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.

 

 

 

The Importance of Your Poop

Even though it feels a bit embarrassing to post about poop, there’s no denying that our bowel movements are extremely important. If you want to know what’s going on with your body and your health, then start by looking at your poop.

Let’s begin with the gut. The gut is the body’s second brain. In fact, it actually sends messages directly to our brain up top. It impacts mood, digestion, the immune system, and even how you think. While thought processes like writing or math are up to the big brain, the Enteric Nervous System (ENS), which runs down from our esophagus to our stomach, small intestine and anus, is comprised of 100’s of millions of neurotransmitters that affect mental state and contribute to certain diseases in the body (source: John Hopkins). This network of neurons is similar to those found in the brain and act as a complex circuitry allowing the gut to think independently, learn, remember, and even experience gut feelings. 80% of cells from the immune system are located in this digestive tract, so it makes sense that the colon can dictate your overall health.

Because of the impact your gut health has on mood and overall health, many gastrointestinal disorders like Colitis and Irritable Bowel Syndrome stem from issues in the gut. When you poop, you eliminate toxins, and when you don’t poop those toxins build up and can contribute to disease and illness. Constipation can be caused by a disease, like Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or from something like stress or poor diet.

Are you pooping enough?

Your poop can tell you whether your body is properly absorbing the nutrients that you consume. Ideally, you should poop between 1-3 times every day, but no more than 5. If you’re pooping five or more times daily, this is likely diarrhea and can be dehydrating. Many people refer to having regular bowel function as being “regular,” but regular really means easily passing soft yet well-formed bowel movements anywhere between 1-3 times a day to 3 times a week (source: continence.org).

The type of poop you make is quite important. Thankfully, there is this handy dandy poop chart to help you identify your stool category according to research by the University of Bristol:

If your poop most closely resembles types 1-3, this indicates constipation. Types 3-4 are ideal; 5-7 indicate diarrhea.

What can you do to become a “regular” and healthy pooper?

If you’re not a category 3-4 pooper, then I have some tips for you!

If you really want to give your colon a good cleanse, try a colonic. Colonics cleanse your colon by flushing the large intestine out with warm water via the rectum in order to remove waste and exercise and hydrate the colon (source: SF Colonics). Some places that do colonics will even sell add-ons with the colonics, like coffee enemas or vitamin B implants.

Diet can play a huge role on gut health. Try adding more fiber to your diet since fiber gets waste to move through the intestines. Fruits and vegetables are a great source of fiber, and I highly recommend my Daily Green Smoothie for a powerful dose of fiber and vitamins needed to cleanse the body of toxins. I also suggest taking a daily probiotic and digestive enzymes. Probiotics can come in the form of food or supplements, but basically, probiotics are good bacteria that are essential to proper gut function and good health. Digestive enzymes will help you get the most from the nutrients in your food by breaking the food down into more digestible components. Even if you’re someone who eats well all the time, if you don’t have enough digestive enzymes you will not absorb all the good nutrition from your food (source: Whole9). Stress, low stomach acid, aging, and inflammation all are very common occurrences that can deplete levels of digestive enzymes.

Because of the direct link between the gut and colon, constipation or diarrhea can signal something stressful going on, whether it’s something emotional buried deep or something going on presently, like a big presentation at work (source: Harvard). To reduce stress, I can recommend a number of therapies which I’ve tried. These include health coaching, acupuncture, massage, psychotherapy, emotional freedom technique, or yoga. There are many ways to reduce stress on your own too, like breathing exercises, regular physical activity (but tailored to fit your body’s needs), essential oils, or a good ole’ warm bath.

I have worked with many women who suffer from chronic constipation. In fact, chronic constipation is a large, somewhat unspoken epidemic. I work with these clients to improve diet and lifestyle and to identify areas of stress or emotional trauma in their lives. If you’re someone suffering from gut problems, or if you would just like to improve your overall health, please set up a complimentary consultation with me so we can review your health history and discuss how health coaching can best help you.

I received my training from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, where I learned about more than one hundred dietary theories and studied a variety of practical lifestyle coaching methods. Drawing on this knowledge, I will help you create a completely personalized “roadmap to health” that suits your unique body, lifestyle, preferences, and goals.

 

 

5 Ways to Start Sleeping Better

Like most people, I love to sleep, but I haven’t always been a great sleeper. These days my head hits the pillow and I’m out, but those nights when I just couldn’t fall asleep no matter how tired I felt really stunk. I hate the feeling of being tired but wired, or being wide awake, tossing and turning, and unable to get my mind to rest. With our modern world’s media obsession, I absolutely believe we aren’t sleeping as well as we used to, and that technology is a huge factor. I’ve certainly always been that person dicking around on my phone or computer or watching tv or listening to music right before bed, but quality sleep is so important that I’ve changed my ways. Here are some tips to improve your beauty regimen and better your sleep:

1- Turn your cellphone off at night. Ok, do not panic cellphone-addicted readers… Want better sleep?  Then turn your phone off at night!

Our phones produce a light that triggers our brains to stay awake, thus disrupting the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle (source: Sleep Foundation). This causes tension in the body that releases the stress hormone cortisol, especially if you’re doing something like playing a video game or checking your email. Cortisol triggers the body into “fight of flight” mode, which can negatively impact sleep. I always encourage my clients to get in the habit of powering down their devices (computers, tablets and televisions included) at least one hour before bed to get their brains to shut down for sleep mode. I’ve done this experiment myself and found that I do, in fact, sleep better. And when you get better sleep, it makes it that much easier to make healthier choices throughout the day. For example, do you find that when you’re tired and lazy you go for easy food options, like pizza or pre-made sandwiches versus a healthy meal? We look for foods with sugar or caffeine to give us that temporary boost of energy, but temporary is the operative word here because this type of energy does not sustain.

2- Create a nighttime routine. There are so many ways to relax before bedtime, it’s just a matter of finding what works best for you. I definitely recommend cutting back on sugar and caffeine, especially later in the day. Some other ideas to relax include: stretching, giving yourself a little self-massage, drinking something warm and soothing, reading (not on a device!), or journaling. Journaling before bed is ideal and therapeutic because it gives you the opportunity to let out all the stresses and thoughts bouncing around your head that could potentially keep you awake at night. I spend that time reflecting on my day, writing down what I’m grateful for, and like I said, just writing whatever is on my mind. One other thing I’ve found that works wonders for me is using essential oils. Lavender oil in particular is intended for relaxing, so I will put a little dab of the oil on my pillow or in my oil diffuser to get me bed-ready. Lavender eye pillows are also very soothing.

3- Blackout. Don’t get too excited, I’m not talking about drinking yourself to sleep. Black out your room at night so that as little light as possible is showing. That includes any lights inside or outside your room, which may also include night-lights or those little blinking lights from your wireless modem or whatnot. The darker your room, the better.

4- Silence! Same idea as #1 and #3. Just like light, sounds are distracting and keep your brain active, so try not to fall asleep with a movie or music still on. If so inclined, you could invest in a white noise maker. If sound is something you can’t control, such as noises from the street or a noisy roommate, ear plugs might be helpful.

5- Get naked. Cooler temperatures trigger the “let’s sleep now” response in your body, so while you could go light on the comforter or heat, I prefer to sleep naked. This also gives your body a chance to breath and to get in a more relaxed state, since sleeping overheated can also negatively affect your cortisol levels. High cortisol affects other aspects of your health, like anxiety levels, weight gain, unhealthy food cravings, etc.images

 

 

Want to get even better beauty sleep and health? Visit my website and schedule a complimentary health coaching consultation with me so we can find out what works best for your lifestyle.

5 Tips to Reduce Stress Instantly

75%-90% of all doctor visits are stress related.  When stress goes untreated it suppresses the body’s immune system and ultimately manifests as illness. Poor nutrition, environment, career, unhealthy relationships, and lifestyle can all impact your body by releasing cortisol, the body’s stress hormone. While it’s normal to release cortisol, it’s important for your body to return to its normal cortisol levels following a stressful event.  In our high-stress culture though, your body doesn’t always have the chance to return to its normal cortisol levels, so your body is constantly in fight or flight mode which makes you more prone to several negative effects.

Here are five tips to help you reduce your stress instantly:

1. Make lists

You’re busy and have tons to juggle.  Writing things down, creating lists, and prioritizing tasks is one of the quickest fixes for reducing daily stress.  I recommend keeping a list of everything you need to get done for the day, then reorganizing these tasks in order of importance.  I also suggest completing the least exciting or hardest task before 11:00am.  Our willpower and focus is only good for so long, so put your energy towards finishing the most stressful work for the day earlier on.  That way by 11am you can take a big sigh of relief, because the rest of the day just got easier.

2. Move your body 

Early morning surfset with my girls!

Early morning surfset with my girls!

Our bodies crave movement.  Find something you have fun doing and make it part of your daily routine. Exercise is a way of releasing built up tension, so instead of reaching for the sugar and booze, get your body moving if you’re stressed.  It doesn’t have to be an intense workout.  Get off the subway a little early and walk the rest of the way to work, or take a work break to stand up and stretch at your desk.  You’ll feel much better!  Find a type of exercise that works for your body’s needs.  What did you like to do as a kid?  What makes you feel good?

3. Breathe 

Do you ever experience moments where you realize that you haven’t been breathing?  I mean, really breathing, like from the belly.  Start breathing consciously.  Slow your breath down and allow your body to relax for a moment.  Can you see your belly moving in and out or are you just breathing through your nose?  Breathe in for four counts and out for four counts, breathing through the belly.

4. Self-massage

Loving touch is so important to our mental health.  We crave affection and not all of us get it on a regular basis.  Give yourself some love.  Try massaging yourself.  Do you have tension in your shoulders?  Your temples?  Your neck? Breathe consciously and use your hands to make yourself feel good!

5. Lavender essential oils

Essential oils have been used for centuries for healing. Lavender oil has many therapeutic effects, and it’s a personal Lavender_lgfavorite for relaxing the mind and body and reducing stress. Poor sleep is often a result of stress, so lavender oil is especially useful at night before bed.  I like to put a couple drops on my hands to rub over my pillows. I’ll also put a couple drops on the back of my neck to relieve tension, and there are tons of other uses and methods for applying lavender oil.

Want more tips like these? Subscribe to my newsletters or contact me for a complimentary health consultation.