Alternative Treatments for ADHD Symptoms
By Dr. Samantha Larkin, ND- Associate Doctor and Manager of the Spark Health IV Program
ADHD, also known as Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, is a behavioral condition characterized by persistent inattention and/or impulsive, hyperactive behaviors.
These symptoms show up in childhood and interfere with social, academic or occupational activities. ADHD is understood to be a result of multifactorial causes including genetics.
Genes specifically affecting the regulation of dopamine and glutamate are associated with ADHD. Neurologically, there are differences in brain structure in the frontal cortex, cerebellum and parietal lobes as well as reduced activity in the prefrontal cortex in patients affected by ADHD compared to those without ADHD.
Other biological elements associated with ADHD include:
- Prematurity and low birth weight
- Exposure to toxins or infections during pregnancy
- Socioeconomic stressors during early childhood (2)
Although symptoms of ADHD tend to improve in late adolescence, many adults still suffer from this condition. The standard treatments for ADHD are stimulant drugs such as amphetamine salts (Adderall) and methylphenidate (Ritalin), but these drugs are associated with a high level of abuse and side effects.
If you answer yes to any of the below questions, we are ready to lead you toward your highest expression of health through a personalized, individual approach.
- Do you or a loved one suffer from ADHD?
- Are you interested in taking a different approach from the standard pharmaceutical treatments?
- Do you want to learn more about specialized testing that can help address some of the imbalances underlying ADHD?
- Do you want to explore the non-pharmaceutical options that are on the cutting edge of addressing this condition?
Non-Pharmaceutical Treatments for ADHD Treatments
There are many angles we are able to take as Naturopathic Doctors to help address conditions like ADHD.
The first consideration is the importance of the gut-brain axis (GBA). There is a direct connection between the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) and the enteric nervous system (the neurons responsible for intestinal functions).
Did you know that the majority of serotonin (a neurotransmitter) in the body is actually produced in the gut itself? The enteric nervous system surprisingly uses more than 30 neurotransmitters.
The activities going on in the gut are often indicative of processes going on in the brain, and vice versa. It is well understood that gastrointestinal inflammation and dysbiosis can contribute to alterations in mood and behavior.
Specifically, research shows a connection between altered GI flora and ADHD. Therefore, if we are able to address intestinal functioning properly, we are able to change the activities of the central nervous system.
We do this by using stool testing and other personalized functional lab testing. From the results of a stool analysis, we may make specific recommendations on supplements, probiotics, or dietary changes that can enhance gastrointestinal functioning and therefore help address ADHD symptoms. (1,2)
There is also evidence that persons with ADHD exhibit more susceptibility to food allergies than persons without ADHD. (2) Improvements in behavior can be seen often on certain types of elimination diets. (3)
Here at Spark Health, we can test for antibodies to 96 or 184 foods, depending on individual needs.
Food sensitivities are different from food allergies in the reaction that they create in the body. Many doctors test only immediate allergies to foods, such as peanuts, which can lead to immediate anaphylactic reactions.
But this doesn’t give us information about how repeated exposure to certain foods over a long term can impact health. By testing for food sensitivities, we take the guesswork out of the equation, so you have a clear sense of which foods to avoid and which foods to include in the diet.
Other tests that we may utilize include neurotransmitter testing (measured by a urine sample), which allows us to assess levels of amino acids and amines that turn into the chemical messengers that make up our brain chemistry.
Although we are unable to directly measure the neurotransmitters in the central nervous system, we can use urinary levels to see certain patterns that may be associated with disorders such as ADHD. From these results, we can create a personalized plan that can help to balance out neurotransmitters and alleviate symptoms.
If you are interested in learning more about the Spark Health approach to personalized natural medicine, give us a call at 858-228-4188 or you can email us at Spark@MySparkHealth.com.
We look forward to helping you achieve your health goals!
~The Spark Team
1. Carabotti M, et al. The Gut-Brain axis: Interactions Between Enteric Microbiota, Central and Enteric Nervous Systems. Annals of Gastroenterology (2015); 28,203-209
2. Petra AI, et al. Gut-microbiota-brain Axis and Its Effect on Neuropsychiatric Disorders With Suspected Immune Dysregulation. Clinical Therapeutics (2015); 37
3. De Theije CG, et al. Food Allergy and Food-Based Therapies in Neurodevelopmental Disorders. Pediatric Allergy Immunol. 2014;25:218-226