by Kerry Hart, LLMFT
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has been sweeping through schools and homes as researchers are learning about this psychological diagnosis. ADHD is typically described as a neurological disorder that affects behavior, causes difficulty concentrating and increases impulsiveness and excess energy. The go-to remedy for this diagnosis is often medication, but what if there was another way? There are several natural methods you can utilize to curb your child’s ADHD behaviors without resorting to medication.
Refined sugars, chemical additives, nutritional deficiencies, preservatives and food allergies all contribute to ADHD symptoms. Children with the disorder have been found to be particularly sensitive to various food coloring and dyes. Since most processed foods tend to contain these artificial ingredients, it’s recommended that all processed foods be avoided. Foods containing high amounts of MSG and nitrates also have direct links to problematic ADHD behaviors. Research shows that children who eat gluten and have been properly diagnosed with ADHD show an increase in ADHD behaviors and complications. Dairy is also problematic, as most cow milk contains A1 beta-casein, which has been found to trigger a similar reaction to gluten. Above all, sugar is the number one trigger of problematic behaviors in hyperactive children and should be avoided completely.
Children who are hyperactive have extra energy to burn and need to get it out in order to focus when it is time to do so. Routinely sending your child outside to get the wiggles out will teach them the difference between when it’s time to work and when it’s time to play. The sun will provide them with extra vitamin D, lift their spirits and elevate their mood. Outdoor playtime can also be a great reward for a job well done when it comes to homework, which tends to be a struggle for kids with ADHD.
Celebrating the good is even more important when your child with ADHD is accustomed to being scolded and reprimanded. Create opportunities for your child to succeed so you can reward them and allow them to experience praise regularly. If your child is a budding artist, sign them up for extracurricular art classes, perhaps even those that promote competition so they can experience what it is like to win. Children who are natural athletes will get the same positive rewards through sporting events while also learning how to be a team player.
Teach your children to set themselves up for success by creating a system that works to keep them on task and organized. Find out what works for them and make it family-wide so it becomes a habit over time. Perhaps a color-coded calendar will help them stay on task each and every day. You might consider posting a chore list, divided by time of day and week to keep your child in good habits. Regardless of what your individual child may need, setting them up for success with these various tools will provide the positive reinforcement they need to give life a try without medication.
Show and Receive Affection
Snuggle and cuddle your child to release serotonin and oxytocin, feel-good hormones that will bring their levels back to normal naturally. Kids with ADHD often experience punishment or develop a reputation for being troublemakers until they learn to control their behaviors. These children need reassurance that they are still good kids despite some negative behaviors they may not be able to control just yet. Showing them the difference between positive and negative attention reinforces good actions. If a child only receives attention for negative behavior, those behaviors will only be strengthened and repeated. Be sure to let your children know you love them no matter what and get in lots of cuddles, particularly on good-behavior days.
Probiotics, which help balance the body’s microbiome (located in the stomach), may be helpful to take as ADHD has been tied to various digestive issues. Gamma-Amino Butyric acid (GABA) supplements have been proven to decrease ADHD behaviors, and fish oil has been proven to increase learning functions and act as an anti-inflammatory. Various minerals such as calcium, magnesium and zinc have also been proven to decrease the effects of ADHD. Be sure to check with your doctor to see which of these supplements are right for your child’s individual needs.
Kerry Hart, LMFT