Five Ways to Help Kids with ADHD

Over time, I have found that there are many things you can do for your child with ADHD that will help them stay positive, focused and less impulsive. Here I will list the five most important things I have found that help my son with ADHD.

  1. Diet – A healthy diet with good sources of protein, especially in the morning is essential. Breakfast is the most important meal for all of us, and it’s especially true for those that suffer from ADHD. Low sugar, high protein and complex carbohydrates are key. Of course, no artificial ingredients (colors, flavors or preservatives). Keep MSG out of the diet and make sure they have snacks (protein) between meals. I found that when my son’s blood sugar drops, his concentration and mood decline.
  2. Sleep - Everyone feels better and more alert when they’ve had a good night’s sleep. Kids with ADHD seem to struggle with getting a good night’s sleep. They sometimes have trouble falling asleep or wake in the night. Make sure they get the recommended hours of sleep for their age. A consistent bedtime will help along with no sugary foods after dinner.  The supplements GABA and magnesium are helpful for my son before bed. They are neuro-calming and help with sleep. Epsom salt baths also help calm and relax kids before bed. Some parents find that melatonin helps their child if they suffer from insomnia. My son couldn’t tolerate melatonin. Changing his diet and eliminating allergic foods helped with his night terrors he had from ages 2 – 9.
  3. Exercise - This is one of the most important elements.  A lot of kids with ADHD suffer from anxiety and mood disorders. Exercise will release anxiety, produce those good endorphins and stimulate blood flow to the brain.  They need daily exercise for at least 60 minutes.  My son’s mood is so much better when he has had plenty of exercise, he can focus and attend to homework, and he is healthier for it too.
  4. Motivators – Positive and disciplinarian in nature work best for our family.  Concise, achievable goals like earning rewards or privileges for accomplishments at school and with homework help my son with motivation. He is also held accountable for his negative actions. Clear, age-appropriate rules must be established with consistent monitoring of them.  And finally, always look for the positive and boost their fragile self-esteem with lots of praise, smiles and hugs.
  5. Supplements – Kids with ADHD have biochemical deficits that need additional supplementation to support important brain and nervous system function. I have found the following supplements beneficial in lessening the symptoms of ADHD in my son.
  • Essential Fatty Acids (EFA), particularly Omega-3s (DHA) really helps with focus, concentration and mood. About two-thirds of the brain is composed of fats. Myelin, the protective sheath that covers communicating neurons, is composed of 30% protein and 70% fat. I give my son omega-3 that are high in DHA. DHA reduces oxidative stress, enhances learning and memory, and is the most abundant omega-3 fatty acid in cell membranes within the brain. Omega-3s are anti-inflamatories and the primary building material for cell membranes, which let nutrients in and toxins out.
  • GABA is also a key supplement for my son. It is neuro-calming and reduces impulsive behaviors. GABA is an amino acid produced in the brain acting as an inhibitory neurotransmitter, a chemical that promotes communication between nerve cells in our central nervous system.
  • Pycnogenol is also beneficial for kids with ADHD. It’s a powerful antioxidant, a natural anti-inflammatory, and helps to dilate blood vessels which increases blood flow to the brain. It’s one of only a few antioxidants that can cross the blood-brain barrier. Studies have indicated that it is a more powerful antioxidant that vitamin C and E. It’s reported to help with cognition and focus.
  • Another amino acid that helps my son with cognition and focus is acetyl l-carnitine. It too can cross the blood-brain barrier and act as a powerful antioxidant. Studies have shown it improves kids symptoms with ADHD. The neurotransmitter in the brain, acetylcholine, is essential for proper brain function and the entire nervous system. Acetyl l-carnitine produces acetylcholine which helps in memory and mental alertness.
  • L-tyrosine is an amino acid and a building block for dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine;  neurotransmitters that helps regulate emotions. If levels of these neurotransmitters are insufficient, feelings of sadness, anxiety, irritability and frustration can result. Dopamine controls the flow of information to the other parts of the brain. This occurs in the frontal lobes (called the prefrontal cortex). Disorders in this part of the brain (like ADHD) can cause a decline in memory, problem solving, and attention. I found this supplement really helps my son with ADHD with his emotions and positive attitude. L-tyrosine should be taken at least 30 minutes away from meals since it will compete for entry to the brain with other amino acids (protein). Also, it should not be taken in conjunction with MAO inhibitor drugs.

You will notice that taking pharmaceuticals was not on this list. Prescription meds are a personal choice.  I have opted to treat my son’s ADHD biomedically with diet and supplements. We have found that  his ADHD symptoms were significantly reduced, and his overall health and well-being improved. Try to remember that your child with ADHD wants to succeed; they  just need your help in figuring out how, along with the nutritional support to help them in daily life.

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