Q.: I have an 8-year-old son who battles to concentrate and focus in class. He can’t keep still, and fidgets a lot. I've been told he must go on medication, but I’d prefer the herbal way. Please help, I’m desperate! Thato
DR SANDI NYE RELIES:
It must be very challenging for both you and your son to be dealing with this problem. You haven’t stated who told you he needs to go on medication, or whether a disorder like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has been diagnosed. It’s not a good idea to self-medicate your son with herbs, as a proper diagnosis is needed before appropriate herbal treatments can be used to best advantage. Remember, herbs are potent chemicals too, although they are natural in origin.
There are alternatives to conventional drugs that can address the symptoms you describe. However, it’s not ethically possible for me to provide a diagnosis, or in-depth advice, in a letter. I suggest that you let me know in which part of the country you live, so that I can try to refer you to a health professional who specialises in this type of problem, as it is vital that your son is examined and treated after a proper consultation, rather than trying herbs yourself.
In the meantime, until you consult someone qualified, you could make sure that his sugar consumption is controlled, since sugar can affect brain co-ordination, as well as cause restless or aggressive behaviour. Children with ADD and ADHD may not be able to digest sugars properly, which adds to their agitation. Fizzy drinks, whether they have sugar in them or not, can also cause fidgety behaviour, as they contain phosphates that affect the body’s calcium and magnesium levels, with consequent exaggerated muscle activity/fidgeting.
Also, look out for allergies, whether his symptoms are related to ADHD or not, as yellow, red and blue food dyes, citrus fruit, peanuts, cow’s milk and tomatoes are often implicated in allergies, particularly for ADD and ADHD sufferers. Get him to run around and play outside in the sunshine and fresh air, rather than sit in front of a TV or computer, since these devices also worsen agitated behaviour patterns in many children.
I hope this is of some help, Thato. Good luck!