ADHD Treatment Without Medication
First, here’s our story and the reasons why we began the journey to ADHD treatment without medication.
When our son was 8 years old, he was diagnosed by a Pediatric Neuro-Psychologist as having Tourette Syndrome (TS), Anxiety, ADHD and Dysgraphia, a learning disability that affects writing. As you can imagine, this was a lot to take in all at once but it was far from a surprise. After all, there had been recurring, invasive symptoms prompting us to seek help.
Positive and Negative Labels
Very often parents are advised against “labeling” children. While I see beauty and good in that intention, sometimes having one or more diagnoses is the key to unlocking a change for the better!
For me, a very data-driven mama, having something concrete to evaluate enabled me to educate myself on what he needed and how we could support his development, education and future through overall health and wellness. It also allowed me and his teachers to better advocate for him with IEP Accommodations. If you suspect a problem and want to know what solutions are available, I encourage you to find a trusted neuro-health professional in your area. Getting a diagnosis is far different that applying a label to your child and limiting your expectations as such! Trust your instincts and do not feel guilty about doing so!
Tourette Syndrome and ADHD
ADHD is the most common co-morbid condition found in patients with TS. Co-morbid can sound intense or scary, but simply means a condition which co-occurs with another. According to an article published by NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information), over 70% of patients with TS are also diagnosed with OCD or ADHD, around 30% experience anxiety or mood disorders, and an increased likelihood of migraines has also been reported.
Because his tics are not severe, we never looked into medication for TS. The ADHD on the other hand, was and remains the biggest hurdle. At first diagnosis, we opted to treat the ADHD with a prescription medication at the lowest dose possible, while supporting the management of it and all other symptoms through natural methods. After being on ADHD medication for 18 months, our son needed a slight increase in dosing and we did not feel comfortable with the resulting side effects.
We now support him holistically, meaning treating the entire body system as a whole, and do so with purely natural methods. That is not to say that we won’t ever utilize prescription medication in the future for certain symptoms. It is our hope though to continue our ADHD treatment without medication.
Treatment Options for ADHD
Parents may feel overwhelmed with options, but it is important to remember that in the end, you are the final decision maker(s) for what is best for your child within a specific season. I hope and heavily suggest that parents try ADHD treatment without medication first to determine if a prescription is truly needed. For us though, in that season with our child, a prescription felt quite necessary.
This article is the first in a two-part series on our natural approach to not just ADHD treatment without medication, but also general health! We don’t only do these things for our son. We strive for these lifestyle methods for all members of our family. A second article will lay out the supplements I use for him, but to be honest, our family as a whole participates in much of that regimen, too!
ADHD treatment without medication often requires support mechanisms for the whole person; mind, body, spirit. This list may seem daunting, but I encourage you to read through till the end and see what sparks hope or interest. More than likely, that will be a great place to start. Remember, you don’t have to go all in all at once! If you or your child are on a prescription medication for ADHD, anxiety or depression, these strategies can still be very helpful. We did all of these before and during our son’s time on prescription medication and continue to do so now.
Chiropractic and Kids
This may be a surprise to some! Chiropractors do far more than treat back pain. The goal of a chiropractic adjustment is not treating diseases and symptoms but allowing the body to work and function better by improving blood flow and removing interference to the nervous system.
Many TS patients, including our son, show significant decrease in tic behavior following a chiropractic adjustment to the upper cervical spine. Though his tics are not considered severe, they are invasive socially and create additional distractions for him in the classroom. Often we see all of his tics relieved, meaning no longer present, following an adjustment. It has been an amazing help to him! The return of tics indicates we are due for an appointment! In general, he gets a chiropractic adjustment once every 2-3 weeks. During times of stress or transition (i.e. beginning or end of school year, growth spurt, etc.) we go weekly.
Many ADHD patients also report improvement in symptom control following an upper cervical adjustment. We personally have not witnessed noticeable improvement in ADHD symptoms resulting from chiropractic adjustments. We do notice an improvement in sleep, however, which is thought to be helpful in reducing anxiety, tic behavior and ADHD symptoms.
It is important to find a chiropractor interested in treating the body as a whole, who connects with the patient, and in the case of a pediatric patient, their parents. One way we’ve found chiropractors who meet our needs is to search for those offering Standard Process’ line of whole food supplements.
It is important to note that neither I nor this blog nor any articles are sponsored or endorsed by Standard Process. I am merely a fan of their whole food supplements and corporate values. In the next article in this series, I will list out the supplements we use to combat ADHD, anxiety and mood fluctuations. You’ll see Standard Process is a common denominator! You can utilize their Health Care Professional search to aid in finding a local retailer, most likely a chiropractor, authorized to sell their products. Take a look at the providers’ websites which should give a clear picture of their services and philosophy of care.
Treating ADHD With Diet
A diet high in protein, low in sugar and avoidance of additives is shown to help improve ADHD symptoms including hyperactivity, poor focus and impulsivity. When adhering to this strategy, I also see major improvement in sleep, mood and general behavior. Avoiding excess caffeine, simple carbohydrates and processed foods are also helpful for combatting anxiety and depression. Natural fats are needed for proper brain function and aid in combatting ADHD, Anxiety and Depression. Zinc, iron and B-12 are also important nutrients for our brains. These can be supplemented and are also found in sources of animal protein.
A yeast-free or Candida diet is sometimes recommended for patients with TS. In TS, inhibitory function is decreased. This means that instead of being told by the brain to perform an action as needed, such as blinking, the action is triggered repeatedly. Other parts of the brain should be preventing these overactive firings. An overgrowth of yeast creates toxic alcohols, slowing down the brain, delaying prevention and further exacerbating this over-firing.
Importance of Sleep and Exercise
Exercise and sleep go hand in hand in preventing Anxiety, Depression and the symptoms of both TS and ADHD. Exercise increases sleep quality, lifts mood and increases alertness and focus. My son will often stop in the middle of homework to do a quick lap around the neighborhood on his bike or jump for a minute or two on a small, exercise trampoline. It is incredible to witness the calming of his mood and increased attention following a brief, healthy increase in heart rate that he has self initiated.
The impact exercise has on mood and sleep helps to prevent tic behavior, as anxiety and lack of sleep are common triggers. The CDC recommends 60 minutes of activity each day for kids and teens. Additional increments can be done as needed.
Recommended sleep by child’s age can be found here.
If getting enough sleep is a big challenge, it may be more of a physiological issue. Be sure to also take a look at supplements for treating ADHD without medication. There I include a schedule for what is given throughout the day. Those given at night help with sleep!
Mindfulness Prescription for ADHD
Meditation, when done habitually, allows one to train their mind to redirect thoughts. It is a proven method of increasing self-awareness, improving concentration, significantly reducing stress and the response to agitation, as well as improve mood and sleep patterns.
Meditation helped me significantly with anger management and sleep. I learned to acknowledge what was troubling me, determine whether a reaction was needed and then proceed accordingly. I also sleep much more soundly, which certainly improves my mood! I used to lie awake for hours with anxious thoughts in the middle of the night. Now, when I wake up in the middle of the night, I can ground myself and fall back to sleep quickly.
Meditation may also have the ability to increase attention span, something much longed for by those managing ADHD (and their parents)!
We have used various apps and YouTube videos for guided meditations for children. My favorite for learning the core intent and process of meditation and mindfulness is the HeadSpace app. The app is stellar at teaching the basics over the a 10-day beginner course for adults. Following the 10-day intro, several subscription options are available. Upon initial completion of the 10-day course, I subscribed on a month to month basis for 3 months and gained substantial understanding of meditation and lessons to pass on to both kids, not to mention learning so much about myself! HeadSpace also includes great meditations for kids organized by topic and age range. My only complaint at the time was that there weren’t more kids’ meditations available. As you learn more about meditation, you will be able to guide your child through breathing exercises, body scans and relaxation techniques.
We aim to meditate each morning before school and on weekends. Life gets hectic and it doesn’t always happen, but the gifts of emotional and impulse control, improved concentration and sleep quality for us and the kids keep us coming back!
ADHD Treatment Without Medication
In fact, that is true of all these strategies. Some nights we get to bed late. Some weekends our diet is shameful! There is a definite ebb and flow, but these strategies are the bones that keep us upright! While writing this, I often found myself mentally referring to it as “the life support” article instead of Lifestyle article. I think that is very telling of the value each piece holds! Family participation in each of these also feels inclusive; less like treatment and more of an endeavor to honor ourselves as a whole. Regardless of need, everyone benefits!”
I hope these life(style) support strategies will be helpful for you and your family! Would you please share if there is something I’ve missed on my list that you do to combat ADHD symptoms, control tic behavior or keep anxiety and depression at bay?