Alternative Ways to Treat ADHD

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is categorized by inattentiveness, an inability to sit still for prolonged amounts of time and impulsive behaviors. It affects both children and adults, although it typically begins during childhood. ADHD can persist well into adulthood and is usually treated with psycho-stimulants such as: Strattera, Adderall and/or Ritalin. Although, prescription medications typically improve ADHD symptoms, alternative treatment approaches (when utilized in conjunction with a prescribed treatment plan consisting of prescription medications and psychotherapy) have shown success in reducing and/or alleviating ADHD symptoms.

Some of the alternative treatments that have proven effective include: vitamins and minerals, mediation, massage therapy, psychotherapy, diet modification and exercise and prescription medications. It is important to consult with a qualified mental health professional or physician before altering your treatment plan.

Vitamins and Minerals

If you have ADHD, you probably have low blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are healthy, unsaturated fats that are needed to help your body function at an optimal level. They improve the function of your brain and transport messages throughout the brain. Omega-3 also improves memory, concentration and focus in people who have ADHD. Omega-3 has shown effectiveness in reducing ADHD symptoms.

Another vitamin that is beneficial for ADHD is vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine). Vitamin B-6 helps your brain produce myelin and serotonin and norepinephrine, neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) that transport messages throughout the brain. Vitamin-B6 has been known to stabilize moods, improve concentration, support healthy brain function and reduce impulsivity. Foods rich in vitamin B-6 include: brown rice, pistachios, tuna, salmon, garlic, liver and hazelnuts.

A mineral that has shown promise in treating ADHD is magnesium. Magnesium is a mineral that supports a healthy nervous system, reduces irritability, supports mental lucidity, encourages focus and eases absent-mindedness, agitation, nervousness and hyperactivity. Foods rich in magnesium include: soybeans, soybeans, instant oatmeal, baked potatoes, peanuts, lentils, pinto beans, chocolate milk, bananas, yogurt, spinach, avocados, raisins, milk and wheat bread.

Vitamin E has also shown effectiveness in reducing the severity of ADHD symptoms. Vitamin E strengthens your immune system and protects you from harmful microorganisms that can alter your brain function and encourage health conditions such as ADHD. Vitamin E also improves nervous system function, decreases inflammation and alleviates anxiety, impulsivity, mood swings, hyperactivity and inattentiveness. Foods rich in vitamin E include: spinach, almonds, peanuts, almonds, canola oil, olive oil and avocados.

Meditation and Massage Therapy

Meditation and massage therapy can help improve ADHD, when used in conjunction with a prescribed treatment plan. Mediation has been known to ease ADHD-related symptoms such as: inattention, mood swings, agitation, hyperactivity and impulsivity. This form of alternative treatment also improves cognitive function and reduces aversive behaviors. In addition, research suggests that massages were both more effective and more successful when they were combined with psychotherapy and prescription medications. A recent study on the relationship between ADHD and massage therapy found that massage therapy not only reduced oxidative stress in the body; it also significantly decreased anxiety, agitation and fidgety behaviors in ADHD sufferers.

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is extremely beneficial for ADHD sufferers. Common psychotherapy approaches include: individual therapy, group therapy and/or family therapy. One of the most effective ADHD therapies to date is behavioral therapy. During behavioral therapy you are taught how to alter your thought process and control your behaviors. Family therapy is also beneficial for ADHD sufferers and their family. Family therapy provides you and your family tools and skills you need to effective manage the condition.

Diet Modification & Exercise

Other alternative treatments that have shown success when treating ADHD are: diet modification and exercise. Some individuals have experienced a reduction in ADHD symptoms after reducing or eliminating artificial food additives, preservatives and colors from their daily diets. In addition, many ADHD suffers have reported a significant improvement in their condition after adding or increasing the amount of exercise they receive each day. When you exercise, your body produces and releases extra neurotransmitters: norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin (brain chemicals) that can increase your concentration and reduce hyperactive and impulsive behaviors.

Prescription Medications

The most traditional way to treat ADHD is through medication treatments. The most common medication to treat adult ADHD at this time is Adderall.  Adderall is a stimulant that affects your central nervous system function. This ADHD medication improves focus and concentration by encouraging the production and release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter (brain chemicals) that transmits messages from your brain to your nervous system. Dopamine signals to your brain that you need to calm down and it also reduces the need to constantly move.

Another popular adult ADHD medication is the dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine or Dextrostat). Dextroamphetamine (stimulant) alters your nervous system function by producing and releasing norepinephrine and dopamine. The goal of this medication is to increase concentration and focus, reduce hyperactivity and impulsivity and regulate your moods.

Methylphenidate (Ritalin) is often used to treat both children and adults. Ritalin also increases and releases dopamine in an effort to improve concentration, memory and focus and curb hyperactive behaviors.

One non-stimulant ADHD drug that is effective when treating ADHD is atomoxetine (Strattera).  Atomoxetine aids in norepinephrine and dopamine production in the brain, which eases anxiety and agitation, regulates your moods, improves your memory and reduces hyperactivity and impulsivity.

References:

Van Cleave. J. & Leslie, L. K. (2008). Approaching ADHD as a chronic condition: Implications for long-term adherence. Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Services 46(8). 28–37.

Young, S. & Bramham, J. (2012). Cognitive-behavioral therapy for ADHD in adolescents and adults: A psychological guide to practice. Maden, MA: John Wiley and Sons.

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