Natural interventions can help ADHD

Part two of a two-part series

From a holistic standpoint, true
health is achieved as we balance our physical self, chemical/nutritional self,
and mental/emotional/spiritual self. In the first part of this article, we
looked at what changes we could make to positively influence the
chemical/nutritional factors contributing to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

Now we will focus on lifestyle
modifications that will benefit the physical and mental aspects of health.

Limit TV exposure

A study in Pediatrics (April 2004)
showed that every hour of TV watched per day between ages one and three
increased the chance of developing ADHD at age seven by 10 per cent. For
example, a two year old watching TV for three hours during day care would have
a 30 per cent greater chance of developing ADHD that his or her peers who
watched no television daily.

During a child’s first two years,
the brain triples in size as it integrates information and forms lifelong neural
pathways. The pace of television editing is much faster than the pace of
natural life events. Exposure to this sort of stimuli during the formative
years can lead to the development of over-stimulated, unnatural neural pathways. 

When life occurs at a slower pace,
children are not “wired” to hold attention on slower moving stimuli. While it
may seem like a helpful tool in child care to some parents, children under age
two should never be exposed to television for these reasons.

Instead of focusing on TV,
computer, and video-based learning, we should encourage hands-on learning that
integrates touch, visual, and auditory cues for appropriate neural development.
Since television overexposure is linked to aggression and obesity in older
children, limiting exposure will benefit children at any age.

Promote physical activity

Most people realise that regular
physical activity provides a myriad of health benefits. A number of case
studies and an increasing number of scientific studies demonstrate that exercise
is highly beneficial for the management of ADHD.

Children affected with ADHD often
have trouble with executive function, which refers to a range of brain
processes that relate to information coordination, planning, sensory filtration,
and cognitive flexibility. Studies are beginning show that regular physical
activity improves executive function in children demonstrating ADHD symptoms.

Attentiveness, as well as executive
function, may be improved with intermittent physical activity.  A study was done at a school in the US that
decided to incorporate bursts of activity to their daily classes. When
researchers evaluated attentiveness, they found that attention to course
material and tasks increased markedly in the majority of students after bursts
of activity.   

The positive effects on ADHD are
attributed to exercise’s ability to stimulate neurogenesis and raise levels of
neurotransmitters like norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin. The increase of
these neurotransmitters, along with the natural release of endorphins from
physical activity also improves mood.

Very young children will benefit
more from grasping, touching, stretching, and interacting with their surrounding
world. If your children are older, finding time for physical activities like
walking or swimming will help build appropriate neural connections. The key is
to find something your child enjoys so that you make physical activity a
consistent part of your lifestyle.

Consider chiropractic 

Our nervous system is responsible
for our experience of the world around us. If there is an interference with
nerve communication, a child’s perception of the world, ability to process
information, and ability to respond appropriately may be compromised. 

It has been shown that decreases in
spinal motion at any level alter proprioception (the ability to know where the
body is in space). If the mind cannot locate the parts of the body while the
child is sitting still attempting to pay attention, the child may feel they
need to move the muscles in order for the mind to feel those connections.  A wiggling child may be seen as inattentive
to a parent or teacher, even though this is what they need to do in order to
focus on tasks.

A chiropractor can assess what
interferences are occurring at the level of the spine and correct them so that
the nervous system may enter a greater state of balance. They may also
incorporate movement therapy that strengthens balance, proprioception, and
touch to encourage sensory integration in older children.

Allowing uninhibited nervous system
function through chiropractic adjustments and encouraging neural development in
appropriate directions can greatly benefit children with sensory integration
disorders. Links to a number of case studies can be found at the International
Chiropractic Paediatric Association’s website: (www.icpa4kids.org).

Accentuate the positives

Sometimes, the diagnosis of ADHD
causes teachers and family members to have lowered standards for a child’s
behaviour and achievements. If children perceive this, they may begin to lower
expectations for themselves. Therefore, it is essential to focus on your
child’s strengths throughout the healing process.

Finding something they excel in and
calling attention to it will bolster their self-confidence. Praising their successes
and helping them create personal goals reinforces the belief that they are
equally capable as their peers.

Being an active participant in your
child’s studies, taking an interest in the things that interest them, and
encouraging them to develop their talents will undoubtedly benefit children
regardless of their ADHD status. Feeling supported by family members may
prevent feelings of hopelessness that children with ADHD often encounter in
standardized learning environments.

Lastly, researching ADHD with you
family will show that many great historical figures and popular icons today
have been linked with ADHD. Help your child recognise that great
accomplishments are not out of their reach, and that their unique style of
learning provides a view of the world that no one else has. While a diagnosis
of ADHD may seem a curse for some, it may also be a great gift.

My hope is that this article helps
families working with ADHD realise that they are not helpless. Working as a
family, making healthy lifestyle choices, and choosing a positive attitude will
amplify your quality of life. Of course, consult with your medical doctor or
chiropractor before making any drastic changes, but realise that you are in
control of your health and it is within your power to be well.

This is part two in a two-part article on ADHD.

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Parents should limit how much television their children watch.
Photo: File
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