Dwight Franklin, DOM
Overwhelmed because your child has been diagnosed with ADD and your pediatrician wants to prescribe meds? It’s common, all too common. And no parent is ever ecstatic to put their child on prescription drugs, even if it can be effective.
While pharmaceuticals can be helpful under the guidance of an experienced physician, you can trust that parental instinct because there is another way to provide long term solutions for your child.
I’ve worked with hundreds of children who’ve been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD, and - while sometime prescription meds are necessary – I’ve had great success helping children and their families address behavioral issues without the use of pharmaceuticals. Here are 5 tips to help your child get started on the right path now:
1. Cut out all processed sugars - This by itself can make a huge impact on the behavior of the child. While foods such as cookies, cakes, white bread, and soda are bad for us all, they are especially damaging to a child. As adults most of us have learned right from wrong and appropriate from inappropriate. A child is still learning these things and when excess amounts of sugars are introduced into the diet they tend to forget all about what’s appropriate and simply go with what makes them feel good in the moment. It may be that the child becomes very hyperactive after eating these foods or they may have an energy crash in the middle of the school day and want to sleep. Either way focusing will simply not be possible for the brain of that child.
2. Increase the green foods - As an Acupuncture Physician we do not preach about any “one” diet that is appropriate for everyone. We look at the person’s unique symptoms and find the best foods to combat those symptoms. However, I do not meet very many children who are consuming too many vegetables. Vegetables such as the green leafy kale and cabbage are naturally calming to the body and can really help a child who is very hyperactive and shows aggressive tendencies. They are also the foods that help to detoxify the liver. Helping the body to eliminate toxins is a necessity in helping children with ADHD.
3. Omega 3’s - Foods that are high in omega 3 fatty acids such as salmon, flax seed, and chia seeds are very helpful in the health of a child’s brain. The brain is 60% fat and therefore needs healthy fats to function properly. If you have trouble with the child eating omega 3 containing foods a high quality omega 3 fish oil supplement is highly recommended. Do not get your fish oil from your local drug store. They are inexpensive but also low quality and ineffective. Work with your healthcare provider in finding the appropriate high quality dietary supplement. The health professional line of dietary supplements that I use in the office is called Nutrametrix. You can find them here www.nutrametrix.com/franklinfamilyacupuncture
4. Involve your child in activities that they naturally gravitate towards - Every child is different therefore not all therapies and/or activities should be the same for each child. Children who exhibit more aggressive behavior are likely to do well with physical sports where they can channel that energy into something productive. However, children that are incredibly intellectual tend to have problems focusing due to boredom. They are usually more combative with their words than their physical body. This requires a more structured activity that will put that beautiful brain power to better use. A chess class or taking weekly trips to the science center could be very beneficial. While it is a great idea to gradually insert new activities into a child’s life that help with their weaknesses, always start with their strengths. This will greatly help their self-esteem and make it a less stressful and trying time for the child when asked to improve on their weaknesses.
5. Take a breath, be patient, give it time, and know that it’s going to be ok - We live in a society where everyone wants instant results. This is a big reason why pharmaceuticals are the first option in treating ADD/ADHD and not the last. While I have much sympathy for teachers and families that are struggling with a child with ADD/ADHD symptoms, these symptoms do not go away over night. It takes time for diet and behavioral changes to take effect. If an adult patient needs to significantly decrease their weight because of health concerns I do not expect them to lose the entire 50 pounds in a week. We need to use this same mentality when treating a child’s mental and emotional state. Always remember that LESS IS LOVE. We want to make healthy changes gradually but do your best not to put intense pressure on your child and on yourself. These changes can be and should be a very inspiring and exciting time for the family.