ADHD is a complex disorder and finding an effective treatment plan can be challenging.  While medication is often the first treatment option offered, finding a medication that is effective and does not produce unwanted side effects can be difficult.  For some making the choice to try medication for themselves or for their child is a challenging decision.  Fortunately, the options for complementary or alternative treatments are growing and can be very effective without the side effects of medication.  Some of the more effective and mainstream treatments are combinations of exercise, proper nutrition, behavior therapy or coaching, neurofeedback and meditation.  In addition, accommodations at school and work can help with symptom management.

How Do Alternative Treatments Work?


Exercise is a critical component to the management of ADHD and for some may reduce the need for stimulant medications.  Exercise elevates dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin which are the chemicals in the brain that regulate focus and attention. Increasing serotonin can also calm hyperactivity.   Individuals with ADHD have decreased levels of these brain chemicals and many ADHD medications work to increase the levels.  Adding 20 to 30 minutes of enjoyable vigorous aerobic exercise will increase these brain chemicals and will also improve self-image which can also be a challenge with ADHD.  Karate, ballet, gymnastics and other physical activities that require attention to detail also are beneficial in increasing ability to concentrate and focus.  Yoga and tai chi help in a similar way but also provide ability to calm down which can help with the feeling of overwhelm that is common in ADHD.


Behavior Therapy for Children:  There is increasing evidence that behavioral parent training is a beneficial first step in treating young children with ADHD.  In this treatment parents receive training from a behavioral therapist on how to work best with their child.  Parents can determine what works for their child and discuss weekly with therapist who can help modify the plan.  Studies have shown that in many cases medication can be avoided with this approach.

ADHD Coaching:  ADHD coaches help teens and adults identify what kinds of challenges their symptoms pose in their life and then make changes or find accommodations that will work for them.  A coach will help them stay on track, plan, problem solve and make use of their individual strengths to be more focused and productive.  A coach can also help with stress reduction strategies which can help with anxiety that is often a symptom of ADHD.

Meditation: There is a wealth of evidence that meditation can help improve focus, regulate emotions, calm the mind and reduce anxiety.  For those with ADHD this intervention can help manage the overwhelm that comes from inability to pay attention.  For more information on meditation and ADHD see my website

Nutritional Support:   While poor diet does not cause ADHD, eating well can reduce the symptoms and make it easier to stay focused throughout the day.  A healthy breakfast is especially important for those whose appetites are suppressed during the day from stimulant medications.  Experts suggest a protein based breakfast and food rich in Omega 3 fats. Proteins increase the neurotransmitters which aid with alertness while carbohydrates cause drowsiness. Omega 3 oils are important for brain development and can benefit those with ADHD.  If you are interested in nutritional support for ADHD, find a health care provider who can help.

Neurofeedback: Neurofeedback is noninvasive and is a form of biofeedback which basically helps train the brain to calm down and stay focused. To receive neurofeedback, an individual is connected to an EEG machine which is connected to a computer screen.  The EEG provides feedback to train the brain to pay close attention.  Generally, it takes several sessions for lasting change but the results are encouraging.  Neurofeedback is also believed to be affective for other condition affecting the brain including anxiety, sleep disorders, seizures and autism.

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