Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is commonly diagnosed in childhood. Although theories of its origin are abundant and varied -- from dietary sensitivities to DNA differences -- one biochemical aspect appears to be widely accepted: Low dopamine levels play a role in the occurrence of ADHD. Dopamine is a naturally-occurring brain neurotransmitter. Some parents of children diagnosed with ADHD are uncomfortable with using commonly-prescribed medications, while others speak highly of stimulant and nonstimulant drugs, crediting daily use with positively changing their children's lives. It's unclear what causes ADHD, so no prevention or cure exists yet. But you can manage the symptoms. Increasing dopamine is one angle to consider, through three pathways: chemicals, diet and exercise.
Take medication prescribed for ADHD as recommended by a physician. Drugs commonly used to treat ADHD block neurotransmitters, theoretically resulting in an increased dopamine level in the brain.
Provide a daily diet that's high in tyrosine, an essential amino acid that helps make dopamine. Foods that contain a lot of tyrosine include -- from highest to lowest percentage in terms of grams -- eggs, soy, seeds, fish, other meats, hard cheeses, avocados, lima beans and bananas.
Consider a tyrosine supplement at least 30 minutes before meals, three times daily. Have your pediatrician determine an appropriate dosage.
Include yoga, martial arts and dance in your child's weekly schedule. Think of physical exercise as medication, especially activities that involve your brain and your body.
If supplementing tyrosine, also include vitamins B6, folate and copper supplements to assist in the conversion process.
Participate with your child in physical activities whenever possible. The presence of a loving caregiver offers the child a more secure feeling when participating in activities.
So far, studies have not concluded that increasing tyrosine in the diet will increase dopamine.
People taking MAOI antidepressants, thyroid hormones or Levodopa should talk to their physician before taking tyrosine supplements.