What is ADHD?
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a brain disorder commonly affecting children and many adults. This neurodevelopmental disorder is characterized by hyperactivity (excess movement not fitting to the setting) or impulsivity (hasty acts occurring at the moment without thought), and inattention (not able to keep focus).
The exact causes and risk factors of ADHD are still not completely understood. ADHD has been found to be highly associated with genetics. Other possible causes that scientists are working on include:
- Premature birth and low birth weight
- Smoking or alcohol or drug abuse during pregnancy
- Brain injury
- Environmental factors, such as exposure to lead during pregnancy or at a younger age
ADHD has negative effects on children and can cause social problems in affected children. It is the most common chronic illness affecting a greater number of boys than girls.
Unfortunately, ADHD does not have a cure. However, you can always manage its symptoms using different non-pharmacological interventions combined with medications.
Lifestyle modifications to behavioral therapy to the use of supplements and natural remedies for ADHD have been shown to control the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder effectively.
Treatment options available
The symptoms of ADHD are best managed by using drugs that act by balancing the neurotransmitters. When combined with medications, behavioral therapy has been proven to provide the best results for most patients.
Other treatment options that can help improve the condition include:
- Lifestyle modifications
- Parent education and support
- Social skill training
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Use of supplements
- Use of natural products
Natural remedies for ADHD
A typical treatment modality may differ from a case to case basis and, in general, include a combination of non-pharmacological interventions along with drug therapy.
Also, many ADHD patients have reportedly not responded to or do not tolerate the side effects of ADHD drugs. Some side effects of ADHD medications include headache, sleep disturbances, mood swings, nausea, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, heart problems, and even suicidal actions.
The use of drugs for a long time is also a matter of concern. This, in turn, has led to the growing interest in alternative and complementary ADHD treatments.
Some natural remedies for ADHD have been shown to ease many symptoms of the disorder, such as lack of attention, organizational defect, forgetfulness, and frequent interruption.
This article gives you a brief idea about some natural remedies for ADHD that may help to reduce or manage its symptoms.
Eating a healthy diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean proteins matters significantly when it comes to managing the symptoms of ADHD.
Studies have suggested that protein-rich foods trigger neurotransmitters responsible for inducing alertness while carbohydrates such as sugar trigger drowsiness.
Controlling your blood sugar might help control hyperactivity symptoms, but this has yet not been backed up by any large-scale studies.
A low-fat meal can help ADHD patients under ADHD medications. The decrease in fat helps in increasing the absorption of drugs, and hence increased effect is seen.
A ‘clean diet’ should be followed, which involves eating fresh foods and avoiding processed foods, additives, and chemicals.
Excessive use of salt, Monosodium glutamate (MSG), food additives or flavorings, or colorants are reported to have negative effects in patients with ADHD, such as interference with cognitive functions and emotions. Studies suggesting a modest effect on ADHD symptoms by excluding artificial food colors are available.
One of the main side effects of ADHD drugs is that they can suppress your appetite, and proper meal planning can be difficult for you.
Plan your meals properly by creating a routine or keeping track of every meal and include proteins in your meals. A restricted elimination diet or oligoantigenic diet may be followed. These diets exclude allergens, food colors, and additives.
These diets also do not contain dairy products, sugar, wheat, corn, citrus, eggs, soy, yeast, nuts, and chocolate – all of which may be potential sources of allergy or may cause intolerance. Other allergens may include preservatives or foods containing salicylates like berries, apples, grapes, oranges, chili powder, and so on.
Although there has not yet been any strong evidence linked with the supplements helping in the treatment of ADHD, various vitamins, minerals, and other essential fatty acids or amino acids, have been used along with the medications to improve the symptoms.
This is based on the fact that in most ADHD cases, these necessary supplements are in deficit. Replenishing the deficit amounts, thus, can possibly help improve the symptoms. However, the use of these supplements requires the supervision and direction of your doctor.
Vitamins – There has been an anecdotal report suggesting that vitamins are associated with improvement in inattentiveness and concentration in ADHD children.
The major deficit vitamins include Vitamin D, Vitamin B6, and Vitamin C. Vitamins and minerals are key to producing and regulating neurotransmitter levels in the brain. Iron, along with Vitamin B6, is associated with increased dopamine levels, and vitamin C is a building block of neurotransmitters in the brain.
Minerals – There are many studies suggesting a reduced level of Zinc, Iron, and Magnesium in ADHD patients. Low levels of magnesium also demonstrate symptoms similar to that of ADHD. Zinc also helps to regulate dopamine, the low levels of which may contribute to attentional problems.
Essential fatty acids – Some research studies suggest low levels of essential fatty acids like Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids in ADHD patients compared to their peers without ADHD.
These fatty acids comprise a major structural component of your brain. They are beneficial to improve clinical symptoms such as increased attention, focus, memory, and improved cognitive performances in ADHD patients.
Amino acids – Some amino acids like L-carnitine and Tryptophan are required to synthesize the neurotransmitters responsible for regulating normal brain activities.
Melatonin – It is a hormone produced naturally by your body that helps to regulate sleep. It can be used to help ADHD patients maintain their normal sleep cycle. However, the use of melatonin does not improve any of their symptoms.
3. Herbal medicines
Studies have shown several herbal-based products tried and investigated for improving ADHD symptoms. Although considered a safer approach, the use of these botanical medicines is not yet accepted as standard treatment options due to the lack of comprehensive and controlled clinical studies over their efficacy and safety.
A number of herbal or natural remedies for ADHD that have been helpful in treating the patients include:
- St. John’s Wort (possesses antidepressant qualities)
- Ginseng (neuroprotective and antioxidant properties)
- Ginkgo biloba (help with brain functions)
- Valerian (help with sleep and anxiety)
- Bacopa (to modulate memory, concentration, and learning)
- Passionflower (to manage anxiety)
- Saffron (memory enhancing and antidepressant effects)
- The use of herbs is mainly associated with their calming effect and their role in memory and thinking.
4. Lifestyle modifications
Some lifestyle changes, such as exercising and relaxing, connecting with nature, and considering a yoga or tai chi class, along with healthy eating habits and proper sleep hygiene, may also help ADHD patients.
Exercise and meditation: Following regular exercises of any kind until it is fun to do so can help ADHD patients to cope with their stress.
Also, several relaxation activities such as yoga, massage, and meditation may help to reduce ADHD symptoms. These activities are reported to significantly improve symptoms of hyperactivity, anxiety, and social problems.
One research study showed that 45 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise 3 days a week for 10 weeks significantly improved ADHD symptoms.
This may be due to increased levels of neurotransmitters like Dopamine, Serotonin, and Norepinephrine, which enhance focus and attention. Meditation is also linked to reducing stress levels and developing positive emotions.
Improve sleep hygiene: Sleep deprivation is reported to be highly associated with both mental and physical health. Lack of proper sleep can not only worsen the inattention of ADHD patients but also can affect their memory and concentration.
Hence, maintaining proper sleep hygiene may help. Melatonin supplements may be used to regulate a normal sleep cycle if you are finding difficulty with your sleep. However, the long-term effects of melatonin have not yet been established.
Green outdoor time: Spending ample time in nature has been linked to the enhanced concentration of ADHD children. Some findings suggest that exposure to ordinary natural settings, usually after school or weekend activities, may be widely effective in reducing attention deficit symptoms.
ADHD patients, especially children, can recover from attention fatigue when they are exposed to green outdoors. Some activities that can be done are: gardening, walking over the lawn, riding bikes, and walking the dog.
5. Behavioral therapy
Behavioral therapy or behavioral modifications or behavioral interventions, either alone or in combination with the medications, are well proven to be effective in managing the symptoms of ADHD patients. This is recommended as first-line therapy for ADHD children under 5 years.
It involves organized discipline strategies that work best for you. This therapy usually teaches children about new ways to behave by rewarding desired behavior and eliminating undesired actions.
You, along with your parents, may attend sessions with a licensed therapist or a coach to effectively work on what might work best for you. Working together, a structure can be created, and you can stay calm and productive.
Behavioral parent training also helps to teach parents effective skills for productive interactions with their ADHD children. This, in turn, helps to reduce stress levels as well. It involves learning how to plan and structure activities and to praise and encourage their child for even minute progress they make.
This training also helps to gather a detailed accounting of behavioral problems observed in ADHD patients. This includes the details about when and in what situations the misbehavior occurred and what the response of parents was. Parents can then organize a disciplinary approach that their children need to follow at home.
Learning new skills and creating a system for regular activities might help. For instance, organizing storage for toys or books or clothes, scheduling and implementing going to bed and waking up time effectively, and learning to use calendars, checklists, routines, and reminders.
Some examples of behavioral modifications that work for ADHD children or adults include:
- Creating a routine: You may create a simple routine that guides you on your daily predictable activities, and you can avoid the last-minute panic. The daily routine can further be organized or broken down into morning, afternoon, and evening routines.
- Creating checklist: You can create a checklist to make a note of things you may need for the day. Also, you may note down any complicated task that you need to do later and stick it on your door or table.
- Setting goals for yourself: This might help you accomplish the tasks easily. You may write the goals or break them down into specific goals.
- Setting an alarm or using a timer: The use of a timer might help you in maintaining your concentration level. You may turn on the timer for around 15 minutes, and when the time ends, you may take a short break and then start your timer again.
- Creating charts: Creating charts might help you to remind and motivate you to include and perform any habit or behavior you want to include in your day. You may also find it rewarding.
- Using planners: Planners can be effectively used to write down the structured plan for the day, along with the deadlines.
- Managing distractions: Your coach may teach you about how to manage any distractions and how to develop positive ways to deal with them.
6. Cognitive-behavioral therapy
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of mental health treatment that emphasizes the process of reconstructing or modifying an individual’s thoughts to create behavioral effects.
The CBT therapists teach skills for coping with symptoms, focus on cognitive experiences, and provide detailed information to the patients or their parents about the treatment, the disorder, and its symptoms. CBT teaches you to focus on the present moment. You may attend therapy individually or in a group.
7. Social skills training programs
A person with ADHD might find it difficult to present himself in a social setting. The goal of social training is to teach them about new ways and appropriate behaviors.
Some of the symptoms of ADHD such as, frequently interrupting a speaker, looking elsewhere when someone else is speaking, excessive talking, being unable to wait their turn, acting impulsively, and so on, can be reduced by effectively training ADHD patients with social skills.
Neurofeedback is a type of biofeedback that measures brain waves. The patient is asked to wear an electronic cap consisting of electrodes and perform a complex cognitive task.
These sessions are brief (30 minutes each) and costly and may help ADHD patients to learn new focusing techniques over time. The results of neurofeedback in treating ADHD symptoms are not consistent.
ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder mainly affecting the cognitive functions of your brain, and it has no cure to date.
The only treatment options available is to reduce or manage symptoms and train the patients on how to develop their behavior. Even though various medications, including stimulants and non-stimulants, are available, these are not responding to or not tolerated by most patients.
Hence, there is an increased interest in using alternative therapies, including natural remedies for ADHD, for effectively managing its symptoms. When combined along with the medications, these natural remedies for ADHD will help you manage and/or improve the symptoms effectively.
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