Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects approximately 6.1 million American children between the ages of 2-17.  While medication can be an effective treatment for managing symptoms, some parents and caregivers are interested in alternative methods that do not involve medicine. 

Can you treat ADHD in children naturally?

Many parents find themselves in the pediatrician’s office relaying the behaviors seen at home and school while the doctor nods and sympathizes and offers up a ‘magic pill.’ 

But what if you’re not ready to start your child on a daily pharmaceutical? 

You’re not alone. 

Families have found huge success when focusing on these 6 strategies before choosing medication:

6 Natural Strategies for Treating ADHD at Home

1.       Diet

Sugar: There is no direct evidence to suggest that all children with ADHD crave sugar. However, some studies have suggested that individuals with ADHD may be more likely to crave sugar and other foods with a high glycemic index.

One theory is that individuals with ADHD may have lower levels of dopamine in certain parts of the brain, which can lead to a decrease in motivation and pleasure-seeking behavior. Foods high in sugar and refined carbohydrates can temporarily increase dopamine levels, which may explain why some individuals with ADHD may crave these types of foods.

Additionally, some research has suggested that individuals with ADHD may have imbalances in certain hormones and neurotransmitters, such as insulin, leptin, and cortisol, which can affect appetite and food cravings.


There is some evidence to suggest that certain food additives, including artificial food dyes, may exacerbate symptoms of ADHD in some individuals. While research in this area is still ongoing, some studies have shown that eliminating or reducing the intake of artificial food dyes may lead to a decrease in ADHD symptoms.

One theory is that some individuals may be more sensitive to these additives, which can cause inflammation in the body and affect neurotransmitter levels in the brain. Additionally, some research has suggested that certain food dyes may increase hyperactivity and decrease attention in children with ADHD.

What you can do: consider an elimination diet. Keep a journal to log all outcomes. Be forewarned: food additives are EVERYWHERE, and your best bet is to stick with natural fruits, vegetables, and proteins. 

·       Identify potential trigger foods: Common trigger foods include artificial food dyes, processed foods, gluten, dairy, and soy.

·       Remove the identified foods: Remove the identified trigger foods from the child’s diet for a set period, such as 2-4 weeks. During this time, make sure the child is getting adequate nutrition from other sources. We recommend a healthy blend of fruits, vegetables, and proteins.

·       Reintroduce the eliminated foods: After the elimination period, gradually reintroduce one food at a time to determine if it triggers any symptoms. This should be done under the guidance of the healthcare professional.

·       Monitor symptoms: Keep track of any changes in symptoms throughout the elimination and reintroduction process.

·       Create a long-term plan: Once trigger foods have been identified, create a long-term plan that ensures the child is getting adequate nutrition while avoiding trigger foods.

2.       Supplements: Several supplements have been studied for their potential to help manage symptoms of ADHD in children. The following 4 examples can be added through diet, but they are also available individually or in some packaged multivitamins. 

·       Omega-3 fatty acids: Studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in fish oil and some other foods, may help reduce hyperactivity and impulsivity in children with ADHD.

·       Zinc: Zinc is an essential mineral that is involved in several processes in the body, including neurotransmitter regulation. Some studies have suggested that children with ADHD may have lower levels of zinc than those without the condition, and supplementing with zinc may improve symptoms.

·       Iron: Like zinc, iron is an essential mineral that is involved in several processes in the body, including cognitive function. Some studies have suggested that children with ADHD may have lower levels of iron than those without the condition, and supplementing with iron may improve symptoms.

·       Magnesium: Magnesium is a mineral that is involved in several processes in the body, including neurotransmitter regulation. Some studies have suggested that children with ADHD may have lower levels of magnesium than those without the condition, and supplementing with magnesium may improve symptoms.

3.       Creating a Schedule: ADHD children love the freedom and flexibility of days without schedules because they provide them with the opportunity to keep that adrenaline flowing; however, it is crucial to keep them on a schedule. 

Establishing a routine will help a child that struggles with transitions, time management, and other executive functions. 

Learn more about How to create a routine that works for your child with ADHD.

4.       Incorporating Exercise! Within that daily schedule, it’s imperative to block out ample opportunities for movement. An ADHD child has more energy than her peers, and exorcising that enthusiasm will help her when she’s expected to sit still and focus. 

5.       Sleep: Sleep is crucial for all people, but it’s especially important for children with ADHD because it improves focus and attention, reduces impulsivity and hyperactivity, enhances memory, and boosts mood! 

Sleep should be a key moment in your daily schedule, and a bedtime routine, including bath time, reading, and meditation or prayer, may assist in winding down a hyperactive child. 

6.       Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS): 

PBIS is a framework for promoting positive behaviors and preventing challenging behaviors before they arise. It is based on the idea that teaching and reinforcing positive behavior is more effective than punishing negative behavior. You know your child better than anyone, and you can often spot misbehavior before it’s going to take place. 

Start by ensuring your child is not hungry, or sleepy, or struggling to expel excess energy. 

Once those basics are met, you can begin incorporating these key components:

·       Teaching clear behavioral expectations: The first step of PBIS is to establish clear and consistent behavioral expectations for your child. This can be done through explicit teaching of social skills and expectations, as well as through modeling and reinforcement. 

You are your child’s first role model, and your behavior sets the tone. 

Additionally, maintaining a visual, such as a behavioral chart on the refrigerator, is an explicit representation of the expectations.

·       Encouraging positive behavior: PBIS emphasizes the importance of catching your child being good and reinforcing positive behavior. This can be done through a variety of strategies, such as praise, rewards, and recognition. You can place stickers, check marks, or other notations on the behavioral chart. 

When your child sees the positive marks adding up, she is inspired to continue behaving.

·       Responding to challenging behavior: When challenging behavior does occur, PBIS encourages a proactive and non-punitive response. This may involve using a variety of strategies, such as reteaching, problem-solving, and providing additional support. 

Consider role-playing the behaviors you do and do not want to see. Have conversations afterward about what worked and what did not.

·       Using data to inform decision-making: PBIS emphasizes the use of data to monitor the behavior and make informed decisions about interventions and supports. This may involve collecting data on behavior and using it to adjust strategies as needed. While your visual aid should only represent positive behaviors, consider a private journal that keeps notes of negative behaviors. Is there a correlation or trigger?

In conclusion, managing ADHD symptoms without medication is a viable option that can help reduce symptoms and improve the quality of life for children with ADHD. Some natural strategies that can be incorporated into daily routines include dietary modifications, supplements, establishing a schedule, incorporating exercise, ensuring adequate sleep, and Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS). These methods can help manage symptoms of ADHD and provide children with a better quality of life.