Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, more commonly known as ADHD, is affects a growing number of people each year. It is most commonly known for its effects on children. It includes behaviors such as, hyperactivity, impulsiveness, and frequent distraction. Often, these behaviors continue into adulthood.
In order to address these issues associated with ADHD, doctors sometimes prescribe medications. While these drugs can be effective for many patients in reducing ADHD symptoms, they can also cause moderate to severe side effects. Side effects including:
- loss of appetite,
- sleep problems,
- and mood swings.
In the search for alternative treatments, certain supplements and herbal remedies for ADHD have emerged as potential alleviators symptoms — without the side effects.
What Exactly is ADHD? What Causes It?
There are three general types of ADHD. They are categorized by the impact that the disorder has on a person’s life. The first includes difficulty focusing or paying attention. The second, hyperactivity and impulsivity. The third and final, a combination of these symptoms.
ADHD can be related to various structural, functional, or chemical abnormalities that affect areas of the brain associated with regulating attention and behavior. In some people, this can include abnormal levels of neurotransmitters, like dopamine and norepinephrine.
Dopamine’s job in the brain is to regulate emotional responses and feelings of pleasure and reward. This helps us to take action and pursue tasks. Norepinephrine is a hormone similar to adrenaline. It helps regulate alertness and stress responses.
Science still has not found a single definitive cause or solution to the underlying physical abnormalities of ADHD. However, one area of interest that continues to be studied by researchers around the world is the potential of diet and lifestyle changes to have a positive effect ADHD.
Certain environmental factors are also believed to contribute towards ADHD. These include:
- Smoking, alcohol, and/or drugs during pregnancy
- Environmental toxins, e.g. herbicides, toxins in water, and pesticides
- A diet with a high sugar content, additives, preservatives, and/or artificial coloring
Common Symptoms Associated with ADHD
Although ADHD can, and should, only be diagnosed by a trained medical professional, there are symptoms that are common among those who are diagnosed. They include:
- Interrupts others while they are speaking
- Does not think of the consequences when acting
- Makes inappropriate comments
- Has no restraint when showing emotions
- Finds it difficult to follow a set of instructions
- Seems unable to process information as quickly and accurately as other people
- Tends to lose things
- Gets bored easily
- Is easily distracted
- Tends to talk all the time
- Can’t sit still – keeps squirming or fidgeting
Dealing with ADHD, naturally
Research indicates that there are a number of ways in which the symptoms can be treated effectively and safely. These include lifestyle changes and herbal remedies for ADHD, such as, herbs and different nutritional supplements.
Different studies have indicated that some herbs can be beneficial to those with ADHD. Some may improve symptoms of ADHD, while others may stimulate functions usually lacking in those with ADHD. Some herbs include:
Green Oats (Avena sativa)
Does not have an immediate effect, yet it restores certain functionality over a period of time and has been shown to improve concentration and cognitive performance.
Has been shown to improve the ability to focus and pay attention.
Increases blood flow to the brain, oxygenates tissues, is an antioxidant, and can have a positive effect on the brain’s neurotransmitters with prolonged use. It can also be great for improving your ability to focus.
Reduces cortisol levels due to stress and has a positive effect on nerve and cognitive disorders. It may also be effective in combating restlessness, usually associated with ADHD.
Has a calming effect and helps with fidgeting. It can be found in a variety of herbal teas.
Is a relaxant and helps induce sleep, usually taken as a tea.
Has been shown to improve sleep in adults.
Research suggests that exercise and nature have calming effects on those with ADHD.
Yoga has been shown to have calming effects on ADHD symptoms. Yoga’s focus on breathing may be particularly calming. Thus helping to improve focus and relaxation.
Exposure to parks and green spaces can also have a positive effect on ADHD symptoms. This is true in both the short and long term, as various studies have shown. For example, children were found to have better concentration immediately after taking a short walk in the park, as opposed to a walk through the city. Researchers have also found that regular exposure to green spaces over time results in reduced ADHD symptoms.
Studies indicate a link between certain food additives and symptoms of ADHD. Additives including artificial colors, sugars, preservatives, and more. While a diet low in fast foods, soft drinks, and highly processed foods is obviously good for the rest of the body, science is increasingly showing that it may be good for the brain as well.
The neurochemical or vitamin deficiencies present in some ADHD sufferers may be improved with certain nutritional supplements. Here are some examples of some that can give your brain the boost it needs in order to reduce some of the symptoms of ADHD.
Magnesium is generally known to help improve sleep and relaxation. It’s also been found to significantly reduce hyperactivity in children with ADHD, when taken over time.
Zinc plays a critical role in the regulation of dopamine in the brain, making it highly relevant to the symptoms of ADHD. In particular, it’s been found to help with hyperactivity and impulsiveness.
Iron deficiency has been suggested as a potential underlying cause of some ADHD conditions. While the jury is still out on how strong the correlation is, some studies have showed promising results with iron supplementation for relieving some ADHD symptoms.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are a critical part of brain development and nerve structure. In fact, low levels have been associated with behavioral problems in children. Omega-3 supplements have been shown to improve emotional responses, anxiety, and reaction time in adults, as well.
Why Natural Treatment?
Pharmaceutical medications can be the right choice for some ADHD sufferers. However, their potential side effects can have a negative impact. In turn, overpowering the benefits of the prescription(s). This is why some researchers have shifted their focus to the effects of a variety of natural supplements and lifestyle changes.
There is still lots to be learned about ADHD, but many people in the community are encouraged by their experiences with alternative treatments and herbal remedies for ADHD. If you’re interested in one of these options, discuss it with your doctor or healthcare provider to see which might be a good fit for you.
Have you tried any of the above diet? Made environmental or lifestyle changes in managing yours or a loved one’s ADHD? What was your experience like?
Join the conversation by sharing your story with us in the comments below!