Dr. Daniel Amen: Healing A.D.D. – Natural and Lifestyle Remedies

Brain HealthyA.D.D (Attention Deficit Disorder) also known as A.D.H.D (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is a modern day disorder with no shortage of controversies. Since the condition is commonly associated with the behavioral issues of school age children, ADD is an important subject of concern for many of us. In his PBS Special Healing A.D.D., Dr. Daniel Amen, psychiatrist and New York Times best selling author, shares his knowledge and experience gained from 23 years of researching brain disorders through the SPECT scan imaging method. Along with his wife Tana Amen, nurse and best selling author, they cover many areas of concern including the very controversial issue for many parents, “Medication or No Medication.” The Amens tell us that the use of medication, though sometimes necessary, should not be the first and only option. They tell us of natural strategies through diet and lifestyle changes that will greatly enhance the treatment of ADD. That when diet, exercise and behavioral strategies are in place, they can significantly lower any need for medication.

Why is it important to treat ADD? – Through the PBS program we learn that if ADD is left untreated there can be many consequences.

  • 33% never finished high school so they end up in jobs that do not pay well
  • 52% abuse alcohol or drugs
  • obesity, job failure, incarceration, divorce, depression

What Makes ADD Worse?

  • Unlimited TV and video games.
  • A sedentary lifestyle. Very little or no physical activity.
  • The Standard American Diet(SAD) full of processed food, fast food, preservatives and pesticides etc.
  • Lack of sleep.
  • Lots of caffeine, nicotine, and energy drinks.

What Makes ADD Better?

  • Limit TV and video games.
  • Walk and exercise outside in nature.
  • Fix your lack of sleep. Hypnosis, meditation, magnesium and melatonin can help.
  • Eliminate caffeine and nicotine.
  • It is critical to eat a healthy diet. Eat right to think right! Your brain uses 25% of the calories we consume. So a fast food diet will give you a fast food thinking mind!
  • There are significant studies connecting food dyes, additives, and pesticides with ADD as well as studies that show getting rid of certain foods can make a big difference. Two studies from Holland show those eliminating gluten, corn, dairy, soy and food dyes significantly improved 70% of children with ADD.
  • Many patients are opposed to taking medication, with their goal to be off medication. Dr. Amen suggests that is a bad goal. The goal should be finding your best functioning self. Treatment options should be targeted to your specific ADD type which can be natural treatments, medications or a combination of both in order to achieve your best functioning self. However, Dr. Amen was a clear that medication only treatment which is what some people with ADD ever only get is bad treatment.

Even though it seems that most doctors want to medicate first, Dr. Amen’s program found the most success in following these rules for treating with food:

  1. Start the day with protein. Research shows that if you take medicine, protein will help it work longer. Protein also help stabilize blood sugar levels and maintain focus. Get out of the habit of starting the day with fruit juice, sugary pastries and cereals. These tend to spike blood sugar levels and cause an insulin response.
  2. Try an elimination diet for three weeks and completely eliminate gluten, corn, dairy, soy, sugar, artificial sweeteners, food additives and food dyes. If you find that your child is feeling better than start adding back in one food at a time to see which individual food or additive may be the cause of some of your child’s ADD symptoms.
  3. Eat often enough to protect blood sugar levels by eating small meals throughout the day. Low blood sugar levels are associated with low blood flow to the brain and more ADD symptoms.
  4. Eat protein with every meal and eat protein snacks before homework or chores such as a hard-boiled egg, turkey, or nuts. Homework will go so much better than if you give children soda or cookies.
  5. Basic nutritional supplements can be helpful to support the brain such as a multiple vitamin and mineral complex including zinc and vitamin D. Also An  omega-3 supplement high in EPA. Studies have shown that EPA omega-3 type is more effective for brain support and depression.

Amen Practical Tips for Coping and Thriving with ADD 

  • Make very clear goals on which to focus. One exercise is called the “One-Page Miracle” where on one piece of paper you write what you want in each area of your life, relationships, school/work, money, health. Then ask yourself every day “Is my behavior getting me what I want?” One example that Dr. Amen offered up was this …If you wrote down that you wanted a great relationship with your wife.. but then were impulsively tempted to stray with someone else..ask yourself “Is this affair going to get me a great relationship with my wife?” Think it out first or you may find a few months down the road you’ll be dealing with divorce attorneys, splitting half of your financial assets and visiting your kids on the weekend!
  • Study or work in a career that you love. Love is a drug. People with ADD do so much better if they choose a job that gives meaning and purpose to their life.
  • ADD is a family disorder. It puts stress on everyone. Many times several members in the same family have ADD. Recognizing the need for getting help and treating all members of the family will only greatly improve your family relationships and the lives of each individual family member.

ADD symptoms can range from mild to severe and many people may have a form of ADD and not know it. Knowing may help you take steps that can improve certain areas of your life.  Do You Have ADD?

To learn more about Dr. Amen’s approach to treating ADD, see Dr. Amen’s PBS Special Healing A.D.D.  Check your local TV listings or contact your local Public Broadcasting Stations. They may also offer a Donor Combo Package of information which may include such items as DVDs of the program, books, and tools and other information concerning The Amen Clinics and their brain imaging work. Visit their website Amen Clinics.

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