The terms ADD and ADHD conjure images of hyperactive children who have behavior challenges in school. But even though most people associate attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with children, the condition generally does not dissipate with age. The lack of impulse control, hyperactivity and inability to pay attention in school can have an even bigger impact on adults. Careers and relationships can suffer; bills go unpaid; daily important details are forgotten. Life seems to fall by the wayside, stampeded by an endless stream of distractions. This may sound familiar to many of us in today’s age of information, but the difference is that for people struggling with ADD and ADHD, these issues can be overwhelmingly disruptive, impacting nearly every area of life.
We’re not entirely sure how many people struggle with ADHD. Estimates range from 3 percent of the population to more than 10 percent. But whatever the precise numbers, people with ADHD must work full time to control their symptoms. While many resort to medications, there are other, more natural approaches to treating this increasingly common condition.
Cause And Effect
Though much research has been conducted on ADHD, the root causes are still relatively unknown. Genetics can certainly be a factor; however, environment is also known to play a part. Agricultural chemicals such as fertilizers and pesticides, heavy metals and other toxins have been implicated. The so-called “Standard American Diet” diet, high in sugar and processed foods, may also play a part. For example, many people with ADHD find relief from symptoms by eliminating processed food. An emphasis on brain-boosting foods, supplements and lifestyle measures can generate significant improvements.
In fact, ADD and ADHD appear to greatly impact the brain. Research demonstrates changes in neurotransmitter function (loss of neurons and other issues), compared to non-ADHD brains. So it’s important to address ADHD directly with targeted approaches that alleviate symptoms and support a healthy and productive life.
Quite often ADHD patients rely on drugs to control their symptoms. Ritalin, Adderall and other similar pharmaceuticals adjust neurotransmitter activity to help maintain focus, but their long-term impact is relatively unknown.
As a holistic practitioner, I recommend lifestyle approaches, using the evidence we have to control the condition by adjusting diet and other activities. For example, a number of studies have shown that refined sugar and processed foods tend to exacerbate ADHD, even distorting dopamine signals. So for any health condition to improve, it’s critical to reduce consumption of these foods. But we also need to look at the role of environmental toxins, such as pesticides, heavy metals and many others. To address both diet and toxins, I recommend a diet that emphasizes whole, organic, unprocessed foods high in fiber along with green leafy vegetables, and healthy fats that support neurological health. .
Deficiencies of certain minerals are also a risk factor in these conditions. Shortages of zinc, magnesium, selenium, calcium and iodine can worsen ADHD symptoms. Supplementing with these nutrients can make a big difference in cognitive health, neurological function, immune health and overall wellness.
Herbs And Nutrients
Herbal and botanical supplements can also help restore neurological health. A recent study found that a number of herbs improved symptoms of ADHD. In this research, white peony root, ashwagandha, gotu kola, spirulina, water hyssop and lemon balm improved cognition and helped with impulse control.
Since environmental toxins may also be a problem, it’s important to engage in gentle detoxification. A detox formula that I recommend in my practice is a blend of modified citrus pectin (MCP) from citrus peels, and alginates from seaweed. This gentle detox formula has been clinically researched and shown to remove heavy metals like lead, arsenic and mercury from the body without disrupting levels of essential minerals.
Diet, herbal supplements and natural detoxification methods are excellent foundations for building a healthier brain. Cognitive behavioral therapy may also help patients gain better control over their symptoms. But mindful meditation practice is a commonly overlooked therapy. Studies show that mindful meditation, when practiced regularly, may help improve symptoms of ADHD. It can boost the ability to cultivate and maintain greater focus as well as cognitive ability.
A Silver Lining
While those with ADHD are often stigmatized, there are also potential benefits for these individuals. Statistics suggest that people who exhibit symptoms characteristic of these conditions may be pre-disposed to greater creativity, faster thought processing and a greater ability to think outside the box.
Adults with ADHD may have better success in creative careers and fast-paced industries. With the right holistic approaches, a social stigma can be transformed to enhance a person’s creative gifts and support overall health in the process.
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