ADHD, otherwise known as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, can affect both children and adults. It’s estimated that about 5 percent of children have ADHD as well as about 2.5 percent of adults. Adults with ADHD are often treated with medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of the two.
But what can you do if you’d prefer not to take medication? In today’s age of “slapping a bandaid on it”, functional medicine can be a breath of fresh air, especially when faced with a chronic condition or disease. Read on to learn how functional medicine can potentially help you (or your child) cope with ADHD without the aid of medication.
Treating ADHD With Functional Medicine
While many adults are unaware that they have the disorder (you need an evaluation from a doctor), there are some common symptoms that seem to appear in both adults and children with ADHD.
Some of these symptoms include:
- Brief attention span
- Poor concentration
- Difficulty organizing/keeping track of things
- Frequently making careless mistakes
Conventional medical treatment is often applied to stop these symptoms. Doctors will prescribe pharmaceutical drugs such as methylphenidate (Ritalin) or the amphetamine Adderall. A doctor might even prescribe an antidepressant. These drugs are powerful, and can potentially have some unwanted side effects. Worse yet, while the drugs might have a positive impact on you or your child’s behavior in the moment, studies have shown that they can potentially have negative health effects in the long-term.
Functional medicine is a great alternative to taking strong prescriptions.
Because ADHD can be caused or triggered by a number of things, it helpful to investigate the root of the issue to see if there may be a solution to resolve it completely or at least alleviate the severity of the condition.
The Functional Medicine Approach focuses on the “triggers” of the ADHD symptoms rather than coating it in pharmaceutical drugs.
Some of these triggers can be:
- Food intolerances
- Poor diet
Behavior modifications, environmental changes, and what you consume can all have an impact on the symptoms you're experiencing. By simply eating a more nutritious, balanced diet with the nutrients you need, you may have the opportunity to alleviate symptoms and eliminate the need for intense medication all together.
Dietary Tips for Adults and Kids with ADHD
Here are some dietary changes you can make (under the supervision of a functional medicine physician) that could potentially decrease the symptoms of ADHD:
Incorporate anti-inflammatory foods and nutrients.
Chronic inflammation can be one of the root causes of ADHD, so eating foods high in omega-3’s can help with the symptoms.
Try an elimination diet.
Gluten, dairy, and other potential food sensitivities can also increase inflammation, create problems like intestinal permeability, and therefore, aggravate symptoms of ADHD. By slowing eliminating certain foods from your diet, you can start to discover if you have any food sensitivities to be aware of (and avoid).
Eat whole, nutrient-rich foods.
Research has found that sugar, especially simple sugars in processed foods, can increase the risk of ADHD in children. By incorporating a diet of unprocessed foods, plenty of fruits, and veggies, there’s the potential for dramatic improvements in behavior and focus.
Maximize nutrient intake.
Many people with this condition are suffering from nutrient-deficiencies, particularly those children who have very low levels of Vitamin D. Talk to your doctor about taking certain vitamins and minerals to help combat symptoms.
Listen to your gut.
Research has shown that there is a gut-brain connection, and poor gut flora can have an affect on people with this condition. Focus on incorporating gut healing foods into your diet such as nuts, seeds, and legumes. Your functional medicine provider may also encourage the use of probiotics.
If you or your child is diagnosed with ADHD, consider taking the functional medicine approach before committing to pharmaceutical drugs. By getting to the root of the issue and approaching your health from a holistic viewpoint, your physician will be able to treat more than just your symptoms - they’ll be able to treat your entire being.
Interested in a functional medicine consult? Request a Meet & Greet with our Care Team to learn more about how our direct primary care plans can help you on your journey to whole health.
This blog post was originally published on May 16, 2018.