Natural Remedies for ADHD Part 3: How To Treat ADHD Naturally
Today I’m wrapping up the last post in my three part series on Natural Remedies for ADH. So far, we’ve covered what causes ADHD, why it’s on the rise, and how to prevent it.
But what if your child has already been diagnosed?
Upon diagnosis, many kids are prescribed Ritalin or Adderall, both of which come with nasty side effects, like nervousness, insomnia, stomach pain, nausea, dizziness, headache, vision problems, increased heart rate and blood pressure, and even suicidal thoughts, personality changes, and psychosis.
Faced with these scary side effects, it’s easy to see why so many parents feel like the “cure” in this case is just as bad as (or worse!) than the diagnosis, and are seeking alternative remedies instead. The good news is that by making dietary and lifestyle changes and using certain supplements, I’ve known many parents who have been able to dramatically reduce (or in some cases, even eliminate) symptoms of ADHD.
DISCLAIMER: You should never discontinue a medication your child has been taking regularly without discussing it with your pediatrician first. I recommend collaborating with your child’s doctor and trying the following natural remedies to see if your child can be weaned off of prescription medications.
What to eliminate
Just like preventing ADHD in the first place by eliminating certain foods and substances before and during pregnancy, you will want to reduce your child’s exposure to toxins in their environment, and also eliminate certain foods from your child’s diet. In particular, you’ll want to make sure you eliminate all artificial food additives.
Much like toxins that harm your fertility, artificial food additives can be difficult for your child’s liver and endocrine system to process. They can build up over time, making ADHD symptoms worse—and food dyes in particular have been directly linked to hyperactive behavior in kids.
Here’s a list of what to cut out:
- all processed, pre-packaged foods like granola bars, cereals, fruit snacks, crackers, candy, lunchables, etc.
- anything with artificial coloring, preservatives, or sweeteners (like aspartame)
- conventional meat & dairy
- non-organic fruits & vegetables
- all sugar—even natural cane sugar
- conventional meats containing nitrates (conventional lunchmeat, hot dogs, sausage, etc.)
- gluten & all refined carbohydrates (bread products, pasta, cereal, granola, baked goods, dessert, etc.)
- genetically modified foods
What to eat
The most important thing to remember is to concentrate on whole, unprocessed food that you cook yourself. Beyond that, there are a few specific foods that can help ease ADHD symptoms:
- Organic, Pasture-Raised Poultry — Poultry contains tryptophan, an amino acid that aids in the production of serotonin, which plays a significant role in sleep, mood, and more. Serotonin is also related to impulse control and aggression. Imbalances in serotonin levels have been shown in studies to play a role in ADHD.
- Wild-Caught Salmon — According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, a clinical trial indicated that children with lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids had more learning and behavioral problems (like those associated with ADHD) than those with normal levels. Salmon is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, as are chia seeds, flax seeds, and egg yolks.
- Iron-Rich Foods — Low iron levels can cause fatigue, concentration issues, irritability, and leaky gut. Include plenty of iron-rich foods in your child’s diet like organic grass-fed beef, egg yolks, black beans, Swiss chard, and spinach.
- Foods High in B-Vitamins — Vitamin B-6 is essential in the production of dopamine and serotonin. In one study, B-6 was shown to be slightly more effective than Ritalin in improving hyperactive behavior in children. Foods high in vitamin B6 include: organic, grass-fed meat, wild-caught fish, eggs, legumes, sunflower seeds, almonds, and dark green leafy vegetables like broccoli and spinach.
- Foods Rich in Probiotics — Leaky gut and/or an imbalanced gut microbiome prevents the absorption of nutrients. Foods that feed the microbiome and heal the gut are therefore a critical part of an ADHD diet. Kefir water, kombucha, organic grass-fed yogurt, sauerkraut, Kimchi, and other naturally pickled veggies are all good sources of probiotics.
- Omeg-Avail (2 teaspoons daily): The EPA/DHA in fish oil has been shown to reduce ADHD symptoms and improve learning. This is a high potency fish oil product, providing 1100mg of EPA and 720mg DHA in each 2 teaspoon serving, AND it’s delicious, so it’s easy to get your kiddo to enjoy it!
- Liposomal B-Complex (2 pumps in the mouth daily): Children with ADHD can benefit from taking B-vitamins to help with the formation of serotonin, especially vitamin B6. This supplement is also tasty and easy to administer.
- Vitavescence Multi-Mineral powder (2 teaspoons daily): A delicious and exceptional multivitamin/multimineral supplement in powder form, which makes it easy to mix into water, juice or smoothies. It consists of a comprehensive and well-balanced blend of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. This provides a strong nutritional foundation of specific nutrients that play a role in relaxing the nervous system, which can improve ADHD symptoms.
- Probiotic Synergy powder (1 teaspoon daily): If your child has intestinal problems, and/or leaky gut, they won’t be able to absorb the nutrients necessary to help reduce ADHD symptoms, which makes a quality probiotic key. This probiotic is in powder form, making it easy to mix into water, juice or smoothies.
- Breakfast — make sure your kiddo eats a blood-sugar balancing breakfast EVERY morning to help stabilize hormone fluctuations. Make sure breakfast includes fat, protein, and fiber. Eggs with greens and sweet potato hash, full fat organic plain yogurt with nuts and fresh berries, or a nourishing smoothie are all good options.
- Get outside — Outdoor playtime (every day, regardless of weather) is important for all kids, but is especially critical for kids with ADHD. Burning the excess energy of the day helps keep hormone levels balanced, and also improves sleep quality. Speaking of sleep …
- Maintain a strict sleep schedule — Research has shown that disturbances to the sleep cycle can contribute to ADHD symptoms. Stick to the same sleep and wake-up time every day whenever possible, and make sure they are getting a minimum of 9 hours of sleep per night. Completely black out your child’s room (if they need a nightlight to fall asleep, consider one that shuts off with a timer that is easy for them to turn on by themselves if they wake up), and absolutely NO SCREENS for at least an hour before bedtime. Consider eliminating screens altogether for your child if that’s doable for your family, as they’ve been shown to interfere with sleep cycles in kids.
Busy Parent Tips
Fast food and sugar-laden prepackaged snacks became popular with parents and kids for a very good reason—life with small kids can be stressful and chaotic, and many kids are notoriously picky eaters. When you’re feeling rushed, tired, and your kid is hungry, it’s important to be prepared with easy options for both of you. Here are a few tips:
- Meal-prep on weekends — Cut up raw, organic veggies and fruits, and cook up a few large cuts of pasture raised meat, like a whole chicken or a pot roast, then store in small portions in the fridge that are easy to grab for lunches and snacks throughout the week.
- Instead of the drive-through, pop into the grocery store — Sometimes life gets in the way of planning ahead. If you find yourself out and about and you or your kiddo need to eat, head to the grocery store. Grab some organic, easy to snack on fruits or veggies like berries, baby carrots, avocados or sugar snap peas, and some blood-sugar stabilizing fats/protein like raw almonds, sunflower seeds, or pasture-raised, nitrate-free lunch meats if your grocery store carries them. Snack in the car to hold you over until you get home, or if the weather permits, head to the park for a picnic!
- Cook with your child — Many parents have discovered the “trick” that kids are way more likely to eat food that they’ve had a hand in preparing themselves. Not only will this encourage your kiddo to try new foods, but food preparation will be an essential skill that they’ll need to manage their ADHD as adults. Starting early on this skill is a huge benefit for your child.
Two (Kid-Friendly!) Recipes to Get You Started
Mini Muffin or Ice Cube Tray Buffet
If you have a toddler (or have ever been around one during mealtime) you know that it can be super tricky to get them to try new or different foods. This method gives kids a variety of options to choose from, makes it easy to see and pick what foods they’re eating, and is a great way to encourage kids to taste food with unfamiliar flavors and textures. This method can also work with older kids (and even some adults!).
In the sections of a mini-muffin tray, ice cube tray, or bento box, place a variety of the following foods (always choose organic and pasture-raised whenever possible, especially for the meats):
- Chopped raw veggies like carrots, cucumbers, broccoli, celery, tomatoes, jicama, radishes, sugar snap peas, romaine hearts, etc.
- Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, or blackberries
- Cooked and chopped chicken, grass-fed beef, wild caught fish, or hard boiled eggs
- Raw cashews, almonds, walnuts, macadamia nuts, pistachios, or sunflower seeds
- Naturally fermented pickles and/or olives
- A small amount of dried fruit like raisins, dates, figs, chia pudding, or sliced bananas
- Cooked and chopped sweet potatoes or squash (a sprinkle of cinnamon on sweet potatoes or a sweeter squash, like butternut, give these a dessert vibe)
The trick for this recipe is to always include a couple favorites and a couple of new foods, or even foods kids have disliked in the past. Kids’ palettes are always changing, and so it’s important to consistently introduce (and re-introduce) a wide variety of food with different tastes and textures. It’s okay if they don’t eat everything or even try everything—just keep making lots of options available!
Paleo Cinnamon Waffles with Grilled Bananas
- 2 cups almond flour
- 1/4 cups arrowroot powder
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 3 tsp cinnamon
- 2 organic eggs
- 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp coconut milk
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/4 cup organic maple syrup
- 2 bananas, sliced in half then again lengthwise
Preheat your waffle maker. In a large bowl, combine almond flour, arrowroot, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon; mix together. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs together. Add milk, vanilla and syrup to the bowl with the eggs and stir. Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix well. Once waffle maker is warmed and ready, pour a little more than 1⁄2 batter into the waffle maker and flip waffle maker over. Your waffle maker should alert you once waffle is complete; once it is, use a spatula or tongs to remove from waffle from waffle maker. Heat a little coconut oil in skillet over medium-high heat, add the banana slices and cook for a couple of minutes until they are caramelized on one side. Top the waffles with the grilled bananas, a drizzle of real maple syrup or honey, an additional sprinkle of cinnamon (and maybe some chopped walnuts or almonds), and enjoy!
Looking to have a more in-depth conversation about ADHD prevention & treatment? Schedule a consultation with me!