Over the last several years I have had parents of children with ADD and ADHD call to ask if I can help them with managing these conditions without using prescription medications.  There is never a better time to make this change than during the summertime.  Having 8 to 10 weeks to work on this area of a child’s life can be so rewarding.  I encourage you to consider these options even if you don’t have a child with ADD or ADHD.

First, I would like to make sure that you understand that I feel that there is definitely a place for the prescription medications that are used for ADD and ADHD.  In no way am I trying to tell you that you are wrong in placing your child on these medications nor am I saying that your physician or child psychiatrist/psychologist is wrong in advising you to do this.  What my intention is with this article is to give you a few more tools to use to help your child.  These tools can be used along with your child’s ADD or ADHD medication.

It is my opinion that we jump to the prescription medications too early without considering other factors.  In this article,  I will discuss 4 specific areas that I have witnessed improvements in individuals with ADD or ADHD.

#1 Sleep

Adequate sleep is essential for the brain.  If your child’s sleep/wake schedule is erratic then the behavior will be the same: erratic.  Children need a minimum of 10 hours of sleep per night.  Adults with sleep issues show symptoms of being sluggish and tired; children with sleep problems overcompensate and show signs of hyperactivity and the inability to concentrate.  In one study of 2400 children aged 6-15, children with sleep problems were more likely to be inattentive, hyperactive, impulsive, and display oppositional behaviors.  They (see reference below) even suggested that

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Here’s a ballpark estimate for how much your baby or child should be sleeping, but remember that all kids are different, and some may need a little more or less than others.

Age Night time sleep Total Sleep
Newborn – 2 months 8-9 hours 16-18 hours
2 months – 4 months 10 hours 14-16 hours
4 months to 5 years 10 hours 14-15 hours
5 years to 12 years 10 – 11 hours 10 – 11 hours

Adapted from Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford University; National Sleep Foundation, Baby 411 and Toddler 411 by Denise Fields and Ari Brown, MD

#2 Diet

One thing that we have to consider is what we are feeding our children.  Children cannot handle sugar.  In my house (I have 3 children aged 10, 8, and 4) within 30 minutes of eating a high sugar breakfast, my children are wild and uncontrollable.  Then, 30 minutes to an hour later, the monsters appear.  I have meany, whiney #1, and whiney #2.  Let me just say, it is not fun in our house if meany meets up with whiney #1 and whiney #2.  Here is the reason why:  Sugar is fast-acting but doesn’t stay around long.  Sugar gets into the system and revs things up and makes a child hyperactive.  Soon thereafter, the sugar level drops and the child starts to fight to keep going at that hyperactive level.  This fight to keep going, is often times the disruptive, aggressive, “can’t sit still” behavior that the teacher cannot handle and assumes that the child must be ADD or ADHD.  Believe me; I would do the same thing if I had a class of 30 of these.

Think about what you feed your child everyday.  For breakfast I see a lot of parents feeding their children cereal, doughnuts, pancakes, waffles, and other high sugar foods.  Don’t forget the high sugar juices.  My suggestion is to consider a high protein food for breakfast:  Meat, eggs, yogurt, or a protein smoothie (see Perfect protein).  Higher protein will not allow the sugar to spike so high and then fall shortly there after.  Therefore, there will be a shorter spike and a shorter drop in the sugar and there may not be a need for a mid-morning snack.

Use the following strategy for 5 days and see if you see a change.

Breakfast – Consider making the following for your child.

Nitrate free meat (bacon, sausage, ham, turkey)
Veggie/fruit plate (Carrots, Cucumbers, pineapple, apple, strawberries)
Yogurt cup (Low sugar version)
Eggs (hard boiled, scrambled, over easy)
Protein Smoothie – Formula provided at the bottom of this article
Drink water – at least 8 ounces for breakfast

Leave these foods out for the morning and tell them that this is breakfast.  They don’t have to eat it, but they cannot have anything else.  Now, you may feel the urge to engage in a drive by shooting of Regel PharmaLab.  Please resist this urge.  You have to be tough and persistent for a few days to start to see the benefits.  I have never seen a child last very long on a self imposed “hunger strike.”  They will eventually eat, I promise.  By the way, you might feel empowered now that you have control of a part of your child’s life.  You may feel like you can get them to do something like chores.  My recommendation is to go slow and give this new change a little while to settle in before pushing further.

Bring the veggie/fruit plate out for snack time.  Suggest that they drink 8 ounces of water with the snack.  You might be surprised by the amount of food that is eaten off this plate.

#3 Exercise

Another area that I think children can benefit more from is their activity level.  I have two in elementary school and I get frustrated when they tell me that they did not have PE, recess or some activity each day.  I understand that teachers have to get through the material, but the kids need to move and get their heart rate up.   So this summer make sure that they are moving for an hour or two every day.  Find ways to get their heart rate up for extended periods of time.  One study (2) (see reference below) showed that exercise can improve the problem-solving skills we use to plan and organize.  As an additional benefit, they sleep better.

I have challenged my 10 year old to go running with me a few mornings a week this summer.  Start out at 1/2 mile and move up every day till you both are running without stopping for 30 minutes. If you reach this level more than likely you have run a 5K.  So sign up for a 5K run and train with your child for the 5K.  Some of the 5K’s that are coming up at the end of the summer are:

September 26th – Sole to Soul 5K – Idlewild Presbyterian Church –  Register
October 17th – Fast and Furriest 5k – (Run/Walk with your dog) – Register
November 7th – Race for Grace 5K – Shady Grove Presbyterian Church

Follow these recommendations for getting started running.  Click here

#4 Nutrients

Omega 3’s – Increased DHA has been shown to improve symptoms of ADHD.  (make sure the one you choose contains at least 200 mg of DHA)
Magnesium Glycinate – 100 mg at bedtime.  Click here for more on Magneisum.
Multi-vitamin (one that contains Methylcobalamin as B-12, Pyridoxyl-5-Phosphate as B6, and Riboflavin-5-phosphate as B2 and Zinc as Zinc Monomethionine)
Phosphatidyl Serine – 100 mg per day.  This one only works when taken with DHA (see above).    This nutrient makes up the membrane or skin of cells.  Phosphatidyl Serine protects the nerve and brain cells.  I will have more on Phosphatidy Serine in another article coming soon.

Download more on nutrient kits from Regel containing the nutrients listed above.  http://regelpharmalab.com/why-regel/perfect-protein-powder

I have had the opportunity to consult with several families over the last few years and I would be happy to discuss this further.  Let me know if you would like me to customize a regimen for your child.

Please leave comments on what you think of the information.  Is it possible to make these changes?  Have you already made these changes?  If so, what is your experience?

1.  J Sleep Res. 2006 Dec;15(4):403-14.  Prevalence of sleep problems and their association with inattention/hyperactivity among children aged 6-15 in Taiwan. Shur-Fen Gau S1.

2.  Arch Clin Neuropsychol. 2012 Mar;27(2):225-37. doi: 10.1093/arclin/acr094. Epub 2012 Feb 3.  Effect of acute exercise on executive function in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Chang YK1, Liu S, Yu HH, Lee YH.
3.  J Atten Disord. 2013 Nov 8.  Increased Erythrocyte Eicosapentaenoic Acid and Docosahexaenoic Acid Are Associated With Improved Attention and Behavior in Children With ADHD in a Randomized Controlled Three-Way Crossover Trial. Milte CM, Parletta N, Buckley JD, Coates AM, Young RM, Howe PR.