(GreenPath Clinic, Wheaton, IL)
The number of people diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD/ADD) continues to grow. You probably know a few people yourself who have been given the diagnosis. ADHD is more common than doctors may have previously believed. According to new statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), released in November of 2013, up to 11 percent of children aged 4-17 have been diagnosed with ADHD. Since ADHD is a pervasive condition and you “can’t grow out of it,” it is reasonable to assume that the rate in adults is similar. However, some adults may struggle with the condition without knowing what it is, as ADHD diagnostics and treatment improved and evolved markedly only in the last few years.
ADHD is characterized by the inability to sustain attention, difficulty staying organized, constant fidgeting and impulsivity. The main treatment option used today consists of stimulant medications such as Ritalin, which come with some side effects, and not everyone opts to use medication. Fortunately, there are many natural ways to deal with theses symptoms.
Examine Your Diet
Foods to Eat:
- Protein: Eat protein with every meal. It helps you to sustain energy and keeps blood sugar levels stable.
- Fruits & Vegetables: These are a great source of vitamins and minerals, which improve the neural activity in your brain helping you to think and concentrate better.
- Good Fats: Your brain needs fat in order to function properly. Eat fats that your body can utilize such as avocados, flax seeds, chia seeds, coconut oil and olive oil, nuts and seeds.
- Essential Fatty Acids: These EFAs are found in fish, nuts and seeds. They help the brain cells communicate efficiently.
- High Magnesium Foods: Magnesium helps to calm the nervous system. Foods with the highest levels are: oatmeal, buckwheat, avocados, dark leafy greens, dark chocolate, nuts and seeds.
- Sugar: Sugar robs your body of vital vitamins and minerals, it also causes your blood sugar to crash, both of which can increase attention problems.
- Hydrogenated Oils: These inhibit healthy nerve function within the brain, hydrogenated oils are found in fried and packaged foods.
- Additives: Artificial food dyes and flavorings (specifically red, yellow, monosodium glutamate) have been shown to cause attention problems.
- Preservatives: Sodium benzoate, BHA, BHT, sodium nitrate, and TBHQ. These preservatives have been known to cause hyperactivity in children.
Get Enough Sleep
Getting adequate amounts of sleep is vitally important. Studies done on children with ADHD have found that getting just one extra hour of sleep per night vastly improves concentration levels and the ability to focus during the day. Children should be getting 9-12 hours each night. Adults should be getting 7-9 hours.
Exercise is a great way to release excess energy. Exercising in the morning can be especially helpful because it gives the brain a boost, helping with concentration and attention. Sports that focus solely on one activity, such as Karate, tend to keep kids with ADHD engaged. Avoid activities with a lot of downtime. During the winter, when exercising may be more difficult, try a mini trampoline. Kids and adults love them and it’s a great way to get in a quick workout.
Develop a Routine and Stay Organized
One of the most helpful things you can do for those suffering from ADHD is to establish a routine. Having a predictable routine helps to decrease anxiety, which often occurs in conjunction with ADHD. It also makes it easier for them to remember what comes next in their day.
Those with ADHD often have difficulty staying organized. Children can benefit from color-coordinated folders for schoolwork, picture schedules and chore charts. Adults may find that using planners, alarms, and timers helps them to remember important appointments and information.
Keep Electronic Use to a Minimum
Video games, phones, and TV are all very stimulating. Many who suffer from ADHD find that their symptoms actually worsen with constant stimulation. Studies have shown that a child’s ability to concentrate at school gets worse with even moderate amounts of TV and video games. Try to keep screen time down to one hour each day.
Please note, that making ADHD diagnosis is complex, and checking off a symptom inventory is not enough and may lead to a false diagnosis. Often attentional and memory problems may relate to other conditions, such as depression and anxiety. The diagnosis can only be conclusive after making an evaluation with a clinical psychologist, by means of psychological and neurological testing. It helps not only determine presence of ADHD but also to assess the level of severity, helping to decide if a person requires pharmacological treatment (in cases of severe ADHD) or if the condition can be improved by means of diet, coaching, and cognitive-behavioral therapy (in cases of mild ADHD). At GreenPath Clinic we offer psychological and neuropsychological ADHD testing for adults and children.