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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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December 27 2017

10 Alternative Therapies for ADD & ADHD

By Mark Sisson
79 Comments

inline_ADDADHDA few months back, I put together an article on alternative therapies for depression. Many readers  showed a lot of interest in some of the emerging non-drug treatments in that field, and, more importantly, many began to relay their own stories about how they overcame or successfully managed their depression through various strategies. That’s what I love the most about this community—sharing experience and expertise in the interest of broadening available solutions beyond what conventional thought tells us.

I’ve received frequent requests over the years to do the same for the convoluted world of ADD and ADHD treatment. There’s a lot to this picture and (if there’s interest) probably fodder for a follow-up post. For today I’ll delve into some of the lifestyle strategies and alternative therapies that offer the most promise.

I understand that ADD and ADHD treatment—and even diagnoses—are sensitive topics. Debates continue to rage within the medical, caregiver, and even Primal communities as to what actually constitutes the conditions, whether they’re simply modern constructs, and what the best forms of treatment are. Despite the increasing numbers of diagnoses, there’s still a lot we don’t know about the issue and even less people can agree on.

In the U.S., it’s estimated that between 3 and 10% of children and 1-6% of adults have been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). As the stats imply, both ADD and ADHD are more prevalent in children but there’s a very strong possibility that the symptoms will continue into adulthood.

Under the conventional model of diagnosis, those difficulties typically manifest as “an inability to organize complex sequences of behavior, to persist in the face of distracting stimuli, and to respond appropriately to the consequences of past behavior.” Resulting academic impairments, social dysfunction and poor self-esteem can in more serious cases morph into alcohol and substance abuse, criminal tendencies, and antisocial behaviors as a person slides into adulthood (although other family, social and educational factors come into play here).

The difference between ADD and ADHD, in case you’re wondering, is the additional symptom of hyperactivity in the latter condition. In much of the literature, the focus is now almost exclusively geared towards ADHD as the more inclusive of the two disorders, and that’s what I’ll largely be focusing on too.

Clearly, through the black and white lenses of the conventional practitioner, there’s a lot to be said for prescribing a heady dose of Ritalin at the first signs of inattentiveness or hyperactivity. Doing so has been shown to improve ADHD symptoms in around 60% of patients. But there’s often no corresponding improvement in school performance, and the rather alarming fact that 40% of those taking side effect-laden stimulants like Ritalin still aren’t seeing any measurable improvement in their symptoms. What’s more, a daily dose of Ritalin, for example, acts in a similar way to cocaine in the brain, while other common ADHD drugs have in some studies been associated with earlier onset of bipolar disorder and growth suppression.

In the U.S. and elsewhere, Ritalin and associated stimulant prescriptions are rapidly on the rise, but  even in conventional circles many are beginning to question whether the symptoms that comprise the “disorder” might simply be an innate response to living conditions or even foods that we’re not well adapted to. Are we then prescribing potentially harmful drugs to our kids (and ourselves) when all we should be doing is eating better, revising our educational system, and making key lifestyle changes? 

The Possible Ancestral Function of ADD & ADHD

In 2008, a Northwestern University study suggested that ADHD may be an evolutionary adaptation suited to the hunter gather lifestyle that’s comprised most of humanity’s history. Researchers compared two tribal groups in Kenya—one which was still nomadic, and one who had settled into villages. Within both tribes, researchers located individuals exhibiting ADHD traits, finding that those within the nomadic tribe were better suited to the hunter-gatherer lifestyle and in fact were thriving compared to their non-ADHD peers.

Those ADHD individuals in the settled tribe showed the inevitable difficulty in the classroom and in the more structured drudgery of everyday life in a village—a common element linking today’s ADHD children.

The results suggest that rather than ADHD being a “disorder,” it may be an adaptation giving the individual an advantage in certain types of learning and activities—namely those centered around nomadic subsistence. This raises the question of whether we should be approaching ADHD as a disorder in the first place, or as a variation of constitution that thrives on a different way of life—one which doesn’t force children to learn by sitting in hard chairs listening to the drone of a teacher’s voice (or even where adults are expected to sit still for 8 hours a day and stare at an artificially lit screen).

That’s a topic for discussion (and maybe further research), but it’s interesting food for thought in the meantime.

10 Alternative Therapies and Lifestyle Strategies for ADD & ADHD

Faced with the dilemma of potential misdiagnosis, conventional drug side effects, and a high rate of conventional treatment failure, I’m going to venture that it’s logical to seek out alternative ADHD therapies and basic lifestyle strategies that can either complement or, in some cases, replace those prescribed by the doctor. Let’s look at a few of the more popular or emerging recommendations. 

Avoid Food Colorings

This is arguably where the notion of dietary influence on ADD/ADHD first emerged. Back in the 70s, San Francisco-based allergist Ben Feingold developed an elimination diet that had thousands of parents claiming their children with ADHD showed marked improvement in their symptoms. The foundation of that diet? Elimination of food colorings and preservatives.

There was plenty of industry pushback at the time, but in recent years there’s been a resurgence of interest in artificial food colorings and other synthetic compounds in foods and the impact they might be have on ADD and ADHD symptoms. In 2004, a study published in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics revealed that artificial food colors had significant negative effects on focus and concentration, therein promoting hyperactive behaviors in children and teens.

A spate of research linking artificial food colors and ADHD followed suit, culminating in a 2007 study in which researchers unequivocally placed hyperactive behavior firmly on the doorstep of four synthetic colors and a sodium benzoate preservative…regardless of whether the children eating or drinking them had actually been diagnosed with ADHD. 

While it’s hard to control everything kids eat, cutting food coloring and additives is a good first-line strategy—for anyone with ADD/ADHD or not

Ditch Junk Food

Stimulants like Ritalin work by temporarily restoring reward signaling in the brain. Children and adults with ADHD tend to exhibit haywire patterns in certain neurotransmitters, particularly in the case of dopamine—which just so happens to influence a person’s ability to make rational choices or delay gratification.

Reward signaling in the brain of someone with ADHD is often very similar to people prone to binge eating. Let’s be honest and admit that a diet rich in junk food is partly to blame for certain behaviors inherent in ADHD patients. The continual flood of dietary sugar, along with heady combinations of refined sodium and hydrogenated fats, is enough to invoke chaos in anyone’s reward system and general health. (This could be a post in an of itself.) Ditch the junk food, feed the body the micronutrients it requires, and at least some of the ADHD symptoms will improve.

Eliminate Other Potential Food Allergens

Seeing as we’ve got the elimination ball rolling, why not single out a few more likely culprits? In functional medicine circles, elimination diets have been used decades to manage symptoms of ADHD and other forms of neural dysfunction. In particular, these diets have focused on eliminating both gluten and casein to good effect.

A 2011 study published in The Lancet placed 50 ADHD children on a hypoallergenic diet of rice, turkey, lamb, lettuce, carrots, pears, and other pre-approved whole foods known for the non-allergic palatability. Close to two-thirds of the children experienced a significant improvement in their symptoms on the diet, with most of them regressing to former symptoms shortly after stopping the diet.

A 2013 Danish study involving 72 children with autism spectrum disorder, which can include many symptoms similar to those of ADHD, found that introducing a diet free from both gluten and casein produced significant results. Certainly, research linking celiac disease to ADHD-like symptoms goes a long way towards verifying this hunch.

Up Essential Fatty Acids

As the concept of nutritional ADHD therapy has taken hold, there’s been a particular focus on omega-3 essential fatty acid deficiency. As most Primal folks know, omega-3s play a critical role in the structure and function of membranes enclosing brain cells, and are similarly important for regulating transmission of impulses between nerve cells.

If a developing brain isn’t receiving enough omega-3 fatty acids through dietary or supplementary sources, the likelihood of developing ADHD and other behavioral issues increases. In particular, a lack of the long-chain fatty acid DHA has repeatedly been linked to a higher risk of ADHD.

But it might not be as simple as eating a more omega 3-rich diet. Studies examining dietary patterns and blood fatty acid composition in children note that kids with ADHD seem to have lower serum fatty acid content, regardless of how many omega-3s they get in their diet. It’s thought that this might be due to increased fatty acid oxidation in these children, suggesting a significant increase in omega-3 fatty acid consumption is needed to offset the jumped-up fatty acid metabolism.

The consensus? While the jury is still officially out on omega-3s and ADHD, high quality omega-3 supplementation from the likes of fermented cod liver oil is probably a good idea for most people with ADHD. Several studies recommend in the range of 300-600 mg/day of supplemental omega-3, but I wouldn’t be afraid to go over 1000 mg in those who really need that boost (just run it by your doctor first).

Increase B-Vitamin Intake

Supplementing with certain vitamins to fill dietary gaps may be a good strategy for some ADHD patients as they play a critical cofactor role in facilitating energy metabolism and neurotransmitter synthesis. B-vitamins are at the top of the chart in this respect, playing a key role in carbohydrate metabolism along with supporting healthy myelin sheath maintenance.

Vitamin B6 in particular can help to boost low levels of serotonin in hyperactive kids and alleviate aggression, especially when combined with magnesium. And of course, more vitamin D, whether from the sun or supplementary sources, is also likely to improve ADHD symptoms in those who are lacking.

Experiment With Trace Minerals

As investigations continue into the links between diet and behavioral issues in both children and adults, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that ADHD patients are often deficient in zinc, iron and magnesium.

In children with ADHD, low serum zinc levels are associated with decreased concentrations of circulating fatty acids, which can lead to a negative feedback loop. To illustrate this point, researchers showed that supplementing with evening primrose oil, which is rich in gamma-linolenic acid, improved the behavior of ADHD kids in school, but that this positive effect was only apparent in those who were deficient in zinc.

Iron, as it happens, also plays a pivotal role in dopamine neurotransmission. In a 2004 study, 84% of children with ADHD tested were deficient in blood ferritin, compared to just 18% in health controls. Perhaps unsurprisingly, low serum ferritin levels were associated with more severe ADHD symptoms across the board. But supplementing with iron can be a fickle beast, and one which should be accompanied by regular blood measures with physician supervision.

Then there’s magnesium. I’ve already linked to a study that showed decent improvements from a combined approach of vitamin B6 and magnesium, and magnesium supplementation alone may provide almost as much efficacy in taking the H out of ADHD.

Consider Choline 

Choline is an essential micronutrient which plays an important role in brain development, liver function, muscular maintenance, nerve function, and plenty more besides. Suffice it to say that a deficiency in choline is not a good thing. In this study, 1H-MRS analysis indicated that children with poor memory had lower concentrations of choline-containing compounds, suggesting that increasing choline consumption may at least target the memory symptoms associated with ADHD.

The average Primal diet should already provide a decent dose of choline, but if in doubt don’t be afraid to offer a few more pastured eggs, and maybe throw in a serving of grass-fed liverwurst while you’re at it.

Invest In Acetyl-L-Carnitine

Acetyl-L-carnitine (ALC) facilitates the transport of fatty acids into the mitochondria, thereby boosting energy production via efficient metabolism of fatty acids. In a 2002 study, 13 out of 24 boys with ADHD showed a significant improvement in attention problems and aggressive behavior at both home and school.

More recent research into the effect of ALC on ADD/ADHD has been mixed, with several studies concluding no significant positive effect, while another trial that examined the effect of ALC on 56 fragile X syndrome boys with ADHD found that there were notable improvements in social behavior and significant reductions in hyperactivity from ALC treatment.

Fill In Micronutrient Gaps 

Another approach might simply be to invest in a high quality multivitamin (and fish oil) that ticks off all the likely bases in one fell swoop.

Certain clinical micronutrient formulations have often shown impressive results in small trials, with this study, for example, finding a 30% decrease in ADHD symptoms after 8 weeks of micronutrient supplementation in 70% of participants and a marked overall improvement in almost 80% of the participants. A follow-up from the same team with a larger number of subjects found similarly promising results. And these findings are nothing out of the ordinary, suggesting that micronutrients may be a good starting point for both children and adults who are in the process of exploring “alternative” means of treating their ADHD.

Exercise, Exercise, Exercise

Exercise is one are where there’s no shortage of research—the challenge is sorting out the facts from the almost-fiction. A 2013 study showed that a single bout of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise improved reading accuracy and processing in both children with and without ADHD compared to those who didn’t exercise. The researchers concluded that “single bouts of moderately intense aerobic exercise may have positive implications for aspects of neurocognitive function and inhibitory control in children with ADHD.” Another trial found that attention deficit symptoms in ADHD children could be minimized through physical activity whether they were taking Ritalin or not.

Yoga, which straddles both the exercise and meditation realms, has been a bit of a mixed bag in the ADHD research arena. While some studies have found no measurable effects on ADHD at all, others have found yoga to provide a good complementary treatment for children with ADHD.

I venture the power of both exercise and meditation have a lot to offer kids and adults with ADHD. It would be great to see larger studies delving into the subject, but I don’t think it’s worth waiting on when both activities are known to enhance well-being anyway.

Other Alternative Therapies to Consider

Given more time today (or another post), we could explore the possibilities contained within other burgeoning alternative ADD and ADHD treatments, like neurofeedback strategies, acupuncture, vestibular stimulation…even massage. There’s a lot going on in the world of alternative therapies, and many of the findings are very promising indeed.

Final Thoughts…

I’d love to see more forays like this one into the world of comprehensive treatments—what finely tuned combinations of nutrition, lifestyle, supplements and, in appropriate situations, medications provide the most benefit for those suffering from ADD or ADHD (or at least the symptoms we’ve come to associate with these disorders).

And, as is so often the case, I think we’re called to examine the environment and expectations of modern living. Where can we simplify, naturalize our lives and the lives of our children? What’s possible, for the sake of our kids’ well-being, to change in our home life or educational choices? Sometimes big issues call for big questions—questions, not to mention answers, for which conventional wisdom isn’t likely to take the lead.

Thanks for reading everyone. I’m interested in your thoughts and questions—and certainly your experiences. What opinions and recommendations would you add? 

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79 thoughts on “10 Alternative Therapies for ADD & ADHD”

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  1. Great alternative information to pass on to one of my friends who has a child with ADD. Thank you Mark!

  2. Mark, you are going in exactly the right direction! I am a speech language pathologist with an interest in this type of issue. I also practice an alternative modality known as Bioacoustics. It was developed by an amazing woman known as Sharry Edwards, M.Ed. It is an amazing sound therapy, using low frequency sound to help the body to balance and heal itself. I have worked with children of 5 who do not speak, and within a matter of months, they are chattering away! For more information, visit http://www.soundhealthoptions.com.

      1. Hi Diane: to find a practitioner of Bioacoustics in the Chicago area, call 740-968-9119. There is a list on the website…soundhealthoptions.com, but it is not always up to date. I am the only speech pathologist doing it, but I could guide other practitioners.

  3. Check out Dr. Amen’s research! Thanks to the scan and treatments through one of the clinics, our son is receiving non-conventional medicine (ritalin etc would have had opposite effect on his brain chemistry). The results have been fantastic! They promote good nutrition and exercise – medicine is ‘as needed only’.

    1. I have a son with ADHD and we want to get him tested to find out what the best treatment is for him. He is on Quillavant XR but we arent 100% sure its the best. How did you get him scanned, what “scan” was it? Did insurance cover it?

      1. Our insurance reimbursed us for about 20% total (it isn’t cheap) but it’s been worth it! They do a very detailed history of the patient (parents and child fill out separately), then brain spect imaging. https://www.amenclinics.com/amen-clinics-method/ He has a TED talk that’s been very popular and sums it all up. We travel to a clinic a few hours away but they have 7 locations around the country. Dr. Amen can be …gimicky? a little controversial? … but his staff is professional and we have been so impressed. Lots of science, lots of the same things Mark and the Worker Bees promote. I would encourage you to check it out. My husband was hugely skeptical, but is full-on believer now.

      2. In South Africa we make use of qEEG to determine what neurological factors are impacting concentration in line with Dr Armen’s work. Not sure about insurance in America.

  4. I’m going to go back and read the rest of the article in a moment. I got to the part “The difference between ADD and ADHD, in case you’re wondering, is the additional symptom of hyperactivity in the latter condition.” Now, I feel the need to comment. Technically speaking, ADHD is the umbrella diagnosis, with 3 subtypes falling under it:
    1) Hyperactive/Impulsive type – what most folks think of when they hear ADHD
    2) Inattentive type – aka ADD, mostly lacking in the hyperactive/impulsive traits, your stereotypical absent minded professor, but usually lacking the PhD.
    3) Combined type – just what it sounds like, it contains symptoms of both, can fluctuate from hyper/impulsive to distracted, scatterbrained, dreamer.

    Many people, but not all, with hyper/impulsive or combined type, who continue to have ADHD as adults, will out often outgrow the hyperactive component, but continue have problems with the other symptoms.

    My youngest daughter and I are primarily Inattentive type, whereas my oldest daughter is definitely combined type. As a child and teen, during her hyper moments, my oldest would flit about the room, talking up a storm. On bad days, I was worn out by time she left the room, just trying to keep up with the conversation and rapid subject changes – often in mid conversation with no warning – poof, we’re in the middle of an entirely different topic.

  5. You’ve managed to leave out what I have personally found to be the single most useful ADHD intervention and that is working with a good ADHD coach.

    I have personally found it to be way more useful than medication and I’ve tried a couple of stimulant medications & found that while the did help me concentrate it felt like the meds were bullying me into concentrating and I can no longer tolerate that feeling even at low doses.

    I’ve had a profound jump in my emotional wellbeing through committing to working with a coach for three months with the plan to continue. I can’t speak to the dietary stuff you’ve recomended, because I haven’t tried it beyond fish oil.

    I think coaching can potentially work so well for people wired like me because we are naturally people of action ( and yes, exercise!) and coaching works to help you make functionally beneficial changes in you life with a feedback loop and accountability and this helps muster the dopermine or whatever you want to call it to improve lifestyle, etc.

      1. Yes. My coach is acredited with these people.

        https://paaccoaches.org/

        There is a general idea that you could just call yourself an ADHD coach and start working in many parts of the world… Personally I have enough to deal with without paying my hard earned for a rubbish coach though. I’m sure it is possible to become a good coah without specifically being accredited with these people…

      2. There is, and a lot of them will work on line or via phone if you’re in an area without ADD coaches.

      3. There are therapists who also can serve as ADHD coaches. My husband sees one and it does help him as well.

  6. Thanks Mark. What multivitamin micronutrients do you think it best to focus on when selecting a quality one? I have a 16 yr old who responded well to medication she started to take in 1st grade but I have always had the desire to wean her off it over time. Like her father (me) I too have been diagnosed with it though DO NOT medicate. Your statement “to persist in the face of distracting stimuli, and to respond appropriately to the consequences of past behavior” hits the nail on the head for her. It doesn’t matter how many times we tell her to do something and how many times she agrees to do it, in the end, she allows “the distraction” to take over. Big rewards or big punishments have no influence. I went largely Paleo a couple years ago and drug the family along with me but with limited change in her behavior (though as you mention, hard to entirely control what she eats when she’s not here).

    1. Scott, I use Nature’s Way brand “Alive! Whole Food Energizer” (vitamins & minerals…). Don’t confuse it with a very similar label/ product they unfortunately started making that is Not food based. Food based source is key, because other co factors in actual food are required for vitamins & nutrients to be “accessible” to to body; this is why chemically created vitamins… are a waste of money. There is debate as to if any vitamin/ mineral supplements are effective since they are processed into tablet/ capsule form. Food itself (organic) is always the best source, but it is often difficult to “control” what a 16 year old eats. I view food based vitamins/ minerals as a form of insurance, so I do take the above product. You can Google Food Based vits /mins & find other good brands, but Alive tends to be the best price. You can find it on Amazon or in any health food store.

  7. The indifference and disdain we experienced trying to work with my daughter’s secondary school teachers was quite discouraging back in the day (she is now a college graduate, even though her high school counselors told her she was not a good candidate for college level work). She was diagnosed with ADHD in the 8th grade after in-depth testing by a PhD in Psychology who specialized in child behavioral development … but what did he know LOL?! We were told “she doesn’t seem hyper to me, quite the opposite” (yes, she has the inattentive type, which can manifest in low energy as well as poor focus), or rolling of the eyes with the insinuation that she was just lazy (and a lecture to the entire class the next day that there was no such thing as ADHD). One teacher told me “I have other children who have learning disabilities and they don’t ask for special treatment”, or “I’m willing to help her when I have time but she has to come to me and show me that she is trying to be organized”. Riiiight … the typical ADHA kid who already has an inferiority complex and just wants to blend into the background has to come to you … then get lectured for not being organized … the very reason she needs some extra time or help! I could go on … but I shall stop my rant now. Great suggestions Mark, I passed this on to my daughter, hopefully she has the attention span to read through the article. 🙂

    1. Ah yes, I remember that. If only I had a dollar for every time my undiagnosed-ADD self was told that I “wasn’t working up to my potential,” I’d be a multimillionaire!

    1. N-acetyl cystine has shown some promise in diminishing compulsive behaviors like those seen in OCD

  8. Interesting observation about the two Kenyan tribes. It reminded me of a hypothesis I read about autistic children growing up in a hunter-gatherer community. It basically said that they would thrive as hunters, due to their unique ability to focus on a single task and block out everything else. Also, I have learned lately of the many benefits that melatonin has on us and wonder if supplementation could benefit those with ADD/ADHD.

    Cheers and happy holidays!

    1. My ADHD spouse takes GABA and says it helps him quite a bit. I wonder if there is something to that as well.

      1. I’m glad it does though I have no knowledge of the above. I did came across a research on L-carnitin, that showed positive results when given to children.

  9. Great article, Mark. What are your thoughts on caffeine? It seems the rise of caffeine laden energy drinks coincides with the rise in ADHD diagnoses. And since caffeine is a stimulant like ritalin it is thinkable that there is some relationship?

    1. I have ADHD and Tourette’s Syndrome. I stay away from anything with caffeine in it. It exacerbates my tics, makes me take offense easily, I say really stupid stuff and offend folks and get insomnia .

      1. I have both of these, too. My tics are all food related. Eliminating petroleum based food additives (colors, some preservatives) and milk protein prevents my tics.

    2. It’s certainly individual, but while my daughter and I were going through the arduous task of diagnosis (she’s autistic, and we wanted to be sure her symptoms were ADD rather than autism), caffeine was an extremely helpful bridge. It’s used as a preliminary medicine by some doctors. I had always noticed that while caffeine would disrupt my sleep, I had much better focus when I drank coffee and I never got jittery. Our brains are just different!

  10. My son has Inattentive Type ADD (no ‘H’), along with a slew of other developmental issues. He is currently on Clonidine, which is not a stimulant drug, but gave us the best result balancing focus versus awful side effects. We would dearly LOVE to get him off of medication, but without it, he is tragically distracted by EVERYTHING.

    We currently utilize trace minerals, multivitamins, and DHA; he gets most of his exercise with swimming. We are about to embark on junk carb and sugar elimination diet…we fully expect this to be hell. We are not seeing any differences in his distraction (on medication) with the current supplement regimen, which is why we are looking to food. He has been underweight, so were told to allow him to eat anything he wanted – that needs to stop because he exists on crackers and cookies.

    We will work in some of these suggestions along with what we are currently doing. It’s tough treating your child like a science experiment, but Dr’s just want to medicate and release. I want my happy kiddo back, but he also needs to be able to learn, it’s just heartbreaking.

    Would love to hear more on ADHD. Will be checking back to the comments to see what other people are doing, too. We parents are just so lost and feel helpless when our children have issues we can’t seem to overcome…

    1. Three words that will make a difference…. nutrition, nutrition, nutrition. Keep in mind that sugars and grains act like opiates in the brain which make it more difficult to focus. I would guess that he has either an allergy or sensitivity to the foods he is digesting. Crackers and cookies have almost no nutrition, craving them usually means your body needs more protein and fat. Be patient, making changes like food takes time with kids to be successful. One of the reasons doctors are quick to give meds is because it is a quick fix and parents aren’t very patient to try other alternatives.

      1. Thanks for your reply! He was on a mostly paleo diet until we were stupid and listened to the Dr’s. However, I have to say that there is not much of a difference between then (paleo) and now (junk) with distractibility. We just want him off of junk food for his general health.

        He eats lots of cheese and nuts, but is not a fan of meat at ALL. I’ve been trying chicken salad where I basically puree the chicken and that is kind of working. Meatloaf is another way to encourage meat, but anything beef or pork is not favored. Trial and error, we will figure this out.

    2. Hi Qness, at the risk of offering medical advice over the internet, there were some interesting tidbits in your post that caught my eye. Clonodine typically targets anxiety, not inattention specifically, meaning that anxious thoughts and feelings were (and are) interfering with clear thinking. The “slew of developmental issues” and “he exists on crackers and cookies” sent alarm bells off for me for ASD (along with the anxiety). I really don’t like to intrude on others, but my specialization is in Autism and I see tons of kids where ADHD was the initial diagnosis (including one from the Amen clinic) but a more pervasive set of challenges became apparent to me, and the ASD diagnosis allowed for more effective treatment. So… not saying that your son is on the spectrum, but a diagnosis can open up doors that an ADHD dx does not – specifically in home behavioral treatment that is usually covered by insurance. My apologies if this feels intrusive.

      1. I was thinking sensory processing disorder. My son couldn’t handle textures or the scents of many foods. Occupational therapy cured almost all of it.

        1. Thanks for your reply, Lisa!

          My son has no issues with textures, sounds, scents, etc. He loves the taste of sugar and how easy to chew crackers and cookies are. He has very low muscle tone, especially in his mouth (which greatly affects his speech), so he just HATES to chew.

          1. I didn’t like meat growing up becaus it was too hard to chew, didn’t like strong flavors (cooked carrots, peas, squash, liver, etc) and potatoes burned my throat. Your comments reminded me
            As I matured I could add more food but the dog LOVED me at dinner! She got most of the strongest flavors through high school. As an adult (63 now) I can eat cooked carrots and some squash. Progress! And I love meat, getting my big teeth helped with that.
            Hope your son grows out of some of these issues like I did.

      2. KidPsych, thanks for your reply! I do not find discussion and an offer to help in any way intrusive at all.

        My son has been tested extensively, he is not on the spectrum. He was, however, born with the minimal amount of myelin in his brain for him to survive. This has caused severe global delays that he is s-l-o-w-l-y recovering from. He is incredibly social and has no issues with sensory input (sounds, textures, etc). He did not speak until he was 6 (he is 8 now) and that has been with speech therapy since he was 18 months. His speech is still barely intelligible, but he tries very hard and we are seeing slow progress. He can now hold a utensil and use it to eat, but it is messy. He is also now holding a pencil and can write a little, but it is huge and messy letters, but we are working with it. He can now get dressed by himself as long as there are no buttons or zippers involved, although at times he needs verbal assistance to keep him on task. All of this has been through years of SLP, PT, OT, etc.

        He has been tested by school districts, independent pediatric neuropsychologists, clinical psychologists, Regional Centers, State diagnostic centers – you name it. Of course, everyone has a different diagnosis for him, but usually fall between two camps; Intellectual Disability or Severe Global Delay caused by Demyelination complicated by ADD (Inattentive Type) with average IQ. We tend to side with the latter diagnosis, but don’t let that matter to us overly much….we, his parents, are here to get him the help and services he needs to reach his full potential. No one who has tested him has said he has ASD.

        We have tried MANY types of therapies, but only retain those which seem to make a difference. We have experimented with food, and were doing a credible job, until one of his Dr’s freaked us out by stating how underweight he was and just to feed him as much as anything he wanted to get him plumped up. In hindsight, he was not scary underweight and he was getting good nutrition. However now he only wants to eat sugar and carbs and will quite happily refuse to eat unless he gets them. We are home baking substitutes to bridge the transition, experimentation in process.

        He does have a touch of anxiety; it’s hard to get him out of the house. Once we are out and in the car, or at an event, he has a blast….but leaving the house is HARD.

      3. KidPsych – I forgot to address the Clonidine question. We tried 12 different medications to come to one that helped with focus without extremely adverse side-effects. We originally tried all of the stimulant meds, but my son had terrible side-effects from them, from violence to discontinuing to eat or drink when on them. The rest of the non-stimulant meds put him to sleep. Clonidine is the only one where he is sleepy for a little while, but can work through it and it assists with focus. That being said, he is still extremely disctractable, but I have teachers and therapists saying that it makes such a difference in him that they cannot believe they were able to get through a session previous to the medication.

  11. I’m curious about the effect of vaccine ingredients on ADD/ADHD. Is there a test to ascertain the body’s load of mercury, aluminium or fluoride for example? Kids today are doped up from day 1 in hospital starting with Hep B which contains a serious amount of mercury – even preemies get it with their low birth-weight.

    In pets, vaccines are known to cause all sorts of behavioural issues not to mention cancer at the injection site. Why should it be any different for humans?

    Somewhere I have a list of supplements to take if vaccines are required for a job for instance. The supplements are used to help remove the mercury so it doesn’t have the chance to buildup in brain tissue. I’ll dig it out.

    1. One does wonder why the incidence of ADHD (and allergies, asthma, autism, autoimmune diseases, otitis media, SIDS, POTS, and so forth) has increased so greatly in recent years. Couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the aluminum adjuvant (used to “excite” the immune system) in so many of today’s vaccines, or the thimerosal still used in multi-dose vials of influenza vaccine as a preservative. I’m no anti-vaxxer, but if they have to add a known neurotoxin to vaccines to elicit an immune response that lasts more than a few years, maybe they need to rethink the formulations…

      1. Agreed. The increasing number of boosters recommended for many vaccines would seem to suggest they are not really working…

    2. Try your supplements to see if the prevent polio, smallpox, or shingles, to name just a few. I was one of the first people in the world to receive the Salk polio vaccine in testing, I had friends that got the disease. You would not want it.

      I guess people can go all anti-science nutso on vaccines when so many people are now protected.

      The alleged link between mercury and autism was never there, by the way. The British doctor who allegedly discovered this has been stripped of his license. The EU eliminated mercury from vaccines years ago, and guess what? Autism is still going up.

      For whatever tiny few (and if real) problems arise from vaccines, the payback is huge and positive.

      1. So why are Americans so sick? Why are our children the sickest on earth? We spend the most on *healthcare* and vaccines are the holy grail of that. So why do we have the highest infant mortality rate in the developed world? Could it be due to the Hep B vaccine given on day 1 of life? Hep B is a disease transmitted thru sex and needles. Human immune systems are not deficient in vaccines.

        Why does the CDC predict the rate of austin will be 1 in 2 boys by 2030? Why is it that the huge increase in cases of autism et all began just as the vaccine schedule went into hyperdrive in the late ’80s? You know, after your government gave vaccine makers blanket immunity from ALL liability. BTW you pay the tax that funds the pile of money from which vaccine-injury/death settlements are drawn. Look it up.

        Sorry, OTB, but your love affair with the vaccine-cartel is based on a house of cards.

        Andrew Wakefield wasn’t the first by a long shot. His research and hypotheses has been replicated and smart practitioners are helping children with ASD by healing their gut. Look it up. (Primal diets are part of the treatment so you must acknowledge some of this or you wouldn’t be here. ; >)

        Please provide the resource that says the EU eliminated mercury in vaccines.
        Thank you!

        1. One can’t argue with a conspiracy lover. Worst infant mortality (and post-natal mothers, too). Hello, maybe because our “health care” system sucks? Immune systems are not deficient in vaccines? Holy mofo brown excrement. What horse pucky. I guess all those natural vaccines were effective and in place before small pox (the first) vaccine, polio, etc. As to your contention of Hep B being a sex and needle disease, Wikipedia: “The virus is transmitted by exposure to infectious blood or body fluids.[1] Infection around the time of birth or from contact with other people’s blood during childhood is the most frequent method by which hepatitis B is acquired in areas where the disease is common.[1]”

          Science is a bitch when you want to believe the earth is flat, isn’t it?

          1. We don’t vaccinate for smallpox; the vaccine was too dangerous.

            Pregnant women in America are tested before birth for Hep B. Only those babies born of hep B positive mothers should be subjected to the substantial risks of the vaccine. The jury is out on the benefit of the vaccine at a few hours old but they do prep the NICU before they jab all the preemies cause they know many will stop breathing… ask a NICU nurse. A booster is required before age 2 I believe. Then every few years for life. Sounds like a winner doesn’t it.

            Wikipedia isn’t an acceptable resource in high schools btw.

            Why does our “health care” suck? Why are we not the healthiest since we are given the most vaccines of all peoples on earth?

            Once again, please provide the details of your statement that, “The EU eliminated mercury years ago…”

            My statement about the rate of autism by 2030 is inaccurate. The rate in 2015 was 1 in 45 so it looks promising that we’ll hit 1 in 2 before 2030.

            Out of curiosity, how did you manage to survive before you were a test subject back in the day? Were you sick all the time? At death’s door because you had no protection from vaccines? Vaccines have been around just over 200 years now so how did we survive before this miracle?

            Vaccine “science” is a bitch, agreed, especially when it doesn’t exist.

        2. Jennifer, the US has the highest infant mortality rate in the developed world because we count infant deaths differently than the other countries. (There is also the issue of underreporting/unreliability in the data from many other countries.) The US reports infant deaths using the strictest WHO definition of live birth – this includes infants born very prematurely that only live a short time. Most other countries do not use the same definition – they only count infants as a “live-birth” if it survives a certain period time, thereby eliminating a large number of infant deaths (most occur in the first 24 hours). Ergo, the US statistic looks very bad in comparison because it’s not actually comparing the same thing.

          1. Hi Annie,

            So you’re saying the Hep B vaccine given in the first week of life (usually within the first 12 hours) before the baby leaves the hospital has no impact on the infant mortality rate? You might want to look up the stats regarding hep b vax on VAERS. Search from when hep b at birth became common practice, mid-1990s.

            Your reply does not explain why America is number 34 on the list of first-tier nations in infant mortality. We spend the most, we pretend to know the most, yet our babies are still dying.

            Please provide your source for the statement “…the US statistic looks very bad in comparison because it’s not actually comparing the same thing.” Which countries are you referencing?

            No one denies the IMR is too high in this land of plenty; yet no one cares to investigate the use of a vaccine that has a toxic load of aluminum, according to the government, on its contribution -or not-toward the high IMR. Please show me the study proving hep b vaccine given to hours old infants is safe and efficacious. Please explain why a hep b booster is required every few years for life. Please tell me why an hours old infant gets the same dose of hep b as a grown adult. Thank you.

          2. I’m not saying anything at all about the Hep B vaccine, or any other vaccine. I’m talking solely about the statistic that shows the US having a much higher infant mortality rate than other similar countries. You can look up several articles and studies about this particular statistic, and why it’s not telling the whole story.

            Imagine a baby born very prematurely, with a low birth weight. It’s born alive, moving a little, struggling to breathe, but unfortunately it’s so underdeveloped that it only lives a couple days. In the US, that baby is counted as a live-birth, and as such is added as an infant mortality. In other countries, because of the low birth weight/gestational period, they will record it as a fetal death – stillbirth. Because of those different guidelines for reporting, the child will NOT be counted as an infant mortality, even though it was technically born alive. Differences in reporting guidelines affect a country’s IMR, especially since the majority of infant mortality happens in the first 28 days.

            The second thing that affects the IMR in the US in the larger number of infant deaths between 28 days and 1 year. When they look at those numbers in detail, it is almost entirely due to disadvantaged groups. Unfortunately, minorities such as Blacks and Native Americans have an infant mortality nearly twice that of any other race. Because we have much more racial diversity in our country than others we are compared to (Finland, Belgium, Denmark, etc.), the IMR in the US is higher.

            In short, no one is talking about vaccines affecting the IMR in the US because we already know the difference for this statistic is due to the reasons listed above – reporting differences for premature infants, and greater racial diversity.

          3. Do you mean that the IMR is meaningless as one indicator of a nation’s state of health? Why do we pay the UN to compile such worthless data then?

            Are you saying that the children who are counted in the IMR in the US are *almost* all non-whites? Really? Please provide the data to back this up.

            Are you concerned about the “larger number of infant deaths between 28 days and 1 year” in the US? If you are concerned, wouldn’t it be prudent to look at the differences in *health* care between the US and any of the countries listed in your post above, for instance, during the first year of life? If the major difference is the number of vaccines given in the first year of life, shouldn’t that be looked at?

            Come on people, start thinking critically. I know you can because you are here on MDA, am I right? Because you chose to think outside the box and take some control back regarding your health. The *health* care professionals who don’t want you here are the same ones who turn nasty when you question vaccine “science”.

  12. In my experience as a psychotherapist who has worked with all ages that have ADD/ADHD symptoms, these alternatives are good choices. I have found that very few people need meds to control the symptoms. What works best is a diet without sugar and grains, adequate sleep (at least 10 hours for kids), limited electronics especially prior to bedtime (which should be around 9 pm), B vitamins, Krill oil, and exercise. Along with that is learning skills in how to manage the symptoms such as having lists, organization, routines, etc. I also use methods that retrain the brain to control symptoms long-term. I have helped many get off of the drugs simply by getting good nutrition and sleep, and most should have never been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD. If a child (or adult) is overly tired and/or malnourished, they will show symptoms. Also noted is that most who really have ADD/ADHD have allergies that affect the brain and present with symptoms. Take care of the allergies (naturally of course) and the symptoms go away. There is a lot of useable information in treating these conditions, however, doctors and drug companies only want to use the drug therapy which is only a band-aid.

    1. Any suggestions for a quality B vitamin supplementation for kids? Thanks.

      1. That largely depends on the age and size of the kid. B-Complex is best; for adults, I recommend a B-100 complex of a decent brand (no dollar store type). Smaller kids might be best to start with the B-50 complex. These vitamins are water soluble so any excess just goes out of the system. Ideally, you should try to get these vitamins from food. Individuals with more severe problems (especially mental health) might need a much higher dose and/or a specific vitamin like B-3. With this being said, working with someone with proper training and skills should be used.

  13. I love this!!! My daughter and I both have ADD (my doctor doesn’t like the H, so he focuses the diagnosis that way). I was undiagnosed as a child, and the main reason I had my daughter evaluated is the pain of being labeled as lazy when I really just couldn’t focus!

    When my daughter was 3, I started noticing symptoms, including hyperfocus and extra stimming (she’s autistic). I immediately ditched all artificial colors and flavors along with high fructose corn syrup. She improved immensely. When she was 8, I was diagnosed with celiac, so I took out gluten for her too. Her focus improved so much that her teachers wrote extra notes to congratulate her on “learning to focus on work.” Sadly, our ADD is highly driven by hormones, so puberty for her and perimenopause for me means medication, but we are both working on ways to minimize that and get off of the meds eventually.

    I’m kind of surprised I didn’t see the ketogenic diet on this list. I’m in the process of converting to it, and on days I manage to stay near ketosis, I’m sharp as a tack. I need no medication at all if I can keep my diet in line. I plan on asking my doctor to come up with arguments against it for my daughter. She’s only 14, but I believe she is finished growing, and as soon as I can do it safely, I hope to get her into ketosis to see if it helps.

  14. Check out the Walsh Research Institute and Mensah Medical. They’ve been doing research and treatments based on nutrient deficiencies/imbalances being the underlying cause of several conditions such as ADD, anxiety, etc.

  15. Have to say, I’m a little disappointed on the science of this one. First of all, you don’t see ADD in the literature anymore because it is not a diagnosis. The DSM-V catagorizes ADHD into 3 subcategories: hyperactive (what you call ADHD), inattentive (what you call ADD) and combined. My next issue is with the age of your research – most recent studies (2014 +) state there is no connection between food colourings or sugar and ADHD symptoms. I don’t recommend going out and eating frosting to test this, but the correlation has been debunked due mostly to environmental factors (the children are hyper because they are in a situation that promotes excitement, such as a birthday party).

    Your evolutionary psychology is also somewhat oversimplified. The adaptation/byproduct hypothesis is still inconclusive, and probably always will be until we can time travel. What is acknowledged now is that ADHD may be what is known as a pseudopathology – something that didn’t cause a problem im the ancestral environment but does now. Depression can also be labled a pseudopathhology based on social rank theory (I highly recommend Gilbert’s research on this matter).

    While these are good suggestions that will supplement professional therapies, I strongly suggest speaking to a psychologist if you want drug free ADHD treatment. There are a number of options, but they have to be tailored to the individual – a social skills group will not help the class clown for example.

    1. Kristin,
      Thank you for your words against relying on “evolutionary psychology”. Whenever someone brings that up, as in this article, I always wonder, “Did they find that in the fossil record?”

      As you suggest, the important thing is what we know now. After all, it was evolution that made the appendix and tonsils into vestigial organs on their way out.

      I wish Mark would quit referring to evolution and stick to things that can be known.

      The primal lifestyle works. There have been too many people positively affected by it to deny it. It doesn’t have to be justified by some misty evolutionary theory. The fact that it works is justification enough.

      Disclaimer: I did not say that you don’t believe in evolution. I have no idea what you believe regarding that.

      1. Bill,

        I think you may have misunderstood me a bit. Evolutionary psychology is definitely a thing, and a fascinating field (it is, in fact partially based on the fossil record). What I am saying is that Mark claims that ADHD is an adaptation (something evolved in response to a specific ancestral issue, such as opposable thumbs), when in fact there is some debate it is a byproduct (the ability to text with said thumbs).

        My issue with this post in general is that, having the education I do, I found the science a bit lacking.

    2. As an adult with ADHD, the hunter/farmer model was great for confidence building earlier in my life, even if it doesn’t hold up scientifically.

  16. Exercise helps a lot, and so does having a coach. I just started with my coach and am having to wade through a backlog of pain from a lifetime of struggle. I am medicated but like another on this list I feel pushed around by it and really don’t like it. My job is making it extra difficult to cope with ADD symptoms, I work swing shift going from third to second, all wrong. I long to live in a shack by the river, a hunter gatherer life would be lovely. It’s really painful to try to fit this world of straight lines when I’m suited to the arabesques of forests, it feels like a punishment to adapt to a life of short shallow thoughts when what I love are long, complicated, meandering sojourns of exploration. I think we all need to question where our technologies and economies are taking us. Sticking to real food, moving around, soaking in nature and friendship, being human, those things are good for people with ADD and in fact they’re good for everyone. Years ago Thom Hartmann wrote a book about his idea that ADD is a hunter-gatherer brain style and it’s fun to see that he may have been proven right. In THIS world, ADD is definitely a huge challenge. We may be the canary in the coal mine.

  17. Homeschooling is an excellent option. We chose to try it out when our daughter was about to enter the second grade. I could not have anticipated all the benefits when we began… Our daughter will be attending High School next year. She does not suffer from ADHD. She had a horrible phobia of math. I stopped math for a month and we played Yahtzee in the second grade. We read great literature to her. We cooked. Primal of coarse! We took walks in nature, volunteered at the library, took advantage of the weather…sometimes school happened outside at the park. Lisa is articulate and intuitive. She knows when to call it a day. She has a close relationship with her tribe. I trust she will thrive. She will find and pursue her passion in life. She is a no drama mama. It won’t be easy to pull her in to an iffy situation. She is confident in her beliefs. I have only graded her through middle school. I like Norway’s education system. Short elementary school days infused with lots of play and outdoor time. They don’t have arbitrary goals for when a child should read etc. At home, i’ve been able to respect my child as a whole person, never forcing her to perform;only supporting her and believing in her innate abilities to master learning. Mostly, she has become a self-motivated learner. She craves knowledge. I am now a certified Primal Health Coach… I did not realize until the past year how primally aligned homeschooling really is.If I can homeschool, anyone can! Who cares more about children than their own parents?

  18. I know your focus is primarily on food, but we have been integrating retained reflexes by doing simple exercises/occupational therapy with the help of a chiropractor. This, along with reducing glutens, has made a big difference for my supposedly ADD child. It’s worth looking into.

  19. College professor with ADHD, here. PhD in a geoscience field. Parents, your kids *can* work up to their potential and have a life that meets common metrics of success. They just may do it a bit differently and/or on a different timeline. Just sayin’.

    I get the best benefit from Strattera & Wellbutrin, with coffee, fish oil, and clean eating adding a boost. The last 3 alone are not sufficient treatment for me.

  20. ADHD describes all three types of the disorder now, so that’s probably why you see only that acronym in the literature.
    Many of these alternatives we’ve been doing for our child with ADHD for a long time, and while they help, they are in no means a cure of all her symptoms. Not to mention it is very common for those with ADHD to also have coexisting disorders (for our child, it is language processing disorder). These alternatives can greatly help and might even eliminate the need for medications, but kids still need behavioral management strategies put into place to help them learn how to work with their executive functioning and social difficulties. I think at best, these strategies can help with focus and hyperactivity (although my kid personally still has trouble with both even with these strategies in place, just less so), but they are not a substitute for teaching your child how to manage life with ADHD.
    Also, if you’ve got a teen (or an adult spouse) who was just diagnosed, please get them some therapy. They’ve had to go their whole lives being treated like their symptoms were intentional, bad behavior. That does a tremendous about of harm to their self worth. This fantasy that you can just put an ADHD teen or adult on a primal diet and good vitamin regime to cure all the problems (because you know some people think it would be that easy) can never erase the emotional harm done from years of not being diagnosed.

  21. It wasn’t until I was an adult (ok, and in my late 40s) that I realized I had ADD. I look at it as a gift…I am super creative, high energy, and bursting with ideas. But definitely have trouble focusing because my mind is going in so many directions. Adding more good fat (and I really think my brain needs some saturated animal fat to function well) made a huge difference in my focus and also reduced anxiety to almost nothing. Meditating for about 10 minutes in the morning helps too. I also thrive on what I call “loose structure.” I have a morning routine, but don’t allow it to become too rigid. Technology can be helpful…setting timers to stay focused on a task, alarms to remind myself of things, and jotting ideas down in the notes section of my phone when I’m feeling inspired, so I don’t forget them. Staying physically active (which doesn’t necessarily mean structured workouts) helps me too. I’m sure some of these ideas could be helpful for parents whose kids have ADHD, in addition to whatever else they are trying.

  22. Regarding “Autism Spectrum Disorder” including many symptoms similar to those of ADHD”, it is worth noting that an ADHD diagnosis can be incorrect. My 24 year old son w/ Asperger’s was diagnosed w/ inattentive form in 2nd grade, confirmed twice more by his 9th grade Asperger’s diagnosis. At age 22 , he had to have a Very in depth evaluation to attend nonpareil Institute, an Amazing place for high functioning ASD adults. That eval. by Dr. Kandelaft (Plano, TX) revealed No ADHD evidence. (As I had long suspected). My son did appear inattentive. But, when It finally occurred to me to make say, a 3 part detailed statement to him & have him repeat it back to me in his own words, he could do it well vast majority of the time. This was another lesson in “trust your gut”. You know your child better than anyone else, & M.D.’s too often get it wrong.

  23. Fantastic article, Mark (well, aside from your stock photo with the hilarious misspelling!).

    This is my experience with a child with ADHD…

    My son slept all day and cried all night. The only way to get him to settle down at night was to turn on every light in the house and crack up loud music. Once his nervous system was overloaded, he’d finally fall asleep.

    He walked at 9 mos, climbed stairs one foot after the other at 12 mos, and rode a skateboard at 18 mos. Montessori preschool was a success but elementary was a disaster. He got good grades without trying but was always in trouble for impulsive behaviors. We ended up homeschooling for a few years starting in 5th grade.

    Sleep continued to be a problem. He would fall asleep later and later each night until he was staying up past 12 and having trouble getting up in the morning. Every few weeks, I would have to force him out of bed at 5 am and run him hard all day so that he would would naturally fall asleep around 7 or 8 pm. We repeated this cycle throughout most of his early childhood.

    One day in 9th or 10th grade, my son came home from school, climbed under the family room coffee table, fell asleep and didn’t wake up for close to 16 hours. His sleep only got worse from there. I took him to a sleep specialist and he was diagnosed with narcolepsy without cataplexy.

    As a young child, his ped had wanted to put him on Ritalin to calm him down. I refused and just gave him more outdoor playtime and worked harder to keep his diet clean (every other weekend with his dad was a junk food free for all). I just had trouble believing ADHD was a separate entity and just a collection of symptoms in response to the stresses of modern living. Now with an indisputable diagnosis, I was ready to try medication. As my son was still under 18, his insurance did not want to cover modafinil and instead told us we had to try, and fail, Adderall. Well, Adderall turned my sweet and loving child into an angry monster almost overnight and so that med trial failed within a few days and he was put on modafinil at 15 years of age so that he could get through high school mostly awake. Unfortunately, modafinil has a half-life of like 16 hours and he needed amitriptyline to get to sleep. On his own, he decided not to continue this med combo and now manages his symptoms through diet and lifestyle modifications. (He makes his mama so proud!)

    The point of this long post is that doctors can be quick to diagnose “ADHD” but I want parents to be aware that the symptoms are often (much more often that you’d think, do the research) caused by another condition. In children, ADHD symptoms are quite similar to the symptoms of sleep disorder. So before you accept the diagnosis of ADHD, argue with your doctor until he or she writes an order for PSG and possibly MSLT. HTH someone!

  24. I think this article is spot on. There could be situations where medication is the answer but I always prefer the natural way. My grandson reacts to red dye #40 and by eliminating it from his diet he’s fine. The whole family keeps him away from “red” and for us it’s normal. I totally believe processed food is bad for everyone…but people are a hard sell when healthy foods cost more.

  25. Great topic! Such a common health issue in today’s world. If you do another article about it, how bout discussing whether going organic has been investigated as useful? With over 200 chemicals found in the average blood test I can’t imagine chemicals don’t effect our brains.

  26. As a certified personologist in Keirsey Temperament Theory I’d like to add that Dr. Keirsey championed defending children labeled with this disorder. His research suggested that many of those diagnosed were simply of the ‘Artisan’ temperament type. This type loves to explore their surroundings using their senses, and hands especially. In short–they get into stuff. In classroom settings this stood out compared to others who naturally could sit still for longer periods of time without feeling the need to explore, touch, build, etc. Dr. Keirsey thought it was a travesty that many of these children were drugged rather than being given a proper canvas and framework to express their nature given pre-dispositions.

  27. TLDR: Primal/Paleo lifestyle and diet help, especially when combined with a consistent exercise regimen. “Move frequently at a slow pace” indeed. There are other things to consider that I tried to organize and outline below.

    I’d like to apologize in advance for the long post.

    I think it’s worth mentioning that there is also a genetic component to at least some instances of ADHD. People with mutations to the DRD4 gene, and especially the DRD4-7R variant have fewer/less active dopamine receptors. This leads them to seek new experiences and to things that most people would call “risky” behavior. It has been tied repeatedly to ADD/ADHD, and to “wanderlust”.

    To people with this gene, and with ADHD specifically, the world around them isn’t very interesting… …kinda like reading tax law 24/7, and it’s that way all the time. It can be impossible to focus on anything that you have a passionate interest in or care about. Finding a way to make the tedious important and rewarding is key. Exposure to new environments is also extremely helpful.

    I’m an adult with ADHD (diagnosed in childhood and re-diagnosed 2 decades later as and adult), and I have a permanent itch to wander. Trying new things, finding new experiences, connecting deeply with just a few friends… …these things feel like they make life meaningful. I and several others that I live with (all friends/family, and all with ADHD) find time spent outside soothing, especially along the rivers and in the old growth forests here in the PNW where we live.

    I have individually managed care through a team of medical professionals, the support of my family, life skills/management techniques, and medication that I can take as a discretionary focus aid. My wife’s diagnoses with Celiac’s Disease started us down the paleo/primal lifestyle and the elimination of sugar/gluten/junk food… …my symptoms are definitely more manageable with less processed food, lots of vegetables, and no refined sugar. Embracing the hyperactivity has led to channeling it into lots of skiing, bicycling, hiking, etc.

    I have read that the hyperactive aspect doesn’t really go away in adults, it just becomes internalized as anxiety. This states clearly something I have tried to express for the last 30 years. It is also a good way to explain why some people with ADHD become anxious or depressed when they aren’t moving. We grow up hearing things like, “sit still” and “stop fidgeting”. Movement stimulates the production of dopamine (among other things). We move because it feels good. Prescribed stimulants are sometimes useful to boost the production of dopamine enough to help level things out emotionally. That (in turn) allows the opportunity for focus on chores or work. Caffeine is a useful stopgap.

    I’m sharing this because I think that it’s important to say that many of the things here (in this blog and specifically this article) have helped me, and I’m going to try some of the others. Exercise and diet are definitely the way to go. Getting enough sleep is also essential to maintaining any measure of self control.

    To those that are struggling with this, either yourself or someone you’re close to, please know that there is hope… …it is possible to conquer school, to hold down a good job, and work to steadily better your situation. Don’t let anyone define success for you or tell you that it can’t be done.

    Mark, thank you for all the research and the support you pour into this site!

    Sorry again for the long post.

    1. Thank you for writing! Many in my family have ADHD, which I do not seem to have. But I…more than any of them…have the wanderlust. Actually, so does my 29-year-old son. So much food for thought.

  28. Thom Hartmann wrote a book on ADD and also compared it to the hunter-gather vs. farmer lifestyle. There is another concept he mentions called being a ‘scanner’, which many people associate with ADD in the modern world, whereas, hundreds of years ago, it would be considered just a ‘renaissance’ man/woman.

    As an engineer/scientist myself, I personally think that children shouldn’t be sitting all day while learning. Why should we learn about biology and ecology from a text book instead of in the real world? Even math can be learned in the outdoors.

  29. It’s good to learn about therapy for ADHD. My brother has a son who has ADHD, so I’ll have to show him this. He wants to try different things, so I’ll suggest that he take junk food away from his son to see if that will help.