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.