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.

 

 

 

5 Healthy Breakfast Recipes Your Kids Will Love!

breakfastIt’s so important to have a nutritious breakfast.  You want your kids to start the morning with something that’ll fuel them for a large portion of their day.  I believe superfoods, protein, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, vitamins, and fiber are all vital for energy, sharp focus, growth, a strong immune system, vibrant skin, and healthy digestion.

BEWARE

Steer clear of sugary breakfast foods and beware of misleading labels.  Sugar is addictive and horrible for your health, so power your kids with something nutritious in the morning instead! Juice also has a lot of sugar in it and lacks the fiber that fruit provides. Your kids may show symptoms of an intolerance too (milk is a common one), so for a morning beverage, try a healthy smoothie or fruit-infused waters. Lemon, cucumber, berries…any combination that tastes good in your water. I keep a large container of infused water in my fridge so it’s convenient at any time.  If you have fizzy water you can add fruit to that too.

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EAT THIS

Here are five breakfast recipes that will taste like a treat!

  • chia seed pudding – Chia seeds are packed with protein, omega-3s, fiber, calcium, and antioxidants. When the chia seeds expand in liquid they become gelatinous, and that actually helps cleanse your digestive system. I love chia seed pudding too because there are so many ways to have it! Chocolate, strawberry, almond, coconut, etc… If your kids are up for trying this I think they might like it!
  • banana peanut butter open face sandwich  Bananas are great. They offer fiber, a ton of potassium, and lots of vitamins. They sustain blood sugar and boost energy. Add some peanut butter and nuts on top for protein, healthy fat, and fiber among other vitamins which will all naturally provide energy for longer periods of time without a huge crash like you get after eating sugar.
  • Bacon, Eggs, and Apple Slices – Believe it or not, if you buy quality bacon and pastured eggs and you add some apple, you got a well balanced meal. There are so many ways to quickly make eggs. If you can get your kid to do a scramble one day and add some vegetables that would be awesome! Look for nitrate free, or uncured, bacon. It doesn’t have added chemicals. This meal will give your kid protein and fiber, and if you cook the eggs in a healthier oil like extra virgin olive oil or a little quality organic butter, then your kid will also get brain-fueling, healthy fat. I recommend using one egg yolk for every two egg whites. The whites have all the protein, and the yolk contains the healthy fat.
  • french toast with berries – French toast was always one of my childhood favorites. However, I remember always feeling sick after eating it (especially after drenching the toast in Aunt Jemima syrup). This recipe uses healthier substitutes like cottage cheese and almond milk, which eliminates some of the dairy that many kids are intolerant to.
  • Jessica’s superfood smoothie (serves 2) – I love starting my morning off with this energizing smoothie. It’s full of antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, protein, and omegas. I add a handful of spinach to my drink, but that’s totally optional. I blend:

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

1/2 cup organic strawberries

1 banana

1/2 cup blueberries

1/2 cup raspberries

1 tablespoon chia seeds, 1 tablespoon flaxseed, 1 tablespoon hemp seed (I eyeball it for all the seeds)

1 scoop maca powder (amazing health benefits)

2 teaspoons bee pollen (high in protein!)

1 tablespoon cacao nibs

Blend everything and enjoy this energy drink. Serve alongside some avocado toast.

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FYI- some of the seeds and maca powder can be found for a better price in the bulk bins at Whole Foods.

Three Health Myths Busted!

Myth #1: The Less You Salt Your Food The Better

209785620_2515_detail-300x225For years we’ve heard about Americans’ high salt intake and the American Heart Association‘s instructions to reduce salt consumption.  The truth is that salt is essential to our diet and offers many health benefits, but many Americans consume too much regular old table salt which is processed and stripped of its minerals, not quality sea salt which retains potassium, magnesium, calcium, and other minerals. These mineral properties found in sea salt lower the stress hormone, cortisol, which leads to a healthy weight and fast metabolism.  Too little salt in the diet, under 2300mg of salt a day, can actually lead to heart disease and early mortality. Salt contributes to improved sleep, because it balances our hormones, supports thyroid function, reduces stress hormones, and increases metabolic rate. If you’re experiencing low energy, try sucking a few sea salt crystals and see how you feel.

For more information on the health benefits of salt, click here.

Myth 2: You Can Eat Whatever You Want As Long As You Exercise

My dad was an athlete. He always used to tell me that as long as I exercised I could eat whatever I wanted. I was an active kid too, so I always ate whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, and as much as I wanted.  Turns out, this is a myth!  Just because you exercise does not mean you should live off of table sugar and processed junk and eat as much of it as you want.  These foods are never good for us, they just aren’t natural.  There are many foods that are healthier and will better fuel the body for exercise anyway. Exercise also isn’t the most effective way to lose weight, researchers say. Exercise has many health benefits and is good for maintaining weight and curbing hunger, but proper nutrition is the quickest way to lose pounds.

Myth #3: Diet Drinks Aid in Weight Loss

diet-soda-weight-loss1-300x300Soda might as well be renamed “death in a can.” The high sugar content and unnatural ingredients have many known health risks, but what about the diet versions?  “Diet” sodas swap out sugar for artificial sweeteners that contain chemicals that cause cancer. These diet products also contribute to weight gain, since the artificial sweeteners cause cravings for calorie-dense foods.  Historically we aren’t used to getting our calories from our beverages, so our bodies aren’t satisfied after drinking sugary drinks and want more.  Stick to water as often as possible, or if you’re looking to ween yourself off soda, try switching to flavored seltzer.

Eat the Rainbow!

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There should be an easy way to know what kinds of fruits and vegetables to eat daily to get the healthful benefits we need.  Luckily, there is an easy way.  Just remember, eat a rainbow every day.  When we eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables we get the vitamins and minerals we need to live healthy lives.

Fruits and vegetables contain one of three main types of pigment: carotenoids, which give orange and yellow vegetables their colors; flavonoids, which provide blue, red and cream colors; and chlorophyll, which makes greens green.

Here are some examples of foods to eat in order to eat your daily rainbow:

Red- A lycopene, a carotenoid, is a powerful antioxidant that has been associated with a reduced risk of some cancers, especially prostate cancer, and protection against heart attacks.

red apples (contains vitamin C, fiber and antioxidants)

-tomatoes (contains lycopene)

-cranberries (Prevents and treats UTIs, also a source of antioxidants)

-watermelon (contains lycopene)

-strawberries (contains vitamin C and manganese)

-rasberries (reduces inflammation, pain, cancer risk, heart disease risk, diabetes risk, allergies and age-related macular degeneration)

-cherries (contains melatonin, prevents memory loss, decreases inflammation and lowers cancer and diabetes risk)

-red bell pepper (contains vitamin A, vitamin B6 and improves mood and sleep)

Yellow/Orange: High in beta-carotene, which is particularly good antioxidants.

Oranges (packed with Vitamin C)

Carrots (High in antioxidants, beta-carotenes, Vitamin A, and lowers risks of cardiovascular disease. Great for improving eyesight)

Sweet potato (High in vitamin B6, Vitamin A and C, iron, potassium, magnesium, and beta carotenes)

Mango (High in Vitamin A and C, antioxidants and alkalizes the body)

Cantaloupe (contains beta-carotenes, Vitamin A and C, and a wide range of antioxidants)

Winter squash (high in antioxidants)

Apricots (full of beta-carotenes and fiber)

Green: Green vegetables are excellent sources of vitamin K, folic acid, potassium, as well as carotenoids and omega-3 fatty acids.

Broccoli (high in Vitamin K and C, antioxidants.  Contains cancer and inflammation-fighting components and alkalizes the body)

Kale (contains fiber, Vitamins A, C, and K, folate, and packed with protein)

Bok choy (contains antioxidants, Vitamin A, B and C, and calcium)

-Spinach (contains iron, Vitamins A, B2, C, and K, magnesium, manganese, calcium, potassium, and folate)

-Brussel sprouts (high in Vitamins C and K, folate, manganese, Vitamin B6, etc)

Blue/Purple: Rich in anthocyanins, which give these fruits their distinctive colors, may help ward off heart disease by preventing clot formation. They may also help lower risk of cancer.

Blueberries (packed with Vitamin C and antioxidants, improves memory and heart health, fights UTIs)

Blackberries (packed with antioxidants and Vitamins C and K)

Eggplant (contain iron, calcium, fiber, and phyto nutrients)

Prunes (high in antioxidants, fiber, and natural laxative, sorbitol)

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If you have kids who are having trouble eating their fruits and vegetables, one suggestion would be to create a chart together (as seen above), where your kid can write in what foods he or she ate that day under each color of the rainbow.  If you have the time and space, you could also plant a “rainbow garden” together.  Get creative!

(Additional Sources: Color Me Healthy)