Alternative Options For ADHD Treatment

Updated December 26, 2022by BetterHelp Editorial Team

ADHD has traditionally been associated with children. About 12.9% of American men and 4.9% of American women are expected to be diagnosed with ADHD at some time in their lives. The diagnosis could come when they are children, but many of the symptoms can follow them through adulthood. Others are not diagnosed until they are adults. In recent years, doctors and therapists have noticed this disorder more often in adults, yet they don't quite know how to treat ADHD in adults. To further complicate matters, adult ADHD treatment is still a relatively new development.

Children diagnosed with ADHD are typically given medications to take. This makes some sense because children still have a lot to learn about life but must interact with others and try to learn in school. The medication helps them do well in those important formative years.

Could An ADHD Diagnosis Be Holding Your Child Back?

Medications for ADHD do have advantages. However, the medications have risks that many people are unwilling to take. Fortunately, there are ways of treating ADHD without medications. While natural treatment for ADHD isn't always enough, it can still have a significant effect whether you are taking medications or not.

How Medications Are Used For Treatment Of ADHD

When a doctor diagnoses a child or adult with ADHD, most prescribe some type of medication approved for use in treating ADHD. They write out a prescription for the drug and send the patient on their way. Every 1-3 months, they have another appointment to discuss symptoms of ADHD you have noticed, how the medication seems to be helping if it is, and any side effects of the medication.

Savvy doctors suggest therapy to help you identify problems related to your attention deficit disorder and find ways to deal with them. However, it is rare for a doctor to suggest alternative treatments for ADHD unless you bring them up first.

Medication Vs. ADHD Natural Treatments

A medical doctor's go-to response is typically to prescribe medications. This is the quickest fix they know, and they can deal with it in a 15-minute med management visit every 1 to 3 months. How long they go between visits depends both on the severity of the condition and the number of visits their insurance allows.

Therapy for ADHD usually requires one-hour visits with a counselor several times a month at the outset. If you want to follow a nonmedical course of ADHD natural treatment, you can do many of them every day on your own or after consulting with a doctor. Yet, if you miss a day, you don't have to worry about uncomfortable physical side effects of stopping treatment abruptly. Instead, you can get back on track at any time to relieve the symptoms of the disorder itself.

When a psychiatrist or family doctor prescribes medication for the treatment of ADHD, it is up to the person who has the disorder to remember to take the medication as prescribed. As with all medication treatments, many patients aren't dutiful with their regimen of daily doses. With ADHD, this problem is compounded because the person who has the condition has attention problems that make it hard to focus on following a specific medication routine.

Side effects of ADHD medications can include:

  • Poor appetite

  • Problems with sleeping

  • Mood swings

  • Heart problems

  • High blood pressure

  • Decreased self-esteem

  • Suicidal thoughts or gestures

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, help is available. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255 and is available 24/7, or you can text the word “HOME” to 741741 to reach the Crisis Text Line.

Alternate treatments for ADHD very seldom have any harmful side effects. The only exception might be if you take supplements without consulting a physician and end up taking too much of them.

Another problem with medical treatments for ADHD is that they don't teach coping skills that can stay with you throughout life. When you're treating the ADHD without medication, you are forced to learn how to think and act differently in addition to using the natural remedies.

Types Of Natural ADHD Treatments

You can choose from several different alternative treatments for ADHD, or you can employ more than one of the natural ADHD treatment options to gain better control of your condition. You can do some of these treatments on your own, while others will require a doctor's input and/or assistance. They include avoiding food additives and allergens, using neurofeedback, doing yoga or tai chi, spending time outdoors, or adding supplements to your diet.

Elimination Diets

Food additives have seemed to be problematic for children with ADHD. Although conclusive research results are not yet confirmed for either children or adults with ADHD, avoiding them may be well worth doing. You do have to check labels and may have to give up foods you like. Remember that just because a food additive is found in a certain type of food, it doesn't mean that additive is every brand or variety of that food. It's always best to check the label.

Here are some of the food additives to avoid:

  • Sodium benzoate: often found in carbonated drinks, jams, fruit juices and salad dressing.

  • FD&C Yellow, no. 6: may be found in cheese sauce, chips, cookies, jams and jellies, soup mixes, soft drinks, bread crumbs and candy.

  • FD&C Yellow, no. 5 (tartrazine): can be found not only in foods like skim milk, yogurt, ice cream, breakfast cereals, alcoholic mixed drinks including sours, orange-colored cheese snack and butter, but also in cosmetics.

  • FD&C Red no. 40: ice cream, soft drinks, candy, cereal, snacks and baked goods as well as in certain medications for children.

Allergens may also increase symptoms of attention deficit disorder. In one recent study, 41 children were put on a diet that eliminated foods thought to trigger their ADHD. Of the 41 children, 32 of them experienced decreased symptoms of the condition.

Some of the allergens to avoid include:

  • Milk

  • Eggs

  • Chocolate

  • Berries

  • Chili powder

  • Apples

  • Grapes

  • Oranges

  • Peaches

  • Plums

  • Prunes

  • Tomatoes

Taking Supplements To Treat ADHD Naturally

Several studies have been done to explore the potential benefits of supplementing diets for people with ADHD. In one study that was a reassessment of past research projects, researchers determined that there was adequate reason to suggest that zinc helps with ADHD. The bulk of the studies are for children. However, adults may find that adding these vitamins, minerals and other supplements to their diet might help considerably.

Before you take any supplement, it's always best to check with a doctor to find out the current level of the vitamin, mineral or other substance in your body. Here is a list of supplements that may prove helpful if approved by your physician:

  • Zinc

  • L-carnitine

  • Vitamin b-6

  • Magnesium

What Is Neurofeedback And How Does It Work For ADHD?

Neurofeedback is an interesting development in adult ADHD treatment. It is not yet proven, but studies are now being done to assess its effectiveness. The way it is said to work is that it teaches your brain to get into a focused, attentive state when needed.

Therapists are usually the ones to conduct neurofeedback sessions in their offices. If you are receiving this treatment, you are outfitted with electrodes on your scalp for EEG monitoring. The EEG monitors your theta and beta brain waves.

Then, you watch a computer screen. Typically, you see a scene colored gray when you first look at it. If you maintain attention, additional objects and/or vivid colors may appear in the scene. If you lose concentration, the scene reverts to its original gray color and the added objects disappear.

When you achieve success in seeing the full, colorful scene, it's usually because your brain has made the connection without your being conscious of it. Those who believe neurofeedback should be pursued as an alternative treatment for ADHD believe that the effects of neurofeedback will have lasting benefits for people with the attention deficit disorder.

How Does Yoga Work In ADHD Treatments?

Research has shown that yoga is better than common motor exercises in helping for ADHD treatments. If you are new to yoga, and particularly if you are in poor physical condition, a restorative yoga class is a good place to start. The way it works is that, during yoga, you are focused on your body and your breathing as you do the physical movements. This may help you move away from unfocused mental energy and train your brain to be more peaceful.

Is It Helpful To Spend Time Outdoors To Relieve Symptoms Of ADHD?

Getting outdoors is an effective treatment for many conditions, especially those that affect the brain. One study suggests that there is a link between being inside and experiencing symptoms of ADHD. The purpose of the study was to see if there was a connection with decreased outdoor time and the recent surge in ADHD diagnoses. The study found that when children spent more time in built environments than in the natural setting they find outdoors, they had increased symptoms of the disorder.

Taking The First Steps: Talking To A Counselor About ADHD

Seeking help for adult ADHD is as simple as talking to a counselor about your symptoms. The counselor will assess you to see if you truly have the disorder. Then, they can provide cognitive behavior therapy and other talk therapies to help you learn to manage the symptoms. They can also advise you on using alternative ADHD treatments, monitor your progress, and give feedback on what you can do differently to relieve your symptoms. It all starts with that first phone call. You can talk to a licensed counselor at BetterHelp any time you're ready to get started.

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