Production 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
If you’re not comfortable with treating this disorder with drugs, there are other, more natural options.
- -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
While 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
Not 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.
Instead, 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.
- -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
It’s best to check with an allergy doctor if you suspect that your child has allergies. But you can experiment by avoiding these foods:
- -chemical 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)
A 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.
Some 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
A 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.
Sometimes called behavioral modification, this approach works on resolving specific problematic behaviors 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 child.
Parental 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.
- -vitamin B-6
However, results have been mixed. Herbs like ginkgo, ginseng, and passionflower may also help calm hyperactivity.
Supplementing 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.