Six Drug-Free and Natural Treatments for ADHD That Are Just What the Doctor Ordered
Is ADHD holding you or your child back from greater success? Today, more people than ever are finding it harder to focus at work and school. But there is hope. Here, Adam Breiner, ND, offers a natural protocol for ADHD that will put you back on top of your game. Written by Adam Breiner, ND.
Recent studies seem to indicate that ADHD is on the rise. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that cases of ADHD are up 42 percent from the previous decade. Whether this rise is due to environmental factors, increased awareness, overdiagnosis, or anything else, parents everywhere are wringing their hands. And it's no wonder. The lack of focus, impulsivity, and hyperactive behavior can have serious implications for kids' academic performance—not to mention the many adults who find that the same symptoms are hindering their own success.
Yet putting your child on ADHD medication (or going on it yourself) is a serious step—and one that many people are reluctant to take. The good news, asserts Dr. Adam Breiner—who practices family medicine at The NeuroEdge Brain Performance Center, a division of The Breiner Whole-Body Health Center, in Fairfield, CT—is that there are better, more natural ways to treat ADHD in children and adults.
"Lots of people don't realize that many controllable factors affect your mental performance," asserts Dr. Breiner. "Today, as more children and adults display symptoms of ADHD, it's important to be informed about treatment options. In my own clinic, I've experienced tremendous success helping patients of all ages diminish their ADHD symptoms with EEG neurofeedback."
So what exactly is EEG neurofeedback—and how does it work? In short, it is a painless, non-invasive therapy that uses an electroencephalogram (EEG) to read and measure the brain's electrical activity. During the session, special software prompts the brain to subconsciously eliminate abnormal brainwave patterns by rewarding the patient—for example, by providing audible feedback or making a movie brighter. It is frequently used by students, athletes, executives, and other professionals who want to improve their performances. In addition to successfully treating ADHD, EEG neurofeedback can help alleviate the symptoms of depression, anxiety, autism, PTSD, TBI, and other disorders.
This success is backed by evidence. A recent study highlights the success of neurofeedback in treating ADHD, anxiety, and related disorders. Subjects underwent functional MRI scans and EEGs to measure their brain activity. The subjects were then assigned 30 minutes of either neurofeedback or a placebo activity. After the sessions, the group that received neurofeedback experienced increased beta and alpha waves—those responsible for alertness, concentration, and relaxation. They also experienced a decline in delta and theta waves—those associated with drowsiness and deep sleep.
Dr. Breiner explains that neurofeedback and several other natural treatments for ADHD are effective and—unlike prescription medication—side effect-free. Keep reading for Dr. Breiner's six natural tips for treating ADHD in children or adults.
Use EEG neurofeedback to optimize your brain's performance. "Neurofeedback is a safe, simple, and fun way to eliminate abnormal brainwave patterns and help kids and adults alike grow toward optimal health," explains Dr. Breiner. "Chris, a 14-year-old boy, was suffering from symptoms of ADD. He was really struggling to focus in school and was put on Ritalin. However, the side effects were too much for him to bear. Desperate to try something else, his mother brought him to our center. By training his brain based on the deficits I detected during his baseline assessment and using targeted nutraceuticals, he improved not only in his focus and concentration, but dramatically brought up his grades in school."
Get tested for food sensitivities. Undiagnosed food allergies, sensitivities, or intolerances to certain foods—such as wheat or dairy—may bring on inflammation and symptoms of ADHD, so if you have been feeling scattered, anxious, or that your attention span has lessened, consider getting tested or try cutting out a suspected food for at least 30 days to see if your symptoms disappear.
Make smarter dietary choices. Eat a balanced diet of proteins, vegetables, and healthy fats, urges Dr. Breiner. "Your body is designed to eat these foods and will perform at its best when you stick to these guidelines," he says. "And be sure to focus on the quality of your meat, vegetables, and dairy products. The quality of your food is also important. Buy free range and organic whenever possible."
Additionally, avoid the foods that could increase ADHD symptoms. Steer clear of processed foods with artificial dyes, which have been linked to hyperactivity in children. Quit or reduce your intake of gluten and grains, and avoid sugar and refined carbohydrates such as bread, chips, and white rice (which, to your body, are treated the same as sugar).
"Sugar is particularly problematic, because it causes cycles of sugar highs and crashes," insists Dr. Breiner. "Sugar makes you feel great temporarily, but after your body quickly processes it, you feel lethargic and drained—not to mention that sugar burdens your liver, pancreas, and brain."
Get enough good quality sleep. "Growing children and adults alike need at least eight hours of sleep a night," asserts Dr. Breiner. "Adequate rest allows the body and brain to repair and will help improve your focus."
For optimal sleep, stop using electronics an hour before bedtime. Use orange or red lighting and avoid blue or white light, which shuts down melatonin production. Be sure to turn off your wi-fi at night and keep your cell phone in a separate room. Always sleep in total darkness, and use blackout curtains if necessary. If you're in an area prone to noise, use a sound spa to block out random disturbances. Finally, keep the temperature cooler at night, as this also promotes sound sleep. For further relaxation, try meditation or deep breathing exercises.
Exercise and move often. We are not designed to sit still at a desk all day, so it's little wonder that children fidget in their desks and can't concentrate when forced to sit for hours at a time. Dr. Breiner explains that exercise and movement is a powerful anecdote for helping kids and adults gain clarity, focus, and a general sense of calm and well-being. Remember, for generations, humans have had to climb, walk, run, and lift for their survival. We no longer have to move, but we desperately still need to! Try to get some form of exercise every day by going to the gym, jogging, or playing a sport—just move and encourage your children to do the same (don't worry, they'll happily comply!).
Get a daily dose of "green." Getting out in nature may help improve symptoms of ADHD. A recent study reveals that children with ADHD experienced a reduction in their symptoms after spending time in green outdoor settings. Get plenty of family "outdoor time"—the greener, the better! Let children do homework outside after school, go for scenic walks in parks or natural areas, and take every chance to enjoy the sunlight and fresh air.
"ADHD doesn't have to control your life any longer," concludes Dr. Breiner. "Optimal mental performance can be easily achieved without medication. Best of all, these remedies will improve other areas of your life as well. EEG neurofeedback—along with healthy daily habits—will help you regain your focus, improve your performance, and at last live up to your full potential."