Ways to address ADD and ADHD without medication

1. Protein: Kids that consume more protein have been shown to have improvement in symptoms. The sources of protein should vary widely, for example through legumes, yogurt, protein shakes, eggs, fish, white meat chicken, pork and a moderate amount of lean red meat.

2. Omega 3 Fatty Acids: There have been a few studies that link the symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder  to low levels of essential fatty acids and to low ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids can be consumed naturally through walnuts, spinach, other leafy greens, fish and flax seed or taken as a supplement.  Research on this and other supplements is inconsistent and not conclusive.   The “alternative approach is therefore not as predictable as evidence based treatments such as stimulants.

3. Diet restriction: The famous one is the Feingold diet, which mostly cuts out artificial colors and flavors, also any food with natural “salicylates”.  The list of these is long, including lots of fruits. Salicylates are also in antiinflammatory medications such as Aspirin. The actual response rates to this diet are low.

4. Sugar: Cutting back on sugar has never been shown to effectively treat ADHD, experts still think it makes sense to minimize sugar intake and artificial colors as both have been shown to increase hyperactive behavior. It is also recommended to minimize or avoid caffeinated beverages.

5. Keep a regular schedule, especially consistent sleep and wake times.  Establish daily routines. Written schedules are often helpful to include homework and meal times, chores, practice time, free time, bed time.

6. Cue transitions from one activity or event to another as children with ADD/ADHD tend to struggle with transitions.

7. Good sleep is very important. Practicing good sleep habits can greatly enhance anybody’s sleep, especially a child’s. (See our sleep tips page.

8. Close work with schools is important. Parents should always ask the school for support and work with the child and school for the best support plan. Good communication is always important.

9. Parents should remember that ADD/ADHD are legitimate medical conditions and a child should have support as should the parents; gains will be gradual rather than rapid in most cases.

10. Positive discipline strategies as opposed to rejecting or punitive discipline strategies tend to work best; in other words, focus on positive, have a child work toward rewards, and give lots of verbal praise and smiles when a child does well. You could do a “google” search for reward systems for behavior.

11. In two parent homes, teamwork is best; parents should work out a plan for who handles which situations and be consistent.

12. Teach organizational skills. Schedule a time each day to organize your child’s toys/school items; this can usually be part of a bedtime routine. Palm pilots, phone and watch alarms are helpful. Another example of teaching organizational skills would be to place a bin or box near the front door or garage door for important items.

13. Clear communication. Parents need to remind children with ADHD  frequently of the rules, the schedule, to do homework, etc. Often it’s best to sit with a child and make a rule/rewards/consequence list together and then frequently review it.

14. Do not try to establish new rules or lecture the child at a time when he or she is angry; wait until the situation settles and everybody is calmer and then discuss what happened.

15. Equine assisted psychotherapy (see   www.narha.org ) has been shown to help kids with ADHD.

16. Great information on ADD and ADHD can be found on the CHADD website, a non profit organization for education, advocacy and support for families and children. www.chadd.org 

download this article in pdf format here:  Non Medication Ways to Treat ADHD

11 Responses
  1. September 26, 2013

    On item number 5, did you really mean to say “biorhythm” and not “circadian rhythm”?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biorhythm

  2. Dr. Steve Sarche permalink*
    October 3, 2013

    Thank you for noticing that mistake. I did update the page.

  3. Wendy Brooks permalink
    October 26, 2013

    #2 says a few studies conclude that Omega 3 fatty acids helps, and that “Omega 3 fatty acids can be consumed naturally through walnuts, spinach, other leafy greens, fish and flax seed or taken as a SUPPLEMENT”. However, #16 says, “There is NO research supporting that herbal or dietary SUPPLEMENTS have benefit in treating ADHD”. That seems to be a contradiction.

  4. Dr. Steve Sarche permalink*
    October 29, 2013

    I see the contradiction and have changed it. Thank you.

  5. December 15, 2013

    Wow that was unusual. I just wrote an very long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t appear.
    Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again.
    Anyway, just wanted to say superb blog!

  6. July 7, 2014

    Do you mind if I quote a few of your articles as long as I
    provide credit and sources back to your webpage?
    My blog site is in the very same area of interest as yours and my visitors would really benefit from some
    of the information you present here. Please let me know if this okay with you.
    Thanks a lot!

  7. Dr. Steve Sarche permalink*
    July 8, 2014

    Thanks for the note. What do you do? Can I check out your blog first? Thanks,

  8. tsion abay permalink
    September 24, 2014

    well a lot of these tips actually apply for ADHD i was wondering if they apply for ADD too?

  9. Lindsey milbocker permalink
    January 23, 2015

    I just had my son diagnosed with ADHD , is there any way to keep him off mess and have him improve in school with focus ?

  10. Dr. Steve Sarche permalink*
    January 29, 2015

    I you want to talk about that, give me a call.

  11. Heather Pasbrig permalink
    January 29, 2015

    I am so glad I found this article. I knew many of these but now can have my husband read the article and we can develop a plan for our son.

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