ADHD is the most common neurodevelopmental condition in U.S. children.1 While there is no magic cure for its most challenging symptoms, which range from hyperactivity and impulsivity to inattention and irritability, there are a number of different remedies to consider.
Understanding ADHD in Kids: Symptoms & Challenges
Typically diagnosed in childhood (though it can be missed and diagnosed much later, especially for women), ADHD is a neurodevelopmental condition in which includes a combination of persistent problems, such as difficulty paying attention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Though every kid has moments where they can’t sit still or pay attention, for kids with ADHD, the struggles are harder and happen more often.
Symptoms of ADHD in kids include:
- Lack of focus
- Difficulty following instructions
- Trouble sitting still (fidgeting)
- Poor time management skills
- Careless mistakes
- Excessive talking, blurting, and interrupting
- Risky or dangerous behavior
- Gets bored easily
Natural Remedies for ADHD in Children
In the past, the first-line treatment for ADHD was prescription stimulants like Adderall® and Ritalin®. Both medications work in similar ways in the brain, increasing dopamine and norepinephrine to promote alertness and concentration. Though they are effective for many, they both are associated with a range of side effects, including insomnia, dry mouth, upset stomach, lack of appetite, and nervousness. The likelihood of experiencing such side effects rises when dosages are increased over time.
At Brillia, we recognize the value in prescription medication for ADHD, but we also see them as a last resort. As more research emerges on how to best treat ADHD, there are numerous alternative methods to consider first, which are gentler on the body and non-addictive. These include amino acids, herbal supplements, probiotics, and even simple lifestyle adjustments like getting better sleep or following a healthy diet.
irritability and impulsivity.
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1. Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Promoting Brain Health & Function
Studies have found that ingestion of omega-3 fatty acids increases learning, memory, cognitive well-being, and blood flow in the brain.2 This may explain why researchers have found a correlation between these “healthy fats” and ADHD. In a study of around 200 schoolchildren, those who had diets that were low in omega-3s had a 31 percent higher risk of being diagnosed with ADHD.3 Other research has revealed that supplementing with omega-3 levels improves ADHD symptoms like hyperactivity and inattention.4 Even more, these omega-3s have also been shown to support emotional regulation and emotional processing in children with ADHD.5 As an alternative to supplements, you can derive omega-3s from foods like eggs and salmon.
2. Iron & Zinc: Micronutrients for Attention & Focus
A combination of iron and zinc supplements has been found to improve ADHD symptom severity, as both minerals are associated with hyperactivity when levels are too low.6 Zinc is crucial to metabolizing melatonin, which plays an important role in the regulation of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps us focus, learn, and stay motivated. Dopamine is also a key factor in the pathophysiology of hyperactivity, inattention, and anxiety.7 In addition to metabolizing melatonin, and thus influencing dopamine, zinc also increases levels of GABA, which reduces anxiety.8
Meanwhile, iron deficiency is thought to make up as much as 30 percent of ADHD severity, as iron is a coenzyme of dopamine synthesis.9 Food sources of zinc include turkey, chicken, whole wheat bread, and eggs. Iron sources include nuts, legumes, and dried fruit.
3. Magnesium to Calm the Nervous System
Magnesium promotes relaxation by stimulating the production of melatonin and serotonin and reducing the stress hormone cortisol. Supplementing with magnesium has been shown to reduce symptoms of both anxiety and ADHD, including hyperactivity, inattention, and even aggression.10 Food sources for magnesium include bananas, avocados, and dark chocolate.
4. Herbal Remedies for Relaxation: Ginkgo Biloba, Green Tea, Chamomile
Herbal remedies that promote relaxation while improving ADHD symptoms like hyperactivity and impulsivity include ginkgo biloba, green tea, and chamomile.
Ginkgo biloba has been shown to significantly reduce symptoms of ADHD. In one pediatric study, there were improvements in inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness over a course of three to five weeks with minimal side effects.11
Green tea is typically associated with energy due to its caffeine content, but thanks to another compound called L-theanine, this is also a great herbal remedy for ADHD. Some studies have suggested that supplementing with L-Theanine improves attention, memory, focus, and executive functions.12 In addition to enhancing cognitive function, L-theanine supplementation also reduces stress-related symptoms and anxiety.13
There’s a reason why chamomile is a best-selling tea. It is useful in alleviating anxiety inducing sleep, which is important for any child, but especially a child with attention difficulties. Some studies show chamomile can also provide protection against tics, a common side effect of ADHD stimulant medications.14
5. Gut Health & Probiotics: The Gut-Brain Connection
Approximately 95 percent of serotonin is in the gut, making the gut-brain connection an important component of treating ADHD.15 In one 2022 study, children with ADHD who took a probiotic supplement saw improvements in their hyperactivity/impulsivity as supplementation considerably changed the composition of their gut microbiota.16
6. Elimination Diets: Identifying Food Triggers
Following a healthy diet is crucial to managing ADHD, as some foods have been found to exacerbate symptoms. During an elimination diet, you remove foods from your child’s diet that you suspect are causing issues. The foods are later reintroduced, one at a time, and you monitor reactions.
Some common food triggers for ADHD include sugary treats, energy drinks, soda, fruit juice, processed foods, frozen foods, potato chips, and red meat.
7. Lifestyle Modifications: Exercise, Sleep, Decreasing Screen Time
Brillia’s Five Pillars outline some of the most important lifestyle habits you should implement to help manage ADHD and anxiety. These include proper nutrition, adequate sleep, controlled screen time, and mindfulness. Other important practices like exercising regularly and following a predictable, daily routine, have also been shown to improve symptoms while supporting the other Five Pillars. Here’s what the research says:
- Proper nutrition: Various studies indicate that people with ADHD have nutritional deficiencies in key vitamins and minerals like magnesium, calcium, and phosphorous.17 The best way to ensure your child is getting a range of nutrients is to eat a varied diet of colorful foods, with plenty of fruits and vegetables.
- Adequate sleep: Making sure your child gets enough sleep can also improve their ADHD symptoms. Studies have revealed that sleep deprivation and sleep disturbances are common in people with ADHD and tend to exacerbate symptoms like inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.18 To help balance your child’s circadian rhythm, keep a consistent bedtime and wake-up time, keep screens out of the bedroom, and avoid high-energy activities before bed.
- Controlled screen time: While there isn’t enough evidence to say screen time causes ADHD, it can certainly make it worse. In a study of high school students who had not been diagnosed with ADHD, researchers discovered that students who reported using screens many times a day were more likely than their peers to experience hyperactivity, impulsivity, and lack of focus.19
- Mindfulness & Relaxation: From meditation to breathing exercises, there are many different mindfulness and relaxation strategies to explore with your child. Studies have shown that mindfulness significantly improves symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity, increases focus, and reduces stress in both adolescents and adults.20
8. Brillia: Managing ADHD Symptoms
Brillia is different from the above natural remedies as it is a non-prescription medication. Suitable for children and teens aged 5-18, the medication is clinically-proven to reduce symptoms of hyperactivity, inattention, impulsivity, and emotional dysregulation without harsh, synthetic chemicals or harmful side effects.
Brillia’s active ingredient consists of targeted antibodies to the brain-specific S100B protein, a naturally occurring protein that is most prevalent in the brain. This protein plays an important role in helping neurons communicate and when it is imbalanced, the result is a disruption in mood, focus, attention, and motivation. Brillia gently and impactfully attaches to this protein to reduce such symptoms without affecting any other systems in the body. At the same time, in regulating the S-100B protein, the level of monoamines (dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin) in different parts of the brain normalizes, which are the same neurotransmitters targeted by prescription ADHD meds.
Unlike prescription medication, Brillia reduces ADHD symptoms at their source without causing a risk of dependency or any harmful interactions with other medications. This means if your child is already taking prescription medication, Brillia can be safely added to their regimen without worry because there are no contraindications. This can also be useful if you want to avoid increasing the dosage of your child’s prescription medication.
Consulting a Healthcare Professional
If you’re confused about what route you should take with your child, why not consult a healthcare professional? Today, there are so many ADHD specialists who can take you through all possible steps. Children often respond better to combination therapies, such as medication in conjunction with behavioral therapy.
While the recommendations above are great places to start, you know your child best. Finding the right solution may take time and patience, but there’s always something new to learn along the way. Visit the Brillia(nce) Resource Center for more ideas and tips on how to support your child with ADHD and help them thrive.