You begin to notice some changes with your son’s behavior: he finds it difficult to finish homework and chores; he is tapping his feet at the dinner table, and seems as if he is thinking about other things while you are talking to him. A couple of weeks later, you are called into his school for a parent-teacher conference because he is now disrupting class constantly, unable to answer questions when called upon, and the teacher has noticed his grades declining. Then you remember you have a friend whose child had similar issues, and was recently diagnosed with ADHD. Could it be the answer? A doctor’s visit, some testing, and a couple of questionnaire’s later, your son is now one of the nearly 6.4 million children with confirmed ADHD.[i]
Enter The Pharmaceutical Approach
Because your son is older than 6 years old, the doctor recommends the use of behavioral therapy, along with medication to help treat his ADHD. He gives you the options of the more popular stimulant pharmaceuticals (Vyvanse, Adderall, Concerta, Ritalin) or less popular non-stimulant pharmaceuticals (Straterra, Intuniv). Stimulants are the primary recommendation, so you decide to go with a stimulant medication.[ii] While the behavioral therapy seems to be improving relationship behavior, when implemented without medication, it didn’t seem to make a huge impact on his ADHD symptoms.[iii] Also, because he required special attention at school, he began to feel embarrassed and different than the other kids. However, when your son took the medication, he did not have an appetite, complained of headaches, and could not get to sleep at a decent hour.[iv] You thought to yourself that perhaps this wasn’t the right choice for you and your child. What alternatives could there be?
You did some research and learned about the interactions that neurotransmitters have with focus and learning. You also found that healthy diet and proper amounts of amino acids and vitamin precursors are necessary for maintaining optimal neurotransmitter function. After having your son’s neurotransmitter levels tested, you find that the key neurotransmitters responsible for motivation, focus maintenance, learning, and reward systems, including dopamine, norepinephrine, and glutamate, are all imbalanced. After speaking with a practitioner that is familiar with natural treatments for ADHD, you and your son decide to give this a shot. Between rebalancing neurotransmitter levels, implementing a healthier diet that reduces sugar and additive intake while increasing fiber, folate, and omega-3 fatty acids,[v] ensuring sufficient physical activity during the day,[vi] and supplementing essential vitamins and minerals when needed,[vii] your son was finally showing great improvement without the unwanted side effects experienced with medication. He is now able to stay focused on tasks at hand, interact appropriately with other students and teachers, and enjoy the rewards that come from doing well both at school and at home.
[i]Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): Data & Statistics. (2016, October 05). Retrieved October 18, 2016, from https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/data.html
[ii] Budur K, Mathews M, Adetunji B, Mathews M, Mahmud J. Non-Stimulant Treatment for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Psychiatry (Edgmont). 2005;2(7):44-48.
[iii] SUBCOMMITTEE ON ATTENTION-DEFICIT/HYPERACTIVITY DISORDER, STEERING COMMITTEE ON QUALITY IMPROVEMENT AND MANAGEMENT. ADHD: Clinical Practice Guideline for the Diagnosis, Evaluation, and Treatment of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in Children and Adolescents. Pediatrics. 2011;128(5):1007-1022. doi:10.1542/peds.2011-2654.
[iv] Robinson, L., Smith, M., M.A., Segal, J., Ph.D., & Ramsey, D., MD. (2016, October 16). ADHD or ADD Medications. Retrieved October 18, 2016, from http://www.helpguide.org/articles/add-adhd/attention-deficit-disorder-adhd-medications.htm#managing
[v] Millichap JG and Yee MM. The Diet Factor in Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Pediatrics. 2012;129 (2).
[vi] Alan L. Smith, Betsy Hoza, Kate Linnea, Julia D. McQuade, Meghan Tomb, Aaron J. Vaughn, Erin K. Shoulberg, Holly Hook. Pilot physical activity intervention reduces severity of ADHD symptoms in young children. J Atten Disord. 2013 Jan; 17(1): 70–82.
[vii] Ehrlich, S. D., NMD. (2015, March 23). Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Retrieved October 18, 2016, from http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/condition/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder