Are There Any Natural Treatments for ADHD?
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, ADHD, is a disorder that makes it hard for someone to control impulsive behaviors or pay attention. Though commonly associated with children, symptoms of ADHD can continue into adolescence and adulthood. ADHD can make it hard to pay attention in class, challenging to engage with others, and nearly impossible to exhibit appropriate behavior at all times.
There are several medications used to treat ADHD symptoms, including Adderall, which is a stimulant that improves concentration while reducing fatigue. Many common prescription medications are amphetamines, though some non-stimulant medications also exist.
If you’re the parent of a child who’s struggling with ADHD, you may be reluctant to rely exclusively on these medications. Instead, you may seek more natural ADHD treatments. Fortunately, there are many to choose from.
More Specific Diagnosis
You can start by conducting a more thorough analysis, understanding the root causes of your child’s ADHD. Though symptoms manifest in similar ways, no two cases of ADHD are identical. For one child, the root cause may be related to an inability to effectively process auditory information. For others, cognitive processing may be a more important culprit. Working with a specialist can help you understand these triggering events and individual difficulties, which can help you address your child’s needs as an individual.
Executive Function Coaching
Executive functioning refers to your ability to self-regulate, and it’s stronger in some people than in others. People with ADHD frequently struggle with executive function control, and can benefit from executive function coaching. Like any cognitive skill or ability, your executive functions can be refined with practice and intentional training. With the right guidance, a child with ADHD can practice exercises designed to help them improve their focus, attention, memory, and organization. Over time, they’ll become far more efficient, and their symptoms may improve.
ADHD isn’t a result of a specific diet, and there aren’t any specific foods that can “cure” symptoms associated with the disorder. However, there are some dietary habits that could potentially make ADHD symptoms worse. For example, when children experience a sharp drop in blood sugar levels, they tend to exhibit worse ADHD symptoms; reducing the consumption of refined sugars and other high-glycemic index foods can help manage this effect.
Some ADHD sufferers can also benefit from an elimination diet; by eliminating foods like sugar, gluten, dairy, eggs, meats, and food dyes, then slowly reintroducing those groups of foods and ingredients, you can learn if any of these substances makes ADHD symptoms worse. Results vary on an individual basis, so this approach can help you learn how individual foods affect your child in particular.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is commonly associated with mental health disorders like anxiety and depression, but it may also be valuable in mitigating the severity of ADHD symptoms. CBT helps you better understand and process your emotions in a healthy way; this can be vital for people with ADHD, who may struggle with recognizing their own thoughts or feelings. Because they tend to be restless or find it hard to concentrate, they may be distracted or frustrated by offhand comments or concurrent conversations. Therapy can help ADHD sufferers slow down their thoughts, better understand them, and eventually gain control over them—though it will take many sessions to achieve this.
In a similar vein, mindfulness meditation can be highly beneficial in slowing down your thoughts and processing your emotions—and it’s not just for adults. The basic idea is to focus your attention on something basic and predictable, like the rhythm of your deep breathing. If intrusive thoughts or feelings enter your mind, you acknowledge them, let them go, and return your attention to your attentive locus. It takes a lot of practice for someone to become adept at mindfulness, but even in the early stages of practice, it’s a beneficial exercise for sufferers of ADHD.
Sports and Physical Exercise
Playing sports with other people has numerous benefits for kids with ADHD. The physical exercise can help them focus and release their energy in a constructive way. Being surrounded by teammates can help them feel comfortable developing their social and emotional skills. And succeeding in sports can build confidence, giving them a better sense of self—and in some cases, self-discipline and executive functioning necessary to overcome some of their ADHD symptoms.
Every case of ADHD is different, so what works for one child may not necessarily work for another. It’s important to explore all your options, including natural solutions and, possibly, medication to find the combination that works best for your child. It’s also a good idea to talk to your doctor (or preferably, an ADHD specialist) before beginning any treatment plan.