Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a complex pathology that affects 3 to 6% of the world’s population. It is frequently diagnosed in children, but least 50% of children retain ADHD symptoms into adulthood. In these individuals, the frontal lobes mature, but at a slower rate and never reach the maturation and functioning of a non-ADHD brain. ADHD is an underdiagnosed disease, and only 10% of people seek formal diagnosis/treatment within the first year of becoming aware of the symptoms.
The traditional treatment for ADHD consists on behavioral treatments and stimulant medication like methylphenidate, which can cause side-effects such as dry mouth, loss of appetite and insomnia. Some natural alternative treatments for ADHD range from exercise, diet, vitamins and supplements to therapy and mindful meditation.
The ADHD brain has a low amount of the neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine. Physical activity helps raising the level of these neurotransmitters, reducing ADHD symptoms, depression and anxiety and improving executive functioning. Exercising also increases motivation, self-esteem and well-being and, when done in the morning, gives a more lasting effect of increased dopamine throughout the day. A period of at least thirty minutes of daily physical activity is recommended to achieve benefic results.
Meditation, usually done through relaxation techniques and breathing exercises, teaches people how to focus on awareness of thoughts regardless of distractions. Studies suggest that meditation practice and breathing exercises can help balancing the autonomic nervous system and help individuals with ADHD becoming more attentive and relaxed at the same time. It also improves the ability to control attention and prevent people with ADHD to react impulsively. Regular practice decreases nervous system overstimulation, protects the prefrontal cortex of the brain and lowers stress and cortisol levels, helping individuals to become more aware of their bodies and minds and becoming more positive about themselves and others.
Diet plays a direct role in proper brain function and nutrition can make a huge difference in successfully managing symptoms of ADHD. In order to achieve all the right levels of nutrients, eating a diet full of fruits and vegetables (preferably organically raised), complex carbs and lean protein is recommended, distributed through several meals during the day, in order to avoid sudden surges in blood sugar, which may lead to hyperactivity and swings in behavior.
VITAMINS AND SUPPLEMENTS
Although the levels of nutrients should be achieved through a proper diet, supplementation may help avoiding nutrition deficiencies and controlling ADHD symptoms. Although it is not a direct cause of ADHD, low levels of certain minerals/vitamins can easily decrease someone’s ability to focus and worsen symptoms.
Brain is composed of 60% fat and healthy fats such as omega-3 and omega-6 are essential for proper brain function. Low omega-3 and omega-6 levels can produce ADHD-like symptoms such as lack of memory and focus, inattention or mood swings. Omega supplements may help neurons communicate more effectively and prevent ADHD symptoms. B-complex vitamins also have a great impact on neurological health. They are essential for proper brain function and transmission of nerve signals, and its deficiency can lead to neurological complications. Additionally, zinc, iron and magnesium are essential for dopamine production, which is correlated with attention levels. The brain is also composed by 80% water, and dehydration has negative effects in cognitive function. Make sure to drink enough amount of water every day (6 to 8 glasses) to guarantee proper hydration and optimal brain function.
Neurofeedback is an alternative ADHD treatment that consists of brain exercises that aim to increase focus and reduce impulsivity. The human brain emits different types of waves, depending on whether the person is in a focused state or not. This kind of therapy teaches the brain to produce brain-wave patterns that reflect focus. The drawbacks of the full treatment is that it requires several visits, it’s time consuming and expensive.
Although there are alternative treatments available for ADHD in adults, their beneficial outcome may differ from person to person. Talk to your doctor about the several options available and which one might be adequate for you.