Alternatives to Medication
Stimulant medication can be effective in treating the symptoms of ADHD but some children are unable to use them because of side-effects, because they are too young or because they have a medical condition that puts them at risk. Many parents prefer to use alternatives as the first line of treatment for their child and medication only as a last resort. We know that ADHD is the result of neurotransmitter and neuroendocrine imbalances. The four main imbalances include high norepineprine and cortisol, dopamine dysfunction, serotonin deficiency, and insulin irregularity. These imbalances are rooted in nutritional deficiencies that with treatment, improve symptoms of hyperactivity and inattention. Food allergies and sensitivities also contribute to malabsorption of these nutrients. Alternative treatment to medication is available and includes nutritional counseling to change dietary habits and correct deficiencies and sensitivities, supplementation, reducing electronic stimulation, increase exercise habits, improvement of sleep patterns, behavior therapy and parents counseling, neurofeedback and Cogmed Working Memory Training.
Our assessments always screen the quality of the client's nutrition and sleep, exercise habits and stress management skills. The client's individualized treatment plan includes treatment to improve any of these areas identified as problematic.
Correct Irregular Sleep Cycles
Children and adolescents with inattention need from 8 to 10 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Behavior therapy and parent counseling is effective in treating children who fight sleep and bedtime. Other children wake during the night and instead of going back to sleep go and find their parents. Others cannot fall asleep because of intrusive obsessive thoughts about things that worry them. Children with ADHD often complain that their brain will not switch off and when they finally fall asleep from exhaustion their sleep is restless and superficial. Reducing electronics several hours before bedtime prevents the negative effect of the blue screen light on the hormone melatonin in the brain which starts the sleep cycle.
develop good sleep hygiene which helps children and adults create a calming sleep routine that is consistent to help them relax. A warm bath, relaxation exercises and yoga, reading, journaling, and using guided imagery tapes to block out intrusive thoughts are helpful pre-bed and bedtime activities. Students using computers up until they go to bed can learn how to use the application on electronic equipment to change the light from blue to yellow or orange which reduces the negative affect of electronics on the sleep cycle.
Stabilize Blood Sugar and Insulin Levels
that teaches children and parents how to keep blood sugar and insulin levels stable will improve inattention and hyperactivity symptoms. Nutritional education about limiting processed sugars and starches in the diet, emphasizing the importance of protein and avoiding certain food colorings and preservatives in their diet is critical for children with ADD/ADHD. Small servings of protein should be eaten at regular intervals. Convenient protein sources include nuts, yogurt, hummus, protein bars and protein smoothies.
Correct Nutritional Deficiencies
Research-based nutritional counseling
is important for the management of ADHD; however, identifying and correcting nutritional deficiencies is also important as deficiencies play an important role in neurotransmitter balance. The most common nutritional deficiencies include low B vitamin levels, low magnesium, and low levels of amino acids. Our nutritionist can arrange for Micronutrient and Food Sensitivity testing to evaluate your potential for nutritional deficiencies and food sensitivities and then provide supplementation and dietary counseling to correct them.
For many children, serotonin imbalance is the cause of ADHD Inattentive Type. A quick morning workout before heading to class gives the brain a serotonin boost. Try running up and down the stairs five times or 10 jumping jacks. A brisk morning walk may also help “wake up” your serotonin. Children diagnosed with ADHD should never be kept in during recess or physical education because their activity during these periods will improve their attention skills when they return to class.
Create an Electronic Budget
Children and adults diagnosed with ADHD can become obsessed with iPhones, iPads and other electronics because the electronic screen stimulates their brains to release more Dopamine which allows them to hyper-focus. If allowed they will spend hours focused on these activities separated from family and friends. Attention skills also deteriorate of extensive electronic stimulation. Most children should have an “electronic budget” that limits use of TV, video games, phones and other gadgets to one hour per day. Adults need an electronic budget as well. While jobs may force us all on the computer for long periods of time, having “electronic-free” hours can help build focus and attention. Turn off your electronics by 10 p.m. and keep four hours at least one day per week gadget/electronic-free.
Behavior Therapy, Parent Behavior Modification therapy, Parent Child Interaction Therapy
Behavior Therapy and Parent Behavior Modification Therapy
are recommended as the first line of therapy for preschoolers diagnosed with ADHD by the Pediatric Medical Board and not medication. This recommendation emerged from the findings of the Preschool ADHD Treatment Study (PATS)conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health which found that one third of the of the 303 preschoolers in the study and their parents only needed a 10-week behavior therapy program to significantly reduce their ADHD symptoms. Parent Child Interaction Therapy based on behavior modification is also very effective in reducing oppositional defiant behavior.
Cogmed Working Memory Training Program
Working memory is the "metal workspace" in our memory which we use to hold data and manipulate it for reasoning, problem solving and comprehension. ADHD often limits the storage capacity of this “workspace” and when it becomes overwhelmed the data is lost causing a break in the person's attention. Cogmed
is a research-based, home computer based program that improves working memory and attention in children and adults with working memory deficits and poor attention.
Neurofeedback is a type of biofeedback
that measures brain waves to produce a signal that can be used as feedback to teach self-regulation of brain function. Neurofeedback is commonly provided using video or sound, with positive feedback for desired brain activity and negative feedback for brain activity that is undesirable.
QEEG has been used to develop EEG models of ADHD. According to this model, persons with ADHD often have too many slow theta brain waves (associated with relaxation) and not enough fast beta wave activity (associated with mental focus). Neurofeedback therapies for ADHD generally attempt to increase the production of betawaves and decrease the number of slower brain waves. This can be accomplished by allowing the patient to view their levels of brain waves on a screen and attempt to alter them, or by integrating brain waves into a video game.
Although many patients will still need ADD/ADHD medications, trying natural alternatives can keep us all less medication dependent and living healthier. Focus on alternatives in beating your ADD/ADHD, naturally.