What is ADHD?
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a “mental health disorder that can cause above-normal levels of hyperactive and impulsive behaviors.” Individuals with ADHD struggle to sit still for long periods or focus their attention on one task.
Some common symptoms of ADHD include:
- Difficulty concentrating on tasks
- Trouble focusing
- Being forgetful
- Struggles to complete tasks
- Easily distracted
- Difficulty sitting or standing still
- Interruptive (especially when people are talking)
Both adults and children may have some or all of these symptoms.
In recent decades, the production of medication for the treatment of ADHD has skyrocketed. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), diagnosis in children has increased by 40% between 2003-2011. In 2016, the estimated number of US children who had a diagnosis of ADHD reached 6.1 million. Let that sink in! We’re not saying the prescription is not useful or practical, but think about it. That’s a whole lot of diagnosis, and some people are not okay with taking medication as the first line of action to handle an ADHD diagnosis. Why is that?
Side effects are not great
Many families are not comfortable treating themselves or their children with drugs. You might be asking yourself why? Well, ADHD drugs are made to improve symptoms by enhancing and balancing neurotransmitters. And sometimes, this balancing act gets all out of whack. You see, neurotransmitters are the body’s chemical messengers. They carry signals between neurons in the brain and body. There are several different types of medications that work hard to improve the balance of neurotransmitters, including:
- Stimulants, like Adderall which helps an individual focus and ignore distractions
- Non-stimulants, like Wellbutrin or Strattera, have side-effects become too much to handle or if reasons prevent from taking a stimulant
These drugs might improve concentration, but they can also cause some serious side effects. Check out these adverse effects of ADHD medications:
- Loss of appetite
- Suicidal tendencies, thoughts or actions
- Mood swings
- Sleeping problems
- Heart issues
Example of underperformance
It isn’t easy to find many studies when searching on the web for long term effects. But the research found raises red flags. In a study by the Government of Western Australia Department of Health, Australian scientists found no significant improvement in behavior or attention problems in children between the ages of 5 and 14 who took prescribed ADHD medication. The same study also showed no improvement in self-perception or social functioning. Instead, they demonstrated slightly lower self-esteem, and performance below age level occurred in the medicated group.
Some reports indicate a strong connection related to ADHD medication and suicidal tendencies. There’s even a general warning on most drugs like Strattera. The clinical information states that there is a ‘minimal number of cases’ that resulted in suicide. However, we believe that even one life lost due to a drug is one life too many.
There are other options available
Behavioral Therapy provided by Educated Parents
According to The American Academy of Pediatrics, behavior therapy for young children should be the first step when treating ADHD. Behavior therapy works by focusing on resolving specific behavior issues and offers prevention solutions. Some of these symptoms might be impulsivity and difficulty with concentration.
Children younger than 12 years of age often benefit from receiving guidance and instruction from their parents. Healthcare providers can refer parents to educational classes on child behavioral management and focus on items such as self-control and self-esteem issues. Parents can expect to spend around 8-16 sessions with the therapist to learn the strategies to help their child. Therapists recommend setting up goals and rules for children. To learn more about the tools taught to parents to help their children succeed in the long-run, visit the Center for Disease Control and Behavioral management for ADHD. There are Professional Counselors available in Williamson County who can also help answer questions and provide training.
Ditch food colorings and preservatives
Mayo Clinic suggests certain food colorings and preservatives may increase hyperactive behavior in some children. Decrease food preservatives by increasing whole foods and avoid the following colors:
- sodium benzoate
- FD&C Yellow No. 6 (sunset yellow)
- D&C Yellow No. 10 (quinoline yellow)
- FD&C Yellow No. 5 (tartrazine)
- FD&C Red No. 40 (allura red)
Many moms have found success in the improvement of behavior by restricting diets for their children. If you want the best results, check with Allergy and Asthma Clinic of Central Texas in Cedar Park or Georgetown if you suspect your child may have food allergies. In the meantime, experiment by avoiding these foods:
- Chemical additives or preservatives
- Foods with salicylate, including chili powder, apples and cider, grapes, oranges, prunes, and tomatoes
Acupuncture is when very thin needles go through the skin in strategic points of the body. Thus, it’s a central component of traditional Chinese medicine used to treat pain. Individuals seek out acupuncture regularly for overall wellness and stress management. Critical components of Traditional Chinese Medicine focus on core principles in the body, the”Yin and Yang” and “the Qi’’ (Chi). The primary interpretation of “yin” and “yang” is symmetry and balance. For those affected by ADHD, absolute “Yin” and “Yang” are out of balance. Acupunctures goal is to restore the primary balance. Learn more from Acupuncturist in your area to see if this holistic treatment may be a good fit for addressing ADHD.
Measure brain waves with neurofeedback
Like us, we didn’t know what neurofeedback was without a little research. It’s a type of Neurotherapy that helps measure brain waves. According to CHADD, “Neurofeedback, formally called electroencephalographic (EEG) biofeedback, and occasionally referred to as Neurotherapy, is an intervention for ADHD based on findings that many individuals with ADHD show low levels of arousal in frontal brain areas, with an excess of theta waves and a deficit of beta waves.”
It’s cool. A child will be assessed by given a task in which they’ll need to concentrate. It might be “fly a plane” or “drive a car.” The child will continue driving until distracted when the screen will go dark. This tool teaches the child new focusing techniques over time. Eventually, the kid will be able to identify the unwanted behavior and correct themselves.
“Mindfulness.” It’s a term that is used quite frequently in yoga. It means to be present in the moment, clearing the mind and focusing on one thing. No wonder CHADD, (Children and Adults with ADHD association) highly recommends yoga for those affected by ADHD! Yoga teaches individuals to center themselves, pay attention, and adapt in a classroom-type environment.
Studies suggest practicing yoga a few days a week can positively affect kids, even after they “step off the mat.” Slow down, clear the mind, breathe deeply, and stretch out the body at one of these local yoga studios.
Chiropractic medicine focuses on treating the spine and common physiological conditions like lower back pain and headaches. ADHD is a neurological condition that affects behavior, focus, and mood; a brain-based condition. Chiropractic care addresses the nerves from the cervical and thoracic spine which work in tandem with the brain ensuring the electrical pathways are clear and performing to the best of their abilities. Both adults and children report that chiropractic adjustments have helped them and their children with managing ADHD and its symptoms. If you are looking for a little more information on chiropractic care for children with ADHD, watch this video. Locally in Williamson County, there are some wonderful Chiropractors who work with children and can discuss with you more about what they do and how their care may help your child.
Dr. Cowen from Holistic Primary Care explains how and why different children react differently to different therapies and offers suggestions on different types of holistic approaches. Helping a child understand more about how their body functions and learning how to master who they are seems to be a better long term solution and medicating and dampening the brain. Remember too, the older a child is the more they will begin to use the skills given to them and work towards succeeding in life with all their unique gifts.