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How to Effectively Treat ADHD in Children Without Medication

October 19, 2021

I’m Dr. Lindsay
I'm a naturopathic pediatrician based in Colorado Springs offering primary care, chronic care & telemedicine appointments. I'm so glad you're here!
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Imagine you sit down in your pediatrician’s office to discuss your concerns regarding your child’s well-being. What you describe paints the picture of a child showing symptoms of ADHD. Before your 15 minutes in the office is up, you’ve been prescribed a drug as the solution. 

Have you lived this scenario yourself? If you have, you’re not alone. Many parents tell me their pediatrician was quick to diagnose their child with ADHD and recommend stimulant medication. While our conventional medical model saves lives every single day, this model often fails to explore other options for treatment outside of prescription drugs.

There are a number of evidence-based, natural methods for treating ADHD in kids. It starts with getting to the root cause of symptoms and guiding the body to heal itself. As it does so beautifully.Today I’m going to explain what ADHD is, the problem with using prescription drugs for treatment, and non-medication treatment options for children with ADHD. 

What Is ADHD? 

Attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common mental disorders affecting children. It combines a set of problems, including hyperactivity, difficulty paying attention, and impulsive behavior. (1) 

Kids with ADHD can experience the following symptoms: 

  • Trouble paying attention at school
  • Having a hard time completing their homework, or losing focus easily
  • Constantly fidgeting or playing with their hands 
  • Frequently forgetting or losing their things
  • Being unable to wait their turn

When a child is experiencing any one of these symptoms, my question as a naturopathic doctor is this: Why? What’s the root cause of this behavior? There are a number of things that could be at play here. What I see often in my practice are nutrient deficiencies, lifestyle habits, toxic exposures, and gut health-related issues. 

The Problem With Traditional Treatment 

Conventional treatment for ADHD is stimulant medication, like Adderall or Ritalin. Here’s the problem with this method: Medication masks symptoms. It doesn’t address the cause of the issue. If you skip over the underlying problem, it’s likely your child will depend on medication into adulthood. Another problem with using medication is that it often comes at a price. Common side effects of stimulant medications include:

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Decreased appetite
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dry mouth (2)

Every child is different. While medication might improve one child’s symptoms, it could have a negative effect on another or no effect at all. (3) Treatment for ADHD, and all health issues, must be looked at with an individualized approach. 

While I might disagree with medication as a long-term solution, I do realize there are times when it’s a necessary intervention. I do not shame or judge parents for making this decision. My goal is to empower parents and their children to access deeper healing so medication becomes unnecessary. 

If you would like to explore other methods, there are non-medication treatment options that can help your child feel better. Let’s talk about them.

A Naturopathic Approach to Treatment for Kids With ADHD 

As a naturopathic pediatrician, my approach is to trace your child’s symptoms back to the root cause. Your little one’s treatment plan may look different from another child’s, but I remain consistent in my approach. Here are a few different areas we look at:

Diet 

Diet plays a crucial role in proper brain function, and it’s essential to cultivating a healthy gut. (4) Improving your little one’s gut health can have a dramatic effect on their mood and brain health. We often create a nutrition plan as part of treatment. A food sensitivity screening may be conducted, too. Food sensitivity can cause hyperactivity and an inability to focus, so an elimination diet can be effective in improving symptoms of ADHD. (5) 

Many kiddos with ADHD have food jags, which are strong preferences for a few select foods – usually bread, cheese, and chips. Some kids are very picky and refuse to eat anything outside of these foods. The combination of chemical additives and preservatives, as well as the lack of more nutritious foods further contributes to their behavior issues.

Sleep 

Sleep and mental health have a deeply intimate relationship. Improved sleep is directly correlated to improved mental health, and vice versa. (6) Studies show that managing sleep issues in kids can have a positive effect on managing ADHD symptoms. (7) Getting a good night’s sleep can be difficult, especially if your kiddo has a sleeping disorder. But you can help set your child up for success by creating a plan to promote high-quality sleep each night. This is a priority for kids with ADHD. 

Exercise

Moving your body has many health benefits, one of which is that it supports brain function. Research shows that exercise helps improve symptoms of ADHD in kids, specifically in terms of academic success. (8) We’ll look at how we can optimize your child’s activity when developing a treatment plan. Sometimes this can be as simple as designating playtime outside a few days a week. 

Natural Medicines: Supplements and Herbal Medicine

During the treatment planning process, I’ll run a blood test on your kiddo to see if they’re deficient in key nutrients. Below are nutrients that are essential to supporting a healthy brain that I often recommend supplementing. Zinc plays an important role in overall healthy brain function. (9) Studies show that kids with symptoms of ADHD have lower levels of Zinc in their bodies. (10) Iron deficiencies are common in kids with ADHD. Taking a supplement has been shown to improve symptoms for these children. (11) 

Vitamin B-6 and Magnesium paired together have been shown to calm the central nervous system and reduce hyperactivity in kids. (12) 

Vitamin D levels should be monitored in all children, as many are deficient. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked with many psychiatric diseases, so kids with ADHD should be monitored even more closely. (13)  

Omega-3 Fatty Acids are essential to healthy brain development. Deficiencies in this crucial nutrient have been linked to the development of other psychiatric disorders. (14) Taking a supplement is complementary to treatment for ADHD.

Bacopa monnieri is an herb used in traditional Aryuvedic medicine. Studies show that this herb is not only safe for children – it’s also effective! (15) I’ve seen significant improvements in kids’ behavior, specifically concentration when using this method of treatment.  Be sure to consult with your trusted pediatrician before giving your child any supplement. 

You Have Non-Medication Options for Treatment

The bottom line is this: There is no one-size-fits-all solution for ADHD. Medication is not the only method of treatment for your child. There are many natural methods of treatment that focus on the root cause of your child’s symptoms. If you feel you’d like to try some alternatives to medication, let’s build a plan to improve the underlying causes. Click the button below to take the first step to help your kiddo feel better! 

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Resources: 

  1. What is ADHD? 
  2. Side Effects of Stimulant Medication 
  3. Integrative Medicine Approach to ADHD 
  4. How Diet Affects Gut Health 
  5. Elimination Diet Can Help Treat ADHD
  6. Positive Correlation Between Sleep and Mental Health 
  7. How Sleep Impacts ADHD Symptom Management
  8. Exercise Supports Cognitive Function
  9. The Role of Zinc in Treating ADHD
  10. Kids with ADHD can Have Lower Levels of Zinc
  11.  The Effects of Iron Supplementation on Children with ADHD
  12.  Magnesium and Vitamin B6 Supplementation Together May Calm Central Nervous System
  13.  Vitamin D Deficiency in Kids
  14.  Omega-3 and ADHD 
  15. Bacopa monnieri as Treatment for Kids

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Hi, I'm Dr. Lindsay –
I empower families to question the status quo & raise healthy kids, naturally.

As a mother of three, I know what it’s like to leave the doctor’s office feeling scared, ignored & misunderstood. I’m committed to listening deeply & honoring your role as the parent or caregiver because I believe you know best when it comes to your child. 

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