ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)
5 Natural Remedies for ADHD
Overprescribed? There Are Other Options
Since 1990, production of the medications used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has skyrocketed. Prescriptions of Ritalin alone have reached about 11 million a year.
Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that ADHD diagnoses in children increased by 22 percent between 2003 and 2007. If you’re not comfortable treating this disorder with drugs, you don’t have to. There are other, more natural options.
Medications May Cause Side Effects
The Mayo Clinic states that ADHD drugs can help improve symptoms of the disorder by enhancing and balancing neurotransmitters.
Still, they can cause some serious potential side effects, including:
- sleep problems
- mood swings
- loss of appetite
- heart problems
- suicidal thoughts or actions
What Are the Long-Term Effects?
Although few researchers have studied the long-term effects of these medications, some studies raise red flags. For example, a study published in 2010 found no significant improvement in behavior and attention problems, depression, self-perception, and social functioning in children who took medications.
In fact, the medicated group tended to have higher levels of depression and blood pressure, and slightly lower self-esteem than the non-medicated group. They also performed below age-level.
Forgo Food Colorings and Preservatives
Alternative treatments may help manage some symptoms associated with ADHD, such as:
- difficulty paying attention
- problems organizing
- frequent interrupting
The Mayo Clinic notes that certain food colorings and preservatives may increase hyperactive behavior in some children. Avoid foods with these colorings and preservatives:
- sodium benzoate
- FD&C Yellow No. 6 (sunset yellow)
- D&C Yellow No. 10 (quinoline yellow)
- FD&C Yellow No. 5 (tartrazine)
- FD&C Red No. 40 (allura red)
Avoid Potential Allergens
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, diets restricting possible allergens may help improve behavior in some children with ADHD.
While it’s best to check with an allergy doctor if you suspect your child may have allergies, you can experiment by avoiding these foods:
- chemical additives/preservatives like BHT and BHA
- milk and eggs
- foods containing “salicylates” like berries, chili powder, apples and cider, grapes, oranges, peaches, plums, prunes, and tomatoes
Try EEG Biofeedback
Electroencephalographic (EEG) biofeedback is a type of neurotherapy that measures brain waves. A 2011 study suggested that EEG training was a promising treatment for ADHD.
During a typical session, a child may play a special video game. They’ll be given a task to concentrate on, such as “keep the plane flying.” If they’re distracted, the plane will start to dive or the screen will go dark. Over time, the child learns new focusing techniques, and begins to identify and correct their symptoms.
Get (or Give) a Massage
Most people think that a massage is relaxing. For those with ADHD, it may be even more beneficial. A 2003 study published in Adolescence examined the effects of massage on mood and behavior. Students with ADHD who received massage therapy for 20 minutes twice a week over the course of a month experienced improved short-term mood and longer-term classroom behavior.
The University of Maryland Medical Center agrees that massage may improve the mood of children with ADHD and reduce hyperactive symptoms.
Consider a Yoga or Tai Chi Class
Some small studies indicate that yoga may be helpful for those with ADHD. Research published in 2004 reported significant improvements in hyperactivity, anxiety, and social problems in boys with ADHD who practiced yoga regularly.
Similarly, some early studies suggest that tai chi may also help improve ADHD symptoms. In 2001, researchers found that adolescents with ADHD displayed less anxiety, daydreaming, hyperactivity, and inappropriate emotions when they participated in tai chi classes twice a week for five weeks.
What About Supplements?
According to some research, treatment with supplements like zinc, L-carnitine, vitamin B6, and magnesium may help improve symptoms of ADHD. However, results are mixed. Herbs like ginkgo, ginseng, and passionflower may also help calm hyperactivity.
Supplementing without a doctor’s oversight can be dangerous—particularly in children. Consider a blood test to evaluate current nutrient levels if you think you or your child may benefit from supplements. Then seek the advice of a doctor or dietician.
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