Natural Approaches To Help Those Suffering From ADD or ADHD
By Marge Pickering-Picone
ADD and ADHD symptoms can be very confusing for most parents. Many feel that their children are somewhat hyperactive, but at the same time they also witness similar behavior responses due to extreme tiredness. They notice that if the activity is something their child likes, they behave well. It changes when the child is board and tired, they find it impossible to sit still or concentrate.
In my experience, children have long, busy days. Some start so early that they do not begin the day with breakfast. If they do, it is a bowl of cereal and milk, which is intended to fuel their energy levels for several hours before a lunch break. Unfortunately, lunches in schools are rarely nutritious and choices made by children are usually stacked with starches such as: bread, pizza, pasta, or mac & cheese. Typically, kids choose desert over protein and prefer to snack on crackers or chips. Then, they often finish their day off with a starch laden dinner.
That said, very little protein is included in their daily diet. Next you look at their activity level: school all day, sports practice, homework, friends, TV, Facebook, video games and then their bedtime routine. Add to this the emotional stress of competition, sibling rivalry, problems in the household and/or financial issues. What if Mom and Dad are fighting or if some family member is ill? All of this affects children mentally and emotionally and is seen in behavior.
How Does It Show Up In Children?
The effects of this type of diet, energy and emotional output happen quickly in children. Their nervous systems get drained and you see behavior problems where they cannot sit still, can’t focus, bite their nails, cry easily and have trouble following the rules or shutting off their minds to go to sleep. When they lack proper sleep, their grades start to decline as well as their behavior in the classroom. They complain of stomach aches, yet they are able to eat food. Unfortunately, if your child does not meet the school criterion of focus through visual learning, teachers push for an evaluation for ADD or ADHD.
Medications to calm, settle and focus are given and the battle begins. Many parents complain of the “zombie” response that their children exhibit when taking these prescribed drugs. They mention that, “they are no longer seeing the real child.” Often time the side effects are worse than the problem. Commonly, children have decreased appetites, higher anxiety, more sleep disturbances, stomach pains and vomiting. The complete list of side effects per each medication is horrendous and in the end creates more of what they are trying to eliminate especially if there was no chemical imbalance in the first place.
How Does a Nutrition Practitioner View ADD/ADHD?
Children rely on parents to start their lives in a happy, healthy direction. While this is always our intention, none of us came into the world with an instruction booklet. Our bodies respond to things differently and no two people are alike. Some children have a chemical imbalance and warrant the use of medications. There are many that can be helped naturally so let’s start to explore some alternative methods that are available and won’t alter who our children are.
Holistically Improving Behavior
Naturally improving a child’s behavior can be accomplished by making some minor changes. Here are some holistic suggestions:
- Look at the way the child reacts to their daily schedule. All children are growing at a fast rate and their bodies need “downtime” to process and grow. Over booking their day to keep them busy may be overloading their body’s ability and stressing them out. If they are a go, go, go type person and stops when they drop, you know they are running on adrenaline. Curb this type of schedule to allow relaxation with no stimulation such as TV, violent video games or movies. Reading, music and family time is better served to complete their day.
- Raise the protein intake with proper meats, fish, fowl or possibly protein smoothies. A child requires a minimum of 54 grams of protein per day based on weight and activity level.
- Get the wheat out of a child’s diet as it is known to cause behavior problems.
- Reduce the amount of sugar consumed in a day as it causes a burst of undigested energy resulting in outbursts and sometimes uncontrolled behavior.
- Monitor computer usage at night as it stimulates the brain.
- Proper sleep is necessary for the body to repair itself during the night.
- There are supplements that help: increase electrolytes for energy, quiet a mind to assist in sleep, help emotional responses and concentration, and improve focus and memory.
- Find a health practitioner that understands the beneficial use of supplements to make up the difference from what is lacking in a child’s dietary intake.
Sometimes parents are so tired and stressed that dealing with the constant business of raising children can get overwhelming. In my years of working as a Nutrition Practitioner, many families have been helped when I starting working with the parents first. Since children constantly rely on parents, it is a really good place to begin. Fatigue and stress is common throughout the family. Utilizing diet changes and supplements to counteract the effects of many of the symptoms that manifest from stress is well worth the try. If you have not explored this direction, I encourage you to give it a chance. Many of my clients were once small children put on medications and now they are choosing to explore a more safe, natural approach for their own families.
Learning what supports physical, mental and emotional stress levels is vitally important for a person’s well-being. Many of these clients tell me that they wish they had met me when they were younger, but are fortunate to feel great now!