7 Awesome Alternatives to ADD Medication

7 Awesome Alternatives to ADD Medication

Do you (or your child) have ADD (attention-deficit disorder) or ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder)? Do you think prescription stimulants such as Ritalin or Adderall are the only treatment options available? They’re not.

Although stimulants may be helpful for some people with ADD, they aren’t effective for everyone and they can make some people worse. It all depends on which type of condition you have. Brain imaging studies show there are 7 types of ADD, and knowing your type is critical for finding the right solutions.

In general, medication should never be the first or only thing you do for any mental health condition. There are many alternatives to medication that can improve ADD symptoms, such as lack of focus, impulsiveness, being easily distracted, having difficulty staying organized, and a tendency to put things off until the last minute.

Here are 7 alternatives to ADD medication that can be effective.

1. Get moving.

A wealth of research shows that physical exercise works like a drug in children and adults with ADD. Classic ADD (one of the 7 types of the condition) is associated with low levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is a chemical heavily involved with attention span, focus, follow-through, and motivation. Medications, such as Adderall and Ritalin, are believed to work by boosting dopamine availability in the brain. Similarly, physical activity increases the production of dopamine. A 2019 review in the Journal of Clinical Medicine found that exercise minimizes ADD symptoms and enhances cognitive performance in children with the condition.

2. Reduce screen time.

Endlessly scrolling through your social media feed or playing video games for hours on end can be harmful and addictive for people who have vulnerable brains. More screen time has been linked to a greater risk of problems with inattention. A 2019 study in Plos One found that children with more than 2 hours of screen time per day had a 7.7-fold increased risk of meeting the criteria for ADD.

3. Try an elimination diet.

Some foods may trigger a worsening of symptoms in people with ADD. To find out if you or your child has a food sensitivity, try a 3-week elimination diet by getting rid of the most common food allergens—artificial dyes (including red dye #40, which has been connected to symptoms of ADD), preservatives, sugar and artificial sweeteners, gluten, corn, soy, and dairy. In 2011, researchers put children with ADD on a restricted diet that allowed them to eat only turkey, lamb, vegetables, fruit, rice, and pear juice. Their findings in The Lancet showed that the elimination diet decreased symptoms associated with the condition in 70% of children.

4. Protect your head.

Common accidents, like falling off a ladder, getting into a car crash, or taking a tumble down the stairs can cause a concussion or mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), which increases the risk of problems with attention and concentration. According to research in The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, people with ADD are more likely to have head injuries.

5. Investigate sleep problems.

Did you know that kids with ADD have higher rates of daytime sleepiness compared with kids who don’t have the condition? Or that according to a study in the journal Sleep, half of ADD kids have sleep-disordered breathing compared with only 22% of kids without the condition? Having large tonsils or adenoids can lead to sleep-disordered breathing in children which can lead to attentional issues and hyperactivity. A study in the Eurasian Journal of Medicine found a reduction in these symptoms when the tonsils and adenoids were removed. Sleep problems are also common in adults with ADD, so be sure to investigate any sleep issues.

6. Check important health numbers.

Your physical health can impact symptoms of ADD. Some of the most common biological issues that are associated with symptoms include:

  • abnormal thyroid levels (low levels are tied to cloudy thinking and low motivation, high levels are associated with hyperactivity)
  • low ferritin levels
  • low levels of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, magnesium, and zinc

Having a functional medicine physician check these levels and help balance them can be helpful.

7. Try neurofeedback.

Neurofeedback is a non-invasive, interactive therapy that helps you retrain your brain to achieve the desired state.  A 2014 review of existing research on children with ADD who did neurofeedback found that teachers noticed a significant improvement in their attention and parents noted improvements in hyperactivity and impulsivity. According to findings in a 2019 study in Current Psychiatry Reports, researchers stated that neurofeedback “should be considered as a viable treatment alternative” for ADD.

ADD, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and other mental health issues can’t wait. During these uncertain times, your mental well-being is more important than ever and waiting until life gets back to “normal” is likely to make your symptoms worsen over time.

At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, remote clinical evaluations, and video therapy for adults, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834. If all our specialists are busy helping others, you can also schedule a time to talk.

10 Comments

  1. Very informative

    Comment by maritza — July 7, 2020 @ 5:49 AM

  2. Hi I have a 40 year old son with ADHD and two of his children aged 14 and 13 have it as well.
    Do you have any facilities in Australia?
    Many thanks

    Monica Martun

    Comment by Monica Martin — July 8, 2020 @ 3:42 AM

  3. Would be nice to know if there are any other “natural medicine” supplements (caffeine?) as well. I’ve been following nutritional/ lifestyle advice from Drs. Amen, Hyman, and Campbell since my kids were 4 but once they hit middle school then parents have very little influence: teachers and friends allow, require, and/or encourage screen time and poor food choices, and teenagers are making their own choices about exercising and vitamins, yet parents still have to live with the consequences. I strongly dislike Ritalin and would love to have a healthier alternative but it keeps me and my ADHD kid from killing one another during these years. Non-addictive alternatives would be welcome.

    Comment by Lawren Richards — July 8, 2020 @ 4:11 AM

  4. I have been feeding my 3kids ADHD with organic foods. I also gives them some minerals. 2girls aged 8yrs 6 months and a boy of 7 years.. I’m working hard to get some cash, so that, I can schedule appointment for them at Amen clinic. I can’t wait to see my kids getting better like every other kids. With what I have read through Amen clinic , I believe I will have my kids back.

    Comment by Omolayo — July 8, 2020 @ 6:41 AM

  5. What about DMAE? Is it useful? Safe?

    Comment by Susan J Saleh — July 8, 2020 @ 8:21 AM

  6. My son as a parent is hesitant to use Amens services b/c he read that once all the initial evaluation done there is no follow-up for the patient. Is this true?

    Comment by Bessie — July 8, 2020 @ 10:51 AM

  7. Hi there
    Do you have any sister clinic in the UK or Europe?

    Comment by Marie-Louise — July 8, 2020 @ 12:28 PM

  8. Hello Bessie, thank you for reaching out. We have many questions answered in our FAQ regarding ‘Treatment and Follow-Up Care’: https://www.amenclinics.com/faq/. For additional information, feel free to reach out to our Care Coordinators: https://www.amenclinics.com/schedule-visit/.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — July 8, 2020 @ 4:01 PM

  9. I am an adult patient of Amen Clinic in D.C. (Reston, VA).
    A patient is offered all the follow care they want outside the initial eval. (Out of pocket expense then submit to insurance by patient. They do a very nice job in giving all the correct and necessary papers to submit to insurance.)

    There is 1 follow- up included in initial cost and additionally 2 15 min calls within that initial time period. I think they are after the initial eval and then after the included follow-up appt. (Like to check that once you had time to go home and think, there may be some questions and they want to address these).

    In the end, it is the patients responsibility to do follow up with them or another doctor you can trust.
    Appts can be in person or telemedicine. Telemed was offered well before covid because they know they have patients that live a great distance away.

    Everyone’s experience will be different. Everyone’s recovery will be different and at a different pace. I am extremely pleased. My eval was July 9, 2018 and I still follow up with them. I had a history of several severe concussions and I had much wrong in my scans. (And in my everyday life) And very abnormal quantitative EEG (not offered at all Clinics but I think regular EEG is.)

    I had a second set of scans at 1 year, with improvement. I’d like to get another set in next 6 months if I can get the money together to do it.
    I have had the expected recovery of ups and downs, my downs are less severe and less often as time as gone on and followed the recommendations I could afford. Being compliant to agreed care is important.
    They will offer some of their products but are not pushy (at least at DC office). I tried to piece meal some supplements but in the end bought one of their comprehensive supplements and glad I did.
    Good luck, be open minded, don’t be afraid to ask questions. (write questions beforehand so you dont forget.)
    Hope this helps a little bit.

    Comment by S.M. — July 8, 2020 @ 5:32 PM

  10. Why is niacin /nicotinamid on your list? It should be!

    Comment by Velia Anderson — July 8, 2020 @ 5:45 PM

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