Category Archives: ADHD Tips

Herbal Adjuvants in the Treatment of ADHD

It is a matter of concern for parents and medical professionals alike that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has become increasingly prevalent among children.

The most recent report by the CDC based on parent interviews shows that about 4.4 million children in the United States have been diagnosed with ADHD. From the children who were diagnosed by a physician, about 2.5 million of them are currently on medication.

Pharmacological treatment of ADHD is still a controversial topic due to its troubling side effects. For this reason, more and more parents are turning towards alternative treatments instead of standard medication for their children.

The most common ADHD medications prescribed today are methylphenidate or amphetamine. They are both stimulant drugs. While they have been proven to be effective in most of the children, they also have a high risk for abuse and have many side effects.

Side effects listed as frequent are weight changes, appetite changes, insomnia, and nervous tics not previously present. It is a fact that the number of children on these drugs is alarmingly growing and the total production of methylphenidate and amphetamine has increased by up to 2000% since 1991. Half of the drugs used for the treatment of ADHD are being prescribed by pediatricians.


Due to the significant side effects of these medications, many parents are now looking into alternative options for effectively dealing with ADHD. Research on herbal treatments has shown promising benefits while keeping the type and severity of the side-effects to a minimum.

Caffeine has been the focus of a lot of attention as a potential remedy because of its stimulant properties. Numerous studies have shown that caffeine is beneficial to children with ADHD.

Although it seems to help manage some of the symptoms, the benefits from caffeine are not nearly as good as those seen with pharmacological treatments. The many potential side effects from caffeine consumption in children are also a source of concern to parents.

There are a few herbal remedies that have shown some promise with hardly any side effects. They are ginkgo biloba, brahmi, siberian ginseng, gotu kola and green oats. All of these herbs enhance alertness without caffeine and appear to help those dealing with ADHD.

Ginkgo biloba leaves show promise because they increase blood flow to the brain and act as an antioxidant to nervous tissue. This herb is indicated for other brain ailments particularly in the elderly.

Brahmi also acts as an antioxidant and has been shown to facilitate learning and cognition.

Siberian ginseng, when used as part of a long term treatment, appears to increase brain activity in general and boosts work output.

Gotu kola is a mild adaptive, with antibacterial and antiviral properties. It is a gentle sedative and most importantly, a cerebral tonic. Also known as centella asiatica, it may be useful in the treatment of anxiety.

Green oats are known as a nervine and general brain tonic and demonstrate a stimulating effect over time. On the other hand, they have a positive short term effect in treating sleep problems.

The use of herbal remedies for ADHD shows great promise. Parents are trying to employ natural treatments in order to ameliorate the risk of abuse found in medications as well as possible side effects.

As always, enlist the help of an expert in the field. An herbalist may recommend other supplementation and dietary changes in addition to herbs for the treatment of ADHD.

For those who prefer a simple solution, there is an herbal formula for ADHD on the market. It is made by Native Remedies and it is called Focus Formula.  It contains extracts of the above ingredients and many others that are proven to help concentration and to provide balance to the nervous system and the brain. We highly recommend the product. To learn more click here.

References:

NaturalNews.com, “Use Herbal Remedies for ADHD” http://www.naturalnews.com/026081_adhd_remedies_herbal.html Accessed November 15, 2011

Rethinking Physical Activity for ADHD

Even now, there’s not much known about the chain of events that results in the symptoms indicative of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Excessive impulsivity, chronic inattention and inability to remain still are the trademark symptoms first noticed by parents and teachers.

Thankfully, more and more research now suggests that it might be related to a deficiency in the production of dopamine, a chemical in the brain that helps regulate behavior, mood, and controlled movement.

In the treatment of ADHD doctors currently tend to prescribe stimulant medication such as Ritalin because it has been shown to increase the availability of dopamine in the brain.

However effective stimulants carry risks that are unavoidable. Many parents are left wondering if a natural alternative to chemically increasing concentration and attention span actually exists.

This topic is certainly controversial since most medical experts agree that there is no “cure” for ADHD and that the condition requires sustained management.  While medications can be used to control symptoms and learned techniques can improve attention, most patients with ADHD continue to exhibit signs of the illness even later in life.

A number of experts have lately begun looking at something rather new called “Brain Exercise Therapy” (BET). The therapy is comprised of mental and physical workouts that they claim build brain mass and neural pathways.


It seems quite promising that, given the brain’s plasticity, engaging in activities that require new skills and problem solving allows patients to stimulate neuron growth. The connections that are created in areas of the brain that are deficient in neurotransmitters, advance overall brain function and heal specific deficits in the ADHD brain.

We all know adults who are successful in the relationships and careers, but their lives are very disorganized. There’s no clear direction or consistency to their daily lives.

Dr. Gimpel, a board-certified psychiatrist, neurologist and director of the Brain Power Clinic in Jerusalem agrees that any activity that requires new, challenging ways of thinking can help this type of chronic disorganization.

BET games such as juggling and chess are essential for teaching strategy, memory, and planning skills.

Dr. Gimpel uses an effective analogy to explain what games can do for your brain.

“In each brain cell, we have a little fuel tank, much like in a car”, he says. “The trouble with ADHD patient is that this tank of fuel has holes, so you don’t have enough fuel to allow for effective stimulation between brain cells. When you do these activities, you are creating new cells and with each one comes more fuel.”

However, it is important to remember that much like one visit to the gym won’t build muscle mass, these changes in the brain do not normally occur until after 50 to 70 hours of BET. Fortunately, many of these activities are fun for everyone, not just those with ADHD and the whole family can and should participate.

References:

Health.com, “Brain Games and Exercise: A Drug-Free Treatment for ADHD?” http://www.health.com/health/condition-article/0,,20252861,00.html Accessed November 11, 2011

candies with food dyes

Effects of Food Dyes in ADHD Patients

candies with food dyesThere is an alarming trend among pediatric patients that has recently made front page news. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention surveyed 73,000 children and concluded that one in every 10 has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

This is an upsetting 22% increase since 2003. Although there is still quite a bit of controversy regarding the causes and treatment of ADHD, research has confirmed that a toxic food supply and unhealthy lifestyle patterns are the chief contributing factors for this disorder.

There seems to be a consensus among researchers in considering chronic ADHD as a sign of mild brain damage. When certain regions of the brain remain chronically inflamed they fail to function in a proper way. Inflammation inhibits frontal lobe function, which in turn is responsible for concentration and emotional stability.

Other more “primitive” or basic regions of the brain go on overdrive establishing a pattern of poor responses to otherwise mild stimuli. In short, it leads to poor concentration, emotional outbursts and an exacerbated sense of frustration.

There seems to be a strong link between ADHD and a diet that causes inflammation. The main culprits are food additives and other chemicals that are neurotoxic. They are present in every conceivable food item in the market, sometimes in combination with other toxic substances.

A recent study published in The Lancet, concluded that food dyes along with the common preservative sodium benzoate cause many children to become significantly more hyperactive and distractible. This study also concluded that food additives and dyes can do as much damage to children’s brains as the lead in gasoline.


There are also some digestive problems that can dramatically affect brain function and development. A common factor among patients with ADHD is a weak digestive system and the presence of food allergies.

Often times a fungus infection can be present which could be producing more toxic substances that further disrupt the brain‘s proper function. It is wise to address any underlying intestinal problem in order to heal it by avoiding allergens and supplementing with high quality probiotics.

The most common food allergens to avoid include all dairy products and gluten containing grains such as wheat, barley, rye, oats, kamut, & spelt. Soy products are a typical culprit, as are some nuts and eggs.

An anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle are highly recommended for a steady improvement from this condition. Anti-inflammatory foods help to modulate the immune system. To effectively eliminate inflammation from the tissues, it is key to completely avoid precooked foods, sugars, and trans fats.

Children, teenagers and adults with ADHD symptoms do very well to incorporate to their daily routine a regular exercise program. Many hyperactive kids are naturally drawn to activities such as bouncing and jumping on a trampoline as well as balance sports such as skating, surfing and snowboarding. All of these balance based activities powerfully enhance the correct functioning of the brain and play an important role in the overall well being of the patient.

Driven to Distraction: ADHD and Your Environment – Part 2

distracted man with adhdNagging Thoughts That Won’t Quit

It’s next to impossible to focus on the task at hand if you’re worrying about errands you need to run or housework that needs to be done.

Perhaps you’re still thinking about a conversation you had yesterday and it keeps replaying itself in your mind.

Nagging thoughts of any kind can be a powerful distraction that keeps you from achieving your daily goals. The best way to keep nagging thoughts from sticking around in your brain is to write them down.

You can make a list of errands, chores or other tasks you plan to complete later. Save it for review at a later time when you can actually tackle the items you wrote down. Learn to let them go while you give your attention to the present activity.

The Powerful Grip of Stress

As mentioned above, when you feel that you are doing too many things all at once it can be hard to focus on individual tasks.

To make matters worse, stress has a palpable negative effect on your body. You may develop pain in your shoulders, headaches or palpitation, all of which can hinder your ability to concentrate.


To decrease your stress level, you can learn stress reduction techniques, such as meditation. It can make it possible for you to lessen the impact of stressful thoughts so they don’t demand so much of your attention.

Researchers found that people who took an eight-week meditation class were able to significantly improve their ability to focus

Chronic Lack of Sleep

Not sleeping well night after night can lead to daytime fatigue. It can, in turn, make it very tough to concentrate even when you have just a few distractions. There are studies that suggest that too little sleep can permanently diminish your ability to concentrate as well as your short-term memory.

Staying Hungry

It is a well known fact that the brain can’t focus without fuel. Skipping meals, especially breakfast, is a top concentration killer.

Research clearly indicates that short-term memory and attention suffer if you neglect to feed your brain the proper nutrients. The best way to keep hunger at bay and give your brain a steady source of fuel is by always eating breakfast.

In between meals you should eat high-protein snacks like cheese or nuts. Do not rely on simple carbs (sweets, white pasta) to boost your energy and choose whole grain alternatives instead.

A Cloud of Depression

When we think of depression and its devastating effects we tend to think of sadness as its hallmark symptom. However, the National Institute of Mental Health says difficulty concentrating is one of the most common symptoms of ongoing depression.

If you’re having trouble focusing while also feeling empty, hopeless or even indifferent to people and things your cared about before, you may be experiencing depression.

If you think you might be depressed, always seek medical advice. Depression is highly treatable and you could significantly be improving your attention span and ability to complete tasks.

Exercise is Essential for ADHD Patients

John Ratey M.D., an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School confirms that exercise should be a priority for ADHD patients.

“For a very small handful of people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, it may actually be a replacement for stimulants. For most, it’s complementary — something they should absolutely do, along with taking meds, to help increase attention and improve mood.”

Unfortunately we think of exercise as a way to lose weight rather than a routine physical activity that protects the brain. “In fact, exercise turns on the attention system in the brain. This system is comprised by the so-called executive functions and they include sequencing, working memory, prioritizing, inhibiting, and sustaining attention.”

Dr. John Ratey is the author of the 2008 book titled Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. In it he points out that “on a practical level, exercise causes kids to be less impulsive, which makes them more primed to learn.”

This is excellent news for parents of children with ADHD. It seems rather evident to experts in the field that exercise helps kids a great deal and it facilitates pushing through past failures and attempting things they didn’t succeed at before.

Exercise is an incredible confidence booster. It’s quite unfortunate that most ADHD kids believe that they are doomed to fail in school, in sports and even in life.


Dr. Ratey has conducted studies with lab mice that show that exercise reduces learned helplessness. He believes being aerobically fit is an antidote to learning and internalizing helplessness.

How does exercise deliver these benefits to the ADHD individual? It is a fact that when you walk, run or practice any form of aerobic exercise, your brain releases several important chemicals. Some of these substances called endorphins are hormone-like compounds that regulate mood, pleasure and pain.

In the same way, any burst of activity also elevates the levels of dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin. These changes in the brain directly affect focus and attention which are in short supply in individuals with ADHD.

In particular, increased dopamine levels allow the brain to function in a regular and consistent fashion which, in turn, has many positive effects. In many patients, exercise alone can decrease the craving for new stimuli and raise alertness.

What is even better is that extreme intensity is not necessary. A mild level of exercise such as walking for 30 minutes, four times a week, will do the trick.

The key to maintaining the benefit is to get your child involved in something that he finds fun. Therefore, the activity is rewarding in itself and it does not become a chore. Team activities or exercise with a social component are especially beneficial for both kids and adults.

References:

ADDitude Magazine, “Exercise: An Alternative ADHD Treatment Without Side Effects” http://www.additudemag.com/adhd/article/3142.html Accessed October 8, 2011.

CogMed, “The Best Alternative Therapies for Managing ADHD Symptoms” http://www.cogmed.com/the-best-alternative-therapies-for-managing-adhd-symptoms Accessed October 8, 2011.