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FISH OILS TAMED MY BOY; Natural remedy proves to be a breakthrough in kids who are out of control.

Byline: EMMA BURNS

ELLIOTT McNAUGHTON could not be more angelic as he sits telling you proudly all about his recent fourth birthday party.

He breaks off to count from one to five and sing the lyrics of Postman Pat in a tuneful little voice.

When his mum, Annette, tells him it's her turn to talk now, he trots off without complaint to play with his toys.

It is hard to believe that this is a child who, until a few months ago, was running riot at home and at nursery.

Elliott, always difficult from a baby, was out of control. But one minor change in his diet has produced this major effect on his life - taking fish oils.

Research shows that many children with problems like ADHD, dyspraxia and dyslexia respond well to Eye Q and similar supplements. Dr Alex Richardson, of the Imperial College School of Medicine in London, says: "All of us need long-chain highly unsaturated fatty acids - they are truly essential to life.

"Deficiency means that functioning of the eye and brain and central nervous system is not what it should be. Yet in the modern diet it is extremely difficult to get enough unsaturated fatty acids."

Annette, 37, from Leith, Edinburgh, says: "He was very frustrated and angry and aggressive. He lashed out at me and headbutted me every day at some point. He banged his head off the doors and off the floor and didn't appear to feel any pain. It was very extreme.

"He pushed other children over, especially if he'd been eating sweets. I couldn't talk on the phone for even two minutes - he'd grab it.

"At nursery, he wouldn't have any form of conversation with anybody. He just raced around the room and threw toys about. He wouldn't sit on his chair for five minutes, even to have his lunch.

"At home, he broke the living room window by throwing a toy at me. It missed me and went through the window.

"In the supermarket he would ram trolleys into people and pull down the displays and dump things off the shelves.

"He even started up my car once and crashed it into the car in front. I'd left the keys on the seat while I unloaded the shopping and he put them in the ignition and turned it on.

"He had no concept of danger. I almost had heart failure, but he just laughed and laughed."

Elliott was placed on the education authority's special needs register because he was showing all the signs of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

The next step could have been to put him on Ritalin, a powerful and controversial drug. Single mother Annette, however, was determined to find another way to cope with her only child's behaviour

It was clear that Elliott, who has asthma, was very much affected by what he ate and drank. He was taken off cows' milk at 12 months because he screamed with pain for hours and vomited frequently.

However, even a small amount of dairy products in his diet affects him profoundly.

Annette, who has poorly controlled diabetes and needs to watch her own diet, says: "He gets really bad stomach cramps. He will be wriggling across the floor on his back, banging his bottom on the floor. He suffers a lot from constipation and diarrhoea anyway. Our health visitor helped me learn reflexology, so I massage his feet after his bath to help the motion come out without too much pain.

"I have to read all the labels carefully. He can't have any pre-packed foods."

She also removed all additives and preservatives from his diet, cutting out sweets and squashes

"He loves Irn-Bru, but it sends him off his trolley," she adds. "Even colourings in medicine and antibiotics are a no-no. I cook pasta, home-made soups, white meat and fish."

By chance, about a year ago, she came across the Overload Network, founded by Janice Hill, to support families of children diagnosed with ADHD.

Janice, who has four children, including one who could not tolerate dairy products and another with behavioural problems, advised Annette to try supplementing Elliott's diet with vitamins.

Then, three months ago, came the real breakthrough - essential fatty acids in the form of fish oils.

Since Annette started putting the contents of Eye Q capsules into Elliott's juice night and morning as part of a tailor-made programme of supplements, his behaviour has improved hugely.

"He will never be the best-behaved child in the street," she says. "But it has made a big difference - he's a lot more manageable and my life is a lot easier.

"He sleeps for a few hours at a time now. Before it was no more than two hours at once and then we could be up for four.

"He has even put on weight and height. He's on a par with children his age now - before he was so small and light, you could see his bones poking through.

"He sat down to his computer for 20 minutes the other day, which is definitely a record. Before, to get his attention on anything for longer than five minutes was a miracle.

"The nursery has noticed a definite improvement, too. We hope he'll sit still with the rest of the children next year."

Elliott is not alone in being helped by essential fish oils. Dr Richardson says most people, adults as well as children, do not eat enough of the right foods, particularly fish, nuts and seeds and green leafy vegetables, and have a mild deficiency.

But a few people have such difficulty converting the raw materials of simple fatty acids into highly unsaturated fatty acids they become seriously deficient.

There are different reasons for the problem. In some people, the enzymes carrying out the process simply don't work as well as they should.

The outward signs of someone who is low in essential fatty acids are excessive thirst, dry bumpy skin particularly on the upper arms and legs, soft and brittle nails, and dull, flyaway hair.

"These are more common in individuals with ADHD or dyslexia than in other people," says Dr Richardson.

Even more significant is the behaviour that goes with deficiency - problems with attention, finding it hard to concentrate despite distractions, being emotionally very sensitive and prone to mood swings and temper tantrums.

While stressing that parents should always check with their GP first before putting children on to such supplements, she says: "In children with ADHD there is a problem with brain function. In some of these children there may be a biochemical imbalance.

Supplements can even work for children who have been prescribed Ritalin.

Seven-year-old Lee Millar, who has ADHD, spent six months on the drug, which is a form of amphetamine. Then his mother, Donna, 36, a former legal secretary, took him off it because she was horrified by the effects it was having on his behaviour.

He was becoming really violent towards his brother, Derek, 11.

"He stabbed him once through the foot with a pair of scissors," says Donna, a divorcee from Edinburgh. "Another time, Lee pushed him through a glass fire-door at the top of the stairs. Derek was very badly shaken, but Lee needed stitches.

"I was worried Lee might get up in the night and try and smother his brother."

Lee's attitude to the tablets worried her, too. He raided the kitchen searching for them, desperate like an addict for his fix.

"He started throwing things round the garden and losing the plot completely," says Donna. "My neighbours' children wouldn't go near him. He wouldn't laugh, he wouldn't cry. On Ritalin he had no emotions, except anger." When he went cold turkey last July, it took until close to Christmas for him to settle down. "He had sweats and mood swings and he went ballistic if I said "Hiya" to my other son. He seemed to think everyone hated him," says Donna.

When the drug wore off he returned to being his normal self, playing with his friends and showing his emotions again.

In the last three months Donna has put Lee and Derek, who has dyspraxic tendencies, on fatty acid supplements, and has seen improvements in them both.

"Derek can write two or three paragraphs on the computer now, where he might have managed one sentence before," she says.

"Lee will sit and do his homework where previously he'd have thrown it about the room. And he's starting to cope a lot better in the classroom too.

"He's enjoying playing a lot of football and he has joined the Beavers. He still has his good days and his bad days, but he's a lot happier about himself."

The Overload Network can be contacted on 0131 555 4967.

Eye Q costs pounds 7.99 for 60 capsules, from Boots and other pharmacies.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Feb 7, 2001
Words:1471
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