Sugar and the ADHD Mind

Not all sugar is created equal.  It is really that simple.  Especially when it comes to the ADHD mind.  For some reason, our symptoms seem to heighten or lesson depending on our consumption of sugar.  Now, many studies out there have told us emphatically that there is no link between ADHD symptoms being worse when sugar is introduced into the diet.  Yet, so many parents disagree with these scientists that there are hundreds if not thousands of blogs/forums proclaiming otherwise.  You see, the studies, in my humble opinion, are rigged.  They give kids a “sugar” drink to see the results.  It is my belief that they use sugarcane or beet sugar, not refined sugar, in these sugary drinks for these tests.  Several years ago I emailed these companies that do these studies (when I could find that information) and have exhausted myself trying to get the answer of what kind of sugar is used but no company will answer that question.

Let’s first discuss sugar, shall we?  Most people think it is a simple component that we use for baking, is yummy in treats and soda, and all around “bad” for us.  You will hear people discuss how unhealthy sugar is all the time, including on those health websites.  It is pure carb.  It has no nutritional value.  Etc. Etc.

The truth is, sugar is good for us, as long as we keep food chemists out of the equation.  (Sorry food chemists, I do love you, but not in this scenario.)

Let us begin.  There are two types of sugar:

Sugarcane – It is a grass.  Yup.  A grass.  Mills are used to extract the sugar from the stalks creating sugar in its true form.

Sugar beet – the roots of the beet are high in sugar.  With simple refining, sugar is produced.

Those two are the natural states of sugar.  Both are nutritious with Iron, protein Potassium, and calcium to name a few.  If left in these stages they are good for us, however the shelf life isn’t very long, so scientists made ways for it to have a longer shelf life.

Molasses or Black Treacle – This is when the stalks of cane sugar or the roots of the beet are boiled once to concentrate it.  It is also called Cane syrup on ingredient labels.  When cane sugar is boiled for a second time it is called ‘second molasses’ or ‘B molasses’ and boiled a third time is called ‘blackstrap molasses’ or ‘C molasses’.  In this form, one tablespoon contains up to 20% of our daily recommended value of vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium, iron, and manganese.   Is it just me, or does that sound like it has some nutritional value?  This form of sugar has a stable and longer shelf life.

This should have been where the refining of sugar ended.  But, it didn’t have a stable colorization to it, and didn’t look pretty.  Therefore, some more playing around with it was needed so it would be aesthetically pleasing.

Brown sugar – this is a bit strange, logically speaking.  One way to make Brown Sugar is to refine it to the crystallization stage but keeping a touch of molasses in it.  Or, it is taking completely refined sugar and adding molasses back into it.  Simply put – it is refined crystalized molasses.  Yes, you can use molasses mixed with refined sugar as a baking substitute for brown sugar.  It’s that simple.

White sugar (aka refined sugar, table sugar, granulated sugar, and regular sugar) – This sugar is made by refining the sugar so that it removes all the molasses from it.  Please see above for the health benefits of molasses.  This makes sugar completely useless in the nutrition factor.  It is pure sucrose.  Once this is done, cane sugar and beet sugar is chemically indistinguishable.  This form of sugar has an extremely long and stable shelf life.  Since it has no nutritional value, and has been reduced to its simplicity, it is easier to bake with and is aesthetically pleasing.  To put simply, we took all nutrition out of it so that it looks good and cooks easier.

But wait…there’s more insanity!

Now we have High Fructose Corn Syrup.  This isn’t even sugar, folks.  It’s made from Corn Starch.  How high fructose corn syrup is made is so complicated that I cannot easily describe it.  So, I’ll direct you to the Wikipedia page (which has a vast variety of highly credible references) to read on your own if you so desire.  It is by no logical persons definition, natural.  Yes, it uses natural products at the beginning and middle, but the end result is not something that Mother Nature would ever make on Her own.  It is made only in a laboratory and has absolutely no nutritional value and is quickly digested.

Recent studies have shown that High Fructose Corn Syrup can be addictive and can lead to other addictions.  But, I digress, as I so frequently do in my rants.

I did my own study on myself and my children.  High Fructose Corn Syrup made our ADHD symptoms severely worse even when we took our medication.  All three of us reacted poorly to it.  Another self-study showed that refined white sugar also made our symptoms worse, again, all three of us.  We did much better when consuming sugarcane or molasses.  The only problem is, it is almost impossible to buy pre-made foods that do not have refined sugar or high fructose corn syrup in it.  Our biggest problem is that I am a horrible cook.  Of course, we could go the ‘all natural’ route and shop only at farmers markets or whole food stores, but we simply cannot afford that!  The more addictive high fructose corn syrup is extremely cheap for some reason that defies logic.  Is it just me, or wouldn’t just one simple refining process on a food product make it cheaper to buy?  But heavily refined foods that require multiple layers of refining with employees in a laboratory is cheaper?

Can someone please explain that to me?

So, to sum this up.  Sugar is not created equal.  My own unscientific study has proven to me that the more natural and less refined the sugar is, the better it is for ADHD symptoms.  We watch our diets and sugar intake and I know when my kids have gone off the wagon and had a snickers.  Or, to be honest, they know when I go off he wagon and have M&M’s – my greatest, and most yummy, enemy.

Why does highly refined and labortory sugar taste so good?

*Feature image is that of “Bill the Cat” created by cartoonist Berkeley Breathed.  Bill the Cat is awesome.

A Lesson in Patience

Children with ADHD sometimes do not understand that nuances of socializing.  To them, everything should be simple.  However, pop culture plays an important role to the youth of today and if the ADHD child doesn’t give a hoot about what is popular for the day, then socializing can be painful at times.

Paddy is one of those children that is learning how important pop culture is to his friends.  For the most part, he is improving greatly and is finally finding his niche of friends and is “fitting in”.  As a parent, this has been a heartwarming journey to watch him go through.  I’m still nervous and terrified that everything will come crashing down, but do not let him know my feelings.  Things have been good for months now, and I really do believe this group is accepting him for who he is.  Whew!

We have raised him with the old-fashioned belief in chivalry, which I know is dying a slow and painful death.  However, Stu and I feel it is important for him to be chivalrous.  Last week, when there was a downpour of rain when the bus dropped the kids off at the bus stop, Paddy noticed that one of the girls did not have an umbrella nor a rain jacket.  Living in Florida, Paddy knows these are very important items to have during the rainy season so he offered his rain jacket to this girl, who was very grateful.  The next morning she gave it back to him.

Paddy then confided in me that he really thinks she is very annoying and has a hard time being around her and now all she wants to do is be around him.  He explained that she talks all the time, and even after people on the bus tells her to stop, she keeps talking.  He observed that she talked to herself for 20 minutes one day annoying all who was around her.

I thought on all this, and decided to have a talk with Paddy.  I began by reminding him how his sister annoys him so that he will pay attention to her.  I then explained that maybe this girl is being annoying because it is the only way she gets attention.  He remembered times when he was ignored and how badly that made him feel.  He agreed that maybe he shouldn’t judge her too harshly and try to be a bit more patient.

I never realized how difficult socializing can be.  I went to a very small school (graduating class of only 23 people) so all my classmates knew I was a bit off in the personality department and having so few people meant that for the most part I was accepted by them.  Heck, I think it made me stand out in a positive way with such few people.  I also was the youngest child in my family and my two sisters were quite popular, which probably helped to.  So, guiding Paddy has been a real experience.

Kit Cat has the personality of a bulldozer so these things never concern her.  Paddy is my gentle soul.  I pray for the world when it is time for me to send Kit Cat out into the world.  I worry everyday that Paddy will survive being on his own.  At least, he knows she has his back.

I love my kids.

On The Spectrum of Uncertainty

Several years ago I was asked by a friend to describe what I call “The Fog”.  This particular symptom of people with ADHD is also described by others a “mental fog” or the “brain fog”.  I prefer to call it simply “The Fog”.  This may be because of my love of everything horror and sci-fi.  It just sounds more mysterious to say “The Fog”.  Anywho…

The Fog has been described by many as being mentally stuck in the mud, or having cotton in your brain.  Other’s describe it as physically being awake while mentally still being asleep.  While others go even a step further and say it is like your brain is not really your own and it is almost impossible to control.  Almost.

I find these descriptions odd because none of those really sound like a “fog”, do they?  Yet, everyone seems to use the adjective of “fog” to describe it.  The funniest part of using this word is that it isn’t supposed to be an adjective at all!  It’s a noun.  Yet, here we are using it as an adjective to describe the noun of brain.  Oops, did I just let my nerd out?

So, what is “The Fog”?  It is when the ADHD brain becomes overstimulated and decides to be uncooperative.  It is a place of no or little emotion.  It is a place where everything moves mind numbing slow, yet so fast that it is impossible to comprehend.  It is a place where nothing seems real and everything is muted, and so darned loud.  It is frightening place to be.  Comprehension of surroundings is almost impossible.

Sometimes The Fog only lasts for an hour or two and I can get myself out.  Sometimes it can last days, and rarely for weeks.  You will find that people with ADHD will oftentimes not go to loud overpopulated places like sporting events or loud parties.  This is because that much stimulus will put us in The Fog and it is so scary that it isn’t worth setting ourselves up for it.  This can greatly reduce socializing, especially in early adulthood.

After explaining this to my friend she commented that I pretty much gave the same description as her sibling gave her who tried to describe her life being on the autism spectrum.  This got me thinking, at this time, are the two connected.  I was assured by the DSMV-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition) that autism and ADHD are two completely separate disorders and the two shall never combine.  However, it always nagged at me considering the similarities.

And then in 2013, the DSMV-5 came out and things changed.  It appears that studies were done and they decided that the two shall combine in some cases.  However, how much they combine seems to be under debate.  The CDC reports that 14% of people with ADHD are also on the spectrum.  CHADD reports that more than half of people with autism also have ADHD symptoms.

Because the DSMV-IV was positive that the two conditions shall never combine, very few studies have actually been done.  It is just now that these studies are beginning to happen, so I foresee many changes in how autism and ADHD will be seen in the future. Recent studies have shown that the two do have the same genetic risks so a change in thinking may be very soon in the future.

So, what does this mean for parents of children with ADHD?  Right now the school systems have ADHD listed as “Other Health Impairment” instead of ADHD.  This is because the system of how ADHD is viewed in schools hasn’t changed since 1975.  The schools refuse to look at ADHD as a true neurodevelopmental disorder.  If the APA (American Psychiatric Association) decides that ADHD is indeed on the spectrum, then the ADHD child will receive the much-needed help in the schools system.  However, this will further pigeonhole the child with the stigma of “special needs”.

It is a catch-22.  But, at least that will put us in with very good company.

ADHD Mom

I saw this on a social media site and thought how wonderful it is.

A Big shout out to all the Mom’s and Dad’s out there who have to manage not only their lives, but the lives of an ADHD child. If you haven’t heard this lately – You Rock!

Parent Reindeer Games

Dear Parents who are ashamed, embarrassed, or otherwise ignorant with ADHD children,

Stop.

Just.  Stop.

You’re child needs you to be their advocate, not to quiet them.

You’re child needs you to be their voice, not to shush them.

You’re child needs you to be their rock, not to squash them.

You’re child needs you.

You’re child with ADHD is you’re child.  Just because they have a diagnosis of ADHD doesn’t mean that they need to be quiet about this diagnosis.  It just means that they need you to stand behind them in a Mama/Papa bear position a bit more.  They need you to arrange meetings at the schools that other parents don’t get.  They need you to be on a first name basis with their childrens’ teacher, something else that other parents rarely get.

They need you to climb onto the top of a mountain and shout to the heavens that you’re child is ADHD and announce to everyone that there is nothing wrong with that.  They need you to be proud of who they are and tell them that they have nothing to be ashamed of.

So, just stop telling them to be quiet about the diagnosis.

Have them climb the mountain with you and scream that they are perfect in who they are.  Be proud of them!

Stop being an embarrasment to them.  Yes, I said it.  It is not they who are embarrassing you, it is you who are embarrassing them.

They are who they are.  They need you.  And you know what?  You will find that when you accept their diagnosis, that you needed them to.  This is because ADHD children are remarkable in how they think.  They are remarkable when given the tools to shine.

All children are a blessing.  ADHD children are nothing more than just spices on the blessing.

Sincerely,

An ADHD parent with ADHD children.

There be Criminals Out There

To medicate or not to medicate, that is not the question for this blog today.

There is no question, to be honest.  Let’s jump to the end and begin that the decision to medicate has already been made.  First, I must begin with a disclaimer:  Medication is not the answer to all the problems with ADHD.  You must have behavior management with the medication in order for it to work efficiently and affectedly.  But I digress.

The biggest problem with most of the medication for ADHD is not the side affects or the fact that, for the most part, you are pumping your body or your child’s body full of stimulants.  The biggest problem is that these stimulants are a controlled substance.  To put specifically, they are a Schedule II drug in the Controlled Substance Act for the United States.  They are in the same class of drugs as Opium, Codeine, and PCP.  This means we must jump through hoops, perform stupid human tricks, and a bunch of other time squelching and mind numbing performances just to get our legal prescription filled.

The reason for this is because there be criminals out there who sell these drugs or misuse these drugs.  Therefore everyone must be treated like a criminal first and we must then prove we are not criminals in order to get our much-needed medication.

So goes the must be innocent until proven guilty thought process right down the proverbial toilet.  And so the insanity begins.

For my children, in order to get their prescription I must physically go to the doctor’s office every month and pick up the piece of paper (which, by the way, would be very easy to duplicate using any photo shop type program) and then hand deliver it to the pharmacy.  Using the doctor to directly contact the pharmacy in order to obtain such a prescription is forbidden by law.  For me, my doctor is allowed to hand me three months of prescriptions that I hold onto (I am forbidden by law to have the pharmacy keep these prescriptions for me) and fill every month.  It is illegal to have refills on most ADHD medications so I have to go hand deliver a written prescription every month.  Oh, and we also must have a driver’s license or other form of photo ID in order to fill the prescription.

And then, to add to all of this, the pharmacy can only stock so much of the controlled substance which means, just because you have a prescription doesn’t mean that the pharmacy can actually fill the prescription. The pharmacy is also not allowed to give you what they have in stock if they only have 10 pills and not 30 pills and then fill the remainder of the prescription when they get it.  Nope, can’t do that either to help us out.  And insurance company’s don’t take kindly to someone doing the pharmacy hop anymore to find a pharmacy that has your medication in stock.

I’m unsure as to why it is not safer to just have the doctor’s contact the pharmacy in order to fill the prescription or to allow the pharmacies to actually keep it in stock like other medicines.  I’m also unsure why there cannot be any refills on a medication that must be taken daily.  How this keeps us all “safe” is beyond my comprehension, and also the doctors comprehension.

And with all of these “precautions” the past 15 years have seen on increase in prescription drug misuse.  So, we jump through hoops and nothing has helped the misuse of these drugs.  It is so very frustrating.

The insanity circle continues.  I jump through hoops every month just so my children and I can have our needed medication.  All because people out there figure out how to obtain the medication illegally and take it.  Instead of going after the people who take it illegally, our illustrious politicians have made it harder to obtain the drug legally, all while obtaining it illegally has obviously gotten easier.

Oi Vey.

Daylight Savings Time and Mental Health

Nearly 5 million children have it.  Every year 20% of children will be diagnosed with it.  Almost 20% of adults also have it.  I’m discussing mental health issues and its something that should be discussed to the affect daylight savings time has on us.   Mental health issues range from ADHD, anxiety, bipolar, mood disorders, depression, etc.  For all these disorders, adults and children alike know that a good sleep schedule is imperative to staying mentally healthy.   It doesn’t take a genius to understand that “daylight savings time” is equivalent to mental death for people with mental health problems.

It’s not like there haven’t been numerous media attention and studies on the subject.   Even with people without mental health issues, changing time causes cardiac issues, stroke, cortisol production, and vehicular accidents in the first 3 weeks of the time change.  So, why do we do it?

I mean, even research has shown that there are no benefits to conserving energy with it. Add this with the mental health problems with people and it seems like a no brainer to get rid of it.

For the next several weeks my children and I will be having major issues with our mental health and we will not be sleeping well.  Almost 20% of American will also experience the same problems.  It is time we stop this ludicrous practice.

Stop the madness!

We Don’t Live inside the Box

(It took me awhile to figure out a title for this post.  I really wanted to name it “shameless Plug”, but I figured that might sound a bit naughty.  I will forewarn you though, that this post is about me bragging on myself and I will ask for a favor at the end of it, if you are so inclined.)

There have been many scientific studies done on people with ADHD that have determined that we are indeed more creative than the non-ADHD person.  I found this article in Psychology Today from 2011 that gives several examples of these studies.  To put this simply, we are more creative but only if there are no rules on that creativity.  We also highly achieve at thinking outside the box.

I find this description of “thinking outside the box” as a good way to help describe what life with ADHD really is.

Imagine a box.

Now, imagine everyone living inside that box.  Inside, there is creativity, but it is controlled by the rules of everyone inside that box.  On occasion, someone will momentarily escape that box and think for themselves.  They will come up with something creative and so imaginative that they will be congratulated upon returning inside the box.  That person will be recognized for their greatness, and probably get rewarded in multiple ways.  For the school age child, they will get an “A” and probably some sort of public recognition.  For the adult, they will be put on a list of those who will quickly move up the ladder in the company, along with possible public recognition.  Thinking outside the box is something that most people living inside the box achieve to do at least once in their life.  But there is a rule to living inside the box.  The rule is a strict one, that must never be compromised.  And that rule is:  you must return to living and thinking inside the box if you dare to think outside it for a moment.

Now, imagine the ADHD person.  That person lives outside the box.  Their entire childhood is devoted to finding that box so they can be with everyone else and think like everyone else.  The school system is set up for only those who are inside the box, so finding the box is desirable for success.  However, it is very difficult to find the box.  Once the box is found, it is even more difficult to get inside.  Sometimes, people inside the box refuse to open any of the doors or windows leaving the ADHD person stranded, knowing where the box is, but unable to get inside.  Some adults with ADHD spend their entire adulthood trying to find a way inside that box.  Many find success in never finding that box, but figuring out how to pretend that they are inside.  It is easy to fool those inside the box into thinking that we are inside with them.  Then there is a select group of other ADHD adults that find success in not only never finding the box, but never pretending to be inside either.

For the ADHD person, we spend most of our lives looking for that stupid box.  Sometimes we get in, panic, and leave.  Sometimes we get close and then just stare in wonderment as to why people stay in there willingly.  Very few of us get inside and never leave the box.  It’s a bit stifling in there.  And also, no offense to those inside the box, it is boring in there too.

For the person with ADHD, the box becomes our nemesis.  We try our entire life to get inside, only to run away the minute we achieve our goal.  Then, the cycle begins again.

I hate that box.  But yet, I dream to be inside with everyone else sometimes.  Then other times, I rejoice at living outside the box and love my solitude.

When I was a stay at home Mom I decided to try my hand at writing.  It took me about ten years to complete my work.  Not only did I complete writing a book, I was able to do what needed to be done to get it published.  I followed the rules and got inside the box for a few short moments to find success!  Well, not necessarily success, seeing as how the publisher didn’t fulfil any of their promises, but I was published nonetheless.

And this brings me to my favor I wish to ask of you.  I am trying to complete the second book in my series.  My hope is that there will be seven in total.  The series is called Seven of I.  The first book is “Keeper of the Words”.  The second book is titled “Thrice Blessed”.  If you like Science Fiction/Fantasy that has a true good vs evil concept to it, and have a kindle, would you consider spending $0.99 on the book and then reviewing it?  I have 21 reviews right now, but would like more in an attempt to get a better publisher to look at my second book.  It is only available right now on the Kindle due to my financial constraints.  You can go here to read a description and decide if you would like to read it.

My biggest problem with writing the book is controlling my imagination.  There are few times while writing that I have to force myself to think inside the box in order to not scare anyone away with how wild my imagination can get.

I hate that box.  And I love that box.  It’s an ADHD conundrum.

*Featured imagine is a picture I took last year at the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh.  I highly recommend everyone to visit there at least once.  The imagination can get lost in there.

Let the Children Move

My sister is a wonderful teacher and works with the youngest of children to help with their development before they even enter school.  She is always on the look out on how to help children in school.  She shared this with me awhile ago and I love it and immediatly shared it on our Facebook page.  This would not only be good for children with ADHD but all children.  I decided to share this now on the blog, while school testing is going on in many schools right now or will be happening soon.   Thank you, Robyn, for always helping teachers find ways to help their kids!

7 minute work out

Using Teachers to Advocate for ADHD Children

There are many schools out there that still like to use the terminology of “special education”. This description has been used for a very long time and has quite the negative feel to it in my opinion. The definition of Special Education from American Heritage is: “Classroom or private instruction involving techniques, exercises, subject matter designed for students whose learning needs cannot be met by a standard school curriculum.” The definition from Webster’s is: “Education modified for those with disabilities or exceptional needs, as handicapped people or gifted children.” Then the definition used by Princeton University’s Wordnet 3.0 is “Education of physically or mentally handicapped children whose needs can not be met in an ordinary classroom”. In no way do I feel that ADHD children fit the need for “special education” as used in the three definitions above. Yes, there are a few modifications that should be made for ADHD children, like extended time for tests, sitting close to the front/teacher, and avoiding distractions in the classroom, but that does not meet the required definition of “special education” as the child with ADHD can and does learn by standard ways of teaching. And if we are being completely honest with ourselves, I think everyone can admit that even the non ADHD child could benefit from the ADHD modifications. Something else to be honest about is that not every child without any form of disability cannot all learn exactly the same way and need a little modifications of instruction.

I bring this up because sometimes children with ADHD are pigeonholed in the archaic viewpoint of “special needs child” just because they need an IEP or other forms of support. As parents, there is little we can do about it as the school systems will not change their viewpoint. Most children with ADHD, although brilliant, cannot pass a “gifted child” testing because very rarely do the tests for “gifted children” have the ADHD brain in mind. The same is true for IQ testing (which in some states, gifted testing and IQ testing are the same thing). This leaves the ADHD child inside a vortex of swirling fog unable to advance but easily brought down. It is difficult for children with ADHD because they are always forced to prove themselves in a way different from their peers. Teachers have 20+ children in their classrooms and all their children require different methods for learning.

This means, as parents, we are the advocate for our children. Do not expect the school to go our of their way to assist just you. There are hundreds, possibly thousands, of students in each school. And each of those children, every single one of them, have different needs. Some are brilliant, but come from single parent households making life a bit more stressful. Some are not so brilliant, but come from a home with lots of extra money and the expectations of brilliance. Some families have parents suffering from a physical or mental illness meaning that their child needs extra attention from the teacher. None of these children have the benefit of having an IEP. As parents of children who have been diagnosed with ADHD, we have a sure fire way to advocate legally for our children. It is a privileged that we must utilize even if the school still uses the horrible wording of “special education”.

With an IEP and the term, “special education”, Paddy is in an advanced magnet program at his high school and is in honor’s classes. He had to work harder than most students to get to this goal because of the label of “special education” in our school system, but with the help of parental advocating he is succeeding. Kit Cat, also with an IEP, made her way to regional state science fair and made it to fourth place in her group. Yes, we are very proud of them! The diagnosis of ADHD has not stopped them because I have not allowed the schools to pigeonhole them into a stereotype. I have found that the individual teachers (well, most of them) have been more than happy to help me with them. Because of my enthusiasm for my children, the teachers have been right next to me helping to advocate for them. Teacher’s are in a difficult position now a days with the expectations that they have to somehow cater to all children’s needs without leaving out any child. This is difficult to master even in a small classroom setting. However, utilizing teachers knowledge of the education system has been the best way I have found to help my children.

Long story short – utilize your child’s teacher. It is not them who want to pigeonhole our children. They want to help. Listen to them. If you ask for a special accommodation and the teachers says this cannot be done, they are saying that for a reason. Just because one teacher was able to do that accommodation doesn’t mean another teacher can. I know this sounds odd, but hear me out. The teacher’s know their children in the classroom, you do not. One teacher can accommodate because the children in that classroom can also accommodate but the other teacher will not be able to. Let me give you an example: One teacher says that your child can utilize a bouncy chair to help your ADHD child with extra energy but another teacher will say no. This is because that teacher has a child in their classroom with sensory issues that will not be able to handle a child in the classroom bouncing quietly in their chair. That teacher should give another option for extra energy – special stress balls or sensory hand held toys. The teacher cannot be specific about the needs of all their children, just remember that. You cannot always demand the same accommodations. The teachers are not the ones who say “special education”, is is administration. Most teachers want to help all their children. So, listen to their teachers. They are just as frustrated by the system as you are. If you are a positive advocate for your child, you will see the teachers advocating for you as well.