Alternative medicine

By Mayo Clinic Staff

There's little research that indicates that alternative medicine treatments can reduce ADHD symptoms. Before considering any alternative interventions, talk with your doctor to determine if the therapy will be safe. Some alternative medicine treatments that have been tried, but are not yet fully proved scientifically, include:

  • Yoga or meditation. Doing regular yoga routines or meditation and relaxation techniques may help children relax and learn discipline, which may help them manage their symptoms of ADHD.
  • Special diets. Most diets that have been promoted for ADHD involve eliminating foods thought to increase hyperactivity, such as sugar, and common allergens such as wheat, milk and eggs. Some diets recommend eliminating artificial food colorings and additives. So far, studies haven't found a consistent link between diet and improved symptoms of ADHD, though there is some anecdotal evidence that suggests diet changes might make a difference. Limiting sugar, however, doesn't seem to help. Caffeine use as a stimulant for children with ADHD can have risky effects and is not recommended.
  • Vitamin or mineral supplements. While certain vitamins and minerals are necessary for good health, there's no evidence that supplemental vitamins or minerals can reduce symptoms of ADHD. "Megadoses" of vitamins — doses that far exceed the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) — can be harmful.
  • Herbal supplements. There is no evidence to suggest that herbal remedies help with ADHD, and some may be harmful.
  • Proprietary formulations. These are products made from vitamins, micronutrients and other ingredients that are sold as possible treatment supplements for children with ADHD. These products have had little or no research and are exempt from FDA oversight, making them possibly ineffective or potentially harmful.
  • Essential fatty acids. These fats, which include omega-3 oils, are necessary for the brain to function properly. Researchers are still investigating whether these may improve ADHD symptoms.
  • Neurofeedback training. Also called electroencephalographic (EEG) biofeedback, this treatment involves regular sessions in which a child focuses on certain tasks while using a machine that shows brain wave patterns. Theoretically, a child can learn to keep brain wave patterns active in the front of the brain — improving symptoms of ADHD. While this treatment looks very promising, more research is needed to see whether it works.
  • Other techniques. These can include sensory integration therapy and interactive metronome training. At this time there is not enough research to support their effectiveness.
Mar. 05, 2013

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