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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.

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