Wholesome diet helps curb child's hyperactivity

September 10, 1991|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,Evening Sun Staff

DR. WILLIAM Crook's prescription for controlling hyperactivity might read something like this:

Take lots of fruits and vegetables, stay away from TV and sugar, get regular doses of outdoor play and family fun, apply vitamins as necessary and warm fuzzies at all times.

Only when these remedies do not have the desired effect should you call your pediatrician for another prescription -- for mood-altering medication.

Crook, who has been a pediatrician in Jackson, Tenn., for more than 40 years, considers dietary changes the first step toward curbing a child's hyperactivity. But he combines them with lifestyle changes, appropriate discipline, nutrition supplements and positive reinforcement of desired behavior.

He also says that hyperactivity could, in some children, result from repeated ear infections, which require repeated doses of antibiotics, which allow the body to over-produce a common yeast, which then emits toxins that could affect a child's nervous system.

If hyperactivity is yeast-induced, the treatment is also dietary -- reducing a child's intake of sugar, which Crook says encourages yeast growth, and increasing the consumption of foods, such as yogurt and garlic, that inhibit yeast production.

Crook, who has espoused dietary remedies to hyperactivity for decades, puts forth this connection between yeast and hyperactivity in his newest book, "Help for the Hyperactive Child." He is the author of nine other books, among them "The Yeast Connection," which ties the same common yeast, candida albicans, to a bevy of adult maladies.

These theories elicit considerable skepticism from some of his peers, Crook concedes, because most of his evidence is anecdotal rather than scientific. But he is undaunted, saying that traditional medical care is not effectively treating many of these illnesses.

Although Crook considers Ritalin, the prescription medicine commonly used to treat hyperactivity, "a very useful drug . . . and a very safe drug," he says he prefers to use medication only when he can't help a child through other means.

A child is usually sensitive to only a few foods, which can be discovered by taking a child off many foods for a few days and adding them back gradually, he has found. Some of the common offenders are milk, corn, wheat, eggs, chocolate, sugar-rich drinks and cereals and highly processed foods containing food coloring and other additives.

"Often it is a child's favorite food" that affects him, says Crook, who was in Baltimore recently to promote his book. When this happens, he advises limiting the amount and frequency of the food rather than eliminating it.

In the early years of Crook's career, he treated more lethargic children than hyperactive ones, he says. But in the late 1960s, he began seeing children with symptoms of hyperactivity. Since then, the number has increased.

He attributes this to a combination of sociological changes: diets rich in fast and processed foods, the growing influence of television, children's early exposure to disease through day care, more working mothers and increased use of chemicals.

Helping hyperactive children

Children who are hyperactive or have serious attention deficits usually exhibit some or all of the following symptoms: mood swings, aggressiveness, over-activity, inability to concentrate, learning problems, irritability, drowsiness and depression.

Dr. William Crook, in his new book "Help for the Hyperactive Child," suggests the following tactics to reduce or alleviate these symptoms:

* Clean up a child's diet: Reduce sugary foods and soft drinks, as well as foods high in fat, sugar and food coloring. Increase wholesome foods: fruit, vegetables, grains, fish and vegetable oils.

* Reduce the time a child spends watching television and know what a child watches.

* Substitute reading, family games and exercise for television viewing -- for parents and children.

* Limit indoor air pollutants: tobacco, kitchen and bathroom chemicals, insecticides.

* For yeast-related hyperactivity, give children yeast-free vitamins and minerals; some may require prescription medications to fight the spread of yeast.

* Give children "psychological vitamins": smiles, hugs, acceptance, recognition and time to talk and be heard.

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