Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) manifests in childhood with symptoms of hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention and may continue to affect people in their adult life. The symptoms affect the cognitive, academic, behavioral, emotional, and social functioning of the children. In this podcast, Vaidya Jay engages with Ayurvedic educator Ms. Tiffany Ornelas to discuss ADHD in young children and suggests ways to manage the condition.

October 10, 2019 | 36 minutes, 44 seconds
By vaidya. Jay Parla

In Ayurveda, ADHD as a condition is not listed in the classical texts. However, signs and symptoms of abnormal behavior in children can be correlated with ADHD. It is acknowledged by recognizing the signs of imbalance of the bio-energies called Doshas, nourishment of the tissue and elimination of waste products.

The Sanskrit name for ADHD could be Mano-Anavastithatva wherein ‘Mano’ is mind and ‘Anavastitha’ is unable to focus which also gives a meaning of a mind that is lost in its functions and unable to focus.

The normal state of mind undergoes “Vritt” which means vibration or waves. The mind has a specific vibration that creates thoughts. Ayurveda believes that mind as an entity exists in the entire body and not just in the nervous system. Hence, according to Ayurveda, ADHD is not a dysfunction of the brain but an entire body phenomenon.

Ayurveda looks at how this mind is occupying the entire body. People with ADHD suffer because of their inability to streamline their thought process. This occurs due to an overload of thoughts running through their minds.

This state of sensory overload causes Rajasik. Rajas is a state of mind, that is responsible for the hyperactive state. A mind in this state is unable to rest completely and the sleep is constantly disturbed or disoriented.

The five sensory organs - eyes, nose, ears, skin, and tongue are capable of directly influencing the mind. When information comes in through these sensory organs in the Rajas state, the input of information is not held but tossed around in the corridors of the mind. The corridors of the mind include - memory, intellect, and willpower. This makes it impossible for an ADHD child to hold onto one single thought.

Sleep, Diet, and Lifestyle are the three things that can help to manage ADHD condition in children. Listed below are suggestions that parents can follow to improve their child’s condition.

  1. Sensory Hygiene
    In today’s society, we face a sensory overload. We are constantly being attacked by information input through a single sensory organ. Children with ADHD should be given limited sensory input. Reducing the use of electronic gadgets in children will reduce sensory input from the eyes.

    All five senses should be put to equal use so that the information coming does not hyper vibrate the mind but reinforces it.

  2. Sleep Hygiene
    The physiology of sleep in terms of Ayurveda defines sleep as a place where the mind is no longer connected with the sensory organs. Children with ADHD require a strict sleep routine. They must be put to bed by 7:30 - 8 p.m. and must be awakened by 7 a.m. An average of 10 hours of sleep is required for ADHD affected children.

    A deep or non-REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep is required for people affected by ADHD because if their mind is put into a non-hyper vibrate state for a prolonged time, it will have a greater chance to recover from this condition.

  3. Physical Activity
    TStudies show that kids who play outdoors in the mud have better neural functions than the kids who prefer to stay indoors on their gadgets. Allowing children to play physically in a balanced way induces a good sleep pattern. In Ayurveda, it is believed that an entire body is affected by the mind. So, when the entire body is used for physical activity, it reinforces the mind and helps in brain development.

    When kids are on their gadgets, they are over-stimulating only one sensory organ. However, when they play outside, all of their sensory organs are utilized because they are constantly seeing, touching, smelling and hearing things from all around them.

  4. Diet
    ADHD Kids do not like to eat a lot because the Vatta (wind energy) in their bodies is aggravated. Vatta is an unstable energy inside the body. Due to this, their bodies become depleted and dry, bones become prominent, and muscles become thin. If the body is well-nourished, there are more chances that the mind can become settled or grounded inside the body.

    ADHD children should have regular meals at a certain time every day. When the sleep and meal timings of ADHD affected children become regimented, their mind gets used to the rhythm of the routine.

    The diet of ADHD patients must include food rich in Omega 3 and Omega 6 having good quality fats that nourish the nervous system. Ayurveda recommends “Ghee” in the diet of the ADHD children extensively.

    Ghee is lactose-free, fat of butter. Any warm preparation before serving should have a small amount of ghee on it. Kalyanaka Gritham is ghee meant for medicinal use for the development of the mind. Ghee is also effective for ADHD children having digestive and constipation issues as it acts as a great substance to lubricate the gut and keep the bowel regular. In Ayurveda, there are some ghee preparations that are done with herbs concocted into it.

    Apart from ghee, Hemp seeds, Pumpkin seeds, Flax seeds, Sesame seeds can also be used which are oily and rich in protein. Coconut oil can be used as a substitute for ghee.

    ADHD affected children tend to gravitate towards the same kind of food and avoid variating their diet. They prefer chips and crackers which are dry and unhealthy. A large variety of food should be supplemented to ADHD patients which includes healthy grains like Quinoa, Amaranth and Rice. Sometimes Wheat can be challenging if it is not processed well. Buckwheat and Oatmeal are also good sources of carbohydrates for the children.

    Vegetables rich in protein like Sweet Potatoes, Yams, Purple Yams, Pumpkin, Butternut Squash, Carrots, Green Beans, Asparagus are good for nourishing the body. Bell Peppers and Potatoes should be avoided as they can cause gas and constipation. Meat-eaters can have meat soups and stews.

    Spices like Turmeric, Nutmeg, and Mace can be added into warm almond milk and served before going to sleep. This helps to keep the mind in a non-hyper vibrate state and helps in getting good sleep.

  5. Herbs
    The two sources of Brahmi - Bacopa Monniera and Central Asiatica, are both excellent in helping the mind to develop in full form. Ayurveda says that one who consumes Brahmi will have a properly developed intellect, proper functioning memory, and strong willpower. Brahmi can be added in tea, mixed with honey or given as capsule.

    Shankpushpi or Clitoria Ternatea is a plant with a conch-shaped flower whose root is extremely beneficial for concentration.

    Licorice powder extracted directly from the herb can be added to the milk and served.

    Apart from this, getting an external oil massage on the body is also recommended in Ayurveda because it calms down the nervous energy. Brahmi Oil can be used on the head or the body for the massage.

    Jatamansi herb can be used for reducing anxiety as ADHD comes with a high level of anxiety disorder in children.

    Shirodhara is a treatment that includes the pouring of warm herbal oil from the forehead to the scalp. It helps to put the ADHD child in a trance state where the Ayurveda practitioner can significantly impact their hyperactivity.

Adopting these simple changes of Sleep, Diet and Herbs in the lifestyle of ADHD affected children can effectively help them to manage this condition and aid in their brain development.

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