A number of complementary and alternative medicine treatments can help with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms. Alternative treatments tend to have little or no side effects and can be used in conjunction with standard treatments. As is the case with many alternative treatments for any disease or condition, opinions are often mixed as to the efficacy of some treatment methods, and research is often minimal in comparison to traditional medicine treatments.

However, many people have had success in using alternative treatments in the management of many diseases and conditions, including ADHD. Before trying any ADHD alternative treatments, you should always check with your doctor to be sure that the methods are safe and right for you or your child.

Yoga

Early investigations into yoga as a treatment for ADHD are positive, but as of yet there have been no definitive studies. Although probably not for very young children, some older children may benefit from the relaxation and concentration techniques developed as part of yoga practice.

Biofeedback

This is a treatment where a child is told to focus on certain tasks while a machine measures and shows his or her brain wave patterns. Hypothetically, the child could learn which brain wave patterns are associated with concentration and attention, and then he or she would be able to learn to generate the desired brain wave. No large-scale studies have been done on biofeedback as a treatment for ADHD.

Special Diets

Although many people believe that diets high in sugar exacerbate ADHD in children, studies have not determined conclusively whether sugar or sugar substitutes have any effect on children’s behaviors or cognitive functions. On the other hand, recent British studies did find evidence that artificial colors and the preservative sodium benzoate both led to increases in hyperactivity.

Nutritional Supplements

Nutritional supplements that help produce or regulate brain chemicals are sometimes used as a complementary treatment for those with ADHD. Research is still ongoing with mixed results as to the efficacy of nutritional supplements and some can be harmful if taken in large doses. If you are considering supplements as a treatment option, it is imperative that you consult your primary care doctor or mental health specialist before taking or administering them to your child.

Zinc

Zinc regulates brain chemicals, and several studies have shown that zinc might improve behavior, but not significantly. High doses of zinc can be harmful, so it should not be taken without consulting a doctor.

Essential Fatty Acids

Known as “good fats,” fatty acids play a key role in normal brain function. Accordingly,flax oil (which is rich in alpha linolenic acid, an essential fatty acid) and fish oil(omega-3) are sometimes used as a supplemental treatment for ADHD.

B Vitamins

B vitamins are essential for the body to produce and use some of the brain chemicals—serotonin, dopamine—that are affected by ADHD. However, high doses of B vitamins, such as B6, could cause nerve damage and should not be taken without a doctor’s supervision.

Magnesium

Magnesium deficiency causes symptoms similar to ADHD—including decreased attention span, irritability, and confusion. Therefore, some experts believe that children with ADHD could be experiencing mild magnesium deficiency. Preliminary studies have shown that magnesium supplements were affective in improving behavior in children with ADHD.