Naturopathic Support for Children with ADHD
From difficulties in the home to the classroom, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) impacts the lives of many children as well as their caregivers. A naturopathic approach looks beyond the diagnosis- seeking to support the individual child with ADHD. The goal is to reduce ADHD symptoms as a result of enhancing the child’s overall level of health.
The Role of Naturopathic Medicine
According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 11% of children aged 4-17 years old have been diagnosed with ADHD at some point in their life (1). A combination of pharmaceutical medication and behavioral therapy are often encouraged. While some children may respond well to this, others experience only partial or temporary improvement. There are also cases of children developing side effects to drug therapy, which creates a need for additional intervention. Naturopathic modalities can be used concurrently with conventional medicine and may reduce the need for medication altogether. Naturopathic care plans often include diet and lifestyle changes, herbal medicine teas or tinctures, nutrient supplementation and homeopathic remedies. Understanding how each child is experiencing their ADHD symptoms and discovering what’s most limiting for them is important in the naturopathic approach (2).
There is not a single ADHD protocol that’s right for every child with this diagnosis. It’s important to understand which organ systems need the most support and to restore optimal function in these places. Often, naturopathic doctors are looking at gastrointestinal health, liver detoxification pathways and the nervous system when working with ADHD in children. In addition to the physical body, how a child with ADHD feels mentally and emotionally will always influence which therapies are selected. All of these pieces are taken together when building a comprehensive naturopathic care plan. Here’s a glimpse into some top considerations a naturopathic doctor may make in supporting ADHD in children:
Diet and lifestyle changes
We are what we eat, digest, absorb and turn into energy! Assimilating healthy food is crucial, but so is having the ability to detoxify and get rid of wastes effectively. Naturopathic doctors want to be sure their pediatric patients are eating well, staying hydrated, moving their bodies, spending time in sunshine and fresh air, breathing deeply and sleeping.
- Food intolerances: Sometimes there’s a food a child is eating that they are not breaking down well. This can result in an added stress on the body and show up in a variety of ways, including gastrointestinal inflammation and mental or emotional difficulties. Identifying and removing food intolerances is important in addressing ADHD in children.
- Whole-foods based diet: Aiming for adequate protein three times daily and lots of fruits and vegetables is key. Whole grains and healthy fats are also important to fuel hard-working and growing brains. Reducing sugar is helpful and is often easier to accomplish when enough blood sugar is balanced through regular protein consumption.
- Sleep: The benefits of establishing a routine that ensures proper sleep quantity and quality are incredible. Sleep hygiene involves reducing screen time 30-60 minutes before bed and ensuring the bedroom is cool and completely dark. If there’s difficulty falling or staying asleep, certain herbs, homeopathic remedies and nutrients may be indicated.
For children, one of the easiest ways to administer herbs is through liquid, glycerine-based tinctures. Usually, a combination of 3-5 herbs are used to achieve various health goals at once. Dosing of herbal medicine tinctures is body weight-dependent.
- Lemon balm: This is a nervine which means it works to calm the nervous system. Restlessness, anxiety and irritability can be helped with lemon balm as well as digestive and sleep concerns (3).
- Oat: Used as a nervine and is also nutritive to the nervous system. You can think of this herb as “food” for the nervous system. It’s effective following long-standing exhaustion, stress, nervousness and helps with focus (3).
- Passionflower: Also a nervine and works particularly well in calming a busy mind at bedtime. Passionflower is anti-inflammatory as well. It’s helpful for restlessness and exhaustion that is present with muscle spasms anywhere in the body (3).
Supplements are not a replacement for a healthy diet; however, they can fill in nutritional gaps that may exist for a variety of reasons. They may also support an acceleration of healing in the body.
- Essential fatty acids: (EPA and DHA) They’re needed for growth, development and brain function. You can find these in foods like salmon, pumpkin seeds and walnuts, but supplementing with a high-quality fish oil can be a simple way to ensure children are getting enough essential fatty acids on a regular basis (4).
- Food-based B-complex: B vitamins support nervous system health and liver detoxification pathways. They are also helpful in sustaining energy levels and in managing stress.
- Probiotics: The gut-brain connection is powerful! This means that when we have a good balance of healthy bacteria in the gastrointestinal system, we can positively impact brain health. “In one study of 75 children with ADHD, the majority had little or no friendly bacteria in their gut, coupled with an overgrowth of harmful bacteria and/or yeast. The study author concluded that by taking probiotics, the symptoms of ADHD may be reduced” (5).
These are pellets or liquid preparations of substances from the natural world that have been diluted way down. The ultimate medicine works on a subtle level of the body and helps raise overall vitality. With the right homeopathic remedy on board, sleep and mental or emotional symptoms often shift first, followed by physical symptoms.
- Sulphur: Hyperactivity in a child who needs homeopathic sulphur will often be worse when their blood sugar is low. They often have strong opinions and not much concern about how others view them. They’ll often be extremely warm-bodied, messy and may have skin or gastrointestinal symptoms that present with a lot of heat or perspiration. Opposite their hyperactivity, a sulphur child can have times in which they desire quiet time by themselves.
- Pulsatilla: When a child is in a pulsatilla state homeopathically, there is an underlying insecurity and fear of being alone. This drives them to seek attention from others and it may show up as obstinacy or jealousy. There’s often some sweetness alongside their acting out or hyperactivity as they want connection. Often, sleep can be difficult as the child desires someone close.
- Lycopodium: There is often a poor attention span and a hurried nature in a hyperactive child who needs this remedy. They often crave sweets and may have frequent abdominal pain, gas or bloating. Like pulsatilla, there is an underlying sense of insecurity, but the lycopodium child will respond to this by acting bossy and demanding.
Set up a visit
In addition to the naturopathic approach and ideas discussed above, there are other interventions naturopathic doctors may incorporate or refer for if needed. These include craniosacral work (2), neurofeedback and reviewing genetic reports. The aim in supporting ADHD in children with naturopathic medicine is always on enhancing overall health. If your child has been diagnosed with ADHD and you would like to have a naturopathic doctor on their care team, please call and speak to our of our Patient Relations Specialists today: 804-977-2634.
- Herbal Medicine From the Heart of the Earth, Sharol Tilgner, ND
- The Homeopathic Treatment of Children- Pediatric Constitutional Types, Paul Herscu, ND
About the Author:
As a licensed naturopathic doctor at Richmond Natural Medicine, Dr. Tiffany Bloomingdale specializes in classical homeopathy and naturopathic cancer support. She is passionate about using homeopathy to address her patients’ physical symptoms in the context of their highly individual mental, emotional and spiritual health. She also utilizes botanical medicine, clinical nutrition and lifestyle counseling to invite optimal wellness. Dr. Bloomingdale wants to help her patients be the best versions of themselves. Regardless of age or diagnosis, she looks forward to connecting with you: call to schedule a visit with Dr. Bloomingdale today. Click Here to learn more about Dr. Bloomingdale.