ESTIMATED READING TIME 4 MINUTES
Around 5% of children worldwide are living with ADHD 1, with diagnoses increasing steeply since the 1980s.
You might wonder what’s behind this increase, so in support of ADHD Awareness Month here’s a round-up of what can lie behind the condition. If you’re caring for a child with ADHD or you’re affected yourself, read on for some tips on how ADHD can be supported naturally.
First, let’s define what is meant by the term ADHD. Short for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, someone with ADHD will typically have difficulties concentrating and behave impulsively, often becoming frustrated, restless and angry. They may experience anxiety and sleeping problems. These behavioural issues often become more obvious when a person is under stress or if their circumstances change.
There are three distinct subsets of ADHD. People with predominantly hyperactive-impulsive ADHD typically will have difficulties focussing and may behave uncontrollably. Primarily inattentive ADHD on the other hand occurs when the affected person is easily distracted, often daydreams, has difficulty remembering simple things or becomes so focussed on the task in hand they don’t pay attention to anything else. They often lose items like keys or their phone. Some people experience a combination of these two subsets.
Most cases of ADHD are diagnosed between the ages of three and seven. Symptoms may improve as the child becomes older, but many adults are living with ADHD. Adult diagnoses have increased by over 120% in the US in the space of nine years. although many adults remain undiagnosed.
The condition affects more boys than girls, although many girls have traditionally not been diagnosed because they more frequently experience inattentive ADHD. This subset is often missed as historically ADHD has been associated with hyperactivity.
Although ADHD does share some similarities with autism, they are distinct conditions.
Partly, the explosion in ADHD cases can be linked to better detection. Awareness of ADHD is higher than it ever was, diagnostic criteria have now been developed, and drugs are available to treat the condition.
No one knows for sure what causes ADHD, but it’s related to imbalances in the brain chemicals helping nerve cells to communicate. The messages between brain cells then become muddled, setting off whole cascades of signals.
Exactly what causes these chemical imbalances isn’t yet clear. It’s unlikely to be one single factor, but rather a combination of issues. There is a genetic susceptibility toward developing ADHD, but not everyone born with this tendency will develop the condition. Researchers believe it may be triggered by some aspect of the environment which has changed over the years. Environmental, lifestyle and nutritional factors seem to combine to determine whether the genetic tendencies are expressed.
Let’s have a look at some of these factors now.
Your microbiome is the community of bacteria living in your intestines. People with ADHD have been found to have different types of bacteria living in their guts to those who are unaffected. Your gut bacteria are constantly communicating with your brain. In fact, the gut is often called the second brain. So it’s no surprise behavioural issues can be caused by an unbalanced microbiome.
Many factors associated with modern life adversely affect your microbiome, from processed foods to medicines to stress and poor sleep. An unhealthy microbiome can even be passed on from a mother to her baby.
Disordered gut bacteria can lead to food sensitivities. Common culprits are gluten-containing grains like wheat, particularly modern wheat, specially developed to contain more gluten than ancient wheat. Eating gluten grains is associated in many people with a worsening of ADHD symptoms. It’s easy to eat gluten in every single meal of the day.
The modern world is awash with toxins including manmade chemicals and pollutants, as well as toxic metals like lead and mercury. Exposure to these metals has been associated with ADHD.
Substances linked to ADHD include pesticides and weedkillers (2). Pesticide and herbicide use has increased dramatically in recent years. It’s thought the bodies of people with ADHD might be less effective at removing these unwanted substances, so they tend to accumulate.
Modern food, particularly processed food, is typically bereft of nutrients, including those needed for brain health like Omega 3 fats, B Vitamins, Vitamin D, magnesium, zinc and selenium.
Functional medicine is obsessed with finding the causes of physical and mental health issues. The root causes will be slightly different for everyone..
Functional tests can assess the health of the microbiome and examine the types of chemicals the gut bacteria are releasing. Tests can also reveal food sensitivities, nutritional deficiencies and the presence of any toxic chemicals.
I’ll support you every step of the way with dietary, supplement and lifestyle interventions to correct any imbalances and therefore put things right.
Are you concerned about how ADHD affects your life? Why not book a free 15 minute discovery call to see if Functional Medicine is for you.
Please enter your details below and we will get back to you as soon as we can.
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