What You Need To Know About Natural Remedies For ADHD

Updated January 30, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Tanya Harell

Children with ADHD may struggle in school, have difficulty in peer relationships, and often behave inappropriately. Adults with ADHD may have trouble holding a job, managing their finances, or having healthy relationships. Medications can help, but many prefer natural remedies for ADHD. Before you take that route, though, it's important to know as much as possible about these alternative treatment options.

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Why The Hesitation To Take Medications?

When people choose natural remedies for ADHD, it's usually because they're hesitant to use pharmaceutical drugs. Why? First, these drugs often have serious side effects, which can range from insomnia to heart problems.

Another reason people would rather not take a prescription drug is that they fear to become addicted. This may be a valid point for some of the drugs, as many are stimulants, which are likely to cause addictions. Teens who use drugs like Ritalin have been known not only to overuse their ADHD medications but also share them with friends for the high feeling they can evoke.

Cost is another factor. Prescription drugs can be very expensive, especially if you have no or inadequate insurance.

Are Natural Remedies For ADHD Any Better?

Natural remedies for ADHD and other conditions may seem a better option than taking prescription drugs. Is that true, though? Certainly, if you could find proven natural remedies for ADHD in children and adults that was safe, effective, and inexpensive, it would be well worth trying.

However, not all natural remedies fit this description. Instead of making a blanket judgment about whether natural remedies for ADHD are good or bad, it's better to look at each remedy individually. Here are some of the natural options and points to consider for each one.

Eliminate Food Colorings And Preservatives

After researchers found evidence that food colorings and preservatives can increase symptoms of hyperactivity, many European counties banned them. One natural option is to eliminate these chemicals from your diet as much as possible. Watch out for the following:

  • FD&C Yellow No. 6, found in breadcrumbs, candy, icing, cereal, and soft drinks.
  • D&C Yellow No. 10, found in juices and sorbets.
  • FD&C Yellow No. 5, found in pickles, cereal, granola bars, and yogurt.
  • FD&C Red No. 40, found in gelatin desserts, soft drinks, and ice cream.
  • Sodium benzoate: found in fruit juices, salad dressings, and soda.
  • BHT and BHA: additives found in dry cake mixes, cereal, butter, instant mashed potatoes, potato chips, and chewing gum.

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Benefits: Eliminating these chemicals from your diet may decrease hyperactivity symptoms.

Drawbacks: There are no health-related drawbacks to eliminating these chemicals. The only drawback might be that you have to spend more time and be more careful when choosing food for your family.

Cost: This option has no direct costs.

Avoid Foods That Might Cause Allergic Reactions

Children with ADHD typically see an increase in symptoms of the disorder when they're troubled by allergies. You can help this situation by avoiding the most common allergens. These include:

  • Chocolate
  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Berries
  • Chili powder
  • Apples
  • Cider
  • Grapes
  • Oranges
  • Peaches
  • Plums
  • Prunes
  • Tomatoes

Benefits: Avoiding these allergens may reduce ADHD symptoms.

Drawbacks: The foods on this list have many health benefits, so eliminating them from your diet may cause nutritional deficiencies if you don't get those nutrients elsewhere.

Costs: There is no cost in eliminating allergens. It may be more expensive to buy other foods that supply the same nutritional values, though.

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Nutritional Supplements

Some research has indicated that certain nutritional supplements can decrease symptoms of ADHD. While these results are far from being proven, it may be worth your time and cost to try them. Supplements that might prove helpful include:

  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • L-carnitine
  • Magnesium
  • Potassium
  • Vitamin B-6
  • Vitamin C
  • Zinc

Benefits: Some nutritional supplements have been shown to reduce ADHD symptoms in some studies. For others, there's little or no evidence that they have any effect.

Drawbacks: Whenever you're taking nutritional supplements, you need to be mindful of how much you can safely take and not go over that amount. Taking too much can cause serious health problems. For example, if you get too much zinc, your body will have a hard time absorbing copper and iron.

Cost: There is some cost to taking nutritional supplements, although in many cases it's fairly low. A vitamin like B-6 is quite inexpensive, but a supplement like L-carnitine can cost as much as $75 for a 3-month supply

Herbs And Herbal Supplements

Herbs and herbal supplements are often touted as safe, effective treatment for ADHD. However, several studies have shown that they don't help with ADHD symptoms at all. Some studies are claiming that herbal supplements do help, but most of them are very limited studies and are usually funded by a supplement company.

Some of the herbal remedies that have been suggested include:

  • Ginkgo biloba
  • John's Wort
  • Valerian
  • Ginseng
  • Kava

Benefits: No clear benefits for ADHD have been established. However, many herbal supplements do help with conditions that can be related to ADHD. For example, St. John's wort may be helpful if the stress of dealing with ADHD is causing depression.

Drawbacks: Herbal supplements may not be effective. They also may have side effects that are just as harmful as the side effects of prescription medications.

Costs: Herbal remedies are going to cost you something to buy. The amount depends on the exact herbal formula, the strength, and where you get them.

Omega-3 Fish Oil Supplements

Omega-3 fish oil has been proven to have many health benefits, from protecting the heart from lowering blood sugar. Recent studies have also shown that Omega-3's can reduce the symptoms of ADHD. If you prefer not to take a supplement, you can get Omega-3 in your diet from foods like salmon, spinach, walnuts, and eggs.

Benefits: Omega-3 can help with ADHD symptoms. These supplements are very safe and can have additional health benefits.

Drawbacks: Getting too much Omega-3 can cause upset stomach and blood thinning.

Costs: The cost of Omega-3 supplements varies based on strength and manufacturer. Adding Omega-3 to your diet need not add any expense at all.

Going Gluten-Free

There's some evidence that a gluten-free diet may help alleviate some of the symptoms of ADHD. A gluten-free diet consists of foods that do not contain gluten, which is found in:

  • Wheat
  • Rye
  • Barley
  • Malt
  • Brewer's yeast
  • Pasta
  • Bread
  • Crackers
  • Pastries
  • Cereals
  • Granola
  • Pancakes and waffles
  • Panko breadcrumbs
  • Croutons
  • Stuffings
  • Tortillas
  • Soy sauce
  • Cream sauces
  • Beer
  • Anything with "wheat flour" listed as an ingredient

Benefits: A gluten-free diet may decrease symptoms of ADHD.

Drawbacks: It can be very time-consuming to make the switch to a gluten-free diet. You'll need to read every label and eliminate many of the most common foods from your daily food plan. Eating out, where you don't know what's in the foods, or there are no gluten-free options, can become very frustrating as well.

Costs: Generally, gluten-free alternatives in the store are more expensive than their gluten-containing counterparts. However, you can reduce those costs by cooking more foods from scratch using non-gluten staples.

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Avoiding Sugar And Caffeine

One thing you'll probably hear is that you or your child needs to stop consuming sugar and caffeine to reduce hyperactivity and inattention.

However, there's much less scientific support for this assumption than you might guess. While one study might suggest that sugardoes indeed play a part in increasing ADHD symptoms, another study might show little or no connection at all. In fact, the parents' preconceived notions about sugar causing ADHD symptoms was shown to have a greater effect than the actual consumption of sugar.

As for caffeine, one study showed that giving caffeine before learning tasks helped teens with ADHD do better on special learning.

Benefits: While no one should eat too much sugar or consume too much caffeine for a variety of health reasons, it's still unclear whether this will help with ADHD symptoms.

Drawbacks: There's no harm in eliminating sugar from the diet as long as the child is getting enough calories overall. They don't need caffeine to function well, either. The only real drawback is if you focus so much on sugar and caffeine that you don't get your child more effective treatments for their condition.

Therapy

Although most people don't think of therapy as a natural remedy for ADHD, it is a non-pharmaceutical treatment. Thus, there are no medical side effects. Therapy has many benefits for children and adults with ADHD, too.

Through therapy, you can work out practical solutions to ADHD-related life challenges. You can develop a positive attitude and resilience that will carry you through the adversity that often comes with the symptoms of ADHD.

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You can talk to a licensed counselor at BetterHelp.com for affordable online therapy on your schedule. You'll be matched with a counselor suited to you and your situation.

Getting help is the best way to make sure you're headed in the right direction to reduce or eliminate your problems with ADHD. Whether you get that help from a medical doctor, an herbalist, or a therapist, the most important thing is that you take advantage of the help that's available to deal with the symptoms of ADHD.


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