Try These Eight Safe, Natural and Effective ADHD Treatments

Prevailing ADHD therapy is not suitable for all children.  If you are looking for natural, safe, and effective alternatives to treat (beat) ADHD, then try these 8 natural supplements readily available in most places supplements are sold.  Turning to a powerful nootropic like Ritalin is not my first choice for treating ADHD because these stimulants can have adverse effects on our children’s reward system that can have lasting effects.

Zinc

Zinc is an important cofactor to dopamine, which affects our responses to emotions and reward-seeking behavior.  Zinc deficiency is further correlated to low melatonin and serotonin which is associated with decreases in ability to process information.  Zinc is naturally occurring in certain foods and added to others.  Oysters have the highest zinc per serving of all foods, but poultry and beef account for most zinc in the American diet.  Many people do not get enough zinc in their daily diet because of our society’s eating habits.  A fun test is to drink a liquid zinc supplement and see what it tastes like.  If you are zinc deficient it will have no taste, but if you have enough zinc it will taste bitter to you.

Carnitine

Carnitine is believed to improve brain cell functioning by facilitating the burning of fatty acids, which helps brain and nerve cells to preserve their membranes.  Carnitine has been demonstrated to improve symptoms of hyperactivity and social behavior and is considered by some as a safe alternative to stimulant drugs.

Serine

Serine in a non-essential amino acid important in metabolism and is a precursor to several amino acids including tryptophan.  When administered with omega 3 fatty acids it improved ADHD symptoms significantly better than omega 3 fatty acids alone, suggesting a synergistic effect.  Phosphatidylserine also increases dopamine levels.

Glutamine

Glutamine is a precursor to the calming neurotransmitter GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) that affects mood, focus, and hyperactivity; Disruption of the glutamine-containing neurotransmission system may cause ADHD.

Choline

Choline is an essential nutrient that is a precursor to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which regulates memory focus and muscle control (hyperactivity).  Acetylcholine is especially important to normal brain function.  Dr. Axe explains, “Choline is important for liver function, normal brain development, nerve function, muscle movement, supporting energy levels and maintaining a healthy metabolism.”

Folate

Folate is a B Vitamin and low folate levels in pregnancy are linked to hyperactivity in children: People with MTHFR (methyltetrahydrofolate reductase) gene are predisposed to folate deficiency and more likely to have ADHD.

Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 is a water-soluble vitamin. Evidence suggests high dose supplementation of B6 is as effective as Ritalin for ADHD, probably due to its role in raising serotonin levels.  Dr. Weil explains that “Vitamin B6 supports adrenal function, helps calm and maintain a healthy nervous system, and is necessary for key metabolic processes. Vitamin B6 acts as a coenzyme in the breakdown and utilization of carbohydrates, fats and proteins.”

Magnesium

Magnesium deficiency is linked to poor function of the neurotransmitters that control emotion, social reactions, hyperactivity and attention: Synergistic effect with Vitamin B6.  Literature with the National Institute of Health supports the fact that magnesium supplementation in children with ADHD improved hyperactivity.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9368236

Conclusion

If you are the parent, guardian, or an advocate for a loved one then I encourage you to begin a dialogue with your pediatrician about the safety and efficacy of these natural supplements for treating ADHD.  We all want to see our children have the best chance they can to grow into well adjusted happy adults, and ADHD can certain make that journey more difficult.  Stimulants may seem like a quick fix, but you should know that natural, safe, and effective alternatives do exist.

Service is the thread that binds us

When we involve our families in community service, we reap what we sow.

It is time to flip the old adage, “What goes around comes around.” More often than not we hear this familiar expression either as a way to dissuade someone from potentially acting against another or to caution how negative experiences are impacted by karma. I prefer to interpret this through the lens of good karma. Yes, we reap what we sow; but if we sow selflessness, generosity and kindness, we’ll be justly rewarded. It is the natural order of how we humans help each other and in turn trust that others – even complete strangers – will have our back when times get tough. It is a pattern that has repeated itself since the beginning of time, each generation educating the next about the importance of giving of one’s self through their own time and resources.

As parents, we owe it to our kids to introduce them to the joy of giving. Children who volunteer are less likely to engage in destructive behaviors such as drug and alcohol use, and far more likely to act altruistically as adults. Volunteerism in childhood creates a healthy habit that will benefit kids for life; in adults it appears to lower stress levels, improve mood, increase a sense of purpose, and help people connect with the world around them. Community service gives children opportunities for independent work which can strengthen independence and leadership skills, build self-esteem, and provide valuable initial work experience. Community service has even been shown to be an effective tool in school dropout prevention. A study in the Journal of Early Adolescence concluded that serving the community helps kids make a connection between school and the real world that in turn boosts self-esteem, reduces problem behaviors, and reduces depressive mood.

So, how do we teach our children to want to give of themselves? It starts at home as we model selfless acts for our kids – and most of us already are doing this. Taking a meal to an ailing friend, helping an elderly neighbor carry in groceries, or even picking up a piece of litter as it cartwheels across our path. Every day we do little things that help our communities. Being mindful of these acts and recruiting our kids to take part in them is a start. In fact, it is sometimes the only way to involve busy older children who can’t devote the time for a Saturday beach cleanup but can spare a few minutes to deliver a casserole next door.

We are all more likely to volunteer, and to enjoy the experience if we work with someone – and community service presents a perfect opportunity for meaningful family time. Most facilities that care for the elderly encourage volunteers of all ages to visit with residents, deliver flowers, or stroll with those in wheelchairs. Parks departments always welcome organized litter-pickup initiatives, and schools might be happy to take your family’s landscaping help. Train together and run or walk in a charity 5K event, or serve a meal in a soup kitchen.

There are many service activities that can easily include even young children. With a little assistance, they can assemble care bags with fruit and granola bars for the homeless and deliver them in person or to a local outreach organization. Kids can help plan a neighborhood canned good drive for a food bank, create greeting cards for hospital patients or veterans, or make rope pet toys to deliver to a local shelter. The CEngagorporation for National and Community Service showcases service opportunities broken down by age group (nationalservice.gov).

On April 22 thousands of people across the country will work in local initiatives to recognize Earth Day, which has galvanized and educated millions of volunteers since the inaugural celebration 47 years ago. This year Earth Day will focus on environmental education and climate literacy in “March for Science” gatherings throughout America (earthday.org). A broader initiative that weekend is Youth Service America’s Global Youth Service Day (April 21-23), which celebrates the selfless achievements of children and teens working to improve communities in more than 100 countries (ysa.org). On its website, YSA gives dozens of service ideas organized by categories to match kids with their interests: health, environment, poverty and hunger, education, human rights, and community building. Youth can register their service projects to gain local support and possibly international recognition.

We all have different priorities, but a common thread that weaves together our global society is the desire to make a difference. This time-honored ritual of lending a hand is passed down from parents to kids and builds on our instinctive needs to be useful and have a sense of purpose. Parents that work side-by-side with their kids to better the community realize their role in perpetuating the natural cycle of helping others, paying forward good deeds. After all, what goes around comes around.

You are so full of it your eyes are brown

I believe behaviors are strategies to get a need met and this drastically changes how I parent.

My daughter has an incredible sense of self so her needs are usually clearly stated while her behaviors are sometimes outrageous. She recently went on a pro-Chloe marketing campaign around the house. Everyone started to find “I love Chloe?” printed on the house, gutters, plants, driveway, etc in black sharpie ink. I am not certain why she included the question mark. Was this a punctuation of humility? Naivety? Or simply a red herring so that her sisters would be blamed for the graffiti? No one will ever know her self-promotion need, as she is not talking. I accept it though as a creative outlet – I may not have been so accommodating a few years back, though.

The mind of one of my children works differently than most peoples’ minds. It was no surprise that she easily qualified for the gifted program at school. I was surprised when she repeatedly decided not to turn in homework on time and subsequently lost her place in the gifted program.

Acceptance of a child’s actions is sometimes hard. I was disappointed as a parent at this wonderful lost opportunity. I was accepting as a parent who loves his child and sees each of their actions as a reflection of a need.

She needed more structure and more self-expression. Not turning in assignments was a behavior to get a need met. I focused on the need and discussed the behavior. Once she knew I understood her need, she willingly listened and we worked on a solution together. This created the empathetic space for us to have a dialogue rather than creating a power dynamic where she felt coerced and unheard.

She is always ready with a logical excuse to vindicate her action, even when she is clearly in the wrong! What’s worse is that it usually makes sense and is disarming in its humor. I happily listen to these entertaining forays.

A good case in point: At the store, Chloe told grandpa that she needed a chocolate bar. He said, “You’ve eaten so much chocolate that your eyes are brown (she has brown eyes,) and if you eat one more bar it will come out of your ears!” Her instant reply, “It doesn’t work that way Grandpa, the chocolate comes out of the bottom, so you can put more chocolate on top!”

Intelligence is a double-edged sword. As a parent, you can overthink yourself and end up in trouble with your children as they grow. You mistakenly focus on your needs and your perceived needs for the child rather than listen to their explanations and needs as well.

The child will internalize respect, clear communication and belief in their own abilities if you give them the space to grow while learning to state their needs with you listening and visa versa. An amazing consciousness will develop in both of you.

Our intelligence and wisdom are gifts allowing us to see with clarity and understanding, enabling the ability to solve problems quickly. Use these gifts to make life wonderful for your children while allowing the child to learn, as they need to.

Anyway, I forgot to ask if grandpa ended up buying her a chocolate bar that day as I was so amused by her wit.

Use Your Past to Pave Your Future

The road to Hell is wide and paved with good intentions. I can’t remember when I first heard this old adage, but the other night it rang loudly in my mind. The evening I had envisioned – a wholesome, relaxing homemade dinner with the children and filled with interesting conversations about their day followed by the stimulating intellectual discourse resulting from homework spanning six different grade levels — was doomed from the start. At first undaunted by an unexpected dinner-time soccer practice, my serenity quickly eroded with an upcoming social studies test, forgotten books at school, and the icing on the cake: the 6 p.m. announcement that an assignment requiring copious amounts of yet-to-be-purchased craft materials was due the next day. As I lay my head on the pillow hours later and a few Domino pizzas delivered to quickly feed the troops, my mind finally had time to catch up to my body. I took stock in the evening. What happened?

We’ve all experienced the disappointment when best-laid plans go awry. For those of us for whom this scenario seems to repeat itself in one form or another every day, it is critical that we pause to examine how we approach the maelstrom.

On this particular evening I thought back to my grandparents, recalling and yearning for the simplicity of times past. After all, they had it so easy, didn’t they? Well, no. My grandmother suffered from heart disease. While she did not have to build an Egyptian pyramid out of spaghetti at 10 p.m., the simpler life I imagine she had didn’t save her from chronic disease either.

Knowing I have a genetic risk of cardiovascular disease – and my life seems infinitely more complicated than my grandma’s in the 1950s – I realized in bed that night that I could look to my grandmother’s example and lay down my pavers differently. I can choose a path that will lead to a healthy heart and a happy life, while modeling a family culture handed down from earlier generations.  We cannot eliminate the stressors from our lives but we can navigate our potholes better.

Be real as a parent and simply roll with it. Once in a while a pizza night is in order. Stress is omnipresent, but we choose whether or not to let this get the best of us. Just as we model healthy behaviors in other aspects of our lives, our children look to us to show them the best way to weather the turbulence. Breathe, make the best of a trying situation and show your kids how
to have fun regardless. Remember kids have an easier time making fun than adults do – they will automatically fall behind your lighthearted leadership.

Practice mindfulness. This is not an esoteric ideal – it is the simple practice of being aware of one’s surroundings rather than letting life pass by cloaked in the distractions of daily life. Research indicates that mindfulness may reduce the risk of heart disease, improve psychological well-being, and reduce visits to the hospital. Yet in a 2010 Harvard study of 2,250 volunteers the subjects’ minds wandered an average of 46.9% of their waking time while engaged in a variety of activities. Find a moment for being quiet each day, and train yourself to put down the screen when eating a meal or waiting in a line. Mindfulness can also be learned through relaxation techniques such as meditation and yoga.

Be active every day. What will it take? Getting up a little earlier? Running (literally) the kids to school? Putting exercise time on the calendar? Exercise elevates mood, improves stamina, boosts the immune system, and reduces the risk of heart disease and depression among many other benefits. A little self-discipline will go a long way to ensure good health and vitality down the
road.

Build a strong and resilient body.  Eat a healthful diet with a variety of organic fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein, low-fat dairy and whole grains. Complement your healthy diet with nutritional supplements. The four I keep by my toothbrush are a whole food multivitamin (which I take in the morning) and a probiotic supplement, vitamin D, and fish oil caplets (which I take at night).

Go to bed! Eight hours every night is still what the doctor orders. We don’t allow our preschoolers to run around all night long, so why do we allow ourselves? Be the example. Go to bed each night when your body starts to feel tired. You will wake more refreshed, look younger and stay healthier.

Meeting the endless but very real daily needs of our families doesn’t require us to rush around in a whirling dervish. Stop. Look. Listen. Your past can show you the new pavers you can lay to create a healthier path for you and your family.

Thanks, Grandma.

Guest Feature: Benefits of Exercise for Children by Udo Fischer, PhD

Those of you who have read my articles in the past already know how much significance I attribute to the benefits of exercise and nutrition on our mental well being. I am often being asked why I think we have so many children, and adults by the way, diagnosed with something we call ADHD, mood or anxiety disorders. Well, one day we may possibly find out that there is something particular in our food or environment that directly causes it. And for some children reducing simple sugars, gluten, or other additives can make a big difference. However, thinking about some friends of mine and how they absolutely do not function well when they do not keep up their rigorous aerobic workout routines made me consider something else; and remember my own childhood. Can you, our valued reader, think back of a time where we, especially our children, lived a sedentary lifestyle to the extent many actually do today? I can assure you that I was hardly ever chauffeured anywhere, nor did I enjoy being inside the house for longer than my mandatory homework. We ran and played outside every single minute we had. We drove our bicycles to school and back home under all weather conditions. And the same held true for soccer, football, and all other extracurricular activities. Let me ask you a different question: What does a dog do when you don’t walk it enough and keep it locked in the house for too long? You know the very few possible answers to this question. Now here comes some scientific evidence, which today we have in abundance. A study published in 2011 in the peer reviewed journal ‘Health Psychology’ by Davis et al. [1] came to the following conclusion:

Consistent with results obtained in older adults, a specific improvement on executive function and brain activation changes attributable to exercise were observed. The cognitive and achievement results add evidence of dose-response and extend experimental evidence into childhood. This study provides information on an educational outcome. Besides its importance for maintaining weight and reducing health risks during a childhood obesity epidemic, physical activity may prove to be a simple, important method of enhancing aspects of children’s mental functioning that are central to cognitive development. This information may persuade educators to implement vigorous physical activity.”

Particularly something called ‘executive function’ improves in children who follow a regular aerobically focused exercise routine. ‘Executive function’ includes cognitive processes predominantly associated with the frontal lobe of the brain, such as planning, working memory, attention and set shifting, problem solving, verbal reasoning, inhibition, mental flexibility, multi-tasking, and initiation and monitoring of actions. It is easy to understand why improvements in these functions lead to not only higher academic achievement, but to more socially acceptable behavior overall. As mentioned before the benefits of regular exercise and physical activity are not limited to executive functioning. They extend to other areas of the brain that seem to be affected in patients with mood and anxiety disorders. It appears that our brain metabolism has a tendency towards self-regulation given the right circumstances, a phenomenon called homeostasis in medicine.

(If you copy the following link into your browser you can find many more studies confirming these findings, approved by the US National Library of Medicine of the National Institutes of Health: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21299297).


[1] Davis C., Tomporowski P., McDowell J., Austin B., Miller P., Yanasak N., Allison J., Naglieri J.  (2011): Exercise improves executive function and achievement and alters brain activation in overweight children: a randomized, controlled trial. Health Psychology, 2011 Jan;30(1):91-8.

About Udo Fischer

My name is Udo Fischer and I have been practicing psychotherapy in Naples for five years. Trained in clinical psychology and neuropsychology in Europe I further deepened my skills at the Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavior Therapy in Philadelphia. In Germany I conducted research with Prof. Dr. Rainer Sachse, a thought leader in the treatment of somatoform and personality disorders. A second mentor was Prof. Dr. Dietmar Schulte, president of the German Behavior Therapy Association and leading researcher for the treatment of mood and anxiety disorders.
Besides resolving clinical issues I apply a communication, conflict management, mediation approach that has been successfully applied in corporate and diplomatic contexts as well. My success rate with couples in crises is 100% assumed that both parties are motivated to resolve their issues amicably.