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Are you juggling a hyperactive child? Parents often tell me that they wish they could have their child’s energy! Kids are naturally energetic, and usually more so when we want them to calm down.
But a hyperactive child is more than just energetic. They will often have trouble sleeping, fidget and have issues with keeping still. This affects their ability to concentrate and learn and often leads to behavioural challenges.
So how can we manage this crazy energy? By looking at the more common causes that lead to hyperactivity in kids, and the solutions that can rebalance their energy levels.
Watch the video below or keep reading to learn more about managing a hyperactive child naturally.
The Common Triggers For A Hyperactive Child
Dietary triggers for hyperactivity
There are three main diet triggers that can lead to juggling a hyperactive child. Every kid is different in how they handle these dietary triggers, so it’s important to consider how they are affecting your child.
This is the number one trigger I see in my clinic when it comes to a hyperactive child. Food additives are a big group of food chemicals that are used to make food more appealing, by making it look and taste good, or making it last longer.
It’s known that food additives can act as a trigger for kids with conditions such as ADHD and autism. But studies show that even kids without these conditions can become hyperactive when given additives.
One study looked at a group of 3-year-olds who were given either an artificial colour, a preservative, or a placebo. The kids who were given additives showed more signs of hyperactivity.
Food intolerances and sensitivities
Kids with ADHD or autism are more prone to intolerances and sensitivities that can cause hyperactivity, but it can also occur outside of these conditions. When a child reacts to food, it sets off an immune reaction in the body. This creates inflammation that affects the brain and nervous system. The end result is a hyperactive child who is prone to meltdowns and tantrums.
Unfortunately, the more commonly linked sensitivities are the naturally occurring chemicals such as salicylates. Hyperactivity is rarely linked to a common culprit such as gluten or dairy. This can make them really hard to pick up on without the help of a practitioner.
Sugar is an obvious culprit for high energy levels. Every parent has had a hyperactive child come home and wreak havoc after a sugar-filled birthday party! This is because sugar disrupts the balance of blood sugars, and therefore energy. It can also be detrimental to gut health and the bacteria in the digestive tract. Over the long term, this affects a child’s mood and behaviour through the gut-brain connection.
Lifestyle triggers for hyperactivity
How much kids move throughout a typical day has changed dramatically from when we were kids. When we were younger, we spent more time outside, and we would play until it was dark.
Kids are naturally energetic. So if they spend more time stuck inside, they will need to burn off that extra energy. Every kid is different with how much movement is enough. But in most cases, a hyperactive child will need more movement and activity than what they are getting.
Previous generations have never spent so much time in front of a screen. It can be tricky to navigate how much time our kids spend on screens, especially as screens are used for school and homework as well as recreation time. But the amount of screen time could contribute to the likelihood of having a hyperactive child on your hands.
One study in adolescents has shown that the risk of ADHD symptoms, including hyperactivity, could more than double with high use of screens. The interesting part was that playing video games alone and at night was linked to this massive increase in risk. But when they were playing during the day and with family members, it didn’t increase the risk.
When you think about it, anxiety is a heightened reaction of the nervous system. Even kids who are quiet and withdrawn when they are anxious will be more hyperactive once they feel comfortable and safe at home. Unfortunately, that means we get to cop all of it as parents!
Conditions such as ADHD, autism and sensory processing disorder will often show signs of sensory overload. This is when kids become easily overwhelmed by their senses. A subgroup of kids with sensory processing issues are sensory-seeking, making them more prone to hyperactive behaviour.
Even kids without neurological conditions can become overstimulated. If you go somewhere with loud entertainment and big crowds, you’ll often bring home a hyperactive child. But this experience is 10-fold more for kids with a sensory processing disorder.
How to manage a hyperactive child naturally
So you’re dealing with a hyperactive child because of one or more of the triggers we’ve discussed. But what can you do about it? Here are some easy steps to balance their energy and mood back out again.
Focus on fresh wholefoods
The foundation of happy, healthy kids is a whole food-based diet. This will not only minimise their intake of food additives but will include the nutrients needed to support balanced energy. Weaning kids across onto a whole food diet isn’t always easy, but you can start off small. You can find plenty of tasty recipes right here!
Reducing food additives
When I work with a hyperactive child, I will often put them on an ACF-free diet – ACF stands for additives, flavours and colours. But when you’re not working with a practitioner, eliminating all food additives can be difficult. It may not always be necessary. So a good starting point is to eliminate any number between 100-175 – the food colours.
Look to gut health
Many mood disorders, including anxiety, come back to gut health. Brain chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin are produced in the gut. If gut health isn’t up to scratch, it can lead to an imbalance of these chemicals. In fact, the state of the digestive tract can play a role in many different conditions.
Not sure where to start? Have a look through the gut health articles here.
Make time for quality sleep
Quality sleep can often help when balancing a hyperactive child’s energy. Hyperactive kids are more likely to experience sleep issues, which can become a downward spiral into an imbalanced nervous system.
For tips around optimising sleep, check out this recent blog article.
Balance screen time with green time
Kids need time outside to really thrive. Fresh air and sunshine are a key part of supporting brain and nervous system health in children. You probably won’t get your child to give up the screens altogether. But you can agree on a guideline about how much time they need to spend playing outside to balance out the screen time.