. And ADHD is one of the many outcomes that can happen. So with food or other kinds of toxicity that comes from food-like issues or other types of chemicals, you can almost imagine as if there is a brain on fire and an inability for brain synapses or brain connections to fire properly.
Many people find that medication is a successful treatment for kids with ADHD. How do these medications work?
Dr. Harry Schick: Well that is a great question, and I’m going to explain that to you. One of the paradoxes or things that are difficult for people to understand is the following: I have a child with ADHD. My doctor wants to put them on a stimulant and it somehow seems to help them. So the question is: why does giving an already hyperactive, overly active brain a stimulant make them feel better? And it’s a very interesting answer. The reason this happens is because people with ADHD actually have very slow-moving brains. And what the body then does is very smart, although it has a severe consequence. In order to wake up the slow-moving brain, the body of the person unconsciously makes themselves overly active.
I’ll give you an example. You’re driving home late at night and you’re falling asleep while you’re driving. So what do you do? You don’t just sit there and turn up the heat. You do the opposite. You put the windshield wipers on, maybe you put the window down, you turn the radio on, you start tapping the steering wheel, you jostle yourself around in your chair.
So if the person in the car next to you looked at you, they would think, “Wow, that person looks hyperactive. Look, they’re jumping. They can’t sit still while they’re driving.” But the reason that person isn’t sitting still is because they’re trying to wake themselves up. And it’s the same thing in the brain. When the brain is firing too slowly, a person tries to do all these things to wake themselves up. And that’s how the medication can help-by waking the brain up artificially so the person doesn’t have to do that.
The big problem with medication is that once you stop giving them medication, the brain goes back to sleep. There’s no cure in that way. It’s just a temporary relief, like a band-aid.
Have you found natural ways to help ADHD patients without medication?
Dr. Harry Schick: Yes, we have a two-fold approach that really works phenomenally well. Number one is in terms of one of your earlier questions. It’s that we look at where the inflammation would be in the brain. And we do testing, whether it’s blood testing, saliva testing, provocative testing, whatever, to find out what is irritating the person or what is creating that type of inflammation. Because we know that you can’t rebuild the house while it’s on fire. So if we want to rebuild the brain, we have to get the fire out. And those things have to be either modified or eliminated.
The second thing is that we now need to look at the brain itself. So I’m going to give you one example. There are four basic brainwaves that we look at. They’re called alpha, delta, theta and beta. The different names only relate to how fast the brainwaves are firing. So a brainwave is where one part of the brain communicates with another. So let’s say, for example, that person has beta firing at between a nine or a ten in an area where it should be a two or a three. There’s no way for this person to concentrate and to focus on what they’re doing with a beta wave firing so fast.
Now remember, again, the beta wave is firing that fast partially because it’s trying to wake the brain up. And in order to help this person, we have to take the beta wave from an eight or a nine down to a two or a three. So how do we do that? The truth is, we don’t do it. We train the person to lower their own excessive brain wave. And it’s done in the following way: we put a sensor on the part of the brain where the brainwave is firing too high. And we hook the sensor to a computer, to a TV screen. So now the person is watching a movie of their choice. And while they’re watching that movie, whenever their brain fires up to a nine, the picture fades from the screen. And then when the brainwave goes down to an eight, it comes back on.
Remember, the brain is firing between an eight and a nine. Once it stays focused mostly on an eight, and it will go mostly to an eight because the person wants to watch the movie, and this is all happening unconsciously. All they’re doing is watching a movie. The brain itself is making these changes. Once the brainwave is down to an eight for a certain amount of time, we set the computer to a seven-eight. So now an eight will make the picture disappear, but a seven will bring it on. And slowly but surely, we walk the person down until they get down to a normal area of a two or a three. And this takes place over a period of visits. It’s called neurofeedback. And between this and lowering inflammation, the results are phenomenal.
How can people learn more about The Laurel Method that you also use in your office?
Dr. Harry Schick: Well The Laurel Method is made up of the two things that I just mentioned. Plus we do specific brain-body exercises to help reinforce areas such as coordination and balance, which in ADHD, always pays a price. Although a person may say, “Oh, my kid is great at soccer. They don’t have balance problems.” But we find areas where balance is weakened.
And the fourth component is we train them in how to do silent reading because people with ADHD do not read properly. Every time we see this problem. Even if they say they’re great readers, we work with their reading so that we have their eye muscles and their eye focusing improve.
So we do this four-fold program at our office called The Laurel Method. I named it after a day camp that I worked at as a teenager where I worked with children who, in those days, were called learning-disabled. And it’s just a phenomenal approach which we just have such great results with.
If you are interested in speaking with Dr. Harry Schick visit www.highpointhealth.com or call (732) 249-9800 to schedule an appointment.