Although ADHD (Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder) is very common in children, affecting six million kids a year, adults are now “representing” at a rate of 4-5% each year.
Though most women might think rates among males hover close to 99% – given their annoying inability to multitask and total “NO” recall regarding things they don’t want to do – the rates are only slightly higher than rates for women.
What are the symptoms of ADHD in adults?
- Impulsiveness — I *may* be referring to impulse purchasing of items on the Home Shopping Network, or buying any and all items with Pandas on the front, or clicking on sponsored ads on Facebook for miracle face and hair regrowth creams… Just so you know — according to a “friend” they don’t work.
- Forgetting names and dates — Nice to meet you! …eh, again.
- Missing deadlines and leaving projects unfinished — Since when do BOTH legs need to be shaved?
- Extreme emotionality — Well…my husband would back me up here. Hello? Hello?? (Insert sound of car door slamming and the longest burnout in history.)
- Inattention to detail, careless mistakes — My penchant for wearing non-matching flip flops all summer long serves as an example.
- Suffering anxiety and depression – Well, it is a pandemic…
- Low frustration tolerance — Is it LOW frustration? Or are we just surrounded by idiots??
- Trouble multitasking — Why are my car keys in the fridge? And why I did I just walk all way up the stairs and into my bedroom? Oh look! There’s my coffee! …that I made 20 minutes ago.
- Difficulty listening and paying attention — Wait, what was I just saying? Something about coffee? Or pandas? Wait, that’s a fabulous skirt! Where did you get that?
- Difficulty following instructions — …especially if it involves assembling furniture. Or reading any directions. Or heaven’s forbid, driving without GPS.
- Poor time management — Well, helloooo TikTok!!
What Causes ADHD- — a conventional medicine explanation.
Well, traditional medicine explains that the causes are not well-defined and there seems to be some unclear genetic and environmental interactions at play. Uh. No kidding. However, in kids these are considered common risk factors that may be at play:
- Very Low birth weight, lack of oxygen at birth
- Exposure to alcohol, cigarette smoke, or drugs during pregnancy
- Exposure to environmental toxins during pregnancy and/or at a young age
- Brain injury
- Being a boy
What is the functional medicine explanation for causes of ADHD?
As usual, we look to underlying imbalances in the following areas:
- What’s the diet like? — Are you eating inflammatory foods or do you have a nutrient-poor diet?
- How’s you gut doing? — And your Microbiome?
- Do you have inflammation in your body? — I refer to any pain syndromes like IBS, migraines, joint and muscle pains, anything that end in an “itis”?
- Do you have toxic overload? — Which is everyone really, but some of us have genetics that make us more or less able to manage the increased environmental load we are exposed to.
- Are your stress hormones out of whack? — Is the sky blue?
- Are you missing key nutrients in your diet? — Since we need specific amino acids as building blocks to make balanced amounts of neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin and GABA.
Strategies to Address Adult ADHD — What Can I Do?
These are the most important contributors to brain health:
- Eat a real, whole foods, anti-inflammatory diet free of additives, sugar, trans fats, and processed foods. Oh, and wine. Yes, wine must go.
- Remove food sensitivities.I recommend a complete 100 percent elimination of all gluten and dairy foods for a full six weeks. Gluten sensitivity may be at the root of several neurological conditions, including ADHD. According to a 2011 study, celiac disease is “markedly overrepresented among patients presenting with ADHD,” and a gluten-free diet has been shown to significantly improve behavior in kids. I know I sound like a broken record. But facts are facts. If you have tried being gluten and dairy free to no avail, trying a 3 week elimination diet that restricts the intake of potential dietary triggers like eggs, nuts, chocolate and soy may be a good next step.
- Ditch food additives and GMO ingredients: A number of food additives are thought to worsen ADHD, and many have been banned in Europe. Here’s a list of ones to avoid: Blue #1 and #2 food coloring; Green #3; Orange B; Red #3 and #40; Yellow #5 and #6; and sodium benzoate, a preservative. It’s like a high school chemistry class.
- FIX NUTRIENT DEFICIENCIES: Lack of magnesium, zinc, selenium, tyrosine, and fatty acids, play significant roles in the development of ADHD. Many of these nutrients work synergistically. A functional medicine practitioner (like me) can custom-design a nutrient plan for you!
- FIX YOUR GUT: The connection and communication between the brain and gut bacteria is undeniable. Having a great gut microbiome is key to a healthy brain and mindset. Too few beneficial bacteria predisposes you to toxicity in your gut. This can flow to your body and into your brain, where it can cause symptoms of autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, depression, schizophrenia, and other mental disorders. How to help your good bacteria grow and thrive?
- Avoid processed, refined foods as they promote the growth of pathogenic bacteria, yeast and fungus in the gut.
- Replace sweetened beverages (whether diet and regular), including fruit juices and pasteurized milk, with pure non-fluoridated water.
- Eat fermented, unpasteurized foods — one of the best routes to optimal digestive health. Some of the beneficial bacteria found in fermented foods are also excellent chelators of heavy metals and pesticides, which will also have a beneficial health effect by reducing your toxic load.
- Use a high-quality probiotic supplement.
- FIX YOUR INFLAMMATION: Inflammation has been linked to almost all brain problems such as autism, ADHD, Alzheimer’s, and depression. These and other diseases are all related to elevated levels of cytokines and systemic inflammation. How to do this?
- Supplement with a potent high quality fish oil for the omega 3 fatty acids.
- Eat an anti-inflammatory diet rich in wild-caught fish and plant foods like flaxseed. A clinical study published in 2007 examined the effects of krill oil on adults diagnosed with ADHD. In that study, patients improved their ability to concentrate by an average of over 60 percent after taking a daily 500mg dose of krill oil for six months. They also reported a 50 percent improvement in planning skills, and close to 49 percent improvement in social skills.
- REDUCE OXIDATIVE STRESS:. Oxidative stress (meaning chemical changes that injure our cells and DNA) and glutathione deficiency are connected to dementia, depression, Parkinson’s, autism, and ADHD. An antioxidant-rich diet includes plenty of colorful plant foods.
- DETOXIFY: An overload of heavy metals in people who are genetically susceptible to their effects is one of the root causes of ADHD. Each person responds differently to toxins. Some are great detoxifiers; others, like those with ADHD, are often not.
- Clear your house of dangerous pesticides and other commercial chemicals.
- Avoid toxic washing detergents and cleaning products used on clothes, and replace them with naturally derived cleaning products free of added perfumes, fragrance (which is code for a billion harmful chemicals) and softeners.
- Spend more time in nature. Researchers have found that exposing ADHD children to nature is an affordable, healthy way of controlling symptoms.
- EXERCISE: Some studies have promoted the beneficial effects of exercise on symptoms of ADHD and fine motor skills. In a systematic review and meta-analysis of eight randomized controlled trials, both aerobic physical activity and yoga improved ADHD symptoms in children and adolescents, such as attention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Additionally, aerobic exercise also improved cognitive function, executive function, anxiety, and social interaction. It can’t hurt peeps. Get your cardio and yoga on.
- GET GOOD QUALITY SLEEP: It is estimated that approximately 25-50% of those with ADHD have sleep issues, both getting to sleep and staying asleep. Here are some helpful sleep tips:
- Go to bed at the same time every night
- Start a bedtime regimen that is relaxing: take a warm bath, drink a cup of chamomile tea, meditate
- Reduce screen time 2 hours before bed time (TV, video games, activating activities)
- Keep the room on the cooler side, 68 degrees or less.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol if you have sleep issues
- Keep the room pitch black — no digital lights
- NUTRIENT AND SUPPLEMENT SUPPORT:
- Gingko biloba – a recent study showed that 240mg a day helped improve symptoms of ADHD after 5 weeks.
- Omega 3 fish oil improves impulsivity and inattention. Take 1-2 capsules daily.
- Phosphatidyl Serine is a great amino acid that improves overall ADHD symptoms and can improve sleep. 100-200mg at bedtime.
- Melatonin 1-3mg at night for sleep issues
- Magnesium Glycinate 200 to 400mg at night can help improve focus and concentration.
- Broad spectrum Multivitamin — this is one of my favorites as it contains magnesium, fish oil, anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals in a convenient packet.
And there you have it!!! Tackle that adult ADHD today!!
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Ready for the legal disclaimer? Information offered here is for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. As with any health recommendations, please contact your doctor to be sure any changes you wish to consider are safe for you!