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8 complementary treatments for ADHD

Posted on Aug. 19, 2015 ( comments)
Distracted bored ADHD child from iStock

With the return of school looming, children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and their parents may view this season with mixed emotions. In some ways it may be helpful to return to a routine and a schedule. In other ways, routine may prove difficult to maneuver.

Often we recommend a variety of treatment modalities, including medication (often stimulants such as Adderall, Concerta, Vyvanse or Focalin) to help the child reach the highest possible level of school success.

Although medication is helpful for many, some parents, teachers and students desire complementary approaches to symptom management.

Below are some emerging areas of research for complementary treatments for ADHD. These should, of course, be discussed with your health care provider before implementation.

1. Iron supplements. There is some recent research suggesting that kids with ADHD symptoms may also have low ferritin levels. Serum ferritin levels may be worth checking. If less than 30, iron supplementation may be warranted.

2. Zinc. Taking zinc with stimulant medication may allow for symptoms to be controlled with a lower dose of the stimulant medication.

3. Elimination diet. This is a commitment, no doubt about it. However, ADHD-like symptoms are associated with food sensitivities and allergies. An elimination diet may help.

Strictly eliminate foods such as gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, nuts, corn and artificial colors for 21 days. After 21 days, add the possibly offending foods one at a time, allowing at least 3–4 days between additions. If symptoms re-emerge, eliminate that food for good.

4. Omega-3s. Omega-3 fatty acids seem to be the latest, greatest cure-all. However, being mindful of omega-3s and ensuring they are in your diet is certainly a good idea and may even help with ADHD symptoms.

Foods containing omega-3s include fortified dairy products and juices, many types of fish and whole foods such as seeds and nuts.

5. Martial arts and/or yoga. Although team sports can be tough for those with attention concerns, mindful practices such as martial arts and yoga can be particularly good for those struggling with mental and behavioral symptoms (e.g., ADHD, anxiety, depression).

6. Ditch the electronics. Lose them, or at least avoid them for the vast majority of the day. Less than 2 hours total screen time per day is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (this includes TV, video games, phones, computers, tablets — anything with a screen).

As an added bonus, you may actually see an improvement in sleep as the decrease in blue light exposure is helpful in allowing sleep onset to occur.

7. Parenting strategies. Parenting a youngster with ADHD can be difficult, and gathering as many strategies as possible can be overwhelming. Seek some professional input and help in implementing parenting strategies.

Some of the programs that appear to have some great results include The Nurtured Heart Approach, The Incredible Years, 1-2-3 Magic and the token economy system. Find a method you like and feel you can really adhere to and go with it.

8. Make sure you have the right diagnosis. ADHD can look an awful lot like other things. It can mean sleep deprivation, anxiety/depression or iron deficiency or other nutrient deficits. Even being on the young end of the age spectrum in the classroom can be a risk factor for ADHD diagnosis.

Suspect your child has ADHD, but not sure how to proceed?

If you’d like to have your child evaluated for ADHD and/or other developmental behavioral conditions, reach out to our Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics Clinic.

About The Author

Kara Hartman, CPNP

Kara Hartman, CPNP, is a Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner for MultiCare Mary Bridge Children’s Evergreen Clinic.

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