Exercise, Good Food, Meditation: Alternatives to ADHD Medication


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Are you battling the symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)? Call the doctor; get more drugs. To the right? Not necessarily. In fact, recent research findings expand the arsenal of behavioral and lifestyle strategies that patients can use to manage this chronic and pervasive disorder without increasing their pill supply.

Among the latest surveys is a study published in November 2021 in Scientific reports, showing a link between a restrictive diet and “little food” and a reduction in ADHD symptoms. Specifically, the authors report a correlation between improved nutrition and changes in brain activity that increase a person’s inhibitions. Inhibition is the antithesis of impulsivity, which is a characteristic behavior of ADHD. Although this study focuses on children, other scientific initiatives have noted relationships between healthy eating and improvements in ADHD management.

Scientists have also shown that physical activity, which generally promotes brain growth and improves learning abilities, may have even stronger effects than healthy foods in relieving ADHD symptoms. In a study in the Pediatric Journal, the researchers determined that “single sessions of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise may be a tool in the non-pharmaceutical treatment of children with ADHD.” Their results suggest that such exercise has “positive implications for aspects of neurocognitive function and inhibitory control in children with ADHD.”

Additional evidence supports the hypothesis that exercise is good. In the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, the researchers “support the effectiveness of using exercise interventions to improve some aspect of cognitive function in people with [autism spectrum disorder] and ADHD. Indeed, nearly 60% of the ADHD patients in the study reported improvements in their executive functioning, especially in “inhibitory control” after exercise, according to the study authors.

But one size does not fit all

Although one of the most treatable disorders in psychiatry, ADHD has several variants that defy a cookie-cutter approach and is often associated with co-morbid psychiatric disorders, including oppositional, conduct, and mood disorders. and anxiety, as well as behaviors that can lead to addictions. In fact, the processing must account for what the authors of an article in the Journal of Postgraduate Medicine call “all aspects of an individual’s life”. In their book ADHD 2.0, psychiatrists Edward M. Hallowell MD and John J. Ratey MD call ADHD a “complex set of contradictory or paradoxical tendencies,” including “a lack of focus combined with an ability to super focus, a lack of direction combined with a highly directed entrepreneurial spirit, [and] a tendency to procrastinate with the gift of accomplishing a week’s work in two hours.

Of course, prescribed medications have so far proven to be the most direct and effective method of controlling ADHD symptoms. But pharmacological approaches have their drawbacks. For example, scientists writing in a 2021 edition of the Personalized Medicine Journal say the downsides include difficulties in achieving pharmacologic efficacy in all individuals, particularly due to patient variations in neurophysiologic changes associated with ADHD, and the “presence of adverse drug reactions.” Other experts point to the potential for abuse of stimulants used to treat ADHD and the tendency of patients to “abandon” their drug treatment plan. These are all reasons why the last five years have been marked by a series of scientific investigations into psychosocial, behavioral, and even environmental therapies, likely to improve efficacy or, in some cases, to be used in the future. instead of ADHD medication.

As the author of a 2020 article in ADHD magazine, ADDitude Says, “ADHD is genetic, but it’s also environmental to some extent. You cannot change your DNA. But you can change your eating, fitness, and sleep habits, which can have real, positive effects on ADHD symptoms. He then details “the power of sleep,” the evidence for the “epigenetic effects of food on the brain” and the benefits of exercise for the mind and body.

Treating ADHD through the mind and body

Speaking of mind and body, one of the most interesting studies on non-pharmacological treatments for ADHD appears in the journal Children-Basel. The authors there write that the implications of mind-body therapies including “mindfulness, biofeedback, deep breathing, guided imagery, progressive relaxation, hypnotherapy, and yoga” for minimizing ADHD symptoms are expected. continue to be explored. “Meditation and mindfulness may improve symptoms not because of the amount of brain wave activity, but because of the skill learned to control attention and focus on a specific goal or action (ie. ie breathing)… How do body-mind therapies affect neurons and neurotransmitters [brain] function can also support [their] therapeutic use ”, they conclude.

We are still learning

Of course, all of this information shows that we as experts have much more to learn about ADHD and how to effectively control it. What we do know, however, is that ADHD patients have simple, free steps they can take on their own right now to improve their quality of life. Here are a few tips :

  • Download specialized applications to your mobile phone. Yes, applications. Some applications help manage time (like GoogleKeep or Todoist, which supports task lists and reminder alerts for completing projects) and CalenMob (for synchronizing calendars); others apply to the organization of finances (Simplifi), to appeasement (Naturespace and Breathe2Relax) or to the prevention of impulsive judgments and spending (Urge).
  • Take charge of your life and develop a structure for it. Declutter, clean up the mess, now. Set up a filing system for important papers, invest in calendars you can write notes on or fill in Post-it reminders, avoid making promises you can’t keep.
  • Wear a watch, so all you have to do is lift your wrist or turn your head to know the time. Anticipating a project, a race or a trip in a traffic jam may take longer than you think. Make a wish to be on time. A date at 2 p.m. means exactly that – a large hand on the 12th and a small hand on the 2nd.
  • Prioritize tasks, then establish a schedule to accomplish them. Avoid getting distracted or jumping from one project to another without completing any of them.
  • Follow the daily routines. Spend your day like clockwork. Get up from bed at about the same time; eat at the same time; set aside appropriate time for reading, meditation, important phone calls, paying bills and other priority tasks at specific times of the day; go back to bed at the same time.

And, as the ADDitude a magazine article suggests eating well, sleeping well and exercising. These are not just key elements in managing ADHD symptoms. They are the recipe for good overall health.


About Shirley A. Tamayo

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