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Hyperactivity and Phosphates

 Introducing a low-phosphate diet:

We can always help ADHD children find their way in life by supporting their strengths and encouraging them to do their best according to their individual abilities. But the most important first step and possibly - but not necessarily - the most difficult step to take is to restore to normal their molecular imbalances in the body. Chemical imbalances are the underlying cause of ADD/ADHD and chemical imbalances in very many cases can be restored to normal by making some significant changes to our diet. We would like to help you take that step by showing you what to do.

We obtain energy from the food that we eat. The nutrients (minerals & vitamins) in our food control our bodies: they contribute to our well-being and determine our performance in life. Health professionals working in the field of nutritional medicine agree that nearly every child with ADD is deficient in magnesium, calcium, potassium and zinc. Excess phosphate interferes with the absorption of those minerals. Hertha Hafer maintains that when we reduce our intake of phosphate, our molecular imbalances - deficiences and excesses - are restored to normal.

Professor Jelinek, MD in his book Taking control of MS observed that "natural therapies are potentially less harmful and much more beneficial in other ways." And eminent neurologist Professor Swank, MD concurred: "A lifestyle change will have to take place, which may be a challenge for you, but the challenges of living with a disability are much greater."

The Hafer-diet is not a phosphate-free diet as in the past many have mistakenly believed it to be, nor is it unduly restrictive as there is plenty of good food to eat. The low-phosphate diet seeks to exclude from the diet all foods that contain elevated levels of dietary phosphate. Minerals control the body's chemical balance. And phosphorus is one of those essential minerals vital for healthy human development. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends approximately 800-1000 mg to be consumed daily in a 1:1 ratio with calcium. Phosphorus is a mineral that occurs naturally in many foods. High dietary intake of phosphorus (as phosphates), however, may upset the calcium/phosphorus balance, leading to mineral deficiencies and subsequently causing innumerable health problems with ADHD being just one of them.

The low-phosphate diet goes back to the very basics. All foods high in phosphate, whether it is added commercially or occurs naturally, are suspect foods, where the commercially added phosphates are more suspect than the naturally occuring.

Every individual has a different tolerance level to the amount of dietary phosphate s/he can consume. Many people can consume whatever they like without experiencing any problems at all. Others, however, have a very low tolerance level to excess phosphate. When their particular level of tolerance is exceeded, they react with behavioral problems, with ADD/ADHD or they develop skin disorders such as eczema or neuro-dermatitis. Others become susceptible to allergies, to asthma or to hayfever. A highly sensitive person may develop several disorders simultaneously - irritability, ADHD and eczema, for example. It is important to note that no two people have the same tolerance level, therefore every person must find his or her individual level at which the behavioral problems or other symptoms become manifested.

You can find your individual tolerance level by cutting all foods high in phosphate from the diet for a period of three to four weeks to see if there is an improvement in health. Thereafter various foods can be re-introduced into the diet, one at a time. Start with foods containing natural phosphates only. You may well discover that you can easily tolerate a small yoghurt or one egg a day but that two eggs plus other foods high in phosphate may cause a problem. It is a matter of trial and error. Eventually you will discover the perfect dietary balance for yourself or your sensitive family member.

Five good reasons for switching to a low-phosphate diet:

I. Natural foods for fast growing animals or plants: The phosphate content is very high in all natural foods that are designed to nourish a fast growing animal or plant. Many animals and most edible plants require only weeks or a few months to a year to become fully grown, whereas a human being needs 15 to 20 years to achieve full maturity. Clearly, a growing human being requires far less daily phosphate than a calf - all dairy products derived from cow's milk are high in phosphate: the calf of course needs the high phosphate content for rapid growth. Hence, cow's milk should be avoided!

The point is, not every growing human being's metabolism is capable of successfully dealing with the elevated levels of phosphates contained in many of the natural foods.

Examples of natural foods that are designed to nourish growing animals or plants are:

Egg yolk (egg yolks contain lecithin, a high source of phosphate). All dairy products derived from cow's milk, except the heavy (whipping) cream. All seeds such as peas, lentils, dried beans, cocoa beans, carob, nuts (peanuts, walnuts, almonds, etc.) and their derivatives (peanut butter, marzipan, chocolate, etc.), as well as soya beans and all soya bean products. All whole grains - since these are seeds - (such as wheat, rye, oats, corn, etc.). Natural emulsifiers such as lecithins which are extracted from egg yolks, almonds, soya beans or other seeds. Some natural foods high in citric acid may also cause relapses. Pages 91- 116 in The Hidden Drug: Dietary Phosphate explain in great detail how the phosphates and acids of the citric acid cycle affect a sensitive person's metabolism.

II. Processed Foods: Many processed foods are extremely high in added phosphate. Phosphate compounds are popular and highly versatile food additives, produced daily by the tonne and used widely by the food industry to:

Extend the shelf life of their products. Improve the taste of foods, especially soft and soda drinks (Coke has up to 570 mg/kg). Act as free-flowing agents to prevent the clumping of instant food products (e.g. instant coffee). Act as an emulsifying agent which prevents any emulsion containing oil/fat and liquids from separating in food products, examples are processed cheeses (30g/kg), cheese spread, mayonnaise, margarine. Speed up the thickening and stabilizing of instant products (e.g. puddings and gravies). Help retain water in processed meat products. Improve the baking process by the addition of baking powder which makes the process more flexible and improves the texture of the baked products.

The above are the most prevalent reasons for using phosphate compounds and an example of the products that you need to look out for. Clearly the food industry has many other uses for phosphate additives, we just can't list every available substance on this site. If you would like to learn more, please refer to The Hidden Drug: Dietary Phosphate for more detail. It lists several pages of 'safe' and 'danger' foods.

III.Citric acid: Citric acid is found in many processed foods. Its effect on the body's metabolism compounds the effects of the phosphates. It is added to foodstuff to assist in the flavouring of jams, jellies, soft drinks, sweets, candies, gummibears and jelly snakes to name a few.

IV. Alcohol: Alcohol, whilst not containing phosphate itself, greatly exacerbates the effect of excess phosphate and therefore should be avoided.

V. Sugar: High consumption of foods containing sugar may intensify the body's response to phosphate-rich foods. Sugar interferes with the absorption of calcium and magnesium causing further vital mineral deficiencies.

How to get started on a low-phosphate diet: It is much easier than you think. First of all: be absolutely and constantly aware of the five categories of foods listed above and summarized below:

I. There are a number of natural foods high in phosphate content - be aware of them. You may well tolerate most of them, providing you eat them in small quantities. For example: Put one egg only in a cake or in pancake batter. Substitute wherever possible diluted cream (1 part cream, 3-4 parts water) for milk. Use 1 or 2 ripe (citric acid) tomatoes in a spaghetti sauce and grate a very small quantity of hard cheese over your pizza.

II. Many processed foods have phosphate additives

III. Be aware of the effect of high citric acid levels

IV. Be aware of the effect of alcohol

V. Avoid foods with a high sugar content

Secondly: when you go shopping, read all food labels and avoid the foodstuffs falling in category II unless you can be absolutely sure that the additives listed are from non-phosphate sources. If it is at all possible, avoid purchasing processed meats, cheeses, instant meals, soda drinks and other highly processed foods. Simply concentrate on buying as many fresh foods as possible.

When you start preparing your meals, it will be much easier if you recall what was available to your (great) grandmother and how she prepared her meals. Her Sunday roast had gravy made from oil or butter and plain unbleached flour; we think this was far superior to the gravy that comes out of a premix envelope. She made her own stock (bouillon) from diced meat, soup bones and fresh vegetables. She added fresh herbs and spices and her food tasted delicious.

Thirdly: to get started on the Hafer-diet, all you need to do is find at least ten recipes that you like. That is all that most families use. You might have to try ten recipes to find one that you and your family enjoy, but that is ok as it is all part of the process. It is vitally important to have a number of good recipes as variety is the key to success. We have started to collect some recipes below. You can try these or you can adapt or create your own, there are literally hundreds of different ways of preparing low-phosphate meals. If you find a good recipe that works for you, please share it with us, we would love to include it to our collection.

If you are off all milk products, additional calcium and magnesium may be required and you should consider taking a calcium/magnesium supplement. You may like to consult your health professional if this is the case.

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