Controlling Symptoms of ADHD Naturally
For those of us with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), managing symptoms can seem like an impossible balancing act. Maybe by standing on one leg, cocking our head to one side, and holding our jaw just right, we might find a bit of relief.
Treatment plans can be almost as confusing as the swirl of chaos inside our brain. Do we choose medication? Do we choose alternative therapies? Both? Which is best?
We have options. There is no one-size-fits-all treatment. We are free to try anything that may help, as far as our comfort levels allow.
ADHD treatments work best when we look at the big picture. When we see our body and mind working together to achieve health, we can attain a life where we are in control of our symptoms instead of one where our symptoms control us.
There are many things you can do to find some relief when using alternative treatments for ADHD.
Manage Symptoms With Nutrition
When you do a quick Google search for “ADHD diet,” an abundance of links come up – and some of the websites are reputable. However, some are not.
You have to wade through the websites to get to the “good stuff.” For example, a lot of the sites will list specific “good” and “bad” foods for ADHD, without a lot of reason why the foods are good and bad. There’s also a lot of anecdotal “evidence.”
The Research Behind ADHD and Nutrition
According to Harvard Health, much research still needs to be done find a real correlation between nutrition and ADHD. There have been some studies, but they have been small. However, they have been promising.
- A relatively recent study in Britain followed 153 preschoolers and 144 elementary students – some of who had ADHD, and some of who did not. At controlled intervals, the researchers gave the students and preschoolers foods and beverages with artificial food coloring. Although the increase in hyperactivity was not significant, it was notable.
- The American Psychiatric Association conducted several studies regarding the use of omega-3 fatty acids to control ADHD symptoms. The use of DHA was ineffective, although the use of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids seemed to be beneficial.
- Further studies have noted that people with ADHD may be deficient in certain micronutrients – namely, vitamin B6, magnesium, zinc, and iron. However, the studies that have tested if supplementation reduces symptoms of ADHD have been inconsistent.
So, I can’t tell you what to eat and what to avoid, but looking at the studies that have been done, you can certainly trial cutting out foods that contain food coloring and upping your intake of foods containing omega-3 fatty acids.
I would, however, not recommend supplementing with micronutrients without discussing this with your (or your child’s) physician first.
Which is what expert Richard Sogn, MD, suggests. Per WebMD, Dr. Sogn states “whatever is good for the brain is likely to be good for ADHD.”
- High protein foods such as beans, eggs, meat, and nuts are beneficial – and as a bonus, can improve concentration and may make ADHD medications last longer!
- Cut down on simple carbs – for example, foods containing sugar, white flour, and corn syrup.
- Increase complex carbs – for example, fruits and vegetables.
- Increase omega-3 fatty acids – fish such as tuna and salmon, and walnuts and Brazil nuts.
- Utilize an elimination diet to see if a particular food worsens ADHD symptoms – Select a certain food then cut it out completely. Then add it back to see if this food is causing symptoms.
Using Nature as a Therapy
When we were kids how often did we hear someone tell us to go outside and burn off some energy? Just like when we were younger, exercise is still a good way to burn off that excess energy and help us to focus.
More than exercise, time spent outdoors in natural settings can effectively reduce inattentiveness. The greener space, the better. Nature grounds us in ways we might not fully understand, but it works.