Natural Remedies for ADHD
(Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)
This page focuses on natural remedies for ADHD, using natural supplements, herbs, and diet to treat this disorder.
ADHD - attention deficit hyperactivity disorder - is defined as age-inapprorpiate inattention and hyperactive, impulsive behavior. It is the most commonly diagnosed
childhood behavioral disorder, affecting between 3 to 5 percent of school-aged children.
ADHD is associated with learning difficulties and a lack of social skills. Between 30 to 40 percent of children with ADHD have learning disabilities. Generally,
symptoms of ADHA appear before the age of 7 and sometimes continue into adulthood.
There is no laboratory or physical test that diagnoses ADHD. Diagnosis is based on a clinical history of symptoms and behavior and, as such, can be controversial.
Treatment for ADHD can be controversial as well. While many believe that diet plays an important role in alleviating the symptoms of ADHD, some Western doctors have been
trained to discount the importance of diet in treating ADHD. Instead they rely on using medication to suppress ADHD symptoms. While the long-term effects of ADHD drugs
are not yet fully understood, long-term reliance on drugs, especially during childhood, can very likely lead to problems such as growth retardation, substance abuse, or
emotional problems. Also, medications do not address the underlying root cause of the disorder.
If you suspect your child has ADHD, therefore, it may be a good idea to consult with a holistic practitioner and try to treat the disorder using natural remedies for ADHD.
Symptoms of ADHD
The two primary aspects of ADHD are inattention and hyperactive-impulsive behavior. While many children with ADHD tend more toward one aspect than the other, most children
have some combination of inattention and hyperactive-impulsive behavior.
To be diagnosed with ADHD, a child will have at least 6 symptoms from the following categories, lasting for at least 2 months. For children, the symptoms must
appear before the age of 7 and pose a significant challenge to everyday functioning in at least two areas of life (e.g. at home and at school).
Hyperactive and Impulsive Behavior:
- Often fails to pay close attention to details or makes careless mistakes
- Has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities
- Does not seem to listen when spoken to directly
- Does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish tasks
- Has difficulty organizing tasks and activities
- Avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort (such as school work, homework)
- Loses things needed for tasks or activities
- Is easily distracted
- Is forgetful in daily activities
ADHD symptoms may be different in boys and girls: Boys may be more hyperactive and girls more inattentive.
- Fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat
- Does not remain seated when expected to
- Runs or climbs excessively in inappropriate situations (in teens or adults, may be feelings of restlessness)
- Has difficulty playing or engaging in leisure activities quietly
- Always seems to be on the go
- Talks excessively
- Blurts out answers before questions are completed
- Has difficulty waiting his or her turn
- Interrupts or intrudes on others
Causes of ADHD
Researchers and doctors are still trying to find out the exact causes of ADHD, and so far they have identified several factors that may trigger this disorder:
- Altered Brain Function: Brain scans have shown differences in the brains of ADHD children compared to those of non-ADHD children. For example,
many children with ADHD tend to have reduced brain activity in the prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain that controls activity and attention.
- Genetics: ADHD seems to run in families.
- Maternal or Childhood Exposure to Toxins: Women who smoke, drink, and are exposed to PCBs during pregnancy are more likely to have children
with ADHD. Infants and young children who are exposed to lead or PCBs are more likely to develop the disorder.
- Diet: A diet high in sugar and additives is thought to be associated with a greater likelihood of developing ADHD.
Natural Remedies for ADHD
Natural remedies for ADHD, with a strong focus on a natural diet, supplemented by vitamins, minerals, and herbs, provide safe and effective means to treat ADHD.
Natural Remedies for ADHD - Diet
Although opinions on the relationship between ADHD and diet are varied, it does no harm to switch over to an all-natural, whole-foods, additive-free diet. If anything, it
is healthier for the whole family!
Several studies have indicated that high blood sugar level may cause ADHD in children. If you suspect your child has ADHD, it may be a good idea to avoid simple sugars and
refined carbohydrates and provide adequate proteins (e.g. fish, poultry, nuts, etc.) with meals. Vegetables slow down blood sugar release, so include lots of veggies as
Foods that keep the brain and nerves healthy are beneficial. For example, foods rich in essential fatty acids (e.g. salmon, trout, walnuts, almonds, flaxseeds) are good
for the brain. B vitamins heal stressed-out nerves. Foods rich in B vitamins include brown rice, leafy good vegetables, and brewer's yeast.
Some doctors say that many children with ADHD are allergic to at least one food product. They say they see positive results when testing for food allergies and using
an elimination diet. If you think your child might benefit from food allergy testing or an elimination diet, talk to a doctor who has experience in nutrition for
children with ADHD.
Natural Remedies for ADHD - Nutritional Supplements
Nutritional supplements form an important part of natural remedies for ADHD. Supplements that are beneficial include:
- Essential Fatty Acids: Fatty acids as found in fish and fish oil (omega-3 FAs) and evening primrose oil (omega-6 FAs), are "good fats" that
play an important role role in normal brain function. Experts have suggested them as a treatment for ADHD. If you want to use EFAs supplements for ADHD, consult with
your doctor about the best dose.
- Magnesium and Calcium: Symptoms of magnesium deficiency include irritability, decreased attention span, and mental confusion. Some doctors
believe that children with ADHD may be showing the effects of mild magnesium deficiency. Calcium and magnesium can also relax the nervous system. Recommended dosage
is 500 mg of calcium and 250 mg of magnesium two times daily.
- Vitamin B6: Adequate levels of vitamin B6 are needed for the formation of brain chemicals, including serotonin, a neurotransmitter that has a
calming effect. However, high doses of B6 can be dangerous, please therefore consult with your doctor about proper dosage.
- Phosphatidylserine (PS): Phosphatidylserine is a naturally occurring substance found in high concentraiton in brain cells, and it helps
with normal brain cell functioning. Pilot studies indicate that PS supplementation might be beneficial for children with ADHD. Discuss with your doctor about the use of
PS to treat your child.
- GABA: GABA is an amino acid that has a calming effect on the mind. Recommended dosage is 250 mg twice a day between meals.
Natural Remedies for ADHD - Herbs
Calming herbs can be used as natural remedies for ADHD. Herbs that have calming effects include:
Other herbs that can be beneficial include:
- Roman Chamomile
- Lemon Balm
- Ginkgo: Ginkgo brings oxygen and nutrients to the brain and can improve memory and mental sharpness.
- American Ginseng: One study suggests that ginseng, combined with ginkgo, may improve symptoms of ADHD.
Balch and Stengler, Prescription for Natural Cures. (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2004).
University of Maryland Medical Center.
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