Disorders of the nervous system and brain are on the rise in our kids. It’s estimated that around 1 in 10 kids in Australia have ADHD. Although there are medications available, they often come with side effects. But there are natural remedies for ADHD that can help to alleviate the symptoms and improve the wellbeing of your child.
Watch the video below or keep reading to learn more about natural remedies for ADHD.
ADHD is a complex condition, and symptoms can vary from child to child. Hyperactivity, inattention, impulsive behaviour and behavioural challenges tend to be the common symptoms across the board. However, there are often gut symptoms present as well – almost every child I see with ADHD in my clinic will have some kind of digestive issue.
The driving factors can also differ. Some kids have imbalances in brain chemicals such as dopamine and noradrenaline. Others have problems with the receptors for these brain chemicals. These imbalances can compromise the nervous system, especially when it comes to attention-demanding tasks. So when kids are expected to sit quietly with hands in lap and listening, the symptoms can surface.
There is a strong genetic link with the condition. Kids who have fathers with ADHD are more likely to develop it themselves. But there are also links to dietary factors, the gut-brain axis and environmental triggers such as heavy metals. With so many of the factors able to be supported by diet and lifestyle changes, it’s no wonder why parents are turning to natural remedies for ADHD symptoms.
Natural Remedies For ADHD
Changes to the diet
Although many think of specific nutrients as the best natural remedies for ADHD, I always start with looking at the bigger picture of the diet. When I see kids with ADHD in clinic, there are two main diet changes I will look at.
A whole food based diet
If you make just one change for your child, this is the one to do. By increasing wholefoods such as veggies, fruit, quality protein, nuts, seeds and eggs and reducing processed packaged foods, you will help boost their nutrient status.
This will also help to balance out their overall diet. Many kids with ADHD are eating a diet that is too high in sugar and refined carbohydrates and low in protein and healthy fats. So we want to rebalance this.
To get adequate good quality protein, you want them eating a serving size the size of their palm at each meal. Sources can include chicken, meat, fish, eggs and nuts. For healthy fats, look to wholefood fats such as olive oil, coconut oil, nuts, seeds and avocado.
At the very least, these changes will help to balance their blood sugar levels. Steady blood sugar means fewer ups and downs, balancing their mood, behaviour and concentration.
AFC-free diet (additives, flavours, colours)
Most parents know that artificial additives, flavours and colours aren’t good for kids – particularly for their mood and behaviour. Research has shown that additives are associated with increased hyperactivity. Additives can also affect digestion and inflammation levels. Unfortunately, kids with ADHD are more vulnerable to these chemicals, and often have more of a reaction compared to a typical child. This is partially due to the limited detoxification capacity that many kids with ADHD have.
Removing these additives can be life-changing for many kids with ADHD. However, it can be easier said than done, which is why I look at increasing wholefoods first.
Other diet changes for ADHD
There are some other diet changes that may suit specific cases of ADHD.
One diet that some parents turn to is the Feingold Diet. This cuts out additives, but also salicylates. These naturally occuring chemicals are found in many nutritious foods. However, some kids can be sensitive to them, including a subset of kids with ADHD.
Feingold’s diet was specifically for kids with ADHD, but lost traction as research was inconclusive. This is because ADHD has many factors that can drive it – what works for one child may not work for another.
Another diet to consider is a GFCF diet – gluten-free, casein-free. This diet is commonly used for kids with autism, but there could be benefits for kids with ADHD as well. To learn more about this diet and why it helps with neurodevelopmental issues, head here.
If we’re going to discuss natural remedies for ADHD, we can’t neglect the role of specific nutrients! Every child is different, and will need different nutrients to balance their symptoms. But there are a few nutrients that can play a significant role in ADHD symptoms.
This is always the first nutrient I think of for ADHD, because it’s so beneficial. Fish and seafood are the best sources of dietary omega-3s, as they contain the form that is most useful for the body and brain to use. Research shows that omega-3s can help with many of the symptoms of ADHD. Hyperactivity, impulsivity, attention, visual learning and word reading can all improve with omega-3 supplements.
Phosphatidylcholine & phosphatidylserine
These are lesser-known chemicals that are found throughout the body. We can get them through food, but many foods with these nutrients are foods you won’t see kids eating – soy lecithin, fish and organ meats like brain and heart. But they can help with symptoms of ADHD, improving impulsivity, inattention and memory. As supplements, they are best supplied by your natural health practitioner.
Most of the population is deficient in magnesium. Our soils are magnesium-deficient, which means even those of us who eat a balanced diet are at risk of not getting enough.
Kids with ADHD are at an even greater risk. One study found that 95% of kids with ADHD were deficient in magnesium. This is an issue, as magnesium is the main calming mineral. It soothes the nervous system, helps with sleep and can calm hyperactivity.
The quality of supplements can vary greatly. Many forms available over the counter are very poorly absorbed. That’s why it’s best to work with a practitioner who can access high-quality supplements.
Some of the other nutrients that can benefit ADHD include:
- Iron – low iron can be associated with ADHD. But it is easy to overload with iron, so it’s best not to supplement without testing levels first
- Vitamin D – low vitamin D can be associated with ADHD
- Zinc – supplementing with zinc has been shown to improve symptoms of ADHD
Not every child with ADHD will need every one of these supplements. The most effective way to manage ADHD symptoms using supplements is to work with a practitioner. That way, you are getting tailored advice and the best forms of each supplement for your child’s needs.
If you’re considering natural remedies for ADHD, and would like personalised support, I’m here to help. To book a Skype appointment with me, click here.