Holistically Addressing ADHD in Children
If you are a parent and the thought of “Am I doing enough for my child?” has continuously played at the back of your mind, then let us understand that you are not alone. It is a thought every second parent goes through at some point in life. However, it should not have to be a cause for undue anxiety. It is normal to experience these feelings and even be worried about them reaching certain milestones on time. The vital thing to take care here is to avoid putting your kids in a particular bucket or spectrum of behaviour, simply because they don’t meet the society’s or your expectations at some point.
With regards to ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), some of its symptoms are:
- Lack of focus or concentration
- Unable to execute or organise things, getting irritable, being aggressive in one’s actions and impulsive in reacting, to name a few.
But, aren’t these some of the symptoms most of us have faced at some point or the other? When we don’t label ourselves as having ADHD, because we know it is temporary, then why should we label children? Of course, when the symptoms persist and do not improve, then we may need professional help, but for everyone else, it is crucial to understand that not all children develop at the same rate. All children grow and reach milestones differently; we should not compare one’s growth with others.
Having said that, what can one do in a genuine case of ADHD? Apart from Homeopathy, which works great at the elemental level to treat the symptoms of ADHD? The following are some of the lifestyle-related aspects that help hugely.
Today, medical science and research show us how ADHD is closely connected with chronic inflammation. Hence a focus on lowering inflammation in the body should be one of the primary steps.
Examples of foods to stay away from are:
- Refined sugars, refined flours, refined oils, preservatives, additives, food colours and HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup).
- Do also keep an eye out for potent allergens like gluten, dairy and nuts, especially if your kid cannot digest these foods.
Balanced meals which include anti-inflammatory foods like curcumin (turmeric), fresh fruits, green vegetables, soaked nuts and seeds, cold-pressed oils, pure ghee and tulsi leaves concoctions can be advised upon by your nutritionist.
Nutrition for brain health:
- Vitamin D and B12:
Every second person we have consulted so far, including children are deficient in Vitamin D and B12. This deficiency is very rampant today, and it is these vitamins that play a significant role in cognitive health, immunity and metabolism.
While Vitamin D is a precursor hormone which is responsible for maintaining the right balance of other hormones in the body, Vitamin B12 levels are crucial when it comes to neurological health and memory.
Though we may get Vitamin D from mushrooms, egg yolk and early morning sunlight exposure for example, if your child’s levels are deficient, it becomes necessary to consider supplementation under the guidance of a healthcare professional. As for B12, although whole grains, cereals, nuts, seeds, and fermented foods contain B12 to some extent, if levels are severely low, it will be necessary to consider supplementation under expert guidance again.
- Good fats:
Good fats like pure A2 ghee, avocadoes, cold-pressed oils, soaked nuts and seeds, and omega fatty acids not only play a crucial role in boosting cognitive health, but also in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like Vitamin A, D, E and K.
Omega fatty acids like ALA and DHA play a crucial role in keeping the nervous system and brain health functioning at its optimum, and are essential for maintaining the health of neurons and neurotransmitters. e.g., chia seeds, flax seeds and walnuts.
Brahmi and Ashwagandha are superfoods with immense calming and relaxing properties along with memory, focus and attention improving properties. In our practice, we have seen brilliant results by incorporating the same in addition to making other lifestyle and nutritional changes.
Here is a simple way of adding it to your routine: ¼ tsp of Ashwagandha in warm milk or water for kids before bedtime works excellently. One can also increase the dosage to ½ tsp depending on the age. In the case of dairy intolerance, you can consider coconut or almond milk. (Note: Avoid its consumption for more than three months straight. It is wise to keep a gap in between and restart as per the requirement.)
Over and above these nutritional changes, here are some other remedies one can explore:
- Music Therapy:
Music is a great way to release stress and relax your body and mind. It also helps improve cognitive function and concentration levels in children.
Please encourage them to learn a musical instrument of their choice, as it can significantly enhance their focus, grasping power and stability.
- Candlelight Meditation and OM Chanting:
OM is the sound of the cosmos and encouraging kids to chant OM and practice deep breathing even for a few minutes (once or twice a day) is a powerful way of anchoring their body and mind. It is also a powerful source of improving their focus and attention.
Focusing on candlelight has shown tremendous results when it comes to improving their focus and stability (Safety first! This needs to be done under the supervision of parents/guardians. Always maintain a safe distance between the candle and the child).
Apart from this, yoga also has therapeutic effects. Simple yoga asanas like Tree Pose (Vrikshasana) and Tadasana (Mountain pose) are great ways to improve their balance and stability.
- Essential Oils:
One can either put a few drops of these oils in their bath water with Epsom salt (rich in magnesium and helps in relaxing the nerves) or diffuse them in a diffuser in their room.
Certain essential oils have properties of enhancing cognitive health, focus, attention and memory. E.g., Vetiver essential oil (which acts as a focus enhancer), lavender oil (helps in relaxing the mind), and peppermint oil (a mood uplifter).
The power of the mind is immense, and the intention of a parent works miracles when they set healthy and positive intentions for their kids with complete faith and belief.
The subconscious mind of a child is like a sponge, mostly right before they fall asleep and just after they wake up. An affirmation to whisper in their ears could be as simple as “You are stable and focused and happy” or “You are happy, healthy and are healing”.
(We can frame and personalise our very own affirmations.)
Encourage children to practise affirmations too, e.g. “I am healing, and I am happy and healthy”, as it helps reprogram their subconscious mind. Affirmations can rewire the brain, make new neural connections and improve cognitive health.
- Gadget free time:
The pandemic has caused adults to be glued to their gadgets all day round, let alone kids. Right from schooling to playing, every single activity is through a device which can have serious long term effects on eye and brain health.
The blue light from gadgets not only affects melatonin production in kids, but also hampers their intelligence, creativity and the ability to think. Remember, all our healing happens when we sleep, and excess gadget exposure can affect sleep quality in kids in a huge way. While a constant dopamine rush makes it harder for kids to break this habit, we as parents need to lead by example and decide on the sources of dopamine they would prefer for their children. Children can have the same levels of dopamine that is brought about through gadgets by inculcating positive habits like engaging in hobbies, family time and creative work.
We have observed that there is always an underlying cause responsible for the manifestation of aggressiveness and hyperactivity. It can be as simple as building up of insecurities, or feeling unloved due to a younger sibling in the house receiving more attention. It can also be due to peer pressure, or the possibility of a relative or family member weighing heavily on them with their nagging attitudes.
Therefore, the diagnosis and reflection on their lifestyle are paramount to identifying the root cause. Once the root cause is addressed, most children exhibit brilliant behavioural changes over a period of time.
Last but not least, remember one thing! The energy you exhibit as a parent around your child is exceptionally crucial and decides the tone of the relationship between your child and you. If we express anxiety and worry in front of them, then they are bound to pick up that energy too. It is so essential to make our children comfortable, because the happier they feel from within, the lesser complaining and impulsive they become.
So, let us not label children under any spectrum unless they have been clinically diagnosed with it. There is so much we can do for them around lifestyle.
Remember, happy parents equal happy kids!!
Also read: Stop poisoning your children
My name is Luke Coutinho. I am neither a God nor a Guru. I am not a healer or a doctor or a cult leader. I am Luke Coutinho and I practice in the field of Integrative Lifestyle Medicine and Life Coaching. When one hears the word “medicine”, one immediately thinks of the pharmaceutical world, allopathy, chemotherapy, radiation, antibiotics and other drugs used by conventional doctors and medicine. I am not a practitioner of Alternative Medicine either.