Healing ADD Without Medication: 5 Options

Treating ADD Without Medication: 5 options

Attention deficit disorder (ADD), also called attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a national health crisis that continues to grow. Even though it is now being diagnosed more frequently than ever, it remains one of the most misunderstood and incorrectly treated illnesses of our day.

Medication is the traditional default treatment for ADD, but it is NOT the only treatment. People are often put on powerful stimulant medications in short office visits without any biological information, and the stories of these medications doing more harm than good are common and persistent.

ADD Treatment Without Medication

Here are 5 effective interventions that can help ADD symptoms without using medication:

1. Neurofeedback

Neurofeedback is a specialized treatment that uses advanced computer technology for balancing and optimizing your brain. During each session you play a video game using just your brain! It’s a fun, interactive and engaging treatment that helps you strengthen and retrain your brain to a healthier, more focused state.

Using real-time displays of brain activity, you can learn how to regulate your own brain function.

2. Nutrition

A nutritional intervention can be especially helpful for those with ADD. For years I have recommended a high protein, low carbohydrate diet that is relatively high in healthy fat to my patients with ADD. This diet has a stabilizing effect on blood sugar levels and helps both with energy level and concentration.

Unfortunately, the Standard American Diet is filled with refined carbohydrates such as cookies, bread and pasta, which lower dopamine levels in the brain and make it harder to concentrate.

3. Then What?

I have my patients remember the two most important words in the English language when it comes to their health: “Then what?” In other words, if I do this, then what will happen? If I say this, then what will happen?

For instance, “when I eat three chocolate donuts, skip the gym, get really drunk on the weekends, or call my husband a jerk, then what will happen? Do any of these behaviors help me achieve what I want for my life, or help me with my goals?” Clearly, they do not!

According to research, the people who live longest and achieve great success are the most conscientious. They know what they want and then they act in consistent ways over time to get it. This can be a unique challenge for those with ADD because they often struggle with impulse control. Put up these two words where you can see them every day: Then what? and practice using them!

4. Exercise

Exercise increases blood flow to all parts of the body, including the brain, which is particularly beneficial to those with ADD. Exercise also increases the availability of serotonin in the brain, which has a tendency to calm hyperactivity. Through the years I have seen a direct relationship between the level of exercise a person gets and the severity of their symptoms.

I recommend that my patients do the equivalent of walking for 30 to 45 minutes four to seven days a week. To get the brain benefit, walk like you are late— a stroll won’t do. Also, lift weights twice a week to optimize muscle mass and hormone function.

5. Meditation

Decades of research have shown that meditation can calm stress and enhance brain function. You don’t have to sit cross-legged on the floor or burn incense or do any of those things you might associate with meditation—it can be done anywhere, at any time.

Whether at home or at work, find a quiet spot where you can sit comfortably, then gently close your eyes and focus on your breathing. When your thoughts drift away (which they will), simply draw your attention back to your breathing. Start with just a few minutes and work up to 10, 15 or 20 minutes if you can. Make a meditation practice part of your life and watch your brain function improve!

Did You Know That ADD Is Not Just A Single And Simple Disorder?

With more than 135,000 brain scans in our database, we have identified 7 types of ADD. That’s right – 7 different types! And each type requires a different treatment plan because of the diverse brain systems involved.

Type 1: Classic ADD
Type 2: Inattentive ADD
Type 3: Overfocused ADD
Type 4: Temporal Lobe ADD
Type 5: Limbic ADD
Type 6: Ring of Fire ADD
Type 7: Anxious ADD

Treating all people with ADD the same invites failure and frustration, and can be a disaster, as the traditional treatments that make 2 of the types better can make the other 5 types worse.

Healing ADD starts with knowing if you have it and then finding out which type you have in order to get the most targeted treatment possible for your specific type. If you would like to get more information about how we can help people struggling with ADD, please contact our Client Care Center at 888-288-9834.


  1. These sound wonderfully simple. Thanks for the info. Very relevant to both family and friends. Just out of curiosity though, do you think the general medical and pharmaceutical community would agree with these findings?

    Comment by Brad Hobbs — February 24, 2016 @ 4:01 AM

  2. I had the exact same thought Brad, on reading this – is this evidence based practice supported by the medical & pharmaceutical community? I am in South Africa, so would also be interested to know if it is internationally accepted?

    Comment by Kerryn Liebenberg — February 24, 2016 @ 4:30 AM

  3. Why would the med and big pharma support anything natural when it would cut into their drug running profits?

    Comment by kikkie — February 24, 2016 @ 7:12 AM

  4. We think most medical professionals would agree, that whether or not someone with ADD/ADHD requires medication, behavior modification is also necessary for a variety of problems including gaining control of impulsivity, improving the ability to sustain focus or calming a mind that is prone to distraction, etc. You can find published research on these topics on pubmed if you want to read empirical studies.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — February 24, 2016 @ 8:34 AM

  5. Hi Kerryn – please see the response above.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — February 24, 2016 @ 8:35 AM

  6. ADD in kids is fine tuned. Years ago, kids were allowed to run and play outside. Half the time, parents didn’t even know where they were at. They played hard and wore off the energy outside.. Winter or Summer. Now, teachers want them to sit inside for hours and ‘pay attention.’ Parents want the same – stand still, be quiet, etc. This stuff is what worked with mine. I refused to do the medication thing. The food we eat, the lifestyles we choose are not kid-friendly. Of course, the medication and medical community doesn’t agree. It isn’t what they are taught and it isn’t a quick fix – it is work to teach, coach, and educate children how to manage and self-regulate. Then hand them a Mountain Dew and feed them sugared cereal for breakfast and wonder why they do what they do.

    Comment by JReese — February 24, 2016 @ 9:41 AM

  7. Agreed. I had a hyper active son, they called it that way back when and it is the same thing as today. The parents do not take the time to monitor the kids diets. I found cutting out all artificial colors and flavors made a big difference. Even pickles can set off a kid and parent have to become aware of what sets their kids off. Sugar, yellow dye #5, pickles, and most of the prepared foods out there. One must take the time to really shop and read labels and care.

    Comment by 1NJNurse1 — February 24, 2016 @ 10:56 AM

  8. Big Pharma wants everyone on meds so they can become even more filthy rich.

    Comment by 1NJNurse1 — February 24, 2016 @ 10:58 AM

  9. I had my son on the Finegold diet back in the 70s and 80s and it worked great. I refused to drug my kid. The studies that came out many years after they started giving the kids the drugs were not good. They said that many of the kids never learned to cope with life and became drug addicts and drunks to compensate for the feel good feeling of the drug they took half their lives. Thank God I listened to my inner self when the Dr suggested the drugs. My reply was, are their any long term studies done with this method and he replied no. The long term studies came out in the mid 80s. I said right there and then, in the 70s, no way. I did the diet and he came out fine and he had it bad. I always tell parents

    Comment by 1NJNurse1 — February 24, 2016 @ 11:08 AM

  10. My former doctor’s office actually “prescribed” Mountain Dew to kids, the thought being the loads of caffeine would soothe the hyperactivity.

    Comment by Thomas — February 24, 2016 @ 12:09 PM

  11. One wonders who cares whether the pharma community agrees with findings from research that don’t support their vested interests. The same could be said of the insurance cartels. Pharma has opposed almost every intervention that doesn’t involve something they manufacture. The general medical community is ignorant of complementary and alternative practices because the formal curriculum in medical schools and internships devote little to no time to those interventions. And this isn’t about a dearth of research – there are mountains of data to support the use of complementary and alternative interventions PRIOR to the introduction of medications, many of which have very little efficacy in addressing the clinical symptoms for which they were prescribed and which produce a range of side effects that are often worse than the underlying condition. When solid research is put forth, pharma’s shills come out of the woodwork to “debunk” the science, often claiming that complementary approaches (neurofeedback for example) aren’t tested using double-blinded, randomized, placebo controlled studies. What they neglect to say is that many drugs have reached the market without double-blinded RCTs. This is not to say that traditional medical interventions should not be used, but I am saying that medications – particularly the powerful stimulant medications – should be the last, not first, line of treating children and adolescents with AD/HD (and depression, anxiety, OCD, ODD, eieio…).

    Comment by Wes — February 25, 2016 @ 7:29 AM

  12. I spent a lifetime… Until 33 with undiagnosed add… I naturally learned about some of the aids… Like low carb, exercise etc… But what really saved my life were meds. I was old enough to know what life was like without… Earlier knowledge and help would possibly have changed my direction, I don’t know… But meds (although I have had to do some trial and correction on what and how much) made daily contentment possible. The battle I fought everyday when I had to do some life task is so lessened. i am often still late, still a little scattered , but nothing like the see-saw of before. Now, my 9 year old son is struggling in class… Although meds helped me, I am not sure about him. Meds can dampen creativity and I hesitate to do that to a nine year old who loves that about himself. many + and – to consider… And the school doesn’t want to provide the extra learning help he needs… Just accommodations… Trying for an iep, but feeling unsure of an affordable solution.

    Comment by Susanne VetteMoseley — February 25, 2016 @ 8:03 AM

  13. written exactly like someone who doesn’t have a clue what ADHD is, JReese

    Comment by DB — February 29, 2016 @ 7:18 AM

  14. Could you share with me the studies about children never learning to cope with life, becoming addicts, from taking the ADD meds? Or how could I find those studies? Dr. Amen, do you know about these studies?

    Comment by Paula_W — March 16, 2016 @ 7:31 AM

  15. The inference of the purported research – that the medication causes these problems – is like saying those who need glasses should just try harder.

    Comment by Dr. Daniel Amen — March 16, 2016 @ 8:54 AM

  16. Thank you Dr. Amen.

    Comment by Paula_W — March 16, 2016 @ 11:27 AM

  17. Is that because all you know about is chemical meds?

    Comment by 1NJNurse1 — March 17, 2016 @ 10:42 AM

  18. I’m so sorry, the studies came out roughly 25 years ago and I could not even begin to remember. They may have buried them for all I know because the pharmaceutical companies had other plans. I still say to feed you child natural foods without all the dyes and sugars and I believe the problem with decrease dramatically. It is time consuming at first but worth it in the long run.

    Comment by 1NJNurse1 — March 17, 2016 @ 10:45 AM

  19. I don’t know if they become addicts because of the med but it sure suspicious and why give them it when it can be controlled with diet?

    Comment by 1NJNurse1 — March 17, 2016 @ 10:49 AM

  20. That is ridiculous. So you think when a child has the drug in him that he is effectually learning to deal with the everyday stresses we as humans have? And if they do not learn this very important step in life, dealing with life, then when they come off the drug they can just deal without problems?

    Comment by 1NJNurse1 — March 17, 2016 @ 10:53 AM

  21. We start with the least toxic, most effective treatment option for each of our patients. For some children, but by NO means all of them, medication is the best option, but regardless of whether they are on medication or not, there are several other lifestyle changes that are recommended. These include dietary modifications – especially getting sugar, unhealthy fats and artificial chemicals out of their diet,behavioral modifications, increasing exercise and spending less time in front of the TV or their electronic gadgets, learning better self-regulation, and helping them gain insight into the consequences of their own choices.

    Comment by Dr. Daniel Amen — March 17, 2016 @ 11:28 AM

  22. See above

    Comment by Dr. Daniel Amen — March 17, 2016 @ 11:28 AM

  23. I’ve been to the Amen Clinic and had my brain scanned in their Northern California clinic, because one of my daughters had hers scanned due to her physical disability caused by early birth. We wanted to make sure nothing else was going on with her brain as an adult. I went as a comparison and out of curiosity. I didn’t see Dr. Amen, but I did see another good psychiatrist after the scans. For my daughter and myself he recommended a pharmaceutical which only had one function in order to test its effect in hopes that they could switch over to natural medication after they were sure of the effect. If you read Dr. Amen’s book about ADD you’ll see many natural suggestions.

    Comment by DHealthy — May 21, 2016 @ 10:22 PM

  24. I’ve also worked for a nonprofit organization which worked with families with children who had various disabilities. I saw the Feingold diet you mentioned work very well for some families, sometimes in combination with natural supplements. It was very gratifying. It does take more effort. Sadly, sometimes parents didn’t want to bother with these possible solutions, because of the extra effort or they couldn’t do it, because the other parent would not agree, especially if they were divorced. Again, Dr. Amen’s book does talk about supplementation and dietary changes, especially protein for ADD. By the way, the same combination of dietary changes and supplementation does not work for every child.

    Comment by DHealthy — May 21, 2016 @ 10:30 PM

  25. Understood. There are many children it may not work on but don’t you find that the real problem is the kids are quickly diagnosed with this conditions without exploring other possibilities or dealing with the problem a different way ? Schools don’t want to put up with children who won’t stop fidgeting or talking out of turn or any of the normal behavior coming form kids, especially boys. I have seen schools tell parents they need to put their kids on meds when it’s not what they really need. They sometimes need a strong teacher who has been teaching for years who know how to get them in tune with the class. I found that the more the teacher comes down on a child the worse they get. Not all but some. I have also seen schools take parents to court to force them to put their kids on drugs. I am very adamant about parents rights and their decision not to medicate their child. Of course if that child is being that horrible in school perhaps it’s a parenting problem instead of a medical one. That does have to be determined before the school takes drastic measures. I have seen them take parents to court without totally checking out the child’s home life. As you can tell I have spoken to many parents with kids that display hyperactive traits and they are looking for answers and the Doctors just want to give the drug instead of counselling them on other methods. As a peds nurse I have talked to many parents who are beside themselves and have no avenue to go down and they finally give in and get the drug and feel terrible about it. I see the schools are still doing the pressure thing to the parents today and not much has changed or progressed in 40 years. With our backwards world today I see stupids things like the new bathroom rule and if the president spend have the money and time on something like training people to counsel parents on subject such as this one then maybe with education people would be able their kids more and the kids would suffer less. Thank You for your information, I do appreciate well thought out and knowledgeable answers.

    Comment by 1NJNurse1 — May 22, 2016 @ 11:23 AM

  26. I do agree with most of what you’ve said and I greatly appreciate what you’ve done for the parents and children. Of course, I am aware that even a good teacher’s attempts are not always enough and sometimes different parenting isn’t enough and natural solutions are not enough. Sometimes it helps to start a child on medication for just a while in order for the child to gain control of himself or herself with the help of behavior modification, counseling, parent education, and dietary changes with the goal of weaning the child off of the medication if possible. Of course, each situation is different. I know someone with a young adult son who is schizophrenic and will probably need medication the rest of his life. But the way, you’re talking to someone who is a strong believer in natural medicine, so that’s always my first choice unless something is acute or about to become acute. I also still like what I’ve seen of Dr. Amen’s ideas in his books and on his PBS programs.

    Comment by DHealthy — May 22, 2016 @ 5:21 PM

  27. And, yes, I strongly agree with you about the bathroom nonsense which diverts attention from more important issues. I’d say more, but I don’t want want to interfere with why people are looking at what is said here.

    Comment by DHealthy — May 22, 2016 @ 5:24 PM

  28. We’re glad to hear that you found Amen Clinics helpful!

    Comment by Amen Clinics — May 23, 2016 @ 6:15 AM

  29. I agree, if a child is that far gone then give the med until a natural solution is found that works well. My first thoughts however are to try every solution before the medication is dispensed. Yes I am a great believer of natural medicine. And yes, every situation is different and must be treated per child’s situation and that is what my major complaint has been as far as the schools go. One size fits all.

    Comment by 1NJNurse1 — May 23, 2016 @ 8:33 AM

  30. I was diagnosed with ADD at 40. I had returned to university and was again having trouble focusing despite a healthy diet, regular exercise and good sleep. Medication felt like someone turned a light on in my brain and I was able to focus while reading textbooks, researching and writing papers and writing exams. My son also tried medication and it helped him in his studies. The right dose of medication sometimes takes patience to find but once we had the right dose and type, we felt normal. There were benefits beyond school work, too. As Dr. Amen says, work with your doctor to find the right treatment for your kind of ADD, and medication was part of that treatment for me.

    Comment by Shar — June 1, 2016 @ 7:43 AM

  31. Did you read Dr. Amen’s reply before making this unnecessary comment? Have you read any of his work, listened to his lectures, followed his research/findings? He has always promoted trying natural remedies first. He is well informed about both the natural and the chemical

    Comment by Pisaunt — July 10, 2016 @ 1:00 AM

  32. what about microdosing?

    Comment by Sawyer Rice — November 27, 2016 @ 5:36 PM

  33. Hello from Germany everyone!
    The more I read about it the more it feels like I am not only highly sensitive but also an add type 7(?) and my son (11) seems to run into a similar direction, also having bad oral marks because he just doesn’t speak up at all while he is loud and lively at home and with his friends. Still having fears to go into new groups or buying a roll at the bakery on his own.
    My question is: Where can we go for getting a real and trustworthy diagnosis?

    Comment by Nicole Schmitt — June 16, 2018 @ 11:02 PM

  34. Hi I’m the parent of a 12 yo adopted boy (we got him at day 2), he was born to a mom maybe on drugs but def. alcohol.
    He is in process of eval and pretty clearly seems ADD (Amens “#1” classic). Lots typical symptoms. Has fantastic supportive (Waldorf) school, same angel of a teacher (stern+lotsa love n music)) since 1st grade. He gets accommodations & handles himself pretty good at school, let’s loose once home.
    Have you been to Amens clinics?
    We are a super healthy household and family. Very restricted screen time. Lots play n exercise. My boy would rather choose screens—lots sneaking to get it!
    My boy hates homework to point of starting it brings on flight or fight—very difficult to get him to hit reset. Yesterday it was a 5-hour-plus marathon of anger, defiance, nastiness.
    My Q what type ADD does your child have, what has helped?
    Thank you

    Comment by gretchen vos — September 18, 2019 @ 5:02 AM

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