Sunday, February 7 , 2016, 8:45 pm | Fair 57º

Dr. Scott Saunders: Treating ADD Without Medication

Proper nutrition and avoiding certain toxins can work wonders

By Scott Saunders, M.D. |

Krista came into my office with her 8-year-old son, Aiden. As she started talking, tears were in her eyes.

Dr. Scott Saunders
Dr. Scott Saunders

“The school wants me to put him on another medication because he won’t sit still,” she said. “He’s already tried several and they don’t work, so they want him to double-up! I don’t want him on medications, but they threatened to kick him out if I don’t.”

We discussed their dilemma and came up with a suitable strategy. We changed his diet, gave him some supplements, and sent him to a psychologist who specialized in biofeedback.

Attention deficit disorder is normal — for an infant. The immature brain does not focus well. We don’t even expect little children to sit quietly for any length of time; we know they need stimulation of some kind.

Some children develop the ability to focus more slowly than others. While this has been known since the beginning of time, we now have a name for it: ADD or ADHD. ADD stands for attention deficit disorder, and the “H” is for hyperactivity. The first are just easily distractable, while those who cannot sit still are given the ADHD label.

Our current treatment is to stimulate the brain with amphetamines. These are stimulants that work in the area of the brain that initiate focus, or attention. However, they are also neurotoxins (toxic to nerves) called “excitotoxins” because they can stimulate nerve cells until they run out of energy and die. Because of this, they retard the normal growth and maturity of the nervous system and inhibit normal development of attention span, creating adults with attention deficits.

Best Treatment

The best way to start is to completely avoid all toxins that could be causing the problem. Since it’s difficult to know what that might be, it’s best to avoid them all:

Artificial sweeteners
Sugar/corn sugar/syrup/sweetener
Artificial colors
Allergenic foods (milk, wheat, GMO foods)

The second step is to make sure the child has proper nutrition. A diet of natural, organic foods is a good start. I usually use a supplement specifically for attention because it will contain choline, inositol and phosphatidylserine, all of which help calm the brain naturally. Cod liver oil is also helpful.

Next, you must consider training. The brain will continue to follow the same patterns until those are changed. There are many training programs available. For those who don’t have access to a specialist in biofeedback, I often recommend the book, A Charlotte Mason Education. This explains how to train children to concentrate and can be done at home easily.

As part of your training, don’t forget that passive entertainment doesn’t help the brain develop the ability to focus. This means that the child should limit television, movies and video games to less than two hours per day. Reading is a much better activity, as are hobbies of any kind.

Aiden did very well. Within one week the teacher was asking what new drug he was on because it seemed to be working so well. In fact, Krista was so impressed that she put herself on the program because she had always been easily distracted, and it worked well for her, too! Aiden is now in his last year of high school and getting good grades — drug-free!

Scott Saunders, M.D., is medical director of The Integrative Medicine Center of Santa Barbara. For more information, click here or contact the Santa Barbara location at 601 E. Arrellaga St., Suite 101, or 805.963.1824, or the Lompoc location at 806 E. Ocean Ave. or 805.740.9700.

» on 08.24.12 @ 09:40 AM

A MUST SEE VIDEO!!! On you tube, so sad that the pharmaceutical industry have got to the point to be so greedy and to destroy lives; these children who are given theses deadly medication will have problems in the future!

» on 08.24.12 @ 06:27 PM

Nice article. Thanks, doctor!

There are other toxins to be aware of. Paint, stain, varnish, carpets (and carpet pads),insecticides, and low-level carbon monoxide from poorly exhausted heating and cooking systems. Taking shoes off before coming into the house is common in other countries, and helps lower the amount of junk that gets into house air.

Get used to sleeping with the windows open. Get your furnace checked. Ask about the carpet, carpet pad, and paint fumes. Be aware that the roundup and other sprays you apply outside get tracked in on your shoes.

» on 08.24.12 @ 11:43 PM

Learning/ being active is normal — for an infant. Like the Doctor says in this article: The immature brain does not focus well. We don’t even expect little children to sit quietly for any length of time; we know they need stimulation of some kind.
This is called Children being Children… Thank you again; GREAT article!!! THANK YOU! Dr. Scott Saunders.

» on 08.25.12 @ 02:38 AM

L. Ron Hubbard couldn’t have written a better article himself!

» on 08.25.12 @ 02:32 PM

Great article, I totally agree, the medications did not work for my daughter. I am using a neurofeedback/educfeedback program called play attention ( This non-medication approach is working for my daughter. I commend you Scott!

» on 09.01.12 @ 09:07 PM

One other point: the case the Dr refers to could only be a private school. Public schools cannot demand medication on pain of expulsion.

» on 09.02.12 @ 02:28 PM

Wow, I am so happy to read that other parents agree with this doctor! I have learned another helpful tip, open the windows (someone mentioned that). I believe that snoring can cause hyperactivity and loss of attention. Snoring causes a lack of oxygen to the brain which could lead to behavior changes. My daughter has ADHD and if she does not get a good night sleep her behavior the next day can be unbearable! The doctor told me she does not have any physical symptoms so I put a small fan in her room and saw that the snoring began to lesson. She needed air circulating for her to breathe correctly. As for the ADHD, I use a neurofeedback/edufeedback platform ( which I have had great success with. When she doesn’t sleep well I see the behavior is more intensified. Using this program allows her to settle down, become calm and not distracted. The doctor mentioned training programs such as these. This program was developed by a teacher for the school systems as well as parents such as me.

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