How To Naturally Treat ADHD

Not unlike most children, when I was younger, paying attention in class and sitting still was difficult for me. When I was 15, I diagnosed myself with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and had a much easier time getting my prescription for Adderall (a medication commonly used to treat ADHD) from my doctor then I think I probably should have. “You want Adderall? No problem, I’ll prescribe you Adderall,” I clearly remember my pediatrician saying. Although my mom ended up taking me to a different doctor who diagnosed me with ADHD before prescribing the medication, for the next four years after that, I took Adderall daily, believing that I wouldn’t be as productive or successful without it. While I did have insanely sharp focus, I hated the side effects. The medication made it so that I didn’t want to eat, I couldn’t comfortably socialize, and I couldn’t sleep. But my grades in school improved dramatically enough that I convinced myself Adderall made me smarter and better at school.

By the age of 20, I decided I was done with the drug and the uncomfortable, anxious way it made me feel. When I went off it, my goal wasn’t necessarily to go cold turkey, but I wanted to test myself and see how I did in school without the drug while implementing some natural methods for concentrating. It took a little time, and I know this wouldn’t be the case for all people with an attention disorder, but I’ve found that I can absolutely be productive without medication. I believe that the following natural remedies can truly help with concentration and that either on their own or in conjunction with medication, can greatly benefit those struggling with ADHD.

Understanding the Power of the Gut

Our intestines contain a population of microbes known as gut microbiota. Microbiota contains tens of trillions of microorganisms, with at least 1000 different species of bacteria with more than 3 million genes (source: Gut Microbiota). A baby born vaginally gets her first dose of these microorganisms as soon as she exits her mother’s vagina. Children born through C-sections miss some of the bacteria that children born vaginally get.  Instead, a C-section baby gets her first bacteria from her mother’s skin and the skin of the doctors and nurses in the delivery room (source: heathline).  In either situation, from that moment on, everything affects the babies microbiota; the food she eats, the water she drinks, her environment, and the air she breathes. Although the baby can adapt to change, a loss of balance in the gut microbiota may result in dysbiosis (the opposite of symbiosis). Dysbiosis may be linked to a number of health problems such as functional bowel disorders, inflammatory bowel disease, allergies, obesity, and diabetes, to name some. According to author and doctor, Natasha Campbell-McBride, 84 percent of your immunity is located in your gut wall. And if you don’t have healthy gut flora, your immune system simply can’t function optimally (Source: GAPS Diet).

 

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Happy gut microbes

 

Gut dysbiosis is also commonly found in children with ADD/ADHD and other mental health illnesses and disorders like depression, or bipolar disorder.  (source: Epidemic Answers). In my own experience, I have found that by treating the gut, I could get by without medication. Another thing I found while researching is that children with ADHD typically have low levels of dopamine, which is an important neurotransmitter that promotes feelings of calm and well-being. This is why kids with ADHD, while not typically being able to sit still for too long, have been found to sit very calmly for hours on end while playing video games, since playing video games releases dopamine. With all of this knowledge, I now have recommendations for ways to balance dopamine levels and improve gut health to naturally achieve laser sharp focus.

Diet

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Eating a well-balanced diet with plenty of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, lean protein, healthy fats, and purified water will play a huge role in curbing ADHD symptoms. Eat organic whenever possible, take probiotics regularly, and check in with yourself to see how your body feels after you eat certain foods. There are a number of foods that can typically cause food allergies or sensitivities in people, such as: gluten, sugar, processed and fried foods, food colorings, dairy, alcohol, red meat, caffeine, soy, corn, and nightshade vegetables. An allergy or sensitivity to a particular food may cause symptoms of ADHD. Experiment by eliminating foods from these food groups then add them back into your diet one by one.  During this process, I recommend taking notes of your concentration, energy, digestion, and sleep before and after eating and you may just find some foods work better for your body and concentration levels than others.

Lifestyle

Quality sleep and healthy lifestyle choices will also impact your ability to focus during the day. Most people need at least eight solid hours of sleep, which means you should begin winding down and turning off the computer, television, or any devices with a blue light at least an hour before bed. Try to steer clear of caffeine, sugar, and alcohol, as these will impact sleep quality too.

 

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Yoga on a stand up paddle board requires a quiet, focused mind…

 

For both children and adults with ADHD, exercise is like medicine. It helps to get rid of excess energy, and in my own experience, I’ve found that exercise is the only time where I can pretty much turn off my mind. Exercise stimulates cognitive thinking and increases levels of dopamine, thus improving levels of concentration for hours after completion. Switching up forms of exercise, and learning new ones, have actually been found to improve organization skills, and when you combine mind-body exercises with a deep mental focus, you may even get more positive results (source: health.com). I have to switch up my exercises just to stay interested, so I like to rotate between pilates, yoga, barre, running, dance, and weight training.

Massage

Like exercise, massage also increases levels of dopamine, which is the hormone lacking in people with ADHD. The benefits of regular massage for people with ADHD have been found to result in more restful sleep, improved mood, improved social function, improved focus, and anger control. If you can’t go out and get a massage regularly, then try giving yourself a massage. You can even incorporate essential oils like lavender, frankincense, or mandarin into your massages for greater results since aromatherapy can also be a powerful tool for aiding in focus and calmness.

Work Breaks

When focusing for long periods of time is a challenge, try breaking up your workload. I’ll set a timer for myself for 20-minute periods where I power through work, followed by a brief break. During this break, I’ll do anything from stretching to browsing Pinterest, but after about five minutes I have to get back into work mode. I find these frequent and shorter work periods actually make me more productive in the long run.

 

Are you or is someone you know struggling with symptoms of ADHD?  Then let’s talk!  I am a Certified Integrative Nutritionist with a background in holistic health who would love to help you.

 

 

 

Important Things My Physician Never Addressed

Western medicine is extremely necessary and saves many lives every day.  That being said, doctors are busy people, so it’s not often we get the time we deserve with our doctors to get a full health assessment. Wouldn’t it be nice not to feel pressured by the doctor’s time constraint so that we could address everything that may play a factor in our health and wellbeing?  Think about the times you or someone you know was prescribed a pharmaceutical drug.  Did the doctor ever take the time to go over nutrition, lifestyle, and the role stress plays in our health before prescribing that little pill? Does that pill even get to the root of the problem, or does it simply act as a Bandaid, a temporary solution, for your problem?

John Oliver talks about the relationships between doctors and pharmaceutical companies the other night…

Over the years, I have had several instances with doctors where I was diagnosed for something or prescribed something without receiving proper education or a full health check, like what was going on in my life at the time or what my diet consisted of.  Here are some experiences I’d like to share with you:

Antibiotics

I think there have been at least three occasions in my life when I was prescribed antibiotics, each time by a different doctor.  Antibiotics are used to kill bacteria, but in the process also clean out the healthful bacteria inside our intestines that we need, often causing leaky gut syndrome.  Probiotics is a term I never ever heard until just a few years ago through my own research, but is absolutely something I should have been educated about by my physician.  Whenever taking antibiotics, probiotics are essential, as they add back healthy bacteria to our guts. Definitely if you suffer from any type of digestive disorder, if you’ve ever been treated with antibiotics, or if you just want to do something amazing for your body for the hell of it, try taking probiotics. For a list of probiotics, visit my article here.

25-1-e1391041324424PMS

Ladies, some of you may be able to relate to this one.  For many years I suffered from debilitating cramps, depression, and unhealthy food cravings the week before my period and during my period.  None of my doctors ever talked to me about the importance of eating well, especially around the time of my period.  I knew that my hormones were out of whack, but I never knew the science behind what was happening with my hormones. Estrogen levels rise as do our food cravings.  I would crave and indulge in greasy foods, and would get awful cramps and hate the way I felt as a result, because my serotonin levels were suddenly dropping after the moments of pleasure while eating all that food.  I felt more sad after indulging, and didn’t understand my body really didn’t want those onion rings, and that eating those foods would only increase feelings of depression. Not to mention I possibly had leaky gut syndrome as a result from my antibiotics and some undiagnosed food allergies.  Once I learned to eat better, hydrate, and get light exercise instead of pigging out and feeling sorry for myself, I no longer get symptoms of PMS.  Food, herbs, essential oils, and taking care of myself have become my monthly medicine.  Here’s what someone should have told me to eat:

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ADHD

In high school I was tested, diagnosed, and medicated for ADHD.  My mom was anti-drugs and I was all gung-ho about them at the time.  After all, high school was tough, college was near, and I was only a B-average student.  Not good enough in my mind.  I remember telling my physician I wanted the ADHD medicine, Adderall.  His response, was “Sure, you want Adderall?  Then let me just InTune__72556.1407635934.1280.1280write you up a prescription, no problem,” about as casual as if I had asked him to borrow a pen.

I grew dependent on my medication, taking unnecessarily large amounts of the drugs every day and paying the price in happiness and in health along the way.  I became secluded and distanced myself from friends, stopped eating, developed insomnia, and was unhappy unless I was cracked out doing work.  Nobody ever thought to discuss the bigger picture with me when deciding whether to write me a prescription.  My diet was crap, I wasn’t properly hydrated, I had just stopped playing sports after being super active my whole life, and I was stressed from social and parental pressure to do well at school and get into college.  Nobody told me that changing the way I eat and drinking lots of water could improve my attentiveness.  I never heard of any natural forms of healing like essential oils, which can kick ass at assisting in maintaining focus.  I didn’t realize that my sudden lack of activity was making me restless and contributing to my lack of energy.  When I finally decided to stop my medication midway through college, I couldn’t believe how well I could focus on my own if I put my mind to it and used other techniques to maintain mental clarity.

Hypoglycemia

When I was about 10-years-old I fainted during class.  My mom took me to see my physician who diagnosed me with hypoglycemia.  I learned that hypoglycemia means your body is in insulin shock, which depletes blood sugar to abnormally low levels.  The doctor instructed me to drink some soda or have some candy when I was feeling faint, and especially in the afternoons around crash time toward the end of the school day. What the doctor didn’t mention, however, was that this didn’t mean I could eat as much sugar as I wanted.  I learned to make sweets an excuse for eating whatever and whenever I wanted, which created unhealthy habits with food. Another thing my physician didn’t discuss was why I was suddenly hypoglycemic.  It was probably important to know that I wasn’t eating enough at or before school, and the foods I ate weren’t the most satiating forms of energy.  My diet mainly consisted of cereal, bread, cookies, and soda, when I should have been eating whole grains, healthy fats, protein, and vegetables.

Cancer

This part is my mom’s story.  My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer (luckily, very early on) in 2008. She kicked cancer’s ass, but had to continue taking about 10 different types of pills daily, up until about two months ago.  After seven years of taking these pills, which of course created other health problems like arthritis, bone density loss, and muscle and joint problems, and depletion of her normal hormone levels, my mom was fed up with taking them and finally asked her doctor why she had never spoken to her about her diet and lifestyle.  The doctor’s response was, “Oh sure, nutrition can help,” but offered no prescription of leafy greens, antioxidants, or yoga.

Food and living well can absolutely be your medicine, although as stated before, Western medicine certainly has its place. 25-1-e1391041324424

If you have a personal story please feel free to share in the comments below.  Most of us have experienced something similar to what I’ve described, even if you’re just realizing it now as you’re reading this article. I know I could go on and on about friends’ personal stories of being misdiagnosed or treated for something with a pill that created a whole list of awful side effects.

I understand the impact stress has on our physical and mental wellbeing.  As a health coach, I give my clients the time they deserve to talk freely about their health and the areas of their lives that affect happiness and health: relationships, career, spirituality, and physical exercise. Satisfaction in these four areas, along with proper nutrition, is the key to lifelong happiness and health, not a little pharmaceutical pill.  Consider all the money you can save on doctor visits and bills by taking control of your diet and lifestyle today.  So, next time you need to pay a visit to the doctor, discuss the bigger picture with your physician, and remember that food, rest, and balance are often the answers to healing.stress

If you have any questions about any of the above topics, essential oils, or health coaching, please drop me a line at jessicakhealth@gmail.com.

JessJessica Kleid

Owner of Jessica Kleid Health Coaching

http://www.jkhealthcoach.com