ADHD Treatment: Beyond Medication

By Jennifer Taylor

It wasn’t too long ago people did not know the abbreviation ADHD or what it stood for.  Today, even though there is a greater awareness of the term, there is still a great deal of ambiguity and fear attached to the label.  While the stigma is not as pronounced, it still exists leaving many parents of young children fearful and unsure of the consequences to their children as far as treatment is concerned.

It used to be that a label of ADHD meant medication would be necessary.  However, through several research studies doctors and parents are beginning to explore non-medication options to help ease some of the symptoms of children with ADHD.  These symptoms include inattentiveness, lack of organization, distractibility, and forgetfulness.  The idea is that the symptoms are so pronounced as to hinder everyday school and household activities.

As far back as 1973 with Dr. Benjamin Feingold’s controversial diet for hyperactive children, people have searched for alternatives to medication for ADHD.  Feingold’s premise was to remove synthetic food additives including artificial food dyes and chemicals from a child’s diet.  Children, as a result, would see a lessening in ADHD-related symptoms.  Feingold offered a list of acceptable foods that parents were able to choose from, and this list is still used by many today.  Some, however, find it to be highly restrictive and overwhelming to try to follow such strict guidelines.

Some parents, instead of following the strict Feingold diet, choose to remove artificial food dyes and sodium benzoate preservatives from their child’s diet without focusing on the other additives that Feingold lists.  A study published in The Lancet in 2007 supports these parents, showing that artificial food dyes and preservatives led to a marked increase in hyperactivity among children.  Another study published earlier this year in The Lancet showed benefits to using a restricted elimination diet.  Many of these studies conducted over the past few years have led European nations to halt the use of some artificial food dyes as well as warning parents of the risk these additives may entail to children with ADHD or hyperactivity.

It can be a difficult process of trial and error for parents to weed out what is acceptable for their child to eat.   Parents could start by removing artificial dyes, high fructose corn syrup, and sodium benzoate from their child’s diet.  As an alternative, they can try removing only one at a time if they wished.  Food labels show whether these items have been added to the product.  It can take some time for the body to adjust so parents may not find a dramatic change within the first few days.  Given time, however, some parents may learn certain additives and dyes trigger hyperactivity or exacerbate their child’s ADHD symptoms.

For parents who may be looking for other ways to help ease the symptoms of ADHD these studies and the corresponding methods may be a good place to start.   While there is no guarantee that they will be effective in this regard, it provides another tactic that parents can employ either in addition to medication or as an alternative.  In the end it is the parents, in consultation with their child’s physician, who know what is best for their child and can make the decision on what route to take whether it is utilizing medication, non-medication, or a mixture of treatments.

Jennifer Taylor is a freelance writer living and working in South Carolina. Happily married, she and her husband have one son. Jennifer believes that each child is a unique individual, and that parents should be able to decide on how to raise their children. She seeks to empower parents to seek out answers and find solutions. You can contact Jennifer at

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