Natural Remedies for ADHD

Treating ADHD with medication has become as standard as handing out ibuprofen. Unfortunately, the use of these types of medication also creates a long list of potential side effects ranging from mild symptoms – such as irritability, stomach ache, and insomnia – to more serious symptoms like high blood pressure, psychiatric episodes, substance abuse and irregular heart rate.

All of these side effects can be worse than the ADHD condition itself, but there exist natural remedies that dilute ADHD symptoms, and the below tips may be ones to entertain since they’ve been found to be very effective for many who suffer from this condition:


What is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder?

ADHD is a genetic neurobehavioral problem that can affects adults as well as children.  The basis for this disease involves the nerve cells (neurons), which normally send chemical messengers back and forth via neurotransmitters, telling the body how to feel, think and act. ADHD is a genetic deficiency of these chemical messengers causing them to communicate abnormally, or not at all.


Studies have concluded that abdominal digestive problems and food allergies are linked to ADHD, and that hormones also play a role, suggesting that the lack of dopamine in the brain may be linked to the disorder. Dopamine is an important chemical that carries signals between nerves in the brain. It is linked to many functions, including learning, attention, mood, movement and sleep.


Additionally, Norepinephrine, a stress hormone, may also be lacking with ADHD patients. Norepinephrine is known to affect the parts of the brain where attention and response actions are controlled. Increasing the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain has helped with ADHD symptoms.


Another very plausible cause for ADHD might have to do with the harmful habits we subject ourselves and others to. 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, as well as children who have suffered frontal lobe injuries.


Finally, environmental factors are also a symptomatic consideration when discussing the causes of ADHD. For example, children who are in contact with high levels of toxins like lead from paint, tap water, sugar, food dyes and other food additives, 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.


The ADHD Diet

While there is no formal ADHD diet, the manifestation of ADHD symptoms can be linked directly to diet. The symptoms are aggravated by foods containing additives, preservatives and colorings, processed foods, caffeine, sugary carbonated juices, milk and products containing milk. In order to help treat ADHD symptoms with diet, eat foods that are fresh and natural. Olive oil and other healthy oils should be used when cooking.


Also include plenty of antioxidant rich foods such as what is found in deeply-pigmented fruits and vegetables as well as dark, leafy greens like spinach, kale and arugula, as well as carrots and brightly colored berries.  Also, avoid processed and packaged foods including those that contain chemicals and preservatives – such as MSG and food dyes- as well as exposure to nicotine and cigarette smoke. Limiting alcohol and caffeine consumption is also a good idea.


It’s also 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 no sweetened drinks and processed foods. Stick to eating vegetables, organic fruits, organic oils and meat from grass-fed cows.  Other healthy foods include nuts, chicken, turkey, sardines, salmon, trout and whole grains. Eating foods like peanut butter that are high in protein can aid in combating the symptoms associated with ADHD. Including these foods in breakfast can increase the benefits that are seen from them.


Supplements and Herbs

There has been scientific evidence showing that there is a deficiency of essential omega 3 fatty acids in those who suffer from ADHD. Fish oil and Flaxseed oil have been shown to improve ADHD symptoms in children and adults, specifically in the areas of concentration and focus, as they are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. For those that follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, flax oil can be beneficial as it is high in omega-3s; however, fish oil is preferable as it contains EPA and DHA, which benefits the brain.  The deficiency can be also be corrected by including supplements such as shark liver oil, zinc and iron in the diet. Vitamin D and calcium have also been used as supplementation to help with ADHD symptoms.


Additionally, some children with ADHD have lowered levels of magnesium. Adding this as a supplement to your diet acts as a calming agent and significantly decreases hyperactive behavior.  Many have found adding B & C Vitamins and Probiotics to their diet have a positive effect on mood and behavior. These supplements nourish and stabilize the central nervous system and help with mental focus, brain function and mood stabilization. Specifically, probiotics will assist with a healthy balance of immune response, good flora and proper digestion.


There are also several herbs that can be beneficial in reducing ADHD symptoms. Ginkgo Biloba has been shown to improve the blood flow to the brain and increase the oxygenation of its tissue. You will feel more at ease and relaxed while the ability to concentrate is increased. Gotu Kola lowers adrenal response and blood levels when stress is present, aiding nervous system disorders and cognitive abilities. Valerian root will keep energy levels balanced while increasing both reasoning skills and concentration. It can also help to treat insomnia by creating a relaxing effect.


Using lemon balm, for example, can improve mental focus and concentration, enhance attention span and memory. Ancient Greeks used it as a cure-all for many afflictions for centuries. It also works as a potent anti-anxiety aid and also helps improve sleep. Finally, pine bark extract (Pycnogenol) is known to decrease distractibility visual-motor coordination, concentration and irritability, while also promoting healthy neural functioning.


Relax and Stay Active

Exercise and physical activity can work just as well if not better than prescription drugs for reducing ADHD symptoms. Regular exercise can help to release pent up energy, decreasing symptoms of ADHD such as impulsiveness and hyperactivity. The ability to focus is increased and a calming, stress-relieving effect created. The effect is the same as if you were taking prescription medication because of dopamine being released into the system.


Consider exercise as a daily remedy for improving sleep, boosting mood and increasing attention span. Exercise improves fitness in the entire body, including the brain, causing it to release important chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine and endorphin levels. As little as 10 minutes of activity a day can make a positive difference.
Also, meditation and other relaxation techniques can be a big benefit to those suffering with ADHD. Just five to ten minutes of meditation each day on a regular basis has been shown to cause positive structural and physiological changes in the brain that can reduce the symptoms of ADHD. Studies have revealed that many people find meditation to be more effective than ADHD medications.


A full body or even just a foot massage can also calm ADHD symptoms. Human touch has very powerful physical and emotional benefits, and there are countless essential oils to choose from that have unique relaxing properties.


Commonality of ADHD

ADHD is a common disorder that affects the lives of many, but 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, so try out some natural remedies for the effective treatment of your ADHD symptoms.


Treating ADHD symptoms has traditionally been done with medications, but they can have dangerous side effects. Natural treatments for ADHD aim to fill nutritional gaps, work off excess energy, and remove the things that would aggravate the symptoms from the body. Eating a healthy diet that does not include artificial colorings and preservatives, eating natural unprocessed foods, and exercising regularly can help relieve the symptoms of ADHD without the need for medication. Consult your doctor before discontinuing medication, beginning a fitness routine or taking supplements, as some could cause negative interactions to occur or exacerbate ADHD symptoms.

By David Novak