Wellness and ADHD
Non-medicinal ways for parents to help kids with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
Even traditional experts agree: medication alone is not a long-term solution for kids with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Because the brain is so complex, it benefits from a multi-facetted approach, taking into consideration the many factors affecting its balanced function. A brain out of balance upsets our overall health as well as our capacity to learn. With patience and perseverance, there are a number of practical ways parents can help their children with ADHD experience greater wellness and success in and out of class.
Changes to routine
Whether or not your child has been officially diagnosed with ADHD, if his behaviours are sufficiently disruptive to make daily life at home and/or school unmanageable, it is worth considering changes in his routine. You may first want to observe your child’s triggers, i.e. what makes his inattentiveness, disorganization and/or impulsivity worse? Consider these areas:
Diet: What is your child eating? Research confirms that the food we eat affects our body’s chemical balance. Artificial colours/flavours, refined sugars and preservatives all have an adverse effect on the brain’s chemistry. Pesticides used extensively on apples, pears, strawberries, grapes, potatoes, celery and spinach also contribute to overall brain toxicity. Allergy-causing foods such as milk, eggs, wheat and soy can also trigger undesirable behaviours. Try keeping a food journal for your child for 30 days – note increases in negative behaviours associated with specific foods, while buying as much unprocessed, organic food as possible to eliminate possible allergens. (See www.webmd.com/allergies/allergies-elimination-diet or www.feingold.org.)
Sleep: School-aged children need 10-12 hours of sleep per night. Yet 50% or more of kids with ADHD have sleep problems – they have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or sleeping deeply enough to feel rested upon waking. Try observing your child’s sleep habits for 14 days to establish whether or not there is a pattern of sleep deprivation. Implement a strict routine and encourage your child to practise relaxation techniques before bed or during the night as needed.
Exercise: Physical inactivity is a consequence of contemporary culture where TV and computer games act as substitutes for outdoor play. Kids with ADHD are most susceptible to the inability to focus promoted by excessive electronic time, and are in particular need of the stimulation provided by vigorous physical motion. Try limiting your child’s electronic time to 30 minutes per weekday, 60 minutes per weekend day, and encourage habitual bike-riding, running, swimming, hiking, outdoor chores, etc.
Environment: Studies show that kids with ADHD are particularly sensitive to heavy metal poisoning (arsenic/lead/mercury/aluminium) from air, water, dust or food sources. Their overall increased toxicity level also makes them more sensitive to harsh compounds in household cleaners, laundry additives, air fresheners, soaps and shampoos. Try reducing the number of environmental chemicals in your home by switching harsh soaps, shampoos and cleaners with natural products. If you suspect your child has been exposed to heavy metals from an industrial site, construction, paint, pipes, etc., see your doctor and request testing.
What are my other options?
In addition to removing things from your child’s diet and environment, there are other things you can do to support your child’s enhanced performance at home and in school.
Supplements: The human brain is over 60% fat, so it stands to reason that our capacity to think and learn is directly affected by the fats we eat. Recent scientific testing shows healthy fats build healthy brain cells that communicate with the rest of the body more effectively. Ideal sources of essential fatty acids (EFAs) include hemp nuts or oil, flax seeds or oil, coldwater fish (salmon/tuna), walnuts and pumpkin seeds. Try adding quality brain boosters to your child’s diet in the form of multi-vitamins, minerals, green food, and extra EFAs available from local health food or grocery stores.
Holistic medicine: Many families have had great success with homeopathic and naturopathic approaches to treating ADHD. There are six main homeopathic remedies for kids with ADHD. Which ones you use will depend on your child’s symptoms. Remedies and herbs are potent medicine and should be given under the supervision of a qualified practitioner.
Focus: Stimulating the brain’s pleasure centres helps kids with ADHD concentrate, which is why we often find them so engrossed in activities they enjoy. Combining this enjoyment with biofeedback, meditation, yoga or deep breathing helps kids to maintain their overall focus.
Adopting a wellness-based approach to ADHD can help your child reach his/her greatest potential academically, socially and on a personal level.