Treating ADHD in Children and Adults


Holistic Healthy Living Blog

by Rachelle Tetreault, L,Ac

     Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is known as the most common behavioral or mental disorder in children even outnumbering autism 4 to 1. It affects nearly one in twenty children and about 4.4% of United States adult population. Men outnumber women with about 5.4% of adult men diagnosed where women average about 3.2% diagnosed nationwide. Up to forty percent of ADHD sufferers have learning disabilities and many go undiagnosed.

There are three main subtypes of attention disorders with only one having more of an attention issue without any involvement of hyperactivity. There are many ranges of severity and in many cases, some function well with existing ADHD. However, this is not in all cases. ADHD in its severe form can come with depression, issues with keeping employment, inability to concentrate, low self-esteem, and anxiety.

The average age for diagnosis in children is around age seven. It typically starts to show up between three to six years of age. The main signs can be hyperactivity and impulsivity in children and in these cases diagnosis is usually made earlier. Though symptoms can get milder and change, about three out of ten of those affected have symptoms that can last well into adulthood. Some young adults develop mood disorders and depression. Diagnosis is made by clinical history of symptoms and behavioral signs. Some of the most common symptoms in children are restlessness, frequent tantrums, concentration issues, short attention span, mood swings, poor motor skills or coordination, speech or learning impediments, and sitting still issues. Adults with ADD or ADHD usually have both time management and/or money management issues, feeling overwhelmed, a history of depression or anxiety, and even low self-esteem seen especially in men. Positive traits in more milder cases which typically do not require treatment may include being more creative, fast-paced, or even independent.

Root causes of ADHD can be as simple as a diet high in sugar and additives, food allergies or sensitivities, environmental toxins, nutritional deficiencies, emotional stress, poor digestion and/or absorption. Other causes can be utero exposure to chemicals such as food additives. Some research has shown maternal smoking doubles the risk factor for the likelihood of children with ADHD.

Eastern Medicine views ADD/ADHD as a diagnosis of liver wind rising with shen disturbance and chronic disorders are manifested from liver yin deficiency. The treatment protocol is to calm liver yang and help restore natural balance in the mind and body. Treatment addresses a variety of aspects of this disorder. The main goals are to nourish energy for underlying deficiency to prevent further issues, calm the mind, improve overall focus and concentration. This helps sedate what is referred to as liver wind and reduces liver heat or fire which reduces the tendency of impulsiveness, irritability, and hyperactivity.

Herbal treatment formulas help act as a neuroprotective to prevent damage to brain and also act as an anxiolytic to reduce both anxiety and hyperactivity if present. These also act as detoxifying agents to rid the body of unwanted chemicals or compounds from toxin overload, artificial food, and additives. Certain herbals help nourish liver yin such as di huang, bai shao, and mai dong and are often used in adult ADHD treatment protocol. Other herbals like mu li, jue ming zi, and gou teng help calm liver yang and to restore balance in the body.

Certain acupuncture points help calm the nervous system and relieve tension. The auricular points like shen men, ear apex, nervous sub cortex, and brain (ear) points help with the treatment of ADHD to make it more manageable long-term. Acupressure on lung 1  and Ren 12 are often taught to patients to help manage some symptoms on their own. She shen chong acupuncture points (4 shallow scalp points) has been used to centuries to help improve focus and concentration especially after post-stroke patients and in ADHD.

Major tips for home management include avoiding the television and video games which all help promote short attention spans. Make sure adequate sleep is maintained, regulating noise control is vital (preferably under 65 decibels), break up normal routine with regular exercise, outdoor activity is a must, have air filters in house to lessen toxin overload.

Some of the best activities to calm both mind and body are reading, meditation, and tai chi. These can be taught at young ages to quiet both the mind and body and aiding in becoming more conscious of breath entering and exiting and letting go of both mind clutter and negative energy. Allow the time to inhale and absorb positive flow with each breath.

Food therapy is a must for ADHD for both children and adults. One-fourth a cup of blueberries (fresh or frozen) is a great place to start to rid the body and mind of free radical accumulation. Optimally, a diet high in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, both B and E vitamins are needed. These nutrients tend to get depleted easily with stress. Eliminate sugar, processed food, fried food, artificial color and additives which all increase the risk factors for ADHD. Avoid stimulants like sugar, coffee, and alcohol. Essential fatty acid foods are needed and sources of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) found in cold water fish or seaweed is a great choice to help ensure a healthy brain and heart. Passion flower has been found to be effective with calming children with ADHD at 25-50 mg twice a day.

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