Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a brain disorder marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development. ADHD is often diagnosed in children but can carry on into adulthood. For some people, treatment may include medication management, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), or life coaching. An important part of treating the symptoms of ADHD is taking care of your physical and emotional health. In some cases, we can look to nature for answers to our greatest health issues. Dr. Katherine Knight shares natural ways to help manage symptoms of ADHD.
Eat foods that boost Dopamine. Dopamine is the primary neurotransmitter deficiency associated with the hyperactive and impulsive symptoms seen in ADHD. Try adding the following foods to your or your family’s diet:
- Protein – protein is an essential building block to the neurotransmitter dopamine. Without the right building blocks, your body can’t produce dopamine so focus on eating plenty of complete proteins every day.
- Fresh fruits, veggies and nuts that contain quercetin and tyrosine – Quercetin and tyrosine help trigger the release of dopamine and some of your best options are apples, bananas and berries.
- Phenylalanine – Certain cheeses and dark chocolate contain phenylalanine, which can help to boost tyrosine levels naturally.
- Balanced diet – get a balanced diet that focuses on protein, healthy fats and healthy carbohydrates at every meal and snack in order to help prevent blood sugar crashes, which can throw off brain chemistry, exacerbating symptoms.
Although vitamins and mineral supplements cannot take the place of real, whole foods or a healthy meal plan, they can fill in small nutrient gaps in your diet and may help treat symptoms of ADHD. Talk to your doctor about adding the following supplements to a balanced diet:
- Magnesium – Most people with ADHD are magnesium deficient. Search for foods you like that are high in magnesium or try a sustained release magnesium supplement (sustained release to improve absorption and help reduce GI side effects).
- Omega 3’s – High quality fish oils containing EPA and DHA are a must. Nordic Naturals is one of my favorite brands for quality. They have plenty of options for both kids and adults.
- Tyrosine – Tyrosine is a chemical precursor to dopamine. This can be purchased as a natural supplement without a prescription. It is recommended that you discuss taking tyrosine with your medical provider.
All physical movement boosts dopamine levels in the brain. Therefore, the physical activity and agitation we see with ADHD is our body’s way of self-medicating by naturally boosting dopamine levels. An ADHD brain needs at least a few minutes of whole body movement at least every 30 minutes in order to maintain dopamine levels necessary to focus, control impulses, process information or continue to sit still. Even if you’re working or studying, make sure you get up and “shake it out” every 30 minutes in order to help minimize symptoms. When possible, set a timer so you can get ahead of symptoms by using movement to prevent symptoms from getting too intense instead of waiting until they’re causing problems.
If you’re stuck in a class or a meeting, find appropriate, accepted reasons to take a break, such as using the bathroom, refilling your coffee or volunteering to go get supplies or pick up lunch. Alternate between sitting and standing when possible and try out a standing desk if you find yourself at a desk or a computer for too long.
Movement & Information Processing
People with ADHD are capable of understanding, learning and processing information much better while they’re physically moving. Kids (and adults) with ADHD should be encouraged to move around the classroom as needed, use a treadmill desk or find ways to study while moving or pacing around the room. Some schools and workplaces are more accepting of this than others, but to thrive with ADHD as a child or as an adult, finding a supportive environment can make a greater impact than you might realize.
Things to Avoid
There are a number of foods and food additives that might lead to or exacerbate symptoms of ADHD in a given individual, but certain food dyes have been shown to cause problems across the board. Avoiding food dyes in general drastically improve symptoms for some people, but this often needs to be employed pretty strictly in order to work. When in doubt, do your best to eat natural ingredients and avoid additives, preservatives and colorings. Try making changes in your diet for a while to see if it makes a difference in your case.
Schedule an Appointment
If you find that these techniques are not helpful and you still have trouble managing your symptoms of ADHD, it might be time to see a professional. Our team of highly qualified professionals provide both medical and non-medical treatment approaches at our practice. Schedule a free 15-minute consultation through our secure Client Portal. We can discuss your specific situation and whether counseling or medication management might benefit you or a member of your family.