5 Alternative Treatments for ADHD
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) affects many families in the United States and worldwide. With its presence comes many complications to a person’s school, work, and social life. Medication is the most common and most effective treatment for children with ADHD, but many families want to turn to medication only as a last resort. Let’s talk about some reasons for not pursuing medication for ADHD and also some alternative treatment methods.
It is important to note that there is not a lot of research, especially long-term research, on ADHD treatments. Medication is the ADHD treatment most often studied, which may make alternative treatments seem valueless. But it is important to remember that just as ADHD is highly individualized in its symptoms, it is also individualized in its treatments. The various medications will all work differently in the same person. The same can be said for alternative treatments.
The major difference between medication and alternative treatments is the amount of effort it takes to keep up with the treatments. Once the correct medication and dosage have been determined for you, all you need to do is remember to take your medication, which is perhaps easier said than done for those of us with ADHD.
However, alternative treatments are often lifestyle treatments, things that require a lot of time and dedication to see positive changes. These are a lot harder to work into your routine and take a lot of discipline before you even know if it is going to work for you. So keep in mind, alternative treatments aren’t easier, but they will be healthier for you in the long run.
One reason a family might opt-out of ADHD medication is if their child is quite young. It is not normally recommended for children under the age of six to be on medication. For many of these families, alternative treatments are all that is available to them.
Another reason some avoid ADHD medication is the potential side effects of the medication. These include loss of appetite, nausea, trouble sleeping, headaches and irritability. Some major side effects have been recorded as seizures, allergic reactions, increased blood pressure, hallucinations and even suicidal thoughts or actions. These by no means affect everyone on ADHD medications, but it could possibly affect you or your child. These extreme consequences are frightening, but even the minor side effects can make your child’s life even harder than it was before.
In fact, let’s talk about one of those minor side effects: trouble sleeping. Many children with ADHD have sleep issues, even those not on medication. It is something that is often seen with ADHD. If your child is not getting enough sleep, that just makes everything more difficult, from the morning routine to homework to falling back to sleep at night.
Even an extra half-hour of sleep can have significant, positive effects on your child’s performance. With ADHD, routines are key to smooth days. Having a bedtime routine that varies seldom, even on weekends, can help your child fall asleep and stay asleep. You might even want to make a visual checklist of this routine to make sure everything gets done. Turning off all screens at least half an hour before bedtime will also help the brain know it is time to fall asleep.
Apart from getting enough sleep, exercise is also really important for someone with ADHD. Much of that hyperactivity can be used up during exercise or playing sports, which can help your child focus on desk activities later.
Exercise also gets the body tired, which makes falling and staying asleep easier at the end of the day. Exercise outdoors is especially beneficial. There has been recent advocacy for “green time” where you spend more time outdoors, whether that means taking a walk or gardening. Breathing in the fresh air, hearing the sounds of nature, and soaking up a little Vitamin D from the sun can benefit everyone, especially those with unquiet minds.
Speaking of unquiet minds, you may think meditation is something someone with ADHD could never do. On the contrary, meditation is a powerful tool for those with ADHD. Forget about what you may presume about meditation. You don’t need to sit completely still on a yoga mat and have a blank mind for meditation to help you. You can go for a walk and try to focus on just your breathing. Every time you notice your thoughts straying, just gently refocus on your breath. You can even repeat a saying or mantra instead of just breathing, like “let go” or “clear, blue ocean.” Meditation is about building mindfulness of your thoughts and body. It is something that needs to be practiced a lot. It may be difficult at first, but don’t give up!
Diet is also important for those with ADHD. Protein and complex carbohydrates help maintain the body’s blood sugar, so you’re less likely to have a sugar rush followed by the inevitable crash. Zinc and iron are two powerful brain minerals that some with ADHD have been found to be deficient in.
There has also been a link between ADHD and low omega-3 fatty acids, found in foods like salmon, walnuts, and flaxseeds. If your brain is not getting enough of these key nutrients, it is difficult for the brain to function properly. Even those without ADHD may have trouble focusing and staying on task with deficient nutrients.
The final treatment we will discuss is positive feedback from parents and teachers. Children with ADHD struggle with impulse control, attention, organization, and socialization nearly every minute of every day. These are challenging things for children without ADHD, and no child is going to be perfectly well-behaved all the time. It is important for parents and teachers to recognize when your child is trying really hard and/or succeeding in monitoring their behavior. Some children might need encouragement as often as every twenty minutes to begin being self-aware of their behavior and focus. It’s important to recognize the small successes as well as the grand ones.
To conclude, many of the nonmedical treatments for ADHD are things every person can benefit from. Whereas most people can function just fine with too little sleep, a mildly healthy diet, and occasional exercise, those with ADHD often can’t function well like this for long.
It is important to incorporate these lifestyle changes into a daily routine if you want to pursue ADHD treatment without medication. Combined together, a healthy diet, plenty of exercise and sleep, daily meditation and positive feedback from parents and teachers can help a child with ADHD have calmer, focused, and more successful days at school, home, and beyond.