When most parents receive a diagnosis of a permanent condition, they feel fear, trepidation, even at times guilt or sorrow. But when I was told my son had ADHD–I was relieved. Relieved that my beautiful Oliver’s hyperactivity, explosive emotions, tantrums and constant anxiety had a label–and more importantly one that could be treated.
But with what?
Therapy? Massage? Procedures…no-the main treatment: Medication.
Holding in my hand that diagnosis finally brought the usual feelings most parents feel- What did I do to have this be his diagnosis? Have I been too hard on him? What is his future going to look like now? Should a 6 year old really have brain altering drugs?
No matter what I thought however, with my diagnosis, I had his first prescription. Well maybe this is the solution I thought. He was miserable right now, not learning, not happy, never really enjoying much of life…and the rest of the family was held hostage in tow.
I filled it and prayed believing it was the necessary solution to the problem.
We were ready to get our family back to a place of calm so were willing to give anything a try. So the prescription filled alongside multiple prayers for familial peace. But pill after pill, day after day, I fought to remain hopeful for weeks. But as time passed, Oliver’s ADHD symptoms were not lacking any improvement, they were worsening. My son became withdrawn from the world and increasingly more anxious as the days passed. Soon after he lacked any appetite and as a result, lost weight. A risk for any child, especially one with challenges.
Once again I returned to the doctor with a thinner twitching youth alongside me. Given Oliver’s newest symptoms, his pediatrician initiated a second medication. A second medication to treat the side-effects of the first medication? How is that logical. One medication caused more problems so a second is supposed to take care of what the first was supposed to take care of AND what it caused?
There had to be a better way-
“I just knew deep in my heart there had to be a better way.”
I returned home defeated and as on edge as my now medicated and less nourished baby. Days passed and improvement seemed like the strongest and most unreachable dream. While I knew we were at square one of his prospective improvement, but how can a decline and worsening be a positive thing?
It wasn’t until another tragic trip to Costco, crying while cleaning my son’s thrown pasta jar that I realized… square one does not have to just be medication-There had to be an alternative to medication when it came to controlling ADHD symptoms and it would be my mission to find it.
I just knew deep in my heart there had to be a better way.
So once my family went to bed, I went to work. Reading everything and anything, information interviews with experts, webinars, videos, lectures, articles…all I could find.
Instead of square one, I created square 1.2, 1.3,. 1.4 and so on.
Low sugar diet, high protein diet, attentive child vitamins instead of the medication/with the medication, focus formula, essential oils, natural light treatment, even constantly increasing meds. I researched daily, studied and battled through until we got it just right.
Finally I found the secret formula to my child. He’s the best I know he can be and is enjoying life finally. I’d tell you what I did but here’s the thing-
Your solution and my solution are going to look like Day and Rockets–that different. Every child’s ADHD is as independent as their fingerprint. But since my story, my hunger to help my child has evolved into a hunger to help every child.
That isn’t to say everything is unique–in fact there are six agendas that are almost always on the plan.
1. REMOVE INFLAMMATORY FOODS NOW
It is not too new to find that some permanent neurological ailments are being connected to the gut. ADHD is definitely without a doubt one of these. Therefore, the first step is to review the diet of your child and find anything that has the following things: sugar, dyes, artificial coloring, other additives and preservatives, words you cannot spell but google screams WHY ARE WE EATING THIS WHEN EVERYONE ELSE IS MAKING IT ILLEGAL, gluten, dairy and soy (why these cause inflammation is a story for another day). Now walk to your food pantry with a big bag and toss those items out NOW.
These highly inflammatory ingredients can lead to autoimmune responses and in some cases increased intestinal permeability (damage to the gut or “leaky gut”). While this “leaky gut” condition is only temporary for most individuals to start, once the threshold is crossed where the immune system starts to produce antibodies against these ingredients, the individual is then considered to have a gluten/dairy/soy sensitivity. Kids with ADHD are more likely to have compromised immune systems so the effects of these ingredients tend to have a larger impact on their bodies. Remove these triggers and await results.
In fact, there are several influential studies that have shown how artificial flavors and colors can aggravate ADHD symptoms. Sort through your pantry, look at the package labels and remove any that have artificial colors (Blue #1, Blue #2, Red #2, Green #3, Red #3, Red #40, Yellow #5, Yellow #6), artificial flavors and other additives. Trust me, you are going to be shocked where you find them.
2. EAT A WHOLE MACRONUTRIENT DIET
Removing the above ingredients from the diet doesn’t mean you get to be slack with nutrition. Healthy, balanced meals are important no matter what your diet looks like. Ideally, your meals should be rich in whole, nutritious fresh fruits and vegetables and also include:
- Gluten free whole grains (unless you are grain free)
- Grass-fed animal protein such as meat, poultry, seafood and/or eggs
- Plenty of healthy fats such as avocado, coconut and olive oils
3. BEGIN FUNCTIONAL TESTING…NOW!
Critical to my family’s success was utilizing functional lab testing to identify and remove underlying body system malfunctions. Oliver’s lab results identified hidden stressors and vitamin and mineral deficiencies in my his body. These deficiencies HAVE AND WILL CONTINUE TO contribute to your child’s symptoms, as they did for my son. According to research by Estaban A. Genao M.D, hyperactivity can be a sign of toxicity or nutritional deficiency and in most cases, both. Testing will ensure you can have a targeted bio-individual plan on how to correct these underlying malfunctions. There is definitely no one size fits all approach here though but if anything it will be a map to an X marks the spot conclusion to a happier child and will be a great map at the very least to the correct diet, supplements and therapies that will make your child’s life better.
4. FIND A PARENT COACH
Your child is not intentionally giving you a hard time, they are having a hard time! Tantrums are not because you are a bad parent but because his body and mind doesn’t know how else to react to whatever they are going through at that time (i.e. delayed/negative absorption, inflammation etc) Make sure your interactions with your child stay positive, even when they are negative. This will not only make a happier home but studies show positive reactions to ADHD children is its own level of therapy.
Stronger and more consistently will help them build the essential skills necessary to manage their disorder throughout life. Not to mention the fact that when parent and child are in constant conflict, it can be extremely detrimental to the child’s growth and the family relationship. Parental coaching has shown to dramatically improve the child/parental bond.
5. INSTILL REGULAR PHYSICAL EXERCISE AND OUTDOOR PLAYTIME INTO THEIR ROUTINE
The last, but certainly not the least, of natural remedies for ADHD is to exercise regularly. Exercise releases chemicals called neurotransmitters; these help greatly in thinking clearly. Dopamine levels also rise while exercising which in turn improves attention; something that can be a challenge for children who suffer from ADHD. A simple bike ride through the park can be a better prescription than what the doctor ordered.
Please note: this is not the end all be all steps, but these steps will be able to allow your own map to evolve. The map will be different as I said before, but in the end it will be as individual, special, independent and strong as your child.
I pray you take these steps and when you do: You will feel in control, happy, calm and relieve symptoms naturally. Watch your family thrive.
About the Author:
Dana Kay is a Board Certified Holistic Health Practitioner and Functional Diagnostic Nutrition® Practitioner. She is the founder of Our Road to Thrive and The ADHD Thrive Method 4 Kids program AKA Fighting ADHD Symptoms with Food & Natural Solution. Most importantly, though, she is a mom with a son who has ADHD and has walked in your shoes.
With her firsthand experience and practical education, she has helped hundreds of families (including her own) to fight ADHD symptoms with food and a natural holistic approach using her proven method. She is so passionate about sharing the knowledge so other families just like hers can thrive.