Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a disorder that affects behaviour. Internationally, the number of children with ADHD is said to range between 3% and 7% depending on the country – in the US it’s reportedly reached almost 11%, where 50% of preschoolers and 30% of older children with the disorder, take medication. If you’ve been thinking of trying an alternative or complementary route to medication, Brenan Quirante of Peak Nootopics has 6 Natural Ways to Help ADHD in Children.
The main symptons of ADHD are inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. Medication can help some children affected, but there are some natural and easy ways to also help relieve the symptons.
N.B. Always talk to your medical adviser before making any changes to medication.
#1. Don’t Skip Breakfast
We often hear that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and there’s a good reason why! A 1998 study, published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, showed that children who ate breakfast regularly had higher reading and math scores, lower levels of depression, anxiety, and hyperactivity, better school attendance, improved attention spans, and fewer behavior problems.
So ensure your children do not skip breakfast. If you find mornings all a bit of a rush, just get the kids and yourself up a few minutes earlier – here are some tips & hacks for making school mornings easier.
Making that breakfast protein-rich can further help children with ADHD as protein helps prevent blood sugar surges which can cause hyperactivity. Protein-rich smoothies, eggs, and wholegrain cereals with milk/yogurt all provide a better start to the day.
#2. Know What Food Types Cause Problems
Many studies have been done to establish relationships between the food people consume and ADHD. So it’s important that you know which food types affect your child. Keep a food diary and monitor food eaten and effects. If you think something might be causing problems, eliminate it for a week and observe behaviours.
Watch out for some of the food types that are known to affect some children with ADHD and read food labels carefully when buying food for your child.
- Food, snacks and drinks that contain high levels of sugar increase inattention in children and can lead to hyperactivity in children with ADHD. Read labels carefully looking for sugar forms (remember sugar can be listed in may different format like dextrose, maltodextrin, sucrose etc.) – watch this video to see if you are giving your child too much sugar each day.
- Avoid food that contains artificial coloring, preservatives, and flavorings. Studies show that artificial colors and the sodium benzoate preservative (individually or both) in the diet result in increased hyperactivity in children and thus should be avoided for children with ADHD. Again, read labels carefully and get to know how colorings look – e.g. in the US they are Red#40 whereas in Europe colorings names range from E100 – E199. And it’s not just food – don’t forget sauces and toothpaste either.
- Salicylates, a natural compound found in some fruit and vegetables like apples, cranberries, grapes and tomatoes, can affect certain people with ADHD, so watch your child’s behaviour after eating these and eliminate them from their diet if necessary.
- Food allergens like wheat, milk, shellfish, and nuts, can cause issues for children with ADHD if your child is sensitive to them. If you think your child might be allergic to these, see a doctor or dietician to confirm, and eliminate them from their diet.
A good rule of thumb is to eat a well balanced diet of vegetables, fruit, complex carbohydrates and protein, and avoid processed foods and preservatives.
#3. Spend Time Outside
Spending time outside is good for us all, but particularly so for children with ADHD. Parents of children with ADHD find that their children are better able to do tasks without wandering off or distraction, after they have spent time outside.
A study published in the American Journal of Public Health in 2004 examined the relationship between children with ADHD and the natural environment. As it’s harder for children with ADHD to direct their attention to completing a particular task, their attention reserves are lower and they get tired easily. Giving kids a break from attention requiring tasks and letting them explore outdoors freely, helps them to recover from this fatigue, and improve their inattentiveness.
And the type of outdoors does make a difference too. A later study by the same group showed that children with ADHD demonstrated greater attention after a 20 minute walk in a park than after a similar walk in a residential area.
So even if you are living in the middle of the city where there’s barely any natural environment, make some time and take your kids somewhere green. You might be surprised at the results.
#4. Try Yoga or Tai Chi
Yoga and Tai Chi can also help relieve ADHD symptons in some children.
A German study explored the benefits of yoga for children with ADHD vs traditional exercise, with the researchers finding that the yoga group had significant improvement in ADHD symptoms including attention problems, compared to the exercise group. Furthermore, yoga was found to be complementary to drug treatment.
Another study completed on teenagers with ADHD showed that Tai Chi can also help reduce symptons. After 10 Tai Chi classes, the teens displayed less anxiety, improved conduct, less daydreaming behaviours, less inappropriate emotions, and less hyperactivity.
#5. Massage Can Help
Massages can help some children with ADHD. Studies have shown that children with ADHD who received a massage twice a week for one month, were found to be more productive in class, less hyperactive and experienced improved mood.
#6. Use Neuroscience Gaming to Help Focus
Neurofeedback, a technique that monitors and retrains your brainwaves along with a system of positive reinforcement, is a non-pharmalogical recommendation by the American Paediatric Association (2013) for treating and improving symptoms of ADHD, such as inattention and impulsivity.
Neurofeedback is a way of changing the way your brain works. It does not involve anything invasive – it is based on learning and trains the brain to modify behaviours around attention and relaxation. In essence, neurofeedback allows you to learn how to gain more control over the way your brain works, using your brainwaves.
Smart gaming, like that from Cortechs, designed around neuroscience, uses brain powered play with brainwaves as a powerful tool to modify behaviours in distracted kids that want to improve their focus, which can be of particular benefit to children with ADHD.
About the Author
Content provided by Brenan Quirante who writes on the website Peak Nootropics, a blog dedicated to supplements that enhance brain function, improving learning, memory, focus, mood and much more. Find them on Facebook and Twitter.
Over to you! Have you tried any other natural methods that worked well for your child? Let us know in the comments below.