Natural Remedies for ADHD

ADHD stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It is a neurodevelopmental disorder, typically first diagnosed when an affected individual is elementary school age.

It is identified by behavior that makes it difficult for affected individuals to function effectively, or mature and develop as other children normally do. In general, people with ADHD behave in ways that show a pattern of:

  • Hyperactivity: Extremely high and changeable levels of agitated actions
  • Inattentiveness: Distracted, unfocused, unable to complete activities
  • Impulsivity: Acts hastily, without thinking of what could happen as a result

While most children and adults may occasionally behave in ways that seem hyperactive, inattentive, and impulsive, it is the intensity and consistency of this sort of behavior that could result in an ADHD diagnosis.

List of natural remedies for ADHD

General interest in complementary and alternative medicine continues to grow. Particularly in light of concerns about the safety and effectiveness of standard medical treatments, half of all parents of children with ADHD use alternative treatments in some way, according to studies cited in Neural Plasticity.

From taking supplements and avoiding food coloring to breathing exercises, a wide variety of natural remedies have been used to address ADHD and the symptoms that accompany it.

According to studies reviewed in Child & Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics, the natural supplements with the most evidence to support their use are:

  • Polyunsaturated fat supplements: For heart health and a possible reduction in inappropriate behavior and speech
  • Melatonin: May help with problems going to sleep
  • Iron and zinc: Could help to reduce ADHD symptoms when children are not getting sufficient amounts in their diets

Other clinical trials have found that a number of herbal treatments and nutritional supplements may be helpful in treating ADHD, according to a 2016 study. This include:

  • French Maritime pine bark extract, or pycnogenol: May increase visual-motor coordination and reduce hyperactivity and inattentiveness
  • Ginseng: Could reduce hyperactivity and inattentiveness
  • Ningdong: A Chinese medicinal that may be as effective at reducing ADHD symptoms as Western prescription medication
  • Bacopa: An Ayurvedic treatment, which preliminary studies suggested could reduce restlessness and improve self-control in children with ADHD

Combination therapy, in which one or more natural remedies are used in combination with each other or prescription medication, shows promise in addressing the many ways in which ADHD can affect individuals.

However, more research is needed to determine its efficacy and safety, as well as the strength at which it can be used safely in humans if found to be effective.

Lifestyle changes that can help

Some practices – such as biofeedback, exercise, and connecting with nature – are widely considered to be calming. Researchers are studying these activities to see if they really do reduce symptoms of ADHD.

Neurofeedback, in which individuals with ADHD learn how to perform tasks while trying to maintain typical, and not hyper-aroused, brainwave patterns, has shown promising results. However, it is an expensive process and is only in the early stages of development.

Some studies have suggested that studying yoga, particularly it’s breathing, focusing, and relaxation components, can help to relieve certain symptoms of ADHD. Yoga and regular exercise of any kind are also regarded as a helpful and stress-reducing activity for parents and children with ADHD to pursue together.

Other studies have suggested that children with ADHD saw an improvement in their ability to concentrate after spending time in a green space. More research is needed to know how much time individuals need to spend in green spaces to see improvements, and how long these improvements can last.

Diet plan

Parents take their children for a walk.
Children with ADHD may be better at concentrating after spending time in a green space.

Conventional wisdom may link eating lots of sugar with hyperactivity in children, but research does not show this to be the case. Yeast is also not considered a likely culprit in ADHD.

However, eating a healthful, well-balanced diet with lots of fresh fruits, whole grains, and vegetables is beneficial for everyone. Individuals dealing with a complex brain disorder like ADHD will benefit from a sound diet.

Some researchers suggest avoiding the following foods:

  • Soft drinks
  • Fast food
  • Processed meat
  • Potato chips
  • High-fat dairy products
  • Red meat

In addition, since some children may be extremely sensitive to artificial food coloring and preservatives, avoiding exposure to these substances could help to address symptoms of ADHD.

How do recommendations differ depending on age group?

Most individuals with ADHD are diagnosed when they are children, but the condition can continue to affect individuals throughout their lives.

Creating systems for getting ready for school and other regular activities can help children with ADHD to learn how to recognize and feel comfortable following routines. Even something as simple as organizing storage for toys and clothes can help young people to learn how to manage their ADHD.

Adults with ADHD may find that organizational guidance from professionals can help them to manage their lives more effectively. Learning how to use calendars, lists, and reminders to keep on top of events can help to keep people focused and on schedule.

Just as with ADHD in children, treatment for adults with this condition seems to be most effective when it combines medication with therapy focused on changing behavior.

Cognitive behavioral therapy, a form of therapy in which therapists work with patients to alter thought patterns in order to change behavior, has shown encouraging results in trials with adults.

Reasons why people may wish to avoid medical treatments

People with ADHD, as well as their families, may be reluctant to use traditional medical treatment and use prescription drugs due to:

  • Difficulty dealing with side effects
  • The prospect of long-term use of a drug that affects a child’s thinking
  • Worries about becoming dependent on a drug
  • Concerns about potential illegal use of their medication

Stimulants are often prescribed to address behavioral problems associated with ADHD, and this approach is effective in 70-80 percent of children, according to a study published in Neural Plasticity. However, some individuals cannot handle the side effects of these drugs, which can include:

  • Nausea
  • Twitching muscles
  • Loss of appetite
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Stomach pain
  • Headache
  • Anxiety

Since most people are diagnosed with ADHD when they are children, starting medication at this time could mean that children are taking mind-changing drugs for several years, if not their entire childhood. Many parents are not comfortable with this.

Some medications for ADHD can lead to addiction in certain individuals. People with ADHD and their families may be reluctant to use these drugs because they don’t want to risk becoming dependent, or “hooked,” on the medication. Some people may also fear that their medication will be stolen because of its abuse potential.

Individuals with ADHD and parents of children with ADHD are encouraged to discuss their concerns about medication with their healthcare providers and inform their physicians about “alternative” treatments they may be considering.

Overview of ADHD

A child makes a mess of his breakfast cereal.
ADHD is a common disorder that can lead to hyperactivity and impulsive actions.

In 2011, 11 percent of children aged 4-17 were diagnosed with ADHD, making it one of the more common brain disorders, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Diagnosis of ADHD is made after a medical professional gives an individual a thorough evaluation. Medical evaluation and diagnosis usually happen during the elementary school years, although symptoms can appear in 3-year-olds and continue into adulthood.

The disorder is most often treated with a combination of medication and behavioral therapy, which is counseling designed to help people change the way they act. ADHD is not the sort of condition that can be cured, although it can be managed.

It is not a contagious disease, although it may run in families due to a possible genetic link.

Symptoms

The key problems associated with ADHD reveal themselves in a variety of ways. For children, these can include:

  • Inability to pay attention in class
  • Difficulty completing assignments
  • Easily distracted
  • Inability to easily play quietly
  • Frustrated by waiting to take a turn
  • Fidgeting and moving around inappropriately
  • Interrupts games and play activities
  • Squirms in seat
  • Frequently loses things needed for assignments

As children mature, their ADHD symptoms usually begin to moderate and change. In adults and older teenagers, ADHD symptoms are often different from the more common behaviors seen in children. They may appear as:

  • Difficulty organizing activities
  • Feelings of restlessness
  • Interrupting people’s conversations
  • Frequently talking too much
  • Finding it difficult to keep still
  • May avoid projects that call for sustained mental focus

Herbs may help strengthen and tone the body’s systems. As with any therapy, you should work with your healthcare provider before starting treatment. You may use herbs as dried extracts (capsules, powders, or teas), glycerites (glycerine extracts), or tinctures (alcohol extracts). Unless otherwise indicated, make teas with 1 tsp. herb per cup of hot water. Steep covered 5 to 10 minutes for leaf or flowers, and 10 to 20 minutes for roots. Drink 2 to 4 cups per day. You may use tinctures alone or in combination as noted.

Several herbal remedies for ADHD are sold in the United States and Europe, but few scientific studies have investigated whether these herbs improve symptoms of ADHD. One or more of the following calming herbs may be recommended for people with ADHD:

  • Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile). Chamomile may cause an allergic reaction in people sensitive to Ragweed. Chamomile may have estrogen-like effects in the body and therefore should be used with caution in people with hormone-related conditions, such as breast, uterine, or ovarian cancers, or endometriosis. Chamomile can also interact with certain medications; speak with your doctor.
  • Valerian (Valerian officinalis). Valerian can potentially interact with certain medications. Since valerian can induce drowsiness, it may interact with sedative medications.
  • Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis). Lemon balm may interact with sedative medications.
  • Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata). Passionflower may interact with sedative medications.

Other herbs commonly contained in botanical remedies for ADHD include:

  • Gingko (Gingko biloba). Used to improve memory and mental sharpness. Use gingko with caution if you have a history of diabetes, seizures, infertility, and bleeding disorders. Gingko can interact with many different medications, including but not limited to, blood-thinning medications.
  • American ginseng (Panax quinquefolium) and gingko. One study suggests that gingko in combination with ginseng may improve symptoms of ADHD. Use American ginseng with caution if you have a history of diabetes, hormone-sensitive conditions, insomnia, or schizophrenia. It can interact with several medications, including but not limited to, blood-thinning medications.

Medical Reference Guide:

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder; University of Maryland Medical Center

 

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Is Yoga a Helpful Treatment for Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes significant musculoskeletal pain, along with changes in the ability to sleep, think, and remember.

The name for the disease comes from a combination of Latin and Greek terms, including fibro, or fibrous tissue, myo, meaning muscle, and algia, meaning pain.

Doctors often consider fibromyalgia to be an arthritis-related condition, but it is different from typical arthritic conditions in that, although it causes pain, it does not cause significant damage to muscles or joints.

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved three medications to treat fibromyalgia. However, these medications do not cure the condition so doctors may recommend that people with fibromyalgia look to alternative therapies, such as yoga, to alleviate pain and muscle stiffness.

How might yoga help with fibromyalgia?

Yoga is a practice that incorporates self-care measures, such as relaxation, meditation, and deep breathing. It is a meditative movement practice that involves engaging in a series of coordinated movements while focusing on breathing, relaxation, meditation, or a combination. Similar practices include Tai chi and qi gong.

Many different types of yoga exist. Some focus on slow, controlled movements, while others can be as intensive as a hard run:

  • Hatha yoga is the most common type of yoga taught at most American yoga classes
  • Restorative yoga is a low-effort, but rejuvenating practice incorporating assistive devices, such as blankets, bolsters, and blocks
  • Ashtanga yoga is an intense and challenging style that involves practicing a specific series of poses in the same order
  • Bikram yoga involves progressing through 26 poses in a heated room
  • Vinyasa yoga is a continuous, flowing type of yoga that can be physically challenging

Doctors have not defined a specific type of yoga that is best for people with fibromyalgia. Anyone practicing yoga should take into account any personal physical limitations, especially if they plan to engage in intense exercise or want to exercise in hot temperatures.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), while research regarding the effectiveness of yoga in benefitting those with fibromyalgia is “promising,” there is not enough evidence to conclusively determine that yoga can help people who have the disorder.

Several research studies and analyses have been conducted regarding yoga and fibromyalgia:

  • A 2011 study published in the International Journal of Yoga Therapy, summarized the effects an 8-week course of yoga and meditation had on 11 people with fibromyalgia. Following the study, participants reported significant improvements in the number of days they “felt good” and did not miss work for reasons related to fibromyalgia. However, participants did not report decreased incidences of pain and fatigue.
  • A 2013 analysis of three research studies, published in the Journal of Pain Research, found that yoga helped to reduce sleep disturbances, fatigue, and depression while also improving the quality of life. However, the authors noted that there are not enough significant studies to confirm a link between yoga and reduced symptoms of fibromyalgia.
  • A 2010 research study published in the journal Pain studied 53 female fibromyalgia patients who participated in an 8-week Yoga of Awareness program. This program included meditation, breathing exercises, gentle poses, and yoga-based instructions for coping with symptoms. After finishing the program, the participants reported significant improvements in measures of pain, fatigue, and mood associated with fibromyalgia.

Three yoga poses for fibromyalgia

Many yoga poses could potentially benefit a person with fibromyalgia, but some specific poses are recommended in the book Yoga for Fibromyalgia by Shoosh Crotzer. However, before embarking on this type of exercise, it is best to talk to a doctor. All of these poses have variations that people can adopt according to their ability.

Standing forward bend, or Uttanasana, yoga pose
The Uttanasana pose may be recommended as beneficial to people with fibromyalgia.

Standing forward bend, or Uttanasana:

The standing forward bend pose involves standing with the feet hip-width apart and bending forward from the hip joints. If possible, people should place their fingertips or palms on the floor. If they cannot stretch this much, they should place their palms on the tops of the thighs or calves instead.

After staying in this position for 30-60 seconds, slowly roll the body up until standing up straight. Anyone with a bad back may prefer to keep their knees bent.

Bridge pose, or Setu Bandha Sarvangasana:

The person starts lying on the floor on their back. Bend the knees, putting both feet on the floor. They should straighten their arms and, if possible, clasp them together as they exhale and lift their tailbone off the floor, tightening the buttocks as they lift. Hold this pose anywhere from 30-60 seconds. They should then exhale as they slowly roll their lower back and spine toward the floor.

To protect the neck and reduce discomfort while lying face-up on the floor, a rolled-up blanket can be placed under the shoulders. Anyone with a history of neck injury should avoid this pose.

Cobra pose, or Bhujangasana:

The cobra pose can stretch tired legs and open up the chest muscles. To perform this pose, people should lie face-down on the floor and put their hands under their shoulders, palms on the floor. Put the elbows back toward the body. Inhale and push into the palms, straightening the arms until the upper body is lifted off the floor. However, people shouldn’t lift their feet or pelvic bone off the floor. Feel the stretch across the chest and in the lower back.

People should hold the position for 15-30 seconds, then release the pose and return to the starting position. Those who have a headache, carpal tunnel syndrome, a back injury, or are pregnant should be cautious with, or avoid this pose.

Practicing these poses daily may enhance a sense of well-being.

Additional health benefits of yoga

Many studies have looked at the overall benefits of yoga in reducing stress and boosting physical and mental health. According to an analysis in Health Psychology Review, participation in yoga appears to reduce the release of cortisol, a hormone associated with stress response in the body. Other psychological benefits can include a more positive affect and increased mindfulness.

What additional approaches may help those with fibromyalgia?

Woman has pain in her neck
A very high percentage of people with fibromyalgia are female.

Tai chi is another movement-related practice that may help to relieve fibromyalgia. Like yoga, Tai chi combines the practices of meditation, slow and controlled movements, and deep breathing.

According to the NCCIH, people with fibromyalgia who participated in hourly Tai chi sessions for 12 weeks found their sleep, mood, and overall quality of life improved.

Additional approaches may include:

  • Acupuncture, a Chinese technique that involves applying needles at various specific points on the body to encourage blood and energy flow through the body. However, there is a lack of conclusive evidence that acupuncture will always benefit people with fibromyalgia.
  • Massage therapy involves using the hands to manipulate muscles and soft tissues, and it can help to relieve stress and anxiety in people with fibromyalgia.
  • Sleep and resting well can benefit a person with fibromyalgia. This includes going to sleep at a regular time and avoiding excessive daytime napping that can interfere with a good night’s sleep.
  • Regular exercise can help to decrease pain symptoms associated with fibromyalgia. Moderate exercises, such as swimming, riding a bicycle, engaging in water aerobics, and walking are recommended. Overly strenuous exercise may worsen the pain.

As with most medical conditions, practicing healthy self-care measures, including eating nutritious foods, can help a person live better with fibromyalgia.

Causes risk factors and symptoms

The cause of fibromyalgia is not always clear, but it may appear after one of the following events:

  • A physically or emotionally stressful event, such as after an automobile accident or post-traumatic stress
  • An infection or another form of illness
  • A repetitive injury

Researchers believe the repeated nerve stimulation associated with fibromyalgia can affect a person’s brain receptors, causing them to be more sensitive to painful stimulation. Those with fibromyalgia may also have higher levels of neurotransmitters that signal pain.

According to the National Institutes of Health, an estimated 80-90 percent of people with fibromyalgia are women. Other factors that increase the risk of developing the disorder include a family history of fibromyalgia, or a history of a rheumatic condition, such as lupus, ankylosing spondylitis, osteoarthritis, or rheumatoid arthritis.

The main symptom of fibromyalgia is pain, but people may also experience cramping in the lower abdomen, depression, fatigue, headaches, sleep problems, tingling in the arms and legs, and painful menstruation. Cognitive function may be affected.

Other pain-related conditions that may occur include chronic fatigue syndrome, endometriosis, and inflammatory bowel disease.

Yoga May Help Kids With Cancer

A yoga program for children with cancer can be carried out even during cancer treatment and has quality of life (QOL) benefits for the children as well as their parents, suggests a study in Rehabilitation Oncology, the official journal of the Oncology Section of the American Physical Therapy Association. The journal is published by Wolters Kluwer.

“Our findings support the notion that yoga for pediatric cancer patients during active treatment is feasible and potentially helpful in improving both patient and parent well-being,” according to the new research, led by Dr. Andrea Orsey of Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, Hartford. The report is part of a special issue focused on Pediatric Oncology Physical Therapy and Cancer Rehabilitation.

New Research on Benefits of Physical Therapy for Children with Cancer

In a pair of preliminary studies, Dr. Orsey and colleagues evaluated the feasibility and effectiveness of a yoga intervention for children with cancer and their families. Yoga has emerged as an effective complementary therapy for adults with cancer–but few studies have evaluated its benefits for children undergoing cancer treatment.

In an initial survey, 20 children and adolescents with cancer and their parents expressed interest in doing yoga during treatment. They also perceived several barriers to such a program, including concerns about side effects, pain/discomfort, and physical limitations.

With these barriers in mind, the researchers developed a yoga intervention for pediatric cancer patients, delivered by certified yoga instructors. The program was designed to be performed in a variety of settings and tailored to the children’s physical condition or mobility issues.

A pilot evaluation included ten children with cancer and their family members/caregivers. Although limited by its small size, the study suggested improvements in health-related QOL for both parents and children, including social and emotional QOL.

Both parents and children were highly satisfied with the yoga program and said they would recommend it to others. One mother cited several benefits of yoga for her daughter: “It gave her more energy and made her more positive!”

The pilot study will help to guide future efforts to provide the benefits of yoga to children with cancer and their families. A key issue will be coordinating yoga sessions with the medical demands of chemotherapy.

The special issue highlights the growing body of evidence to guide rehabilitation and physical therapy for children with cancer. While more children are surviving cancer, they face long-term effects on health and functioning due to their disease and its treatments. “Physical therapists are uniquely suited to design and implement interventions that target these impairments,” according to an introduction by Guest Editor Kirsten K. Ness, PT, Ph.D., FAPTA.

Other topics in the special issue include the safety of using symptoms, rather than blood counts, to determine whether children with cancer can safely undergo physical therapy; a community-based exercise program for childhood cancer survivors; and specific exercise programs for children bone cancer (osteosarcoma) and leukemia. Kirsten Ness adds: “These data are exciting and provide a good starting point documenting original research in pediatric oncology rehabilitation.”

Article: Results of a Pilot Yoga Intervention to Improve Pediatric Cancer Patients’ Quality of Life and Physical Activity and Parents’ Well-being, Orsey, Andrea D. MD, MSCE; Park, Crystal L. PhD; Pulaski, Regan BS; Shankar, Nilani L. MA; Popp, Jill M. PhD; Wakefield, Dorothy MS, Rehabilitation Oncology, doi: 10.1097/01.REO.0000000000000052, published January 2017.