Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, is an ever-present, common diagnosis among children (and even adults) these days. Its symptoms vary from patient to patient, but generally, lack of attention and focus, hyperactivity and impulsivity, behavioral problems, and sleep troubles are some of the hallmark symptoms of ADHD. Whereas children used to labeled “troublemakers”, the medical community, as well as the institution of education, is moving towards recognizing children with these special educational and behavioral problems as having ADHD.
Most Western doctors, after establishing that a patient has ADHD, will lean towards prescribing pharmaceuticals to manage symptoms. Most ADHD medication, including strong stimulants like Adderall, are classified as amphetamines. Amphetamines are known as ‘speed’ on the streets. However, the stimulant effect of amphetamines effects patients with ADHD differently than those without ADHD – specifically children who take these types of medications are often calmer, clearer-headed, better behaved, and less hyperactive.
Many parents are, understandably, resistant to using prescription medications to manage their child’s ADHD, and are increasingly turning to holistic medical practices, including Traditional Chinese Medicine and Functional Medicine. Some parents choose to incorporate both Western medical treatments like pharmaceuticals and holistic treatments, which include lifestyle and dietary changes, herbal supplements, nutraceuticals, and acupuncture.
A holistic medicine doctor will schedule a comprehensive initial appointment with you and your child to get an in-depth understanding of their unique symptoms and circumstances. From there, they will likely suggest specific dietary changes for your child. Studies have shown that sugar, caffeine, chocolate, preservatives, and non-natural food additives can all exacerbate ADHD symptoms. Other studies have suggested that some children who show signs of ADHD have food intolerances and allergies that can manifest as ADHD symptoms.
A holistic medicine practitioner may also suggest alternative types of therapies like talk therapy sessions with a therapist to address behavioral issues, a craniosacral massage to calm and balance brain activity, or techniques like biofeedback, which teaches children how to gain control over their cognitive patterns.
Your doctor will also counsel you on lifestyle changes in your family life – namely, a regular structured schedule, emphasis on proper sleep patterns and hygiene, or participation in sports and activities that emphasize physical exertion and mindfulness.
If you think your child has ADHD, they should be evaluated and treated as soon as possible so that the educational, behavioral, and interpersonal consequences do not continue to build up over time. The sooner you and your child learn how to manage his or her ADHD, the easier you will all be able to build healthy coping techniques and patterns that can be sustained into the future.