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Nutritional Causes of Poor Focus in Kids and Adults: Organic Acid Testing

Rates of leaning challenges continue to escalate in our country as kids and adults alike are finding it harder to focus and concentrate. Latest numbers show 5% of children and 4 % of adults worldwide. While conventional medications can be helpful at treating the related symptoms, they do not do anything to address the underlying causes for these challenges.

As naturopathic doctors, we are always striving to answer the WHY? question when it comes to our patient’s health concerns. This often means we need to investigate in less conventional ways to get our answers.

One such area of investigation that can reveal a great deal about a child or adult with a learning challenge is called an Organic Acids Test (OAT test for short).

These OAT tests require a patient to provide a first morning urine sample for analysis which provides a comprehensive snapshot of their metabolism. These small organic acid molecules are the by products of human cellular activity and give us clues about several categories including:

  • Yeast and Bacteria
  • Nutrition – including vitamins and antioxidants
  • Fatty acid metabolism
  • Neurotransmitters
  • Mitochondrial Function
  • Inborn Errors of Metabolism
  • Detoxification and Oxidative Stress

These may seem big areas to unpack and understand but let me give you a couple of common examples I see in clinical practice;

  • Yeast and Bacteria – common findings with candida overload causing kids to be silly and act out (class clown) or to be staring off into space and constantly daydreaming. Conversely, in the bacteria section, a metabolite from the Clostridium bacteria called HPHPA will cause issues with anger, rage and aggression in kids and adults alike.
  • Nutrition – a marker called MMA measures B12 status which is a key component in mental health for issues like anxiety as well as for metabolic issues concerning detoxification particularly of the brain and nervous system. Impaired garbage removal will always cause problems in some way – behavior, sleep challenges, digestion, etc.
  • Neurotransmitters – 2 markers called HVA and VMA give clues to stress hormones and a brain chemical called dopamine (important for focus and concentration). Elevated markers may indicate the patient is very stressed and as such has challenges in many areas, not the least of which is learning. Another marker called 5-HLA is a metabolite for serotonin. If low, this could mean serotonin is low and so mood is low (tendency to depression and poor motivation).

All these markers provide information not normally obtained in conventional lab tests. As there are no diagnostic tests for learning challenges, we as physicians must treat each patient individually as their reasons for learning challenges may be completely different from the next.

With the data obtained by the OAT test, we can individually craft a treatment plan for each patient, often using natural products exclusively, with the goal of removing the underlying obstacles to a positive learning experience and an easier time at school and beyond.

I have seen many positive responses over the years once we know where the patient has metabolic challenges and create a game plan to resolve their issues.

In Health,
Dr. Cameron McIntyre, ND

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