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ADHD in Children Health Center

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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Alternative Treatments

While prescription medications and standard behavioral treatments have been shown to be effective in treating ADHD symptoms, many people wonder if nonconventional or alternative treatments can also be effective.

Alternative treatments for ADHD include elimination diets, supplementation with omegas 3s, parent training, neurofeedback, or memory training.

ADHD Symptoms

The symptoms of ADHD include inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that are inappropriate for age.

There are three different types of ADHD. Combined ADHD (the most common type) includes all of the symptoms. Inattentive ADHD is marked by impaired attention and concentration and hyperactive-impulsive type is marked by hyperactivity without inattentiveness.

To help recognize ADHD, understand that some symptoms that cause impairment must be present before age seven years and some impairment from the symptoms must be present in more than one setting (like home and school or home and work).

Which dietary interventions are used to treat ADHD?

Over the past few decades, there has been much controversy about sugar and ADHD symptoms such as hyperactivity. Research does show that refined (processed sugars) and carbohydrates can have an effect on a child's activity level. Because these sugars quickly enter the bloodstream, they can produce a rapid increase in blood glucose levels. When blood sugar spikes, a child may become much more active due to an adrenaline rush produced by the rise in blood glucose. 

At this time, there is no proof that a diet high in sugar actually causes ADHD. However, nutritionists suggest adding more fiber to a child's diet to help manage glucose levels and keep them even. High-fiber foods include berries and other fruits, whole grains, and oatmeal.

What about the Feingold Diet and ADHD symptoms?

Years ago, Ben Feingold, MD, an allergist, created a popular elimination diet designed to treat hyperactivity. The Feingold Diet proposed the elimination of artificial colorings, flavorings, and preservatives in order to decrease hyperactivity. While most scientific studies have disproved Feingold's theory, some parents who have tried the elimination diet have reported an improvement in their child's behavior.

With elimination diets for ADHD, parents try eliminating certain foods from their child's diet if they believe these foods affect the child's behavior negatively. However, some experts theorize that behavioral changes can be noted in children following an elimination diet simply because of the way parents interact with the child while on the special diet.

A popular theory about the elimination diet for ADHD is that the child's behavior improves based on the behavioral changes, not the diet.

If you decide to try an elimination diet for ADHD, be careful to not be too restrictive with your child's diet in order to avoid nutritional deficiencies. In addition, always consult your child's doctor before trying any ADHD treatment. Registered dietitians and doctors can help you devise a healthy eating plan for your child.

Recent research has documented a decrease in omega-3 fatty acids in the blood of children with ADHD. As a result, supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids is now recommended for children with ADHD. Placebo studies have shown that children who were given omega-3s over those given a placebo showed a small but significant improvement in symptom severity.

 

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