What are ADD and ADHD really, anyways?
How many times have you or someone you know joked that they are having an ADD or ADHD moment when their concentration is less than optimal or they are hyped up? It seems to have become a part of popular culture to throw the label around in a joking manner or use it as a default explanation for less than desirable behavior or performance. Understandably, there is much confusion over what actually constitutes ADD or ADHD behavior and what causes it.
Many times, those with so-called “hyperkinetic” energy – behavior that is considered dysfunctional and purposeless – are labeled as having ADD or ADHD. In exploring the world of health and science to figure out what had caused some of my symptoms, I learned that this hyperkinetic syndrome is caused either by a genetic predisposition due to an inefficiency in the body that sets a person up for the illness – ADD/ADHD – and/or a greater intolerance to environmental burdens, e.g., an intolerance to an inhalant or an ingestant, which impairs the genetic inefficiency even more – the result of which is seemingly dysfunctional behavior.
It’s The Sugar Stupid
The following is a medical case a doctor friend (herein referred to as “the doctor”) spoke to me of that highlights what goes wrong in a person’s body to cause the dysfunctional behavior, and how it can be corrected. A young boy came to see the doctor with his mother and related that whenever he ate food that had sugar added to it, depending on how much sugar he had, he would either become rageful or go into a pronounced hyperkinetic state. He immediately suspected the young boy had a biochemical defect that was not allowing him to metabolize sugar properly. After the first appointment, the doctor asked that sugar be removed from the young boy’s diet. Well, what do you know, his rageful episodes stopped completely, and his hyperkinetic activity lessened greatly – he was much more functional.
Just to make sure that sugar intolerance really was the culprit in causing this child’s illness, the doctor had him drink sugar water, and in a little over half an hour, he started to display sign of rage and hyperkinesis. The doctor then gave him, a quarter of a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) in four ounces of water, which neutralizes acid. Within just a few minutes, the child’s provoked state was reversed. This gave further credence to the fact that he was intolerant to sugar and could not metabolize (burn sugar) properly. The child couldn’t concentrate and exhibited dysfunctional, purposeless movements, because the acidic byproducts of incomplete sugar metabolism were floating around in his bloodstream – his mechanism for burning sugar led to high levels of acid substances in his bloodstream.
Another curious thing was that the child craved fatty foods like peanut butter, and things like pork, both of which are high in vitamin B1 (also known as thiamine or thiamin). This was another clue. The child had an impaired enzyme system leading to sugar intolerance, and his body was looking for fuel that would not involve this impaired sugar-burning mechanism – burning fat uses a different metabolic pathway than that for sugar, and the burning of the fat was giving him energy he could not get by burning sugar – a biochemical way of sidestepping his problem.
Why would an impaired sugar-burning mechanism cause rages?
The high acid in the young boy’s blood as a result of impaired burning sugar, was stimulating his hypothalamus – the part of the brain that is responsible for many functions such as sleep, appetite, and sexual function – and causing him to have periodic rageful episodes. If he ate less sugar, it wouldn’t stimulate rages, but rather would cause him to go into hyperkinesis, and when he consumed tiny amounts of sugar, there was enough acidosis to cause him to have problems with concentration and mental confusion. The reaction he had was dependent upon how much sugar he consumed, thus, how high the levels of acidic byproducts in his bloodstream were.
How can you “fix” this genetic inefficiency?
Because the doctor was able to provoke the young boy’s symptoms by giving him table sugar – which is almost chemically pure – the doctor felt it was clear that the young boy’s behavior was unlikely to have anything to do with allergic intolerance, rather there was a biochemical intolerance leading to inappropriate signaling of his hypothalamus. In order to metabolize sugar, vitamin B1 is required and for certain people, supplementing with vitamin B1 can enhance this burning process, somewhat sidestepping the genetic inefficiency. Unfortunately, simply eating foods higher in vitamin B1 will not correct this problem, and so one must take vitamin B1 in the form of a nutritional supplement.
How much vitamin B1 should one take in supplement form?
The doctor had the young boy go on a therapeutic trial of vitamin B1, giving him only a tiny amount initially (10 mg of vitamin B1), to be sure that no unexpected reaction took place, and the young boy did well on it. Sine the young boy weighed around 150 pounds, he increased the dose of vitamin B1 to one 50 mg tablet three times a day — taken with breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Seeing that the young boy was tolerating the increased dose of vitamin B1, he was then given the same amount of sugar in four ounces of water that had previously set off ragefulness and a dysfunctional state. But it didn’t occur this time – the young boy actually tolerated sugar provided he didn’t exceed his capacity with large amounts of sugar. In only 24 hours, the young boy was feeling better, was able to think more clearly was calmer and could tolerate small amounts of sugar when he ate.
1. Brenner RA: The effects of megadoses of selected B complex vitamins on children with hyperkinesis: Controlled studies with long-term follow-up. Journal of Learning Disabilities. Volume 15, number 5 (May 1982), pages 258-264.
2. Blass J: Disorders of pyruvate metabolism. Neurology. 1979, March; 29(3): 280-286.
3. Lonadale D: A nutritionist’s guide to the clinical use of thiamine. Life Science Press. Tacoma, WA 1987.