As a father of 3 but also someone who is an expert on natural foods and natural healing after my 2+ decade career as a leader for Whole Foods Market, I am very aware of the ADHD epidemic. Parents everywhere are grasping for ADHD solutions and ways of treating ADHD naturally.
While medication is sometimes necessary, many families have found relief in treating ADHD naturally through a combination of outdoor play, limited screen time, the elimination of artificially colored foods which are scientifically linked to ADHD, as well as other dietary changes and supplements.
Now I don’t pretend to be a doctor, but I do have 3 kids and I work with hundreds of kids each week, a number of whom are, in fact, diagnosed with ADHD. I also don’t fault anyone for following their doctor’s advice. I also know there are certainly cases where medication is necessary.
But you can bring harmony back to your house. AND you may be able to do that without constantly medicating your precious child.
In this post, we’re reviewing all the data and scientific facts around the ADHD epidemic. We’ll explore what many experts recommend to help alleviate the symptoms of ADD and ADHD in your child and take some of the frustration out of your once-happy home.
Specifically, we’re going to review all the top ways of treating ADHD naturally so you can decide what’s best for your child.
Is ADHD curable without medication?
Unfortunately, there is not “officially” a cure according to western medicine.
Most doctors agree that a combination of medication and therapy bring the best results in treating ADHD. Your family doctor may be able to arrange treatment plans, but more often a pediatrician or psychiatrist will be involved in that process.
There are 5 types of drugs most often prescribed for the treatment of ADHD:
Unfortunately, the side effects of most of those can include loss of appetite, moodiness, aggression, nausea and vomiting and trouble sleeping. So for me, that almost sounds worse.
My hope for you and your child after reading this article is to find ways of treating ADHD naturally where you can reduce the use of those or avoid them altogether. But always consult your doctor before making changes to a treatment plan.
What are the statistics on ADHD?
According to the CDC, 11% of children between 4-17 have been diagnosed with ADHD as of 2011.
That percentage has continued to climb at a rate of almost 2% per year! Boys are almost 3 times more likely to get it than girls and age 7 is the average age when it gets diagnosed.
That is a lot of kids diagnosed with ADHD and a lot of parents searching for ways of treating ADHD naturally!
Let’s also review some definitions as I know it can be confusing to know what the differences are.
ADHD (Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) is the same as ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) according to the CDC.
Essentially it is characterized by losing focus easily, impulse control issues and being overly active.
The CDC goes on to say that things like drinking or smoking during pregnancy can be a cause, and they downplay some of the common conceptions that sugar, electronic devices or under-attentive parenting can also be factors.
My only issue here is why, in this day and age when the vast majority of parents don’t smoke and drink during pregnancy compared with the majority who did in the 1960s and earlier, are the rates so SIGNIFICANTLY higher now?
It just seems to me if THOSE were dominant factors, the incident rate would have dropped sharply in the past few decades.
When I also consider that our overall diet is generally much poorer than that of kids from the 1950’s & 1960’s, I’m just a little suspect of the CDC’s conclusions there.
— ONTSpecialNeeds (@ONTSpecialNeeds) October 8, 2016
Can ADHD be cured or grown out of?
Technically about 1/3 of kids classified as ADHD do grow out of it during adolescence according to a recent study by the National Institutes of Health.
So what about the remaining 2/3?
This concept of kids playing as a form of medication for the soul is something worth exploring.
What if they spent less time on electronic devices? And what if medication was used sparingly and only where absolutely necessary? Could that be a way of treating ADHD naturally?
Would we see a drop in the behavior typically classified as ADD and ADHD?
Also consider reduced play time at school, much larger class sizes at school than when I was a kid and often a diet laden with sugar and artificial ingredients. Thus is it any wonder we are seeing such a rise in this behavior, along with significant increases in childhood obesity?
— Healing Mind & Body (@HealingMB) October 25, 2016
What foods should be avoided with ADHD?
It might seem like common sense to some, but sugar is one of the chief enemies in the fight against ADD & ADHD.
A recent study by Yale University found that “sugar ingestion . . . may be important contributing factors to adverse behavioral and cognitive effects”.
The American Psychological Association also conducted a study where they found that the “Amount of sugar products consumed . . . were all significantly associated with amounts of destructive-aggressive and restless behaviors observed during free play.”
In other words, sugar may lead to hyperactive & aggressive behavior and a decline in the ability to focus.
Artificial colors are another frequently named culprit in contributing to ADHD symptoms.
In yet another study by the National Institutes of Health, they found that “Behavioral changes in irritability, restlessness, and sleep disturbance are associated with the ingestion of tartrazine (Yellow Due #5) in some children.”
So if your kid’s diet is heavy on sugary breakfast cereals with bright colors and artificially dyed mac n cheese for dinner, some simple changes might be a great way of treating ADHD naturally.
If you need help finding Healthy Foods Your Kids Will Love, check out my most loved kid’s post with a free downloadable Cheat Sheet!
How can I help my ADHD child focus without medication?
One study by the National Institutes of Health found that the “results suggest that low iron stores contribute to ADHD and that ADHD children may benefit from iron supplementation.”
Dr. Richard Brown, author of How to Use Herbs, Nutrients, and Yoga in Mental Health Care has been quoted as saying “Supplements and diet can correct nutrient shortfalls that exacerbate ADHD symptoms” and “Vitamin B-6 seems to increase the brain’s levels of dopamine, which improves alertness”.
Foods that can boost vitamin B6 include:
- Chicken and turkey
- Whole grain bread
- Oatmeal, wheat germ, and brown rice
- Potatoes and squashes
- Soybeans (edamame, tofu, soy milk)
- Garbanzo beans (humus)
Lastly, Omega-3 Fatty Acids have been shown to reduce ADHD symptoms by almost 50% according to a recent study again published by the National Institutes of Health.
What vitamins help with ADHD?
There are a number of great and all-natural vitamins and supplements that are proven to help manage ADHD. A deficiency in B vitamins, especially vitamin B6 tends to lead to grouchy, tired kids and adults alike.
Finding ways to boost vitamin B6, either with supplements or diet, increases alertness and has been shown to decrease tension, anxiety, and irritability.
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The terrible role electronic devices play in ADHD
Of course, as a parent of 3, I don’t fault folks for wanting to relax when they get home (both parents and kids).
I accept that video games and other electronic devices are often part of our relaxation methods in the current world we live in.
But many experts agree that electronic devices can play a negative role in the ADD & ADHD epidemic, so if you’re wondering about the Benefits of Limiting Screen Time, check out one of my most shared posts on that subject.
Electronic devices play a large roll in our lives.
Make no mistake! I have a so-called smartphone and use it daily. My job is on a computer and I’m typing this post on a computer right now.
Electronic devices serve a purpose.
They do not, however, need to be something that we allow ourselves or our kids to use without restriction.
- Take a walk and leave your iPhone at home.
- Go on a road trip with the kids and leave their iPads at home.
- Go a whole weekend not watching the news, being online or updating one’s Facebook status.
- Spend time with people, not “tagging” people.
I dive further into this topic in a much-shared post I wrote about cell phone addiction. If you or a friend or family member struggle with that, I highly recommend you take a moment and check out that post.
But no one says it better than this guy!
Does excessive screen time affect kids at school?
A recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, while not specifically aimed at treating ADHD naturally, did come up with the following findings with children who were heavy users of electronics:
- They saw a 15% reduction in grades A’s & B’s
- These kids also saw a whopping 24% increase in grades C or below
- They were 12% more likely to complain of boredom
- Were twice as likely to get into trouble a lot
- They were 10% more likely to be sad or unhappy
How does that exposure to electronics affect them and what role does all this play in treating ADHD naturally?
How excessive media use effects ADHD
A recent study by both the University of Amsterdam and Ohio State University found that in children 18 and under, “the researchers were able to find a significant correlation between media use and measures of ADHD”.
The researchers went on to point out that “results indicated a small significant relationship between media use and ADHD-related behaviors”.
We’ve all heard the saying, usually with regard to food we eat, “garbage in-garbage out”. I want to propose that applies to anything taken into our heart, bodies, mind or soul; not just physical nourishment.
Many of us these days try and eat & live healthier. Maybe we steer towards organically grown items or look for things labeled non-GMO. We exercise more and consume less junk food.
But what are we doing to nourish our spirit? Our mind? Our soul?
How can we focus our intention to really empower those intangible things going on inside of us?
So what are my . . .
7 Best Ways of Treating ADHD Naturally for Your Kids?
1. AVOID ARTIFICIAL COLORS IN YOUR DIET
Artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives are all unnecessary in our diets. They are typically added either to make the food more visually appealing and/or to reduce the cost.
As we noted in the above study, artificial colors, in particular, can lead to “Behavioral changes in irritability, restlessness, and sleep disturbance”.
2. STAY AWAY FROM TOO MUCH SUGAR
It only makes common sense, but too much sugar is naturally “associated with amounts of destructive-aggressive and restless behaviors”. The problem is also that sugar is added to so many processed foods these days. Thus we have to do more than just cut back sodas and buy better breakfast cereals.
3. SET LIMITS ON TECHNOLOGY USE
Time spent on screens naturally can cause our attention to shift frequently. But too much of it can also negatively impact grades and behavior. Thus setting strict limits on screen time is crucial!
4. HAVE YOUR KIDS PLAY OUTSIDE DAILY
Playing outdoors and away from electronics gets kids active. They’re getting natural vitamin D from the sunlight, fresh air and learning invaluable interpersonal skills from playing with others.
It’s also a great way to combat the ever-growing obesity epidemic.
5. LEAD BY EXAMPLE
If we’re going to help our kids we have to set a good example. Thus, it’s crucial that we eat healthy ourselves, exercise and when it’s time for family time that we put our phones down!
6. INCLUDE LEAN PROTEIN IN THE DIET
Lean protein can naturally reduce blood sugar surges in the body which can lead to hyperactivity.
Laura Stevens, a Nutritionist at Purdue University says “Because the body makes brain-awakening neurotransmitters when you eat protein, start your day with a breakfast that includes it.”
Neurotransmitters help brain cells communicate with each other more effectively and thus could be an important part of treating ADHD naturally.
LARA BARS are a great way to get lean protein, healthy carbs, gluten-free snacks with no added sugar into your child’s diet. Check out all the Lara Bar Flavors on Amazon Prime!
7. CONSIDER ADDING A DAILY MULTIVITAMIN
A multivitamin combined with omega 3s has been shown in studies to “correct nutrient shortfalls that exacerbate ADHD symptoms”. Other studies have shown that Omega 3 oil can reduce ADHD symptoms by almost 50%!
Did I cover all the tips on treating ADHD naturally you were hoping for?
In this post, we took an in-depth look at the ADHD epidemic.
We reviewed all the top studies, heard from experts and reviewed some key steps that can help your child with their struggles.
Specifically, we reviewed the top ways of treating ADHD naturally so you can bring some sanity back to your house and help your child be all that they can be.
If you’re reading this, this message obviously resonates with you and you’re either searching for ways of treating ADHD naturally or are already on the path.
The good news is you’re not alone. The even better news is that there is a LOT you can do to help your child and your doctor manage your child’s ADHD symptoms such as jumping all the time. You don’t have to just sit back and blindly accept the diagnosis.
So do your research! Talk to your doctor and take action. Your child deserves it and so do you!
What has been your biggest challenge with your child?
If you like this post, please follow my Parenting board on Pinterest for more great tips from myself and top parenting experts!
Of course, I have to add that I am not a doctor, medical professional or in the mental health field. I am, however, a parent of 3 and I work with over 400 kids each week in my day job. Thus all my opinions stated here, while educated, are simply based on my experience, observations and research in both being a parent, being involved in my kids’ schools and working with children in my 9 to 5 job and should not be taken as medical, professional or mental health advice. If you need medical, professional or mental health advice you should consult a professional in your area.
Photo credits (that aren’t mine):
Girls in Nature – https://www.flickr.com/photos/vastateparksstaff/
Merry Go Round Kids – https://www.flickr.com/photos/gjofili/
Girl Pulling Hair – https://www.flickr.com/photos/125892716@N05/
Playground Girls – https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevendepolo/
Frustrated Study Girl – https://www.flickr.com/photos/125892716@N05/