MindCheck Logo

MindCheck is the Weekly Wednesday Kids Mental Health series with Dr. Ray Pataracchia N.D.  MindCheck provides in depth information on the orthomolecular approach to coping with mood and/or behavior disorders.  The MindCheck Health Series is endorsed by the Mindful Network – ‘A Better Future for Children’s Mental Health’


Do you have a lot of ideas on the go?  Like a string of light bulbs, ADD kids have a lot of ideas on the go but difficulty honing in on one at a time.



Dr. Ray Pataracchia ND  ©  2013

ADD is a disorder on the rise and although it occurs commonly in children, it often trails over into adulthood.  More than one family member or relative may be affected.  ADD is characterized by inconsistent attention spans and behaviors. Hyperactivity may or may not be present.  The fluctuate nature of ADD symptoms suggests an abnormal response to stress that influences metabolism.

Are there internal stresses separate from that that kids are exposed to in everyday life (academic pressure, peer pressure) that might account for ADD or ADHD behavior?  Since I commonly see ADD kids with a dominance of heavy metal excess, adrenal gland dysfunction and vitamin B3 deficiency, I consider that these imbalances are interconnected at least in part.


Adrenal Insufficiency

The stress glands of the body are the adrenal glands and they produce hormones that need to be released in appropriate amounts in a regulated fashion to handle life stress.  Growing kids typically have fairly fast metabolisms but with constant stress exposure, their adrenal glands can burn out and ultimately exhaust reserves; the burn out resistance and exhaustion phase can be a part of a weakening fast metabolism but ultimately this first-line response to stress can’t be maintained—the end result, adrenal metabolism slows to a grind.  It is not uncommon to see burn out after using artificial stimulant medication (Ritalin, Concerta, etcetera) which may initially help kids maintain their fast metabolism but only at the expense of further depleting the adrenal glands.

From a clinical perspective, when hair tissue sodium level decline below range, the adrenal gland enters deeper into burn out, until a chronic exhaustive state develops and with that low energy and depressed mood symptoms; here is where we might see kids respond better to anti-depressants versus stimulants.  It is said that ‘you can’t be depressed if you have energy’ so the orthomolecular approach is to aim to correct the depleted state of the adrenals.

It is also important to rule out thyroid gland imbalance which is associated with a plethora of mental health symptoms.  If the adrenal glands are stressed this can influence thyroid gland function which can in turn influence mental function and behavior; this due to the inner workings of the psycho-neuro-endocrine axis.  Neuro-endocrine imbalance is associated with compromise in neurotransmitter production and regulation.  Adrenal and thyroid imbalance is discussed in detail in the MindCheck – Kids Mental Health blog on Orthomolecular Treatment of Mood and Behavior Disorders (PART THREE):  Magnesium & Calcium Deficient Kids and Kids with Thyroid/Adrenal Imbalances.


Heavy Metals

Heavy metals often accumulate in the brain and other parts of the nervous system.  Heavy metals often destroy brain tissue and compromise neurotransmitter production and regulation.  Metals can be released into circulation in utero from stored tissue sites of the mother when she is exposed to stress during pregnancy; if metal deposition transfers from generation to generation, this might explain the greater incidence of ADD that we see today.

Copper toxicity is very often seen in ADD and ADHD.  Copper is a mineral that in very useful in childhood development but if it accumulates in the population and therefore our offspring, it can be considered a heavy metal acting as a free radical disrupting brain function.  Other metals such as mercury, lead, and cadmium are also in the environment and may be found in ADD kids and adults; these metals also are commonly associated with mental health disruption.  Specific heavy metal imbalances are discussed in detail in the MindCheck – Kids Mental Health blog on Orthomolecular Treatment of Mood and Behavior Disorders (PART TWO):  Under-Methylated Kids and Kids with Heavy Metals.


Vitamin B3 Deficiency in ADD

The amide of vitamin B3 (niacinamide) has anecdotal indicators of being useful in addressing ‘lack of focus’ and hyperactivity, the major symptoms associated with ADD/ADHD.  Many of the fast metabolic symptoms that we see in ADD and ADHD are prototypical of the symptoms that niacinamide has been successful in addressing.

Symptoms such as mind ‘running’ where the mind is busy all the time but doesn’t actually accomplishing anything (i.e. lack of focus) or, hyperkinetic ‘running’ where the body has a propensity for kinetic activity (i.e. hyperactivity) are clearly a part of ADD/ADHD profiles.   In this fast metabolism scenario, starting projects without actually finishing them is a key trend.

As a strong methyl acceptor we might consider that vitamin B3 works simply by way of diminishing abnormal excesses of neurotransmitter production in areas of the brain associated with focus and/or hyperactivity.  Greater descriptions of symptoms and profiles of B3 related ADD/ADHD are discussed by Andrew Saul in the 2003 Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine article The Pioneering Work of William Kaufman: Arthritis and ADHD.