ADHD: Alternative Treatments
The standard approach to treating children diagnosed with ADHD includes both prescription medications and behavioral therapy. While this approach is widely endorsed by the medical community, many parents also like to try alternative treatment methods.
These alternative methods may include:
Dietary interventions: While limiting or eliminating sugar and caffeine (which are believed to increase hyperactivity), as well as artificial food colorings, additives, and common allergens like wheat, milk and eggs, is sometimes recommended for controlling the symptoms of ADHD, the jury is still out as to how much these dietary changes actually affect the symptoms of ADHD. Eliminating sugar, in particular, has not found much support in the medical community, with many experts stressing a lack of causal proof between sugar (and carbs) and ADHD. Some nutritionists, however, maintain that adding more fiber to a child’s diet via fruits and berries, whole grains and oatmeal may help the child maintain consistent adrenaline levels and prevent the sugar (and adrenaline) spikes and crashes that may affect a child’s activity level on a short-term basis.
The popular Feingold elimination diet, devised by Dr. Ben Feingold as a treatment for ADHD, is similarly controversial. The Feingold Diet contends that the elimination of artificial food colorings, flavorings and preservatives will decrease hyperactivity, but scientific research has not bolstered his contention. Still, some parents who have tried his elimination diet swear by it, noting behavioral improvements in their children. In general, maintaining a healthy, balanced diet for your child is always a good idea, and parents who eliminate foods should make sure their child’s nutritional needs are met. Consult with your child’s doctor before you embark on a special diet for your child to make sure that your child’s overall health needs are addressed.
Supplements: There’s no medical evidence that vitamin and mineral supplements or herbal remedies, like St. John’s wort, reduce the symptoms of ADHD. What’s more, while vitamins and minerals are essential elements of a healthy diet, supplementing with doses that exceed the recommended dietary allowances of vitamins and minerals may actually be counterproductive. Talk to your child’s doctor before you embark on a treatment plan that includes supplements.
Essential fatty acids: Essential fatty acids, including the omega-3 oils found in fish and flaxseed, have been found to be key to proper brain function, as well as presenting other potential health benefits. Research into whether these fatty acids affect the symptoms of ADHD is still ongoing.
Yoga and meditation: While many people find yoga and meditation calming, the research thus far does not support its use as an effective way to counteract the symptoms of ADHD.
Neurofeedback or electroencephalographic (EEG) biofeedback: Based on research showing that people with ADHD have more of one kind of brain wave than the average person and less of another, this method is an attempt to train the brain to even out those disparities and thus lessen the symptoms of ADHD. The treament involves sessions in which the child’s brain activity is monitored via electrodes. As the child performs tasks, he or she receives feedback on his or her brain wave patterns via a machine and learns how to control these brain waves – increasing the ones that had been at a deficit and decreasing those that were in excess and ultimately learning to do so without the use of the machine. Although early results are promising, more research is still needed to determine how effective neurofeedback actually is in controlling ADHD symptoms. Also note: The treatment, which demands an ongoing commitment and multiple sessions, supervision by a specialist and the use of expensive machinery, can be costly.
Chiropractic medicine: Some chiropractors believe that ADHD is caused by an imbalance in muscle tone and that spinal adjustments can help balance brain activity. Most medical experts do not subscribe to this theory or support the use of chiropractic medicine to treat ADHD.
Interactive Metronome training: This treatment is based on the belief that the symptoms of ADHD result from a deficit in motor planning and timing skills that can be overcome by listening to and trying to mimic a computerized rhythmic beat. Feedback is then provided about how well the person is able to match the beat and, over time, they work toward focusing for extended periods of time, filtering out distractions and monitoring and controlling their responses. It may sound strange, but initial studies have found it to be remarkably promising and potentially quite effective.