These days, the number of families affected by attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) continues to rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 6.4 million children were diagnosed with ADHD in 2011, nearly 2 million more than were reported in 2003. In addition, around 10 million adults have the disorder as well.
If you or someone in your family is facing an ADHD diagnosis, you're likely wondering if medication is the only way to go. While medication can be a valuable tool in managing ADHD, there are ways to get ADHD treatment without medication.
1. Stick With a High-Quality Diet
You know that a healthy diet is good for you, but it's also helpful for managing your ADHD symptoms. Fill up on fiber and protein — these nutrients help keep your blood sugar levels stable and prevent spikes in your energy levels, which may make it difficult to focus and may lead to hyperactivity.
2. Consider Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are important nutrients that help with brain and nerve function, but children and adolescents with ADHD tend to have lower levels of these fatty acids. Evidence suggests that taking an omega-3 supplement improves cognitive performance and ADHD symptoms. Since your body doesn't make omega-3s, it's important to eat a diet that's rich in these fatty acids or talk to your doctor about a supplement.
3. Steer Clear of Artificial Coloring and Preservatives
Certain food additives and colorings have been linked with ADHD symptoms and may increase these behaviors. One study found that children who consumed artificial coloring and preservatives exhibited greater hyperactive behaviors compared to those who consumed an additive-free diet. Further research is likely needed to cement these findings, but for now, it may be best to cut these ingredients from your diet.
4. Participate in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Many doctors and health care practitioners advise patients to seek behavioral therapy for ADHD treatment, either instead of or in conjunction with medication. In fact, this is often recommended as the first line of treatment, especially for young children. This can help those with ADHD symptoms develop coping mechanisms to help them stay on task and get things done.
5. Move Your Body
Exercise releases neurotransmitters, like dopamine and serotonin, which enhances mood and increases attention. This can help those with ADHD stay focused. Try taking a walk outside — being in nature can also improve your attention span — or engaging in a skill-based exercise, like tai chi or yoga, which have been found to decrease stress and anxiety, improve behavior, and decrease hyperactivity.
6. Get Some Zzzzs
A good night sleep is beneficial for many reasons, including management of ADHD symptoms. An extra half-hour of sleep has been associated with significant improvements in alertness and emotional regulation.
7. Try Mindfulness
While mindfulness may seem like the trend du jour, it can help to manage stress and strengthen your self-regulating skills, making it easier to focus and pay attention. Studies have found that mindfulness practices led to a significant improvement in ADHD symptoms as well as anxiety and other mood disorders.
8. Build Your Best Environment
Whether it's work, home, or school, consider how you can create an environment that supports you and your ADHD symptoms. For example, create an organizing system to help you keep track of things like your keys, phone, and other important items at home. At school or work, seek out opportunities for smaller classes or hands-on projects that will keep you engaged in the task at hand.
There are many options for ADHD treatment without medication that can help you work with and manage your symptoms. Talk with your doctor and work together to create a treatment plan that fits your personal needs.