The worst thing about taking a prescription drug to treat a disorder is the unnecessary side effects that go along with it!
Sure, you can try to help ADHD symptoms with stimulant drugs like Adderall (amphetamine-dextroamphetamine), Ritalin (methylphenidate) and Strattera (atomoxetine hydrochloride), but you might end up with painful headaches, insomnia and maybe even depression too, among others! In fact, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) warns us that,
There have been reports of sudden death in children and adolescents with pre-existing structural cardiac abnormalities or other serious heart problems who were taking stimulant drugs to treat their ADHD. Sudden death, stroke and MI have also been reported in adults… ADHD drugs increased risk for drug-related psychiatric adverse events, such as hearing voices, paranoia or mania.
The drugs might help you or your child to focus, but when you start hearing voices maybe it’s time to stop!
Sometimes we have to wonder, are all of those side effects really worth it? Or is there something else we could try?
Yes, there’s always a natural health alternative!
Here’s a bit about what ADHD is, what causes it, the symptoms and some natural ways to help.
What is Attention Deficit (Hyperactivity) Disorder?
ADD is the general term used to describe people with ADHD. Both terms pretty much mean the same thing, however there are three types of ADHD. These include the Inattentive Type, the Hyperactive-Impulsive Type and the Combined Type.
The disorder is a genetic neurobehavioral problem that is most common among children, but also affects adults. Basically, our nerve cells or neurons send chemical messengers back and forth called neurotransmitters. These messengers are what tell our bodies how to think, how to act and how to feel. Some research studies claim that ADHD is a genetic deficiency of these chemical messengers and they are not communicating like they should.
What Causes ADHD?
One of the causes for ADHD stems from problems in the gut (digestive issues) and food allergies or sensitivities. The disorder is still being studied extensively and scientists really aren’t sure yet what exactly causes it. However, they have found that hormones also play a role.
Recent studies show that the brain chemical, dopamine, may play a role in ADHD. Dopamine is an important chemical that carries signals between nerves in the brain. It is linked to many functions, including movement, sleep, mood, attention, and learning.
Also, Norepinephrine, a stress hormone, is known to affect the parts of the brain where attention and response actions are controlled. We do know that increasing the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain have helped with ADHD symptoms.
There are also several environmental factors that are being studied such as:
Cigarette smoke, drinking and drugs during pregnancy may cause ADHD in children. Difficult pregnancies, premature births and low birth weights have also been linked to the disorder.
Children who are in contact with high levels of lead from paint, or in tap water for example, may be at higher risk for developing ADHD. PCB’s and other toxic chemicals are also believed to interfere with normal brain development in children.
Some researchers suggest sugar and food additives like preservatives and artificial colors play a part in developing the disorder. Specifically, Blue #1 and #2, Green #3, Orange B, Red #3 and #40, Yellow #5 and #6, and Sodium benzoate.
A small percentage of children who have suffered frontal lobe injuries also have ADHD.
Whether it’s genetics, hormone imbalances, or environmental factors, it’s difficult to pin point the specific cause of ADD/ADHD. Probably because it’s a combination of these and other factors that contribute to the cause. For now, let’s focus our attention on the symptoms of the disorder and how to help manage them, naturally.
Symptoms of ADHD
The list below outlines the symptoms of these three types of ADHD.
Symptoms of inattention:
- Easily distracted
- Bored with a task after only a few minutes, unless they are doing something enjoyable
- Often lose things
- Don’t seem to listen when spoken to
- Easily confused
- Difficulty processing information as quickly and accurately as others
- Struggle to follow instructions
Symptoms of hyperactivity:
- Fidgety and squirmy
- Talk nonstop
- Trouble sitting still
- Difficulty doing quiet tasks or activities
Symptoms of impulsiveness:
- Inappropriate comments
- Show emotions without restraint
- Act without thinking about consequences
- Interrupt others
source: National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
All of us experience these symptoms once in a while. But, someone experiencing true symptoms of ADHD will be struggling with these issues more often than not. Some people may think their child has ADHD when in fact it’s simply misbehavior.
An article by Dr. Mercola states that 1 million children may be misdiagnosed with ADHD.
Natural Ways To Treat ADHD
There is a long list of nutritional supplements that may help with ADHD symptoms. And you can check out our health library for the complete list of helpful supplements. But be sure to find a functional medicine healthcare practitioner who can help you get to the bottom of what’s causing the ADD before you begin taking anything.
Here are a few supplements that may help…
Essential Fatty Acids
Supplement your diet with Essential fatty acids. Take approximately 186 mg of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), 480 mg of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), 96 mg of GLA (gamma-linolenic acid), 864 mg of linoleic acid, and 42 mg of arachidonic acid. These are all vital when it comes to proper brain function.
According to a 12-week double-blind study, children with ADHD were given either a placebo or a fatty-acid supplement and 42 mg of arachidonic acid. Compared with the placebo, the fatty-acid supplement produced significant improvements in both cognitive function and behavioral problems.
Flaxseed Oil and Vitamin C
Some children with ADHD have lowered levels of magnesium. Supplement your diet with 200 mg of magnesium per day. In a preliminary, controlled trial, children with ADHD and low magnesium status were given 200 mg of magnesium per day for six months. Compared with 25 other magnesium-deficient ADHD children, those given magnesium supplementation had a significant decrease in hyperactive behavior.
B Vitamins, Fish Oil & Probiotics
Many parents have found adding B Vitamins, Omega 3s (fish oils) and Probiotics to their children’s diets positively help their child’s behavior. Take 50 mg of B-complex vitamins and 100 to 200 mg of fish oil. These supplements nourish and stabilize the central nervous system and help with mood stability, mental focus, and brain function. Probiotics will assist with a healthy balance of good flora, proper digestion and immune response.
It’s best to eat a healthy diet very low in sugar, high in vitamins and minerals and as close to raw and organic as possible. This means skip the sweetened drinks and processed foods! Also, steer clear of additives that preserve or color foods. Stick to eating meat from grass-fed cows, organic fruits and vegetables, and organic oils like coconut oil.
A Consistent Routine in a Relaxing Environment
Massage, structure and relaxation exercises are all helpful and natural techniques to use when you’re trying to provide a calm and relaxed environment for your child. Carrie Demers, MD, gives us more insight into how regularity and structure will help a child that has ADHD. She wrote an article to help answer a question for parents wanting to do the right thing for their son who was diagnosed with ADHD.
Children with ADHD are drawn to new activities, adventure, and change. Yet they’re balanced by the opposite: activities that are calming, relaxing, and nurturing. Your son needs regularity and structure to counter his natural tendency toward chaos: a regular time to do his homework, exercise, relax, eat, go to bed, and wake up to begin a new day.
Also, adding a full body or even just a foot massage to you or your child’s bedtime routine would be another great way to help calm your hyperactive child. Human touch has very powerful physical and emotional benefits. There are countless essential oils to choose from that have unique relaxing properties. Not all essential oils are meant for direct skin contact, so do your research before you begin use.
ADD and ADHD is a common disorder that affects the lives of many. But, the good news is, the symptoms are manageable without the use of drugs.
It doesn’t make sense to treat ADHD symptoms with medications that will give you a whole bunch of other health problems!
Fortunately, there are many natural remedies for treating these symptoms!
What natural methods have worked for you ? Have you experienced side effects from the common prescription drugs used to treat ADD? We want to hear your story!
These are three books that provide very good insight into how to help ADHD naturally rather than temporarily get rid of the symptoms with RX drugs.
12 effective Ways to Help Your ADD/ADHD Child - Drug free alternatives for Attention Deficit Disorders by Laura Stevens
Is This Your Child? Written by leading pediatric allergist and NY Times best selling author, Dr. Doris Rapp, MD – How to pinpoint the reason why certain children or adults are unable to learn in certain rooms, outside the school, or at certain times after specific exposures at school, home or work.
What’s Eating Your Child? - Documented cases of children with all sorts of behavioral issues who got better once they got to the bottom of their allergies or sensitivities.
+Ashley Steinbrinck writes regularly about natural health and happiness for Natural Healthy Concepts. Visit the site today to browse a wide selection of herbal nutritional supplements, vitamins and homeopathic medicine.