Commonly prescribed ADHD medications have a stimulating effect on brain cells and subsequently release more of the neurotransmitters called dopamine and norepinephrine, which on the positive side can enhance a child’s ability to control impulsive behaviors and concentrate –but they also cause increased activity in the central nervous system (CNS). As a result, they tend to be prone to anxiety, restlessness, and sleep problems that can exacerbate ADHD symptoms.
For this and many other reasons, many parents wish to opt for a natural alternative ADHD treatment. So with those parents in mind, below we’ve listed 7 tips to help reduce or even eliminate the pharmaceutical components of an ADHD treatment regimen.
1. Establish a Routine
Children with ADHD are attracted to new stimulating and exciting activities. While it may seem positive to see them fully devote their attention to one thing, they’re balanced by the opposite: activities that are calming, relaxing, and nurturing. People with ADHD require regularity and structure to counter his natural affinity toward inattention, impulsivity, or both: a regular time to do necessary activities such as homework, exercise, relax, eat, go to bed, and wake up to begin a new day can help minimize distraction opportunities.
2. Introduce Relaxation Techniques
Do a five to 10 minute relaxation session at least once a day. Try laying down or sit calmly on a comfortable surface; the idea is relax and deepen your breathing, which helps your CNS switch from a sympathetic mode, which is a “fight-or-flight” state, to a parasympathetic mode, which is a nourishing and restorative state. Try this when you or your child comes home from school, or before supper or bedtime; these are times when people tend to be most overstimulated.
3. Improve Diet and Nutrition
A plethora of studies in the last 20 years have suggested that diet and food additives can exacerbate hyperactivity. Taking cues from this research, parents who reduce their child’s intake of sugar, refined foods, and foods with chemical additives (food dyes, preservatives, MSG, etc.) tend to report significant improvement in their child’s behavior over four to eight weeks. These children are also less disruptive and more focused when they eat plenty of cooked vegetables and whole grains, along with moderate amounts of protein and organic unrefined oils.
In addition, the inclusion 50 mg of B-complex vitamins and 100 to 200 mg of fish oil supplements geared towards children with ADHD can nourish and stabilize the CNS while improving mood stability, mental focus, and brain function.
5. Natural Rx
Herbs that calm, soothe, and nourish the nervous system include lemon balm, chamomile, hops, passion flower, skullcap, brahmi, valerian, and St. John’s Wort. They can be taken safely as teas or tinctures–just follow the instructions on the bottle or box. (Dosing for children is one-fourth to one-half the adult dose based on their weight.)
6. Neurocognitive ADHD Treatment
Not all screen time is bad for a child, it is what is on the screen that determines the benefit received from that time. New technology has allowed the development of scientifically designed exercises that work by training a person’s executive functions. Executive functions are cognitive abilities that are involved in learning, communicating, and behaving and include decision making, working memory, motivation and self-management.
It is these executive functions which are inhibited by ADHD and they are also exactly what neurocognitive treatments isolates and combat. By training these executive functions with a natural add treatment, patients improve their focus, concentration, impulse control, and self-discipline.
6. Technology Time-Out
That said, most of our kids are perpetually plugged in–texting on their cell phones, playing computer games, watching TV for hours on end is not beneficial. This constant electronic stimulation not only fragments their attention but also exposes them to electromagnetic radiation (EMR) at potentially harmful levels. When a child is sensitive, this exposure agitates his nervous system. Sleep disturbances, chronic fatigue, headaches, dizziness, memory and attention problems, and distorted vision are all possible side effects of EMR. Try to limit how much electromagnetic exposure your child is getting by reducing screen time to an hour or less a day.
7. Minimal Effective Medication Dosage
If you decide to give your child medication, find a doctor who is willing to work with you to find the minimal dose that is effective. Ask your doctor to allow your child to take “holidays” from the medication when intense concentration and focus aren’t necessary (on the weekends, during summer break, etc.). By carefully monitoring your child’s behavior, you can help your doctor find the dosage and schedule that allow him to succeed in school, while decreasing his chances of experiencing side effects.