Alternative Treatments for ADHD


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Q: My child has been diagnosed with ADHD, and I was wondering if there are alternative treatment options that do not include medications?

A: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a problem with inattentiveness, over-activity, and/or impulsivity. It is typically diagnosed in children between the ages of 6 and 12. It is suggested that ADHD symptoms may be induced or exacerbated by environmental factors. Altering these factors and including other treatments allow children with ADHD to manage their symptoms in a healthy way.

Many parents are looking toward alternative treatments for ADHD instead of prescription medications, which use stimulant drugs. When considering alternative treatments, you can look at both behavior-management strategies and natural remedies. Before you start any new treatment to manage your child's ADHD symptoms, be sure to check with your family physician.

Behavior-management strategies for children with ADHD recommend a consistent daily routine and structured environment. Let your child know when a routine is changing or something unusual is going to happen. Give your child clear boundaries and expectations. Devise an appropriate reward system for good behavior or for completing a certain number of positive behaviors. Avoid using food, especially candy, as a reward. Also, engage your child in mind-building exercises, such as reading, games and puzzles, by participating in the activity with them.

Decreasing the amount of time spent on electronic media such as television and other visual stimuli has shown to reduce ADHD symptoms in some children. Engage your child by doing physical activities together as a family instead of sitting in front of a television.

Natural treatment therapies have been shown to aid in the treatment of ADHD in some children. Some parents, with the guidance of their health-care provider, have seen success in the management of their child's symptoms by balancing brain chemistry naturally without the side effects of medications. Some natural remedies used include ginkgo biloba, skullcap, German chamomile, Gotu Kola, oatstraw, rooibos and lemon balm.

Consumption of omega fatty acids is a crucial part of human development and can profoundly affect brain development and the maintenance of a healthy nervous system. It has been suggested that children who regularly consume foods rich in omega fatty acids or take a supplement daily can possibly decrease ADHD symptoms and behaviors. Always consult with your child's doctor before starting any supplements.

Ensure that your child is consuming a nutritious and varied diet with plenty of fiber, vitamins and minerals. Eliminating nitrates and nitrites, both found in foods such as hot dogs, bacon and sausage, from your child's diet can also have a positive effect on his or her behavior.

The sense of smell also generates a natural response that can reduce some symptoms of ADHD. Aromatherapy has gained respect as being an excellent companion therapy for medical and psychological conditions. Research of the use of aromatherapy may help shed light on how scents cause many physiological responses. Some examples of the oils used in aromatherapy include lavender, which relaxes and relieves stress; rosemary, which stimulates and sharpens the mind; and juniper berry, which reduces anxiety and anger.

As a parent, remember that you have choices when it comes to your child's health. Discussing these options with your family physician is always recommended.

Debra Mack, RN, MSN is the interim director of Child/Adolescent Inpatient Services of Cone Health – Behavioral Health Hospital. Please submit your questions to "Is My Kid OK?" by emailing sherri.mcmillen@conehealth.com

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