Strategies for ADHD
According to WebMD, Attention Deficit Hyper-Activity Disorder (ADHD) affects children and teens and can continue into adulthood. “ADHD is the most commonly diagnosed mental disorder of children. Children with ADHD may be hyperactive and unable control their impulses. Or they may have trouble paying attention. These behaviors interfere with school and home life.”
Children with ADHD can manifest the following symptoms:
- Is easily distracted
- Doesn't follow directions or finish tasks
- Doesn't appear to be listening
- Doesn't pay attention and makes careless mistakes
- Forgets about daily activities
- Has problems organizing daily tasks
- Doesn’t like to do things that require sitting still
- Often loses things
- Tends to daydream
In reality, this describes most children! Seriously! All children at times have demonstrated this behavior. So does this mean they all need a drug to be “normal?” ADHD was not a recognized disorder until the American Psychiatric Association (APA) classified it in the 1960s shortly after the FDA approved the psychostimulant Ritalin (methylphenidate) in 1955. With the increase in the diagnosis, so have the drugs that are offered as a solution. Commonly prescribed drugs for this condition include Ritalin®, Concerta®, Adderall®, and Strattera®. The problem with most ADHD drugs is that they are powerful psychostimulant drugs in the same class as cocaine and can be addictive!
Adderall, for example, is an amphetamine and shares characteristics with its derivative, methamphetamine which is the chemical class for the street drug “crystal meth”. Generally, the basic chemical structure of both the drugs is the same. Strattera®, which contains atomoxetine hydrochloride, carries the warning that use has been linked to an increased probability of suicidal thoughts and behavior. Giving these “medications” to your child is not a decision to be made rashly or to be taken lightly.
If you have a “problem” child that is diagnosed with ADHD, please make sure you have pursued other options before blindly accepting a professional recommendation to prescribe them one of these drugs. Here are the most common factors influencing children’s brain health and affecting their ability to concentrate and focus:
- Too much sugar in the diet.
- If this factor alone can be addressed and reduced, often improvement is quickly noticed. Starting the day right, by filling up your child’s tank with nourishing wholefoods that contain protein and fat (like eggs, whole grain toast with natural nut butter, or a green smoothie with whole milk or coconut yogurt or kefir) before sending them to school can greatly enhance their performance. Ditch the cereal, white flour foods and bottled juice that often contain added sugars.
- Food allergies (the most common allergenic foods are gluten containing foods like wheat bread and flour products and dairy).
- There are blood tests that measure the presence of IgE antibodies to specific foods that may be useful in determining an allergy. Or, if you suspect a certain food to be a culprit, eliminate it from the diet for 3 weeks, then reintroduce the particular food and observe any changes in behavior or symptoms. In a book called “The Crazy Makers: How the Food Industry Is Destroying Our Brains and Harming Our Children” by Carol Simontacchi she highlights case studies of abhorrent behavior in children related to food allergies.
- Consumption of artificial food dyes and sweeteners.
- Various studies, though inconclusive, have implicated certain food dyes contributing to ADHD https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3441937/
- Aspartame has a long list of harmful side-effects and is harmful to brain health.
- An overabundance of Omega-6 fatty acids (in processed plant oils) compared with an insufficiency of Omega-3 fatty acids with EPA and DHA (best source is found in wild-caught fish).
- Research by the University of Adelaide in Australia confirmed that omega-3 fat improves the symptoms of ADHD. They gave 130 children with ADHD, between the ages of 7 and 12, omega-3 fats daily and the children’s behavior improved dramatically within three months.
- Toxic exposures to environmental toxins such as PCBs, pesticides, lead, mercury, synthetic cleaning agents (household and laundry), etc.
- Identify sources of exposure and clean up your home environment. For example, switch to organic foods where possible, abate or contain lead paint, use natural household cleaning and laundry products, etc.
- Regular physical exercise that causes children to break a sweat is helpful to aid children in detoxification as the body will eliminate these toxins through the skin by sweating.
- A diet rich in leafy green vegetables will help the liver to detoxify the body.
- At-home detox baths using Epsom salt or bathing clay can be an effective way to reduce the body’s burden of these toxic agents.
- Too much screen time (TV, movies, video games or i-phone apps)
- Most television programming trains the brain to accept short bits of information and has a negative effect on attentions span.
- The stimulation and instant gratification of video games if played in excess can inhibit motivation and tenacity toward other learning that requires more concentration or effort.
There is even research now revealing the harmful effect of increased exposure to electro-magnetic frequencies and radiation from cell phones and other electronics on stress levels and concentration. It’s wise to send kids outside to play instead of excessive reliance on screen time for entertainment. Leaving phones at the door when kids come home from school is also a good way to teach healthy boundaries
Addressing the underlying causes of ADHD can help you as a parent to aid your child in overcoming this debilitating diagnosis without the use of dangerous drugs that can’t heal the root issues but can only mitigate symptoms for a time.