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ADD Alternatives

When it comes to ADD, alternative approaches are no longer considered outside the treatment toolbox. On the contrary – experts are now saying that medication, if used, should never be the only treatment. “Diet, nutrition, exercise and sleep all play important roles in how the brain works,” says Dr. Edward Hallowell, author of Driven to Distraction.

The following options are appropriate for those who use medications and those who don’t; they can be effective for people new to ADD and for seasoned veterans who are familiar with the ways of the attention challenged. You can get professional consults for things like behaviour therapy, but you can also start using many of the ideas on your own. Remember that not every strategy or combination works for every family – it’s very much a trial and error process, so best to go slowly. Choose one or two to start, then make more changes as it makes sense for you.

BEHAVIOURAL THERAPY

Behaviour therapy is very structured and based upon rewards and consequences. A therapy plan requires extremely clear and concise achieveables, and can be a challenge to carry out at home – expect some kinks in the process. Parents can have trouble when they set too many rules, apply the plan inconsistently, communicate unclear expectations, dwell on negative and give up to soon.

Whether you do behaviour therapy or not, a predictable routine is a great place to start and something you can implement on your own. See how much it helps to establish a regular schedule for meals and activities, followed by a nightly bath and a regular bedtime to ensure plenty of rest.

FOOD

With a lack balanced nutrition, anyone can look like they have ADD – when we don’t eat right, we can become distracted, restless and impulsive. So it makes sense that people with ADD absolutely need proper nutrition, not only to avoid the perils of bouncing blood sugar, but to fuel the brain with everything it needs to function well.

The best advice says avoid junk food – and anything that comes in a box, bag, wrapper, package or tube. Include protein with every meal, along with veggies, fruits and complex carbs. Boost servings of blueberries, almonds, cashews, walnuts, broccoli, salmon, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, spinach, watercress, avocado, cumin, turmeric and meats – these foods are like premium gas for the brain. Another option to investigate: food sensitivities and allergies. Remove any dietary irritants found.

VITAMINS

B vitamins, especially B-6 seems to increase dopamine, which improves alertness. Zinc, iron and magnesium help to synthesize dopamine, and fish oils help with mental focus and cognitive function. Check into ginkgo and ginseng as well – they act like stimulants without the side effects. And, as always, the picky eaters at your house may benefit from a good multivitamin.

EXERCISE AND GREEN TIME

Exercise is good for everybody, but it’s especially good for those with ADD. Like medication with side effects, exercise boosts the brain’s levels of dopamine, norepinephrine and seratonin – all chemicals that affect focus and attention. It helps to develop resilience and persistence, and physical activities involving complex movement cause helpful connections to form between neurons in the brain. Combine activity with time outside – walking the dog, bike riding, walking to school, sports. Studies show that as little as 20 minutes daily can help reduce ADHD symptoms.


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