Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a condition that is poorly scientifically understood.
ADHD can be characterized by difficulty with focus, inattentiveness, problems with impulse control, and/or inability to fully execute tasks. The worldwide average for ADHD in ages 3-17 is 6%; however, the average in the United States is 9.8%. That’s over 6 million children! These statistics do not even include the adults afflicted. According to the CDC, ¾ of those diagnosed are medicated with pharmaceuticals, with psychostimulants coming to the forefront as the First Line of Treatment. 1
To put it bluntly, I am a Holistic Pharmacist because of my experiences with the pitfalls of the conventional medical treatment of ADHD. The experiences I had as a pharmacist with children medicated with ADHD-focused drugs forced me to re-evaluate my profession. The stimulant medications used to treat children (and adults) with an ADHD diagnosis have horrendous consequences. As a result, I left my entire profession behind to find a better way.
The stimulants used to treat ADHD have addictive potential and many side effects. Possible side effects, which are any undesirable effects are:
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Difficulty sleeping
- Growth delay
- Changes in blood pressure and heart rate
- Lowering of seizure threshold
- Mood changes
- Abdominal pain2
Since 2010, I have helped hundreds of adults and children alike to either avoid pharmaceuticals for ADHD altogether or, in some cases, to wean off their medication. After working with so many cases, I have learned some clinical pearls that I will share with you.
3 Vital, Natural Steps to Take for ADHD.
Each case of ADHD is different and thus the appropriate interventions can vary; however, there are certain measures that are evergreen and apply to each case. I have chosen the three most broadly applicable and important steps to share.
#1: Protein and good fat for breakfast.
Over the last 12 years, I have witnessed the power of a good breakfast in staving off ADHD symptoms. This step is the simplest and the most important. After tracking countless food and behavior/symptom logs, the connection is undeniable. Protein and good fats are the winning formulas to support focus and attention.3
Eating cereal or skipping breakfast sets one up for a blood sugar and attention roller-coaster and should not be the routine if you are struggling with focus. If you have a picky child and high carbohydrate items cannot be skipped in the morning, then add more protein to it. Even for little ones, about 20 grams of protein should be consumed for a good focus day.
Here are some ideas for breakfast:
- Eggs with avocado
- 2+ meat sticks, 2 cheese sticks, and an apple
- 4+ slices of bacon, a piece of fruit
- Unsweetened Greek yogurt with berries- you can get a stevia-sweetened version or add a small amount of maple syrup or honey
- Hardboiled eggs with cheese
- Nitrate-free lunch meat rolled up with cheese and hummus (or any kind of fat desired). If a wrap is needed, use a grain-free wrap or Egg-Life wrap.
- 4 tablespoons of peanut or almond butter and an apple
- A breakfast sandwich on an Ezekiel (or other sprouted grain) English muffin with eggs and some type of meat and cheese
#2: Avoid refined sugars and dyes.
The world of clinical research has sought to codify and quantify the effects of food dyes and additives on behavior and focus. Unfortunately, the data is lacking because researchers rely on subjective observation by parents and teachers. However, many studies conclude that the link is too substantial to deny. From my own observation, I can confidently say that avoiding added sugars, dyes and chemicals are make-break for this condition. Removing processed foods and getting onto a whole-food diet is a recipe for success.4
#3: Omega 3 supplementation.
Omega 3 fatty acids are present in very high concentrations in the brain and the nerves and are vital to your nervous system, especially eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These fatty acids play a protective role within the brain. Consuming adequate amounts of these fats is vital to brain health and cognition. Eating a diet rich in these foods as well as supplementation can be a game changer for ADHD.5
Here are some good food sources of Omega 3s
- Fish and seafood- especially salmon
- Nuts and seeds- especially walnuts, flax seeds, and chia seeds
- Grass-fed beef and butter- these items contain far less than the items above but can still be a great source and back a bit of protein and other healing factors.
When you supplement Omega 3, it is very important that you get a high-quality supplement. Fish oils can come along with heavy metal contamination and can also become rancid if not packaged and stored properly. My all-time favorite Omega 3 supplement for ADHD is Omega Focus by Nordic Naturals. I have successfully assisted many children to wean off prescription psychostimulants with the use of this supplement and dietary intervention. In addition to the Omega 3s, there are also other ingredients in this supplement that are very beneficial. One of those ingredients is an herb called Bacopa monnieri. Bacopa is currently being studied for many cognitive conditions and has shown a lot of promise for cognition, memory, focus, mood, and behavior. 6
ADHD is a condition that can have many social, academic, and professional ramifications. Medicating with stimulants can help focus but does not heal the issue. The potential for serious side effects and other long-term issues from psychostimulants is a terrible trade-off. The good news is there is hope. By improving one’s nutritional status and targeted supplementation, ADHD symptoms can be overcome safely.
Your Holistic Pharmacist,