With a spotlight on their children’s physical, mental and social well-being, most parents know the basics of keeping children healthy. But when they get sick or are diagnosed with an ailment or disorder, the myriad of treatment options can be daunting for parents to decipher.
One of the most common mental disorders that develop in children, and parents must subsequently address, is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD. Children with ADHD have impaired functioning in multiple settings, including home, school and in relationships with peers.
Symptoms of ADHD can include:
• Impulsiveness: a child who acts quickly without thinking first.
• Hyperactivity: a child who can't sit still, walks, runs or climbs around when others are seated, talks when others are talking.
• Inattention: a child who daydreams or seems to be in another world, is sidetracked by what is going on around him or her.
If untreated, the disorder can have long-term adverse effects into adolescence and adulthood, so diligent parents should ensure their children are properly diagnosed.
If the disorder is suspected, the diagnosis should be made by a professional with training in ADHD, including child psychiatrists, psychologists, developmental/behavioral pediatricians, behavioral neurologists and clinical social workers.
Once the diagnosis is made, a multitude of treatment options can be considered, including the traditional method of prescribing medication or alternative methods.
Most experts agree that combining medication treatments with extended behavior management is the most effective way to manage ADHD in children and adolescents. Other experts are supporting alternative treatments for ADHD that can include allergy treatment, megavitamins, biofeedback, restricted diets, anti-motion sickness and eye training.
Massage therapy can also be one effective treatment for kids with ADHD, according to studies conducted by the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami. As an alternative medicine technique, massage therapy touches the skin, affects the muscles directly under it and helps in making sure that blood flows in the body more effectively. As a result, it greatly improves the mood and behavior of kids with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
The studies showed that children with ADHD showed more on-task behavior in the classroom and were rated as less hyperactive by their teachers following one month of twice weekly massages.
Observational studies suggest that chiropractic manipulation as a natural treatment alternative can help with ADHD and attention issues. This alternative to ADHD medication works best for those whose ADHD symptoms are caused by spinal nerve pressure or irritation, according to the American Chiropractic Association.
Many chiropractors incorporate neuromusculoskeletal adjustment alongside diet modifications and nutritional supplementation to treat ADHD. There is debate about the safety of chiropractic manipulation on children.
Acupuncture as a natural treatment alternative to ADHD medication follows a similar vein of thinking as chiropractic, but instead of aligning the spine, acupuncture works to align and balance energy paths within the body. Acupressure is used for children afraid of needles. In acupressure, finger or hand pressure is used instead of needles. These alternatives to ADHD medication likely receives the most criticism by Western medicine as “quackery,” but some parents report benefits from using acupuncture or acupressure on their children. The acupuncturist might also include herbal and homeopathic remedy treatment alongside acupuncture or acupressure.
Many alternative treatments use natural substances such as herbs, botanicals, homeopathics, nutritional supplements and whole foods. There is a general belief among naturopathic doctors that the use of whole or natural products to treat maladies adds more to the healing process than their synthesized counterparts. While many synthesized pharmaceuticals may be more potent and fast acting, they also may come with unpleasant side effects. While on the other hand, natural substances are believed to produce fewer side effects.
Many parents report great success with a gluten-free, casein-free (GFCF) diet that cuts out milk and wheat. Another common starting point for hyperactive kids is the Feingold diet, which bans artificial flavors, colors and some preservatives.
According to research or other evidence, the following may be helpful:
• Supplement with essential fatty acids as getting approximately 186 mg of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), 480 mg of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), 96 mg of GLA (gamma-linolenic acid), 864 mg of linoleic acid, and 42 mg of arachidonic acid supplies fatty acids important for brain function.
• Check out L-carnitine to improve behavior, take 100 mg of this supplement for each 2.2 pounds of body weight a day, with a maximum of 4 grams a day.
• Give magnesium a go as 200 mg a day can address possible deficiency of this mineral that may influence ADHD.
• B vitamins, particularly vitamin B6, have also been used for ADHD.
The World Health Organization, in its Guidelines for the Assessment of Herbal Medicines, states that a substance's historical use is a valid way to document safety and efficacy in the absence of scientific evidence to the contrary. You can reasonably assume that licensed alternative providers use treatments and techniques that are safe when used correctly, according to WHO.
These recommendations are not comprehensive and are not intended to replace the advice of the doctor or pharmacist, but they can be a consideration by parents when choosing treatment options for ADHD.