It’s ironic that the day I scheduled to write about ADD/ADHD is one of my worst focus days in a while. I’ve been at my desk since 9 a.m. and now, four hours later, I’ve done the dishes, washed four loads of laundry, researched master’s degrees, balanced the accounts, boiled the kettle half a dozen times, made lunch, prepped dinner, and answered my emails. But I have not put pen to paper.
Each task popped into my head, demanding to be resolved before I could move on to writing this post; procrastination at its finest.
October is ADHD awareness month, so I thought it was a good time to talk about what it’s like to live with it, the causes behind it, and how nutritional support can bring about astounding improvements, sometimes reducing or removing the need for medication.
Who Is Diagnosed?
Males are three times more likely to receive an ADHD diagnosis than women. And, while the average age of diagnosis is seven, ADHD impacts adults as well, with about 4% of adults over the age of 18 receiving a diagnosis.
Getting the right diagnosis and assistance can make a big difference in an individual’s life. ADHD can make it difficult for someone to plan and control their behavior and impulses. Leaving it unmanaged means that they may drop out of school, find themselves in hot water legally, struggle to maintain employment, and find themselves wrestling with substance use and overeating.
The Different Types of ADHD
The DSM-5 dropped ADD from its definitions and now provides three categories for ADHD: Inattentive, Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive, and Combined.
- Inattentive ADHD is characterized by an inability to focus, and feeling spacey or distracted.
- Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive clients struggle more with hyperactivity and impulsivity than inattention.
- Combined, as the name suggests, combines inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity.
Dr. Daniel Amen classifies them differently based on SPECT scan imaging. He adds: Overfocused, Limbic, Temporal Lobe, Ring of Fire, and Anxious ADD
- Overfocused individuals have difficulty shifting their attention. They become hyper-focused on one thing, tuning everything else out. However, they are still impulsive and can become oppositional or have outbursts when things don’t go their way. They can get stuck in loops of negative thoughts and hold grudges.
- Temporal Lobe ADD can happen with head injuries but it doesn’t have to. It comes with memory problems, auditory processing issues, seasons of confusion or panic, visual changes such as seeing shadows or objects changing shape, dark thoughts, and they may also have learning disabilities.
- Limbic ADD can be mistaken for depression because it comes with negative thoughts, guilty feelings, and low energy, as well as being easily distracted. Stress makes it worse, and stimulant medications make them more moody or negative.
- Ring of Fire ADD may be triggered by allergies or inflammation. The Ring of Fire term refers to SPECT imaging that shows hyperactivity around the brain. These clients may be sensitive to noise, light, clothes, or touch. They chatter away at the speed of sound, are often anxious, inflexible, and can be mean or insensitive.
- Anxious ADD. In this type, ADD gets worse with anxiety. Frequently stressed or anxious, they freeze in social situations, dislike public speaking, avoid conflict, and fear judgment.
The Causes Behind ADHD
There are several situations that can increase the incidence of ADHD.
- Exposure to neurotoxins in pregnancy, like cigarette smoke or alcohol.
- Eating a diet full of pesticides and organophosphates correlates with a 50% increase in ADHD
- Dietary sensitivities to artificial food colors, flavors, and preservatives occur in 40-50% of children with ADHD
- A study of 261 children by Langseth et al., showed 74% of them had abnormal glucose tolerance or hypoglycemia
- Children with ADHD often have nutritional deficiencies, especially fatty acid deficiencies.
- Changes in estrogen levels, such as those triggered by puberty, perimenopause, and menopause, can increase ADHD-like symptoms.
How Nutrition and Lifestyle Can Help ADHD
There are several steps you can take to support your body nutritionally when you have ADHD symptoms:
- Test for food sensitivities. Since food sensitivities correlate with ADHD, testing can save you time, energy, and effort. Our comprehensive test checks for 190 different food sensitivities and includes an hour with me to go over the results and help you navigate the findings.
- Alternatively, you can do an elimination diet to remove foods that may be triggering the problem. To do this, remove the foods in one food group entirely (for example all dairy or all gluten-containing products) for 28 days. Reintroduce the food at the end of the month. Over the course of a couple of days and watch for symptoms to reappear. If symptoms get worse, do not include this food in your diet.
- Introduce a good Omega-3 supplement with EPA and DHA, a powerful anti-inflammatory that will supply the healthy fats needed for great communication between the neurons.* We love Nordic Naturals ProOmega 2000 and their line of Omega-3s for kids. You can increase your intake of Omega-3 fatty acids by including wild-caught cold-water fish like salmon, cod, and sardines in your diet.
- Balance your blood sugar. One of the easiest ways to do this is to include protein-rich foods at every meal and to make sure you include complex carbohydrates that don’t trigger a massive insulin response. These include starchy vegetables like carrots, beets, squash, and parsnips, and fruits like apples and berries. Healthy fats like olive, avocado, and coconut oil will also help to keep your blood sugar stable.
- Eat right for your ADD type. Temporal Lobe ADD does better on a higher protein diet whereas overfocused ADD will do better including more complex carbohydrates.
- Introduce exercise into your routine. Exercise can help boost serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins in the brain and is an excellent way of addressing hyperactivity. It boosts blood flow to the brain, shuttling in the necessary nutrients. Individuals with temporal lobe ADD really benefit from intense aerobic activity.
- Test your vitamin D levels and introduce some if you are deficient. There is a significant correlation between low vitamin D and the likelihood of ADHD.
Supplements for ADHD
Supplements can be extraordinarily helpful but what you need really depends on the type of ADD/ADHD you have. Some types require calming the brain and others require some type of stimulation, which is what the medications Adderall and Ritalin do.
To find out your type and which supplements may benefit you, reach out to our office and make an appointment to talk with our Mental Health Nutritionist, Jayne Reynolds.
Today, my brain clearly needed support to stay focused and attentive. I included salmon in my lunch to get the healthy omega-3s for great neurotransmitter communication. I took some L-theanine to help with focus. And, I broke the project down into smaller segments so I could get a dopamine hit off of finishing each one.
(Yes, I am the type of person to add an already complete task to my list just so I can check it off!)
I am acutely aware that I missed my time at the gym this morning, choosing to walk the dog over getting on the elliptical, and in hindsight, that probably hasn’t helped. So, next time I have a big project to deliver, the gym will have to be part of the equation.
Living with ADD/ADHD can be challenging, especially when it comes to focusing on tasks. It can be frustrating when your mind is scattered and you cannot seem to focus, hindering productivity and creativity. But there is good news; it’s manageable.
Proper nutrition and lifestyle changes can make a big difference in managing ADHD symptoms, reducing or even eliminating the need for medication. From identifying food sensitivities to introducing exercise into your routine, there are several steps you can take to support your body nutritionally.
At Abundant Hope Nutrition, we help our readers take control of their well-being through informed dietary choices and a nurturing mindset. Even small doses of hope and positivity can make all the difference when it comes to improving your mental health!
*Supplements may interact with your medications or exacerbate health conditions. Be sure to check with your medical professional before starting a new supplement.