Natural Health Supplements for ADHD
ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is a behavioural disorder that is characterised by symptoms such as hyperactivity, a short attention span, restlessness, being easily distracted, constant fidgeting and impulsiveness. These symptoms can also lead to sleep problems and learning difficulties. ADHD is normally diagnosed between the ages of 3 to 7 years. The symptoms may start at an early age, but they become more noticeable when a child starts school or nursery. It is a fairly common complaint in the UK, affecting 3 to 9% of school children and young people.
The conventional management of ADHD is to prescribe strong medications such as Methylphenidate and Dexamfetamine, which stimulate the CNS (central nervous system). This will result in altering the balance of the neurotransmitters in the brain and could possibly lead to health problems in later life. The long term side effects of these drugs are not yet known, but these medicines are usually given long term. This is by no means a permanent solution to this condition, but just a means to keep the child in a “calm state”. These medications have a number of side effects such as sleep disturbances, depression, confusion, gastro-intestinal symptoms and growth retardation. These medicines are also addictive and children can become dependent on them.
ADHD requires a full consultation with a qualified complementary health practitioner, but there are some very effective natural supplements that can have very dramatic results. These supplements can be taken by young children and extremely safe.
Current research is highlighting that deficiencies in certain essential fatty acids can contribute to behavioural disorders such as ADHD. Omega 3 contains two essential nutrients, Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Whilst they are both important for health, DHA is more important for concentration as this essential nutrient is predominantly found in the brain. Low levels of DHA have been linked with behavioural and learning and learning problems in children. Recent studies have highlighted that EPA is very effective in reducing problems with attention and perception that are associated with ADHD. This shows that both DHA and EPA are very important for the health of the brain.
Flax seed oil is a rich source of Omega 3, 6 and 9 essential fatty acids. Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids are termed “essential” as the body does not produce these fatty acids, and so they have to be obtained from the diet. Fish Oils are also important source of essential fatty acids. They provide higher amounts of EPA than Flax Seed Oil. Other sources of omega 3 oils are sessame seeds and pumpkin seeds.
Pycnogenol is a powerful antioxidant that protects the cells from damage by free radicals. Clinical trials have shown that supplementing with Pycnogenol produced a number of promising results such as a reduction in hyperactivity, improved concentration and an improvement in attention. Other studies have shown that Pycnogenol balances stress hormones, which lowers the levels of adrenaline and dopamine. This results in a decrease of the ADHD symptoms.
Calcium and Magnesium are also important minerals in the management of ADHD. They can both be obtained from a good quality multivitamin preparation. Magnesium provides a calming effect which can help to reduce hyperactivity, aggressive behaviour and sleep problems that are associated with ADHD.
Zinc is another mineral that has shown positive results in children with ADHD. Studies have shown that children who supplemented their diet with Zinc had a reduction in the symptoms of ADHD. Zinc may help by regulating the levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which has been related with causing the symptoms of ADHD.