Guest Post by David Novak
The prevalent pseudo-remedy for adult ADHD is medication, and it’s handed out like candy these days. Unfortunately, the use of medication also creates a long list of potential side effects ranging from mild symptoms -- such as insomnia, stomach ache and irritability -- to more serious symptoms like irregular heart rate, substance abuse, psychiatric episodes and high blood pressure.
Those symptoms are no minor matter, and all of these side effects can be worse than the ADHD condition itself. Fortunately, there are certain natural remedies that can help manage adult ADHD symptoms in a very effective way.
Adult ADHD, Defined
Adult ADHD is a genetic neurobehavioral problem that affects millions of people. The basis for this disease involves neurons, which send chemical messengers back and forth through neurotransmitters, telling the body how to feel, act and think. ADHD is a genetic deficiency of these chemical messengers, causing the patient to communicate abnormally, and in some instances, not at all.
Research suggests that food allergies and abdominal digestive problems may be linked to ADHD. Hormones, or lack thereof, may also play a role. Specifically, a lack of the hormone dopamine in the brain may be linked to the disorder. Dopamine is an important chemical that carries signals between nerves in the brain. It is linked to many functions, including sleep, movement, mood, attention and learning.
Another hormone that may be lacking with ADHD patients is norepinephrine, a stress hormone that affects the parts of the brain where attention and response actions are controlled. In controlled studies, increasing the levels of norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain have helped with adult ADHD symptoms.
Another very plausible cause for ADHD might have to do with the harmful habits we subject ourselves and others to. Drugs, drinking and cigarette smoke, especially during pregnancy, may be linked to ADHD in children, and these same children can carry ADHD into adulthood. Low birth weights, premature births and difficult pregnancies have also been associated with this disorder, as well as those who have suffered frontal lobe injuries.
Lastly, environmental factors are also a symptomatic consideration when discussing the causes of ADHD. For example, children who are in contact with high levels of toxins like lead from paint or tap water, sugar, food dyes and other food additives, may be at higher risk for developing ADHD. PCB’s and other toxic chemicals are also believed to interfere with normal brain development in children, and even adults.
ADHD Food Plan
While there is no medical or FDA-approved ADHD diet, the manifestation of ADHD symptoms can be linked directly to what you eat. The symptoms can be aggravated by processed foods, sugary carbonated juices, caffeine, and food containing milk, colorings, preservatives and additives.
In order to aid in the treatment of ADHD symptoms with a good food plan, eat foods that are natural and fresh, and when cooking, try to include olive oil and other healthy oils. Another nutrient that works well with ADHD adults are foods rich in antioxidants, such as what is found in deeply-pigmented vegetables and fruits. Also dark, leafy greens like arugula, kale and spinach, as well as carrots and brightly colored berries, are terrific foods stuffed with antioxidants.
Avoid packaged and processed foods, including those that contain preservatives and chemicals such as food dyes and MSG, as well as exposure to cigarette smoke and nicotine. Limiting caffeine and alcohol consumption is also a smart idea.
It’s optimal to eat a healthy diet very low in sugar, high in vitamins and minerals and as close to organic and raw as possible. This means no processed foods or sweetened drinks. As a mainstay, stick to eating vegetables, organic fruits, grass-fed meat and organic oils. Other healthy foods include whole grains, trout, salmon, sardines, turkey, chicken and nuts. Eating foods like peanut butter that are high in protein can aid in combating the symptoms associated with adult ADHD, and peanut butter is not just for lunch anymore. You can eat it for breakfast to get a good start to the day, managing your ADHD symptoms and nourishing your body from the moment you awaken.
Herbs and Supplements
There are several herbs that can be beneficial in reducing ADHD symptoms. Valerian root will keep energy levels balanced while increasing both concentration and reasoning skills. It can also help to treat insomnia by creating a relaxing effect. Gotu Kola lowers adrenal response and blood levels when stress is present, aiding cognitive abilities and nervous system disorders. Ginkgo Biloba has been shown to improve the blood flow to the brain and increase the oxygenation of its tissue. You will feel more at ease and relaxed while the ability to concentrate is increased.
Pine bark extract (pycnogenol) is known to decrease distractibility and irritability, and improve visual-motor coordination and concentration, while also promoting healthy neural functioning. Finally, using lemon balm can improve mental focus and concentration, enhance attention span and memory. Ancient Greeks used it as a cure-all for many afflictions for centuries. It also works as a potent anti-anxiety aid and also helps improve sleep.
Adults with ADHD have lowered levels of magnesium. Adding this as a supplement to your diet acts as a calming agent and significantly decreases hyperactive behavior. Many have found adding B & C Vitamins and probiotics to their diet have a positive effect on mood and behavior. These supplements nourish and stabilize the central nervous system and help with mental focus, brain function and mood stabilization. Specifically, probiotics will assist with a healthy balance of immune response, good flora and proper digestion.
There has also been medical evidence showing that there is a deficiency of essential omega-3 fatty acids in those who suffer from ADHD. Flaxseed oil and fish oil have been shown to improve ADHD symptoms in adults, specifically in the areas of concentration and focus, as they are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. For those that follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, flaxseed oil can be beneficial as it is high in omega-3s; however, fish oil is preferable as it contains EPA and DHA, which benefits the brain. The deficiency can also be corrected by including supplements such as iron, zinc and shark liver oil in the diet. Calcium and vitamin D have also been used as supplementation to help with ADHD symptoms.
Exercise and Relaxation Techniques
Physical fitness and exercise can work just as well if not better than prescription drugs for reducing ADHD symptoms. Regular exercise can help to release pent up energy, and decrease symptoms of ADHD such as hyperactivity and impulsiveness. The ability to focus is increased and a calming, stress-relieving effect is created when you are active. The effect is the same as if you were taking prescription medication because of dopamine being released into the system.
Exercising daily can improve sleep, boosting mood and increase attention span. It can also improve fitness in the entire body, including the brain, causing it to release important chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine and endorphin levels. As little as 20-minutes of activity a day can make a positive difference.
Also, meditation and other relaxation techniques can be a huge benefit to those suffering with ADHD. Just 15-minutes of meditation each day on a regular basis has been shown to cause positive structural and physiological changes in the brain that can reduce the symptoms of ADHD. Studies have revealed that many people find meditation to be more effective than ADHD medications.
A foot massage, or even a full body massage can also calm ADHD symptoms. Human touch has very powerful emotional and physical benefits, and there are countless essential oils to choose from that have unique relaxing effects.
Millions Suffer and Millions Heal
ADHD is a very common disorder that affects the lives of many, but the symptoms are manageable without the use of drugs. Natural remedies for treating ADHD symptoms are a much safer method than simply popping pills and struggling with the side effects. Natural treatments for ADHD aim to fill nutritional gaps, work off excess energy and remove the things that would aggravate the symptoms from the body. Consult your physician before discontinuing medication, substituting them with supplements or starting a fitness routine, as some of these methods could cause negative results if not done properly.
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David Novak’s byline has appeared in newspapers and magazines around the world. He’s an avid health enthusiast, and frequently is featured in regional and national health publications. He is also a weekly writer for Healthline. To read his other stories visit Healthline.