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The Lifestyle Factors That Ease — and Worsen — ADHD Symptoms in Children

Stimulant medications and behavioral therapy are considered first-line treatments for ADHD in children, but caregivers know that multimodal treatment plans work best for easing symptoms. What does “multimodal” look like in real life? In a recent ADDitude poll of about 1,000 webinar attendees, about 50% said stimulants and/or non-stimulants have “improved their child’s ADHD-associated learning and behavior challenges the most.” The other half said the following lifestyle factors had the biggest impact:Comments and questions submitted during the webinar, titled “Genes and the Environment: How Biology and Exposures Contribute to ADHD in Children,” centered on the lifestyle and environmental factors with the biggest impact on ADHD symptoms.Diet, exercise, and sleep are the Big Three — the lifestyle changes with the most significant, most scientifically proven effect on ADHD.

When these lifestyle factors are optimized, your child may require a lower dose of stimulant medication or may find their ADHD medication works better, according to Joel Nigg, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and a professor in the departments of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Oregon Health & Science University.Next Steps to Optimize Diet, Exercise, and Sleep:Omega-3 supplements have been shown to improve ADHD symptoms. Learn more about the benefits of omega-3s in these resources:A portion of children with ADHD will respond positively to a diet that eliminates allergens, additives, and dyes.

Consult with your child’s doctor and/or a nutritionist to safely follow an elimination diet.Next Steps:The active ingredients in caffeine are clearly beneficial for attention, Nigg says, but it’s unknown what caffeine doses are safe for children. Too much

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Joel Nigg


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