But there are alternatives, including counselling, supplements, and adjusting your diet. Psychiatrist James Greenblatt, MD, author of “Finally Focused,” has pinpointed four natural remedies for ADHD that he suggests patients try before taking a prescription drug. You might also try any of these alongside a drug to boost its effect.
Greenblatt has treated thousands of patients with these natural remedies for ADHD:
- Oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs). Greenblatt recommends supplements that provide a combination of plant extracts that contain these biochemicals, such as pine bark, green tea, blueberry, and grape. He has seen patients with illegible handwriting begin to write readably after taking OPCs.
- Magnesium. This mineral is involved in functions throughout the body. A deficiency, which some say is common, can aggravate concentration, mood and sleeping problems. Get tested for a magnesium deficiency and, if it shows up, add nuts, seeds, dark leafy greens, fish, avocado, soy, bananas, and dark chocolate to your diet. You can also take a supplement, but the magnesium-rich foods will give you other benefits as well.
- Omega-3 fatty acids. Deep-water fish like wild salmon and sardines, for example, will also give you omega-3 fatty acids, which feed the fat in your brain and elsewhere. Greenblatt recommends at least two servings a week of the omega-3 rich fish as well as 1 to 2 g daily of a high-quality fish or krill oil supplement.
- Low-dose lithium. People who tend to be irritable, impulsive, or agitated can benefit from low doses of this mineral, which is prescribed in high doses for bipolar disorder, Greenblatt says. He suggests talking to a doctor about taking 5 mg of lithium orotate a day. It is available in drug stores and health food stores.
- Favor protein. Greenblatt advises patients to eat less sugar and refined carbohydrates and favor protein instead, since it promotes the production of a neurotransmitter that aids focus, dopamine.
It’s important to know that studies testing natural remedies for ADHD haven’t shown that they’re effective. On the other hand, it’s also important not to keep living with your symptoms.
If you do have ADHD and get relief, you might see shifts in your work, relationships, and self-esteem as your symptoms become less dramatic. Adults with ADHD may tend to get hyper-focused on certain tasks, and lose track of the time and people around them. On other jobs, they rush through, muddling the details and skipping steps. Their calendars tend to get hectic — in part because they’re often restless and crave excitement, and because they’re scrambling to compensate for mistakes and oversights. When the consequences add up and they run into career and relationship failures, they may judge themselves harshly and turn to alcohol and other drugs for comfort. If this sounds like you or someone you love, doesn’t eating more fish and leafy greens and taking supplements seem more than worthwhile? And if they don’t help, maybe a prescription is worth a try, too? Oh, and guess what, there’s some evidence that riding a bike every day helps improve focus. That certainly won’t hurt you.
October 12, 2017
Janet O’Dell, RN