For families of ADHD children managing complex treatment plans and the side effects of ADHD medications, daily life can be very stressful. It doesn’t have to be that way. My patients are surprised to discover that some of the most effective ways to manage ADHD symptoms are simple: healthy eating, exercise, and deep sleeping. Because brain chemistry is a big part of the ADHD puzzle, a carefully calibrated diet, physical activity and regular, restorative sleep can significantly change how kids with ADHD act and feel—naturally.
Eat up: the best ADHD diet for kids to boost their brain power and self-esteem
Attention-deficit disorder is also a nutritional deficit disorder. We all know that “we are what we eat,” and rigorous scientific research has shown that the unique brain chemistry of the ADHD child:
responds negatively to common environmental toxins that can find their way into our homes and foods, like lead, copper, preservatives and food colorings
can’t handle sugars and sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup
Many of my ADHD patients also present with undiagnosed food allergies or sensitivities that make their ADHD symptoms worse. If you are parenting an ADHD child, you already know that to be successful, they need to approach life a little bit differently than the rest of us. Scientific research has shown that they need to eat a little bit differently, too. The best ADHD diet for kids is carefully calibrated to their specific ADHD symptoms and can make a world of difference.
the miracle mineral of magnesium, which fuels the formation of neurotransmitters, those critical connections that share messages between brain cells and regulate mood-altering hormones like serotonin and dopamine. Many common ADHD medications can lower a child’s magnesium levels, and correcting a magnesium deficiency can make a big difference in brain function at home and at school.
boosting zinc, which powers brain waves (especially in boys) and reduces hyperactivity and inattention. Zinc can counteract the negative effects an excess of copper can cause in the ADHD child’s diet, and I help my patients identify the signs of “too many metals” in their water and meals.
Probiotics and digestive enzymes, which multiply good bacteria in the bellies of ADHD children, heal HPHPA and yeast imbalances and boost their overall health and brain power.
Omega-3s, wonderful fatty acids which studies have shown tend to be lacking in kids with ADHD. In fact, most of us don’t get enough Omega-3s! Our brains thrive on these fantastic fats and I help parents find foods rich in Omega-3s and decide whether or not to add supplements to their ADHD child’s diet.
Move on: regular exercise manages ADHD symptoms naturally
Attention-deficit disorder is also an exercise deficit disorder. I tell my patients what volumes of scientific research have told me—exercise is ADHD medication. The best part? It’s completely natural, and all the side effects of exercise are completely positive.
ADHD children usually have a hard time sitting still. Channel that kinetic energy from fidgeting into physical fitness! The Finally Focused lifestyle encourages regular physical activity at every opportunity. Exercise is a great way to get our bodies to flood our brains with dopamine and serotonin, two mood-enhancing neurotransmitters, and energizes our brain cells. ADHD children who exercise regularly show measurable improvements in concentration, mood, interpersonal relationships, stress levels, and impulse control.
One of the best benefits of regular exercise? The role exercise plays in facilitating regular deep sleep for ADHD children and teens.
Power down: deep sleep can make a big difference in ADHD symptoms in kids
Attention-deficit disorder is also a sleep deficit disorder. Recent scientific research keeps uncovering how important that time we spend under the covers truly is for our mental and physical health. Lack of sleep has been linked to obesity, anxiety, burnout, depression, heart problems, and many more negative outcomes. ADHD children are no different.
In my thirty years of treating ADHD patients, I have yet to find one that did not have had difficulty falling asleep and a rough time waking up in the morning. Some of the medications commonly prescribed for ADHD are stimulants, and children receiving the wrong dosage may be experiencing insomnia as a side effect of their ADHD drugs. Many also have one or more of the following significant sleep disorders:
Sleep-disordered breathing, such as chronic mouth breathing, snoring or sleep apnea
Sleep movement disorder, like restless legs syndrome
Parasomnia, which can manifest as frequent nightmares, night terrors or sleepwalking
The connection between interrupted or inadequate sleep and the symptoms of ADHD is crystal clear. Children and teens who do not get adequate sleep are 85% more likely to be hyperactive, 60% more likely to misbehave, 37% more likely to have difficult relationships with their peers and 65% more likely to have emotional problems. Despite this staggering amount of evidence for the critical role sleep can play in managing ADHD symptoms, doctors don’t emphasize regular sleep nearly enough when they talk to ADHD families about treatment.
My Plus-Minus Plan puts regular, deep sleep right where it belongs: at the heart of holistic ADHD treatments for kids. Finally Focused, my most recent book, reveals successful strategies for getting ADHD children to adopt better bedtime habits. I also discuss the role of the miracle mineral of magnesium in sleep hygiene and share how supplementing your child’s diet with melatonin and tryptophan (both natural ways our bodies lull us into sleep) and specific amino acids can make a big difference at bedtime.
The Plus-Minus program is a powerful tool for ADHD families to find their way of living the Finally Focused lifestyle. To find your own simple, scientifically proven strategies for managing ADHD symptoms in children without medication, visit the Finally Focused website today.