We are so thrilled to have Jaclyn, from The Family That Heals Together, on the site today with a wonderful resource for families who are dealing with ADHD. As we have shared on our experience in helping Cole manage his ADHD, it is through connecting and sharing with others that we were able to make improvements in the quality of Cole’s life. We are thrilled to be able to extend that community which supports one another along our journeys of healing – especially when it comes to creating a healthy life for our children! We have found so much strength, encouragement, and impactful ideas from others and hope this post does the same for you.
One thing we want to note is that the information in the post is based on this individual family’s experience, and is not to be taken for professional medical advice. The ten alternative treatments for ADHD that are listed in this post are unique to Jaclyn’s son’s health, and we encourage n=1 experimentation to determine what approaches work best for your child and family, along with seeking input from a trusted medical professional. For example, the two biggest items that helped Cole were caffeine and elimination of video games – neither of which are listed below. You can learn more about our experience with Cole specifically from this post.
Each person is very unique, which is why sharing and spreading the word is so important to potential reach and help others! Now, on to Jaclyn and her remarkable story on the steps her family took to help their son Camden manage his ADHD through diet and lifestyle! Please feel free to link to other inspirational stories and to share tips in the comments section for families looking for even more resources.
In the course of raising children, sometimes things don’t go as expected or planned. When my son was informally diagnosed with severe ADHD at the age of three, my husband and I were overwhelmed and unsure of what to do. Should we take the therapist’s advice and seek out a formal diagnosis and medication? Because his behavior was extreme and difficult to handle, this option seemed appealing. Ultimately, we decided to treat his ADHD with natural methods and avoid pharmaceutical medications.
I loved reading The Paleo Parents’ update last week on how their son, Cole, has been doing in school this year! It’s so inspirational and satisfying, really, to see other parents healing their children through diet and natural methods. I have experienced similar success with my eight year old son, Camden. He went from being unable to play with other children because of his aggression and poor self control, to having friends and having fun with other kids without constant interventions for his behavior. Not only that, but he is able to sit down and do schoolwork without constant reminders as well. He actually enjoys his schoolwork and does it for fun! Our home is so much more peaceful (as peaceful as a home with four boys can be!), and our days go smoother now that I don’t spend most of my time addressing misbehavior.
Today, Camden is a different kid, and we have never regretted our decision to avoid medication! By slowly making changes in our family we have devised ways of treating ADHD, along with other behavioral problems with great success. Read our story of healing here! We no longer call him “the tornado,” and when we do have a rough day, we have some tools in our arsenal now. Below, I’ll tell you 10 ways we treat ADHD at our house without medication.
1. Diet is king
The first thing we did was eliminate white bread. We would very clearly see a huge change immediately after our son would eat a piece of white bread. He would go from being a normal kid to running around and yelling, totally unable to control himself.
From there, we slowly transitioned from whole grains to no grains, and now we stick with a GAPS / Paleo / Primal diet, which has proven tremendously successful at keeping him calmer. Because he is pretty sensitive, we can tell right away if he is reacting to a food, such as sugar (which we totally avoid at this point), gluten or corn (both completely off limits). Read about our experience with corn and behavior here.
Basically, if we don’t avoid sugars and grains, we begin to see some undesirable behaviors, such as hitting, making inappropriately loud noises, and being destructive; he has trouble completing his schoolwork. Not sure if a Paleo diet is healthy for kids? Read more about that here.
2. Necessary roughness
For neurotypical kids, hugs and gentle affection are welcome and sufficient for meeting their needs. For kids who seek out stimulation (like many children with ADHD do), “roughness” is totally necessary! We let our boys wrestle as long as it’s all in good fun and no one is upset. If anyone says they’ve had enough, it’s over, but otherwise wrestling is fair game at our house. Additionally, as parents we try to remember and give him plenty of physical contact in the way of “squeezes” and hair tousles. Sometimes he really enjoys the extra physical affection, and sometimes he wants space, but overall, making sure he has plenty of sensory input in this way helps him to keep his hands to himself better.
3. Pick your battles
When it comes to children with behavioral problems, they need firm boundaries, but they also need a little grace from time to time. When my son was very young, I was overly strict and a strong disciplinarian… oh how poorly that turned out!
With a strong-willed child, you have to be a little more flexible than that. But you also have to have boundaries. The tough part is deciding where those boundaries lie. This is where some parental wisdom can be helpful and you choose which things are worth “battling” over, and which things you can let go. For instance, does it really matter if he wants to sing a silly song while he’s doing his math? It may bug me, but if he can still get his schoolwork done, then it’s not really hurting anyone. However, if he wants to smack his brother just because he thinks it’s fun, that’s where I draw the line and say “no.”
4. Fake out
Get the fake junk out. Now! We have found one of the single most important (and really, pretty easy) things we have done is remove artificial ingredients from Camden’s diet. By now, you’ve probably heard that red food coloring causes behavioral problems in children. We have found this to be SO true, but, really, all artificial colors can cause poor behavior. Additionally, we have eliminated artificial sweeteners, preservatives, and other food additives like monosodium glutamate, high fructose corn syrup, and hydrogenated oils. All of these fake ingredients are detrimental to anyone’s health, and especially kiddos with ADHD. You can read more here about how to get the worst food ingredients out of your diet!
5. Wise supplementation
There are a few supplements that we have found to be really helpful and necessary, one of them being magnesium. Magnesium is important for so many functions in the body, including brain health. We use a Magtein supplement, take Epsom salt baths, and use a transdermal magnesium oil, all in an effort to get sufficient magnesium into our bodies. It is astounding to me how much calmer and more focused Camden is when we are sure he is getting enough magnesium, which is important for the brain because it helps to repair brain cells and prevent brain cell death. You can read more about our favorite magnesium supplement for treating ADHD here.
Side note from Stacy: adding foods naturally rich in magnesium to your diet is a great way to “supplement”, too! Try adding dark leafy greens to smoothies with a frozen banana, fruit, and nut milk or nut butter with some Vital Proteins, for a super nutrient-dense snack! Foods rich in magnesium include dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fish, avocados, bananas, dried fruit, and dark chocolate.
6. Build me up buttercup
For children with ADHD and other behavioral problems, self esteem can be a real problem. When a child is in trouble more than he is being praised and uplifted, he begins to perpetuate the behavior getting the attention, even if it is not positive attention. Truthfully, when we have a rough day, sometimes I have to ask myself if I have had more harsh words for my son than words that build him up. If so, I need to reevaluate how I’m speaking to him and consider what I can do to help him have a “win.”
Sometimes we just need to let go of schoolwork or chores for the day and let him do something he enjoys or is good at. Your child accomplishing whatever you deem necessary sometimes isn’t as important as him accomplishing something that makes him feel good about himself. What does your child like to do? Camden loves cooking, so I let him get busy in the kitchen. He loves riding his bike, so we’ve decided to give him some freedom to ride his bike around the neighborhood on his own, as long as he checks in with us. Whatever you can do to allow your child some independence, freedom and control helps to build up his self-esteem, leading to less acting out for attention.
7. Gut instinct
It has been said that all disease begins in the gut. I believe this to be true, as we’ve had such great success with changing diet to heal ADHD. While adapting to a Paleo/Primal diet has made a world of difference, it’s important that we also address replenishing a damaged gut with good bacteria, i.e. probiotics. I make homemade sauerkraut and raw milk kefir and yogurt, which are all wonderful sources of good bacteria, but we also depend on an excellent allergen-free probiotic to restore gut bacteria balance. We have found it to be very important choose a gentle, yet therapeutic probiotic to support Camden’s gut health. I wrote more in depth about how to choose a good probiotic here.
Side note from Stacy: our boys also love kombucha, both homemade and store-bought, another great source of natural probiotics.
8. Something fishy
Another important supplement for brain health is fish oil, as the omega fats are very nourishing to the brain. Our brains are made primarily of fat, so a high-quality, easily-absorbed fat like omegas are crucial for brain health. This is a supplement that one should introduce very slowly to test for reactions. Some children are too sensitive for fish oils, and some benefit greatly. As with all supplements, what works for some won’t work for others. Ultimately, high quality fats like grass-fed butter or ghee, coconut oil, and olive oil are good for brain health, but the addition of a good fish oil can make a big difference. (It should be noted that the fats in plant-based foods like chia and flax seeds are not as efficiently used by our bodies, so are not very available to our brains). We like using Rositas Extra Virgin Cod Liver Oil for our omega supplementation. You can read more about why we use extra virgin cod liver oil here.
Side note from Stacy: adding foods naturally rich in Omega 3 fatty-acids as well as reducing Omega 6 fatty acids can be hugely beneficial if you are reluctant about supplementation. Reducing chicken, grain, and nut consumption and adding grass-fed beef and fish just a couple times a week to your weekly menus can make a huge difference in overall fatty acid balance. Cole loves tuna and salmon salads that he makes himself with Bubbies relish (rich in probiotics) and mayonnaise!
9. Think outside the box!
Literally, get your child outside the box- as in don’t box them indoors all day! There’s a saying that children can’t bounce off the walls if there are no walls to bounce off of. I couldn’t agree more wholeheartedly! Children with ADHD MUST have fresh air and sunshine, and MUST get exercise. Lots of it. When my son is having trouble controlling himself, I literally make him go outside and run laps around our half acre backyard. We are lucky enough to live in a quiet neighborhood where he can ride his bike around. We have friendly neighbors that he enjoys chatting up (which is good for his social skills too!). And, talk about outside the box, sometimes a consequence for poor self control is doing push-ups. Basically anything I can do to get him to exert extra energy that he is using to pester or bully, I do!
10. Consider an intensive healing diet
Paleo has been great for us. Really, it has changed our lives. But it can be hard to have to be perfect with a child’s diet. He eventually gets ahold of something he isn’t supposed to have (read about what happens when he eats corn here). At some point, I’d like to not be so stressed about him accidentally getting something “off diet,” so we know some intensive gut healing is in order. Not all kids are as sensitive and will do fine with an occasional “cheat” or “accident.” Unfortunately, we are not that lucky. So, we are currently using the GAPS diet to further heal his gut, and so far, it’s going amazingly well! I can’t wait to report back on how he’s doing in about a month when we get through the introduction diet. Another option, if you aren’t sure what your child is reacting to, is to do an elimination diet like the autoimmune protocol or even the Whole30. There are lots of options, and you have to figure out which best meets your needs.
Parenting a child with a behavioral disorder is challenging, and sometimes it seems easier to accept the status quo and choose conventional treatment, but all choices come with risks, and for us, the risks of using pharmaceuticals just weren’t worth it. Because we have seen wonderful changes and healing in Camden, we have never regretted our decision to treat him using natural and alternative methods. It has been a long journey and we’ve got a ways to go, but we have learned a lot along the way, and found plenty of information and tricks to make the journey a little smoother (The Paleo Parents’ Eat Like a Dinosaur was one of our first Paleo books and our kids love it!). We are so very thankful for the paleo diet and hope other parents can see the benefits for their own children as well!
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://paleoparents.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/headshot-Fall-2015.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]When Jaclyn became a mom more than eight years ago, health food was the last thing on her mind, but when her oldest son began to struggle with behavioral problems early in life, she dove in headfirst to begin learning about how to live and eat naturally. Since then, her children have been healed of eczema and digestive problems and her own thyroid disorder has been healed. Best of all, her son’s behavior continues to improve as he heals through diet. As she continues to fight for her family’s health and well-being, Jaclyn focuses on GAPS-diet and Paleo foods with an emphasis on nourishing and healing foods like broth and homemade sauerkraut. Connect with Jaclyn: Instagram | Pinterest | Facebook | Facebook Heal Together Community |Blog (2 free ebooks when you sign up for her newsletter here!)[/author_info] [/author]