What is the best help for your ADHD child?

There has been mention on social media recently about the possible undesirable effects of long-term ADHD medication usage on the brain.  While some children do benefit from these drugs, we naturally hesitate to put them at meaningless risk. It makes perfect sense, then, to consider every possible alternative to help address those frustrating symptoms shown by children diagnosed with ADHD rather than settling for a prescription. Drugs are not the only solution.

The best source of help might be a medical doctor who practices functional or integrative medicine. They are listed on the internet and a short search should reveal someone near you and whether or not they have a particular interest in children.

Why a functional medical practitioner?  Because they are thorough!  Your first appointment will probably last at least an hour because rather than looking to make a snap diagnosis, they focus on what might be the cause of the ADHD behaviours and what triggers those behaviours. Indeed, as Integrated Learning Therapy (ILT) practitioners find, most children with learning and attentional difficulties have multiple triggers including (but not limited to) food sensitivities and intolerances, environmental offenders including toxins, a diet lacking in essential nutrients and an unhealthy gut.

If you suspect that diet might be underlying your child’s struggles, here are five major dietary steps that you can take before going the medication route:

  1. Follow an anti-inflammatory diet. This is easier than it sounds because such a diet is basically what the world considers to be a healthy eating plan. The Mediterranean diet is a good example and the internet abounds with recipes. Chronic inflammation underlies ADHD (as well as many other health conditions), and our modern lifestyle and ways of eating (processed foods, reliance on pastas, pizzas and refined foods) promote inflammation. Good oils, like omega-3, help with inflammation too, so if a child resists eating grilled or baked fish, offer walnuts and pumpkin seeds or a good fish oil supplement.
  2. Consider an elimination diet. Gluten, dairy, and other potential food sensitivities can wreak havoc on our immune systems. This in turn causes increased inflammation with problems like leaky gut. ILT practitioners find that changing diet brings about hugely positive changes in mood, health and school performance in children labelled with ADHD.
  3. Resist the allure of foods based on refined, white flours and sugars and full of additives. Supply your family with whole, nutrient-rich foods. The simple sugars found in ‘white’ foods (bread, flour) are frequently found to increase ADHD behaviours, particularly attention problems and hyperactivity. deficiencies. Artificial colours and preservatives can be hidden triggers – often shown by explosive behaviours, aggression or lethargy.  You might see a dramatic turn about in a child’s behaviour when they are fuelled by fruits, vegetables and good proteins.
  4. Make sure your child is not deficient in critical nutrients.You might need medical help for this as only a blood test will show which vitamins and minerals are lacking in your child.   Generally, many children with ADHD show low levels of B-vitamins, vitamin D, Magnesium and Zinc.  Many parents do give their children a multivitamin supplement but it is sometimes less helpful to guess and work in the dark.
  5. Consider the health of your child’s gut. There is increasing knowledge of the importance of the gut-brain connection and ILT practitioners see the influence of gut health on learning and behaviour on a daily basis!  An adequate diet will supply probiotics, prebiotics and fibre-rich foods that encourage good bacteria in the intestines. In turn, these will eliminate the bad.

ILT practitioners value the help and insights shared by Integrative/Functional medical doctors.  We see the benefits of following these guidelines in our own work with children who are failing to thrive in their schools.  Here is a letter received from one of our practitioners recently:

I had a meeting with xxxx yesterday after his month on the diet.  Wow, he is a different boy. Eyes are sparkly and wide awake, chatting and answering questions.  Walked in with confidence. Mom did so well with the diet and he was good in following her lead.

His teacher noticed improvements in his participation in class and concentration and mom and dad are very happy so far.

ILT practitioners have many similar success stories to share.  It pays to look holistically at a child and to avoid diagnoses that are made without due regard for the complexities of a condition such as ADHD.


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