Rebel, with or without a cause: natural health & wellness treatment alternatives

Oh what a difference a month makes!

When I posted on our foray into natural health and wellness alternatives for our teenage son – an ADHD/Asperger’s young man affectionately dubbed Clark Kent since his early childhood, — we had a lot of information and not much action. In fact, after only two weeks of “trying,” and not trying very hard at that, CK left for a two week backpacking camp and returned with a momentous announcement: he had taken a treatment vacation during his trip, and, while he was unmedicated, he had decided that he was done with medication. Why? Because he didn’t want anyone controlling him.

Whoa.

Not only that, he was “done” with treatment of all kind. He declared his treatment independence and crossed his arms across his chest.

Now, if you don’t know what the heck I’m talking about when I refer to our natural health and wellness alternative approach, let me refresh you (skip this if you remember the deets from last month, except for the update notations):

1. Eliminate gluten, dairy, and soy from his diet. UPDATE: Minimize, not eliminate.

2. Shop the outside aisles of the grocery store, and strive to keep him away from processed foods.

3. Add coffee or an energy drink to his morning routine.

4. Add supplements in the following amounts (keep in mind, my “baby” is 6’2? tall and 180 pounds at 16 years of age, so if your kids are much younger, obviously the dosages would look quite different):

a. Fish oil – 3 teaspoon once a day (actually, we are using a Pro-Omega oil that tastes a little less fishy): helps with memory, concentration, focus, mood, attention, and overall neural health. UPDATE: he’s now taking 1000 mg of Krill Oil daily, in softgel form.

b. Magnesium – CK is doing a powder called Natural Calm. It helps with metabolic reactions. Here’s the link: http://www.vitacost.com/natural-vitality-natural-calm-plus-calcium-organic-raspberry-lemon. He takes 3 teaspoons 1-2 times a day, in liquid. UPDATE: he’s now taking the tablet form, 200 mg.

c. Gingko Biloba – He’s taking 60 mg twice a day. It works as a vasodilator or artery opener to help get nutrients and oxygen to the active cells in the brain

d. Acetyl Carnitine – He takes 500 mg per day. It is for the brain as an nootropic substance or brain nutrient to help with neurotransmitter production specifically acetylcholine which leads to better memory, focus, concentration, and creativity in our thought processes

e. B complex — He takes one of these per day: http://www.physicianspreference.com/B-Complex-100-capsules_p_476.html. It’s for the heart and brain and provides them with energy.

f. Thyroid — CK takes thyroid support: http://www.physicianspreference.com/Dr-Hotzes-Thyroid-Support_p_457.html.

g. Multivitamin “Power Pack” — CK takes one of these per day: http://www.physicianspreference.com/Dr-Hotzes-PowerPak-tm-60-Packets-_p_498.html.

If you’re keeping score, this amounts to 15 pills a day versus the one Concerta he had been taking. Well, plus the Melatonin he had to take to go to sleep at night when he was on the Concerta, so make that two pills.

Only now he didn’t want to do any of it, which is not an entirely unprecedented declaration from a 16-year old boy. They’ve been rebelling against parental authority since time immemorial, with or without a cause.

Consider though that while CK was backpacking for two weeks, he was eating healthy, hiking, not gaming, and sleeping well. Thus, he remained fairly asymptomatic. When he is off his meds, he always wants to stay off of them. But after he’d been home and back to his normal lifestyle for a week, he started becoming highly disorganized, had trouble waking up, couldn’t follow instructions, and became verbally combative and repetitive. He never wants to restart meds when he is unmedicated. He said they make him feel constrained, less himself, less creative.

We wanted him off the meds, too, for different reasons, but not without “something else” in their place, like…natural health and wellness alternatives, if they even worked. And if they didn’t, well, we’d be back to square one.

So, this left us at a life stages crossroads. Clark needed to learn to manage himself, so that he could escape our management, but, in our opinion, part of growing up is learning that you can’t just choose no self-management at all. If something in your life cries out for self-management, then you have to do it. Maybe it’s diabetes. Maybe it’s a mental health issue. Or, in our case, maybe it is ADHD and Asperger’s.

Time for a sitdown, or three. We had a series of difficult conversations about the difference between doing nothing versus taking responsibility for one’s own health AND one’s impact on others. We pointed out that it was a great trial run for post-high-school graduation, when we wouldn’t be around to manage him anyway. CK didn’t like it, but ultimately he agreed that he could only continue his job as a lifeguard and continue driving his car if he managed himself. Doing nothing wouldn’t work for us.

Only, we had a big problem: how could a kid whose very issue was self-management manage the 15 pills and lifestyle changes required of him? As it was, I hadn’t been able to rouse him from bed without ten minutes of repeat visits to yell and shake him awake. We decided on a phased approach. I would help him get started in the morning, and after the first hour, everything had to be done with only one reminder. We also modified the lifestyle changes somewhat, such that a 50% compliance rate on diet changes would suffice, at least for the present. Together, we also discussed the need to keep a prescription of Concerta “in the toolkit” for times of peak need for organization, no matter what. Final exams week, for instance, might merit prescription help.

And so we dug in. The first three days were predictably difficult. I grew hoarse from repeating myself. But CK didn’t argue with me after the first day, and he increasingly showed that he was trying to comply. By day four, something unprecedented and miraculous happened. He was scheduled for a 9 am lifeguarding shift, meaning he had to leave our house by 8:15, and thus needed to be out of bed no later than 7:45. I headed upstairs to start the wake-up process at 7:30, only to find him in the shower. He had woken up on his own. HE NEVER WAKES UP ON HIS OWN. NEVER. NEVER. NEVER.

He came downstairs. I had coffee and his supplements out. He took them all without comment, then left for work. He came home that evening and said, “I’m going to play basketball.” And then he did. He went to bed at 11:00 after he got home. Who was this young man, and could I keep him? The next day was more of the same.

One week later, he packed his supplement organizer case himself.

Two weeks later, he was taking his supplements without a reminder.

HOLY FRICKIN’ COW, PEOPLE! He wasn’t wandering in circles. He was helpful. He was doing what he was asked to, without multiple reminders. His behaviors were under control.

I asked him how he felt about it. He said that he didn’t like swallowing 15 pills a day (neither do I), but other than that, he felt no side effects and that he was sleeping great. His driving has been very good. His boss reports that he has been an exemplary employee. I am dancing on a cloud of happiness.

Don’t get me wrong: he’s still less organized, less of a self-starter, and more aggressive than any of the rest of our seven-person family. If I’d never parented a neuro-atypical child before, I’d find his behaviors and traits frustrating to say the least. I’m experienced, though, so I can roll with it. He is within the range of acceptable and functional without prescription meds for the first time I can remember.

I know that each child is different, and that children change as they mature. Maybe these changes wouldn’t have helped CK ten years ago. Maybe they won’t help anyone else in the world. But they helped him. This routine is equally as effective as the Concerta. No, it is more effective. I still can’t believe it.

We’re off the Concerta at our house. School starts in two weeks. What’s working well enough in the summer may be insufficient for a school-year routine. We shall see. Fingers and toes are crossed.

That’s how the natural approach is going for us. Care to share what has and hasn’t worked for you?

Pamela Fagan Hutchins writes the Clark Kent Chronicles on parenting ADHD wonder kids, thanks to the crash course given to her by her ADHD son and his ADHD father. Pamela is the author of the book The Clark Kent Chronicles: A Mother’s Tale of Life With Her ADHD & Asperger’s Son, and many others, like How To Screw Up Your Kids and her bestselling, award-winning Katie & Annalise mystery series, led off by Saving Grace. Visit her blog, Road to Joy, where you can buy her books in any form, anywhere. Pamela is passionate about great writing and smart authorpreneurship, as well as her husband and kids. Like Clark Kent, she also leaps medium-tall buildings in a single bound, if she gets a good running start.

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adhd and alternative treatments, ADHD medication, ADHD teenagers, alternative treatment, Asperger's, Clark Kent Chronicles, high school, medication, medication break for ADHD, medication vacation, Pamela Hutchins, self-regulation, sleep, stimulant medication, teenagers ·

About the author

Pamela Fagan Hutchins writes the Clark Kent Chronicles on parenting ADHD wonder kids, thanks to the crash course given to her by her ADHD son and his ADHD father. Pamela is the author of the book The Clark Kent Chronicles: A Mother's Tale of Life With Her ADHD & Asperger's Son, and many others, like How To Screw Up Your Kids and her bestselling, award-winning Katie & Annalise mystery series, led off by Saving Grace. Visit her blog, Road to Joy, where you can buy her books in any form, anywhere. Pamela is passionate about great writing and smart authorpreneurship, as well as her husband and kids. Like Clark Kent, she also leaps medium-tall buildings in a single bound, if she gets a good running start.

40 Comments

  1. Bill Dorman says:

    Great story; I’m just wondering how it can work for a 5 yr old. I might have told you I’m a volunteer Guardian ad Litem and currently have a 5 yr old starting to school on Monday in a regular classroom no less and he’s definitely ADHD. 

    Could you blend the pills into a drink or something? 

    Reply
    • Pamela says:

      Bill — some of them come in liquid form, they just don’t taste real good. But I think yes, if you buy most of them in a capsule, you could open them and dump them in. I think all but 2 of what CK takes are capsules. The problem is disguising the taste. Now, this gets back to something else that we did once upon a time to some success. We were counseled to do protein in am and carbs in pm and avoid foods with dyes. CK when on stimulant meds was very skinny. So we did yummy muscle milk shakes with pb and banana and even sometimes a scoop of choc ice cream. There’s a lot of flavor going on in there 🙂 But for a five year old, the mg dosage of each would possibly not need to be as high?

      Reply
      • Burnsy103 says:

        Foods with dyes/artificial colors are huge! The make a big difference!!
        I am wondering why the proteins in the morning and carbs at night? Keep blood sugar levels more stable during the day when they need to be focused?

        Reply
    • Laura Jean says:

      The supplement we use (http://qfamilyhealth.com) can be opened up and put into food and doesn’t taste bad. We use it in yogurt or berry applesauce. Its safe for all ages and they are coming out with a kids powder formula that you mix with water and drink. The supplement has helped my son and my niece so much. They FINALLY sleep through the night after all these years….

      Reply
  2. Jennifer says:

    So glad that you’ve figured out something that works for CK. Fingers crossed it works when school starts too.

    Reply
  3. Ally Wilson says:

    Pamela, this. is. awesome. So happy to read it and I’m keeping my fingers crossed it continues to work for him! Yay Clark!

    Reply
  4. Vidya Sury says:

    I was looking forward to this post, Pamela, and am so happy to read it. I am keeping everything crossed too. I know how you feel about CK taking the initiative. Great news! Hugs!

    Reply
    • Pamela says:

      Thanks, Vidya. It’s a watershed moment, whether it sticks or not, we’ve learned so much about CK and about nutrition and the impact of everything we put in our mouth. Who was it that talked about food as medicine? Socrates I think?

      Reply
  5. Nan Loyd says:

    To me, Krill OIl is magic. Just magic. It worked that way on memory and skin for me. I will never, ever be without it again, ever.  I totally understand the changes in CK!  And the side effects are all good.  I love miracles!

    Reply
    • Pamela says:

      I <3 miracles, too. And thanks for convincing to try krill oil instead of regular fish oil. I see the difference, if for no other reason than he can swallow without gagging! My physician father, who is big into "no processed foods, no gluten" and all natural health, does krill oil too.

      Reply
  6. I also think there is something to the Krill Oil (agree with Nan) stuff is amazing. Change is Clark has been almost too good to be true. Of course, the hard thing will be to keep someone who things they are invincible to continue doing it all regularly but…… It sure is worth the effort.

    Reply
  7. Irene says:

    OMG, this has GOT to be the greatest feeling Pam! SO happy for you!

    Reply
  8. Jen S says:

    This is so great to read and so encouraging too!  I am going to definitely look into the krill oil and some of the other supplements as well for my 14 yr old.  We are having a surprisingly positive summer with just a little medication (10mg Ritalin) on an as needed basis.  Last summer was very difficult and I kept my son on his regular ‘school’ dosage of Concerta because he couldn’t follow basic directions, couldn’t keep his hands off of his younger brother and was generally very argumentative and combative.  Thanks for sharing your information and ideas.  I love to read about Clark and all of your life adventures with him!

    Reply
    • Pamela says:

      Jen — glad to hear you’re having a positive summer. I can def see a difference when CK is on and off this program of natural health & wellness, and I hope there is something in it that works for your 14 yo, too!

      Reply
  9. Monkeyonapogostick says:

    Im so glad to read this.  Last year I had all my kids on a gluten-, dairy-, soy-, msg-,peanut-,  artificial colors-, artificial flavors- free diet.
     that was the best thing I could have done for them. They were also takinghigh quality fish oil, high dose multivitamin, probiotics and digestive enzymes.  My kids never acted better.  they all reported feeling much calmer, more energetic, more able to concentrate and their grades improved tremendously.  One child is “normal” and the other 2 are ADHD.  they ALL benefitted from the diet.
    then summer came and the diet slid… then fall came again and with that a job loss for me.  Not able to maintain the specialized diet because of the prohibitive cost….the diet is all but gone.  they hate the natural food, and are hooked back on junk,  the kids are constantly fighting, my boys are on concerta, I suffered from deep depression… and so on.   now almost a year later, i’m trying to find a way to get back to the diet, but without the job to pay for it, its nearly impossible.
    I just dont know how to get back to it.  I cant imagine how a single parent on a limited income can afford to get the more natural altenative for their children.  I feel Like i can get back to it once I find a job but right now, it is so difficult.  good luck in school, I am really rooting for your ,and your son’s success!

    Reply
    • Pamela says:

      It is soooooo much more expensive, I agree. I will pray for you in your job search. What a tough time you’ve had of it, I am so sorry. I wish it were cheaper to eat this way and for the supplements. I guess all those cheap fillers in processed foods, gluten a chief/key villain in this list, keep prices down. I keep saying I’m going to plant a garden, but I haven’t. I will say that brown rice is a real staple for us, because the other gluten free “carb” alternatives are so pricey.

      Reply
  10. Sheli Johnson says:

    Fascinating stuff Pam!  Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  11. Caroline says:

    Progress and success feel so good. I’m glad for all of you.

    Reply
    • Pamela says:

      Thanks, Caroline. They do. And, as I answer this comment, CK just spent a supplement-free week with his dad, so we are starting over, LOL. So we get to redo the progress part. I have a feeling we will get a lot of chances for that over the next year 🙂

      Reply
  12. Burnsy103 says:

    I loved reading this post today! Wow! I am so happy for you! My son has been thriving as of late as well but he has been very on edge as the day wanes – and this I am blaming completely on school starting. I think by the time he gets home he is done and pressures have to be minimal because self regulation is about gone. I am going to start giving him a Lithium Orotate when he gets home from school as well to see if this helps him at all. The ‘natural path’ is definitely tricky and expensive and trial and error but at the moment such a blessing to see working! Thanks for the update!!

    Reply
  13. Dee says:

    This is really wonderful!  Since Dylan does not take pills as pills (we empty capsules into ice cream), we are not ready for that.  But you give me hope!  

    Reply
  14. Julesmpg says:

    I am glad to hear things worked out so well and that he is making major improvements!

    Reply
  15. Leeann says:

    Is there a certain brand of Krill Oil that you recommend?
    Thanks!

    Reply
  16. Romi says:

    This made my day! I have been struggling with my son for the past 3 years. He refuses to take medications for the very same reasons your son does. Our doctors have really brushed off my requests for holistic remedies. I will looking elsewhere today. Your story gives me hope. Thank you.

    Reply
  17. Laura Jean says:

    So happy to hear you found something that works! We have had success with a natural supplement with our ADHD son as well, called Q96 (http://qfamilyhealth.com) it literally saved his school year and we can’t believe how much better he can now focus and control himself now 🙂

    Reply

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