Five Natural Methods for Treating ADHD
ADHD: What it is, and what it isn’t
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) (formerly known as “ADD”) is a neurobehavioral brain disorder that affects people of all ages, not just kids. Nearly 10% of children 18 years old and younger have been diagnosed with ADHD. This disorder is characterized by the inability to pay attention, keep organized or sit still. It can also overlap with other diagnosed mental or physical problems. Patients with ADHD often struggle with impulsive behavior, too. It is most commonly diagnosed in youth, but can remain a problem into adulthood. Current diagnostic criteria require symptoms to be present in childhood; concentration issues that develop later in life usually point to something besides ADHD. As of 2007, 9.5% of 4- to 17-year-olds were reportedly diagnosed with ADHD. That’s 5.4 million kids — an almost 22% increase from just 4 years earlier. Getting an early diagnosis may help kids start therapies that can improve their odds of success both in and out of school.
There are three main subtypes of this disorder:
Predominantly inattentive– Children who are inattentive are easily distracted, have problems focusing, and have trouble following directions or conversations. Although inattention is the main symptom, children may still focus on high-stimulation activities such as video games, tablet computers, and cartoons.
Predominantly hyperactive-impulsive– Children who are hyperactive-impulsive fidget, have trouble waiting for their turn, are impulsive and accident-prone, and hardly ever stop talking.
Combined– It is most common for children to be both inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive. As children age, the hyperactive symptoms usually resolve a bit on their own.
Around two-thirds of children with ADHD also have other conditions or illnesses that can make diagnosis more difficult. These include, but are not limited to:
- a learning disability
- oppositional defiant disorder
- conduct disorder
- delays in learning or language development
What ADHD is NOT:
ADHD is NOT simply a lack of concentration or an explanation for impulsive behaviors. Many factors affect concentration, attention, or behaviors.
It is NOT a lack of discipline or willpower, and it (often) does not reflect the parenting skills of the patient’s family. Though ADHD remains a controversial diagnosis in some settings, brain studies have helped us to learn more about how to best help those who struggle with inattention or hyperactivity. Even though we don’t know exactly what causes this disorder, we do know that brain chemistry and maturation, genetics, and some environmental factors all play a part.
ADHD is not something that can be cured. However, with optimal behavioral, nutritional, and possibly pharmacologic interventions, ADHD can be managed very well.
Symptoms That Deserve Our Attention (pun intended):
Not paying attention, not being able to sit still, and being impulsive sounds like normal childhood and young adult behavior, doesn’t it? That’s because they are characteristics of normal childhood and young adult behavior! But how do you tell if your child has ADHD, if the most common characteristics are normal?
When doctors diagnose a child with ADHD, they are looking for some very specific things:
- Six symptoms of inattentiveness and/or hyperactivity/impulsivity
- ADHD symptoms that affect kids in at least two places, like home, school, or social situations
- Symptoms for 6 months or more, starting by a certain age
If you suspect that you or your child has ADHD, please see a doctor today.
Holistic Treatment Methods
The most common way to treat ADHD in children and adolescents is to use stimulant medications, often prescribed by a pediatrician or a psychiatrist. Though these medicines can be very effective, natural treatments can easily be integrated. As with all treatment suggestions, please make sure to consult your physician in your treatment ideas.
- Dietary Management
This method of treatment involves elimination diets, vitamins and other dietary supplements, and herbal remedies.
Eat— mostly fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and omega-3 fats (found in foods like salmon and walnuts).
Avoid— saturated fats, sugar, and additives or processed foods
Links to specific nutritional topics include:
–Medditerranean Diet as presented by the Cleveland Clinic
–Herbal Remedies for ADHD including Ginkgo Biloba, Brahmi, Gotu Kola, Green Oats, Ginseng, Pine Bark, and combinations
Homeopathy is a system of medicine that involves highly individualized treatments. In homeopathy, you “treat like with like.” If the patient shows signs of sleeplessness or irritability you treat them with extremely diluted herbs and substances that cause sleeplessness and irritability in healthy individuals. The idea is that you are triggering the body to kick on it’s natural healing processes. Though studies are new and somewhat inadequate, according to some, homeopathy treatments do seem to help those who struggle with ADHD.
For general information on Homeopathy:
For information on Homeopathy and ADHD:
- Auditory Stimulation: Tomatis Method
The Tomatis Method of auditory stimulation was developed by pioneer Alfred Tomatis, MD. He was the first person to discover the connection between the ear and the nervous system, and his method involves a long program of auditory stimulation training and counseling. This method is used to treat individuals who have trouble learning and communicating. There have been several offshoot methods developed since he published his discovery in 1963, but there has not been sufficient research to back any of the claims on the effectiveness of auditory stimulation. According to this study, boys showed definite improvement in their arithmetic skills when listening to their favorite music.
As far as I can tell, listening to music can’t hurt, and it might help children develop talents in this area!
Biofeedback is the electronic monitoring of a normally automatic body function, and the training of the patient to gain control over that system. In November 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics approved biofeedback and neurofeedback as a Level 1 or “best support” treatment option for children suffering from ADHD.
Children with ADHD tend to have higher rates of EEG abnormalities. Neurofeedback, a subtreatment of Biofeedback, puts pictures and sounds to the abnormalities, and children are taught how to identify and then change the patterns.
Though the research is confounding and insufficient, this may be a very good option to consider for folks who really want to avoid pharmaceutical medications.
- Clinical Hypnosis
Hypnotherapy used as a treatment for many varying medical conditions. It has been used successfully by many patients with ADHD, with patients showing improvements sleep patterns and with tics, among other symptoms, though efficacy in core symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity may be limited.
For more information:
Check out the great review in this article from The National Institute of Health.