What is ADHD? ADHD is an abbreviation for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. This disorder can affect children and teenagers but can also affect adults. Children with ADHD are hyperactive. They are frequently impulsive and seem to lack the ability to control those impulses. Children with ADHD often have trouble paying attention and maintaining focus. This combination of impulse control and lack of focus can have a severe influence on the child’s success in both school and in their daily life.
What are the symptoms of ADHD?
The hyperactivity shows up as excessive movement. This is troublesome in a school environment where the excess activity can be annoying to the classroom and can prevent the child from paying attention during class time.
It is estimated that 5 % of children have symptoms consistent with ADHD. This percentage is slightly smaller in adults where the estimate is closer to 2.5%. It seems to be more common in boys than girls and is usually diagnosed when a child starts to show difficulty paying attention in a school environment. Teachers are frequently in a position to recognize these behaviors since the lack of attention and hyperactivity often cause difficulty for the student and often for the entire classroom.
How Does ADHD Affect People?
People with ADHD can have difficulties that stay with them during their entire lives. Many experts believe that people with ADHD have a higher risk of alcohol and drug abuse, accidents, poor school performance, and difficulty in jobs that require attention.
People with ADHD are often diagnosed with other issues. These can include learning disabilities, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive tendencies, or even tic disorders.
How Does ADHD Affect Children?
School children with ADHD tend to have more difficulty in performance since they have difficulty maintaining focus. Their hyperactivity can be seen as disruptive behavior and this can produce an antagonistic relationship with teachers and schools. Children with ADHD are distracted, have difficulty finishing tasks or following directions. They don’t pay adequate attention and often make frequent mistakes. They can have trouble organizing their daily tasks and forget things that they are supposed to do.
What teachers see is a child that is squirming, who can’t play quietly, who is disruptive in the class, who talks too much, and who won’t stay seated. These behaviors can disrupt the entire class so a teacher can resent this behavior and make demands of parents to “do something.”
How Does ADHD Affect Adults?
Many people were not officially diagnosed as ADHD in childhood, but they find that their lives are just not working well while in adulthood. Adults with ADHD have problems in their personal lives as well as at work.
Adults with ADHD frequently have difficulty controlling anger or impulses. This can lead to addiction and substance abuse. They are unorganized and this trait alone can frequently frustrate spouses and make their home life difficult.
At work, adults with ADHD frequently have difficulty. They are frequently late and forgetful. They are not well organized and they may suffer from anxiety. Their lack of impulse control and their tendency to release anger inappropriately can create severe stress in a work environment. They have trouble concentrating and suffer from boredom. Overall, an adult with ADHD can frequently have problems in a traditional job environment.
Traditional Medical Approach to Treating ADHD
The traditional approach to treating ADHD is generally a pharmaceutical approach. Drugs such as Ritalin or Adderall are prescribed for the patient’s lifetime. Children are given these drugs and expected to stay on them for the rest of their lives. In addition, antidepressants are prescribed either alone or in combination with the other drugs. The conventional approach treats ADHD as a disease and uses drugs to reduce the symptoms of this disease.
Can Other Approaches Work?
In other parts of the world, a more holistic approach is used to treat children with ADHD. In France, ADHD is treated as a condition with situational causes as well as psychological and social causes. Patients are guided in dietary management and learn how to eat foods that minimize the ADHD symptoms. They also look at psychological issues that might come up as symptoms. Overall, French physicians treat ADHD with a more holistic approach that minimizes the number of medications that need to be given to children. They don’t avoid all medications but they do reduce their usage to the minimum effective dosage.
The functional medicine approach looks at the root causes of disease. By looking at the root causes of ADHD, the functional medicine approach is geared at attacking the true causes of the symptoms rather than simply covering up the symptoms.
What are the Root Causes of ADHD?
Nutritional deficiencies have also been shown to be correlated to attention deficit behaviors. These include fatty acid deficiencies, amino acid imbalances, and vitamin deficiencies. Omega-3 fats deficiencies are correlated to ADHD and immune issues. Low magnesium can be related to hypersensitivity to noises. Understanding which nutritional deficiencies exists is critical to understanding the patient’s issues with ADHD.
Immune issues and inflammatory issues are definite contributors to ADHD. These are also related to the digestive disturbances that might be the triggers for the immune reactions and the inflammatory patterns. Gluten, for example, can create an inflammatory condition that literally causes inflammation of the brain and other body systems.
People dealing with ADHD are frequently dealing with an impaired digestive system. They might have food sensitivities that, over time, have caused leaky gut syndrome. This digestive disturbance can produce severe inflammation throughout the body and is known to chance the microbiome in a way that can produce psychological issues.
Children with ADHD have a history of more ear infections than children that don’t have ADHD. Could this repeated inflammatory condition be associated with ADHD. Could the increased usage of antibiotics that then destroys the balance of bacteria in the gut be partially responsible? In either case, healing the lining of the gut by improving the digestion is key.
Heavy metal toxicity has also been related to ADHD. This is particularly true of lead toxicity. Numerous studies have shown the relationship between lead levels and attention deficit traits. Mercury exposure is also associated with cognitive problems. Mold toxicity is also a contributor to the overall body load of toxins. Living in a home with water issues can produce severe mold toxicity, especially in children.
Functional Medicine Approach to Treating ADHD
The Functional Medicine approach is to first look for the root causes of the disorder and then to treat those root causes. Dr. Mark Hyman, a Functional Medicine practitioner, has said: “…problem was not a Ritalin deficiency or bad parenting! The cause of all these problems lay in the dietary and environmental pollutants that throw the seven underlying systems in our body out of balance.”
Attacking each of these root causes individually is the smart approach for treating ADHD. Find out what went wrong and fix it. The Functional Medicine approach does not simply cover up symptoms. It may use medication where appropriate, but only in conjunction with evaluating and treating the root causes of body imbalances that could be contributing to ADHD.
If you or a family member have the symptoms of ADHD, consult with an experienced Functional Medicine practitioner to determine an appropriate path for treatment. Healing ADHD is critical for children and adults alike. Good brain function is possible.