Overprescribed? There are other options
of the medications used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
(ADHD) has skyrocketed in recent decades. The Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention (CDC) say that ADHD diagnoses in children increased
by about 41 percent between 2003 and 2011. It was estimated that 11 percent of children between the ages of 4 and 17 years old had been
diagnosed with ADHD, as of 2011. That is 6.4 million children in total.
you’re not comfortable with treating this disorder with drugs, there are other,
more natural options.
Medications may cause side effects
drugs can help improve symptoms by enhancing and balancing neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters
are chemicals that carry signals between neurons in your brain and body. There
are several different types of medications used to treat ADHD, including:
- stimulants, such as
an amphetamine or Adderall (which
help you to focus and ignore distractions)
- nonstimulants, such
as atomoxetine (Strattera) or bupropion (Wellbutrin), can be
used if the side effects from stimulants are too much to handle or if other
medical conditions prevent use of stimulants
these drugs can improve concentration, they can also cause some serious
potential side effects. Side effects include:
- sleep problems
- mood swings
- loss of appetite
- heart problems
- suicidal thoughts or actions
many studies have looked at the long-term effects of these medications. But some
research has been done, and it raises red flags. An Australian study published in 2010 found no significant improvement in behavior
and attention problems in children between the ages of 5 and 14 years old who
took medications for their ADHD. Their self-perception and social functioning
didn’t improve either.
the medicated group tended to have higher levels of diastolic blood pressure.
They also had slightly lower self-esteem than the nonmedicated group and
performed below age level. The authors of the study emphasized that the sample
size and statistical differences were too small to draw conclusions.
1. Forgo food colorings and preservatives
treatments may help manage some symptoms associated with ADHD, including:
- difficulty paying attention
- organizational problems
- frequently 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, which is commonly found in
carbonated beverages, salad dressings, and fruit juice products
- FD&C Yellow No. 6 (sunset yellow), which can
be found in breadcrumbs, cereal, candy, icing, and soft drinks
- D&C Yellow No. 10 (quinoline yellow), which
can be found in juices, sorbets, and smoked haddock
- FD&C Yellow No. 5 (tartrazine), which can be
found in foods like pickles, cereal, granola bars, and yogurt
- FD&C Red No. 40 (allura red), which can be
found in soft drinks, children’s medications, gelatin desserts, and ice cream
2. Avoid potential allergens
that restrict possible allergens may help improve behavior in some children
best to check with an allergy doctor if you suspect that your child has
allergies. But you can experiment by avoiding these foods:
additives/preservatives such as BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) and BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole), which are
often used to keep the oil in a product from going bad and can be found in
processed food items such as potato chips, chewing gum, dry cake mixes, cereal,
butter, and instant mashed potatoes
- milk and eggs
- foods containing
salicylates, including berries, chili powder, apples and cider, grapes,
oranges, peaches, plums, prunes, and tomatoes (salicylates are chemicals occurring
naturally in plants and are the major ingredient in many pain medications)
3. Try EEG biofeedback
(EEG) biofeedback is a type of neurotherapy that measures brain waves. A 2011 study suggested that
EEG training was a promising treatment for ADHD.
child may play a special video game during a typical session. They’ll be given
a task to concentrate on, such as “keep the plane flying.” The plane will start
to dive or the screen will go dark if they’re distracted. The game teaches the
child new focusing techniques over time. Eventually, the child will begin to
identify and correct their symptoms.
4. Consider a yoga or tai chi class
small studies indicate that yoga may be helpful for people with ADHD. Research published in 2013 reported significant
improvements in hyperactivity, anxiety, and social problems in boys with ADHD
who practiced yoga regularly.
early studies suggest that tai chi also may help improve ADHD symptoms. Researchers found that teenagers with ADHD who practiced
tai chi weren’t as anxious or hyperactive. They also daydreamed less and
displayed fewer inappropriate emotions when they participated in tai chi
classes twice a week for five weeks.
5. Spending time outside
time outside may benefit children with ADHD. There is strong evidence that spending even 20 minutes outside can benefit
them by improving their concentration. Greenery and nature settings are the
2011 study, and several studies
before it, supports the claim that regular exposure to outdoors and green space
is a safe and natural treatment that can be used to help people with ADHD.
6. Behavioral or parental therapy
children with more severe cases of ADHD, behavioral therapy can prove
beneficial. The American Academy of Pediatrics states that
behavioral therapy should be the first step in treating ADHD in young children.
called behavioral modification, this approach works on resolving specific problematic
and offers solutions to help prevent them. This can also involve setting up
goals and rules for the child. Because behavioral therapy and medication are
most effective when used together, it can be a powerful aid in helping your
therapy can help provide parents with the tools they need to help their child
with ADHD succeed. Equipping parents with techniques and strategies for how to work
around behavioral problems can help both the parent and the child in the long term.
What about supplements?
with supplements may help improve symptoms of ADHD. These supplements include:
- vitamin B-6
results have been mixed. Herbs like ginkgo, ginseng, and passionflower may also
help calm hyperactivity.
without a doctor’s oversight can be dangerous — particularly in children. Talk
to your doctor if you’re interested in trying these alternative therapies. They
can order a blood test to measure current levels of a nutrient in your child
before they start taking supplements.
From our medical expert
There are a lot of natural remedies out there, and each day, different natural remedies come out promising great things. Caveat emptor! Discuss treatment options with your doctor, as some natural remedies may interfere with remedies that your physician is providing.
– Timothy Legg, PhD, CRNP