adhd

ADHD - What Can You Do?

Photo by   Joshua Earle   on   Unsplash

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

8 months ago I wrote a blog post entitled “About ADHD – An Inside Perspective” which was an article about my own experience with ADHD.  I promised a part 2, and in true ADHD fashion it’s taken me this long to write it ;)

ADHD is a complicated thing which requires a multi-faceted approach.  There are numerous co-morbidities associated with ADHD and as such I must stress that if you feel you may have (or do have) ADHD and are struggling with mental and emotional health conditions such as depression, anxiety, impulsive behaviours, OCD behaviours or addictive patterns such as substance abuse(1) then it is important to seek the advice of a health professional.

As you can see from some of the associated conditions I’ve just mentioned, ADHD can impact a person’s life in a significant way.   Especially for those of us who go through a big portion of our life undiagnosed. 

There is still a common perception that ADHD is not a real thing, that it’s limited to young boys who can’t sit still in class, that it’s a purely hyperactive state, and that it’s a product of “bad parenting”, and that people with ADHD are unable to focus. Thankfully there is more and more research coming out about it to dispel those myths.

So what are some of the FACTS about ADHD?

1.     ADHD is characterized by “a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity beyond the range of developmental norms, which may impact on personal, academic, familial and societal functioning“.(2)  So while many people may experience some of the symptoms in their life, ADHD is when these things are so disruptive that they impede a person’s ability to live their life in a “normal” way.

2.     ADHD actually comes in three main forms – predominantly inattentive (daydreamers, cannot focus or pay attention, can be missed because they are not disruptive), predominantly hyperactive-impulsive (the typical presentation of ADHD that many people think, disruptive, risk takers, doesn’t think things through before acting), and a combined inattentive-hyperactive-impulsive type. (3)

* I have had experiences in my life of all three – inattentive as a child but smart enough to get by in school with good grades while putting no effort in, and then the impulsive/hyperactive type as I left school and went through my 20s which resulted in the obliteration of my finances and my self worth.

3.     ADHD has a genetic component – with some statistics saying that the heritability is estimated to be up to 76%.  So for people diagnosed later in life, they may be able to look in the family and spot other undiagnosed family members further up the genetic line. (4)

4.     There are also physiological differences in both the structure of the brain and in the levels of neurotransmitters in the brains of people with ADHD. (5)

5.     People with ADHD are commonly seen as people who are unable to focus.  However that’s not quite true.  We just have a hard time being able to focus on things that do not interest us. So if we are at school doing a subject we don’t care about or at work doing a job we hate, we have a very hard time being able to keep our attention and focus.  However when it comes to things that we are interested in, for many of us the opposite is true – we become obsessed with it, and tend to “hyperfocus” on these things for extended periods of time.  Which can be a brilliant advantage, IF we are able to do things in life that interest us.

So now we know what it is and what it isn’t.  So what can we do about it?

Firstly it is my (interesting) point of view that ADHD has many amazing and positive attributes.  We can focus intensely on things we love.  We are impulsive, which can be both a positive and negative thing – the impulsivity can be hugely creative and innovative if directed the right way.  The problem we face is that we are trying to find ways to manage it when doing things we either are uninterested in or find boring (and for many kids its school, and for many adults it is work and/or mundane life responsibilities!).   While I’d LOVE to go more into that side of things (maybe in another 8 months I’ll write another article??) for today I am going to focus on how you can help bring those symptoms more into balance from a Naturopathic perspective.

The thing to really remember is that for many people no single thing is the magic “fix” for ADHD.  Even medication for those who require it is a small piece of a big puzzle in helping to improve function in their lives.  So while these suggestions will be helpful, they are not the “quick fix” solutions many of us seek.

Diet & Nutrition
The gut-brain connection is something that is becoming more and more researched.   And even more interesting (and exciting) is the research into the gut microbiota (those organisms that live in your gut and do great things) with regards to ADHD and other mental health conditions. (6, 7)

What is being discovered is that if the balance between the “good” and “bad” bacteria is disrupted enough, mental health can be compromised and symptoms of disorders like ADHD can be exacerbated. (8) Last year I wrote an article about gut microbiota and probiotics and when taken in context of ADHD the main thing to remember is that different foods feed different microorganisms.  What you eat determines what kind of balance you will have in your body.  It is therefore recommended that you eat a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables (eat the rainbow!) and reduce or eliminate the amount of refined carbohydrates and sugars as consuming too much of these foods can feed the wrong kinds of bacteria.  This is what can cause the imbalance within your gut.

The other reason it is important to eat a wide variety of nutrient dense whole foods is because many people with ADHD seem to be deficient in nutrients such as omega 3s, iron and zinc. (9)  So by eating a wide variety of fresh foods you’re more likely to get the nutrients you require.  Including foods high in omega 3s such as cold water oily fish, flax seed oil and various nuts can also help to reduce inflammation in the body and brain.  Other beneficial nutrients and their food sources include:

Zinc: nuts, oysters, eggs, seeds, garlic, mushrooms, green leafy vegetables.
Iron: red meats, seeds, eggs, leafy greens, tomato, tofu.
Magnesium: nuts, seeds, red meats, dark chocolate, berries, leafy greens.
Bioflavonoids: fresh fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens and berries, citrus fruits, dark chocolate, green tea and barassicas.

As a general guide, following a diet such as the Mediterranean diet is a good way to ensure you get that balance of nutrients while also reducing processed and inflammatory foods that can exacerbate symptoms.  To download a free information sheet on the Mediterranean Diet please click here.

For some, supplementation is required – and this is where it is important to be under the care of a health professional who understands the conditions and can prescribe appropriate nutrients.  Another option that may be beneficial is Bio-Compatibility testing to identify foods that may be incompatible with your body.  By eliminating these foods and repairing the gut, you can reduce inflammation and improve your body’s ability to properly absorb the nutrients required for optimal function.

Exercise
Exercise is very important for people with ADHD.  It has been shown that there are consistent beneficial effects on both cognitive and behavioural symptoms when exercise is combined with conventional therapies.(9) When you consider that for many people with ADHD sitting still for extended periods of time can be problematic, it makes sense that movement is beneficial.  The amount of exercise required by an individual varies, so find what works well and stick with it.  The beneficial effects of exercise on mood and mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety are also well documented, as well as the impact it has on sleep problems.  Considering the prevalence of these conditions in people with ADHD, the benefits are compounded.  If you’d like some ideas on how to get started, have a look at this article I wrote on the subject a little while ago.

Other Therapies
There are a number of other therapies that may be beneficial in balancing ADHD symptoms.  Chiropractic care, yoga, meditation and massage (9) have all been shown to help improve symptoms in children & adults with ADHD.

Meditation and yoga are beneficial because they teach mindfulness and how to be present.  A big issue with ADHD is the “racing mind” and jumping from one task to the next.  While this can be a benefit when you’re wanting to multitask, sometimes it can get too out of hand and result in nothing getting done at all.  With mindfulness and awareness techniques there is more focus on being aware of what is important and what can wait, which results in a “lessening of symptoms” or rather more focus and ability to concentrate on specific tasks.

On a personal level I have found that Access Bars and the various tools that are offered by Access Consciousness has been incredibly helpful in changing my points of view around who I am and who I BE, in acknowledging what's great about me and how I can use these amazing qualities to my advantage, instead of feeling like they're causing me to be at a disadvantage.

Hopefully this has given you a brief introduction into what you can start changing to help manage your (or your children’s) ADHD symptoms.  If you feel you could benefit from some one on one support then please don’t hesitate to book in a Naturopathic consultation.  I also offer free 15 minute discovery calls where we can have a chat about what I offer and how I work to see if we will be a good match with one another.  If you have any questions or would like more articles written on the subject, please get in touch and let me know!

 



References
1.         Institute A. Comorbidities2017 31 Jan 18. Available from: http://adhd-institute.com/burden-of-adhd/epidemiology/comorbidities/.
2.         Institute A. Burden of ADHD2017 31 Jan 18. Available from: http://adhd-institute.com/burden-of-adhd/.
3.         Institute A. Presentations of ADHD2017 31 Jan 2018. Available from: http://adhd-institute.com/burden-of-adhd/epidemiology/presentations-of-adhd/.
4.         Institute A. Heritability2017 31 Jan 18. Available from: http://adhd-institute.com/burden-of-adhd/aetiology/heritability/.
5.         Institute A. Neurobiology2017 31 Jan 18. Available from: http://adhd-institute.com/burden-of-adhd/aetiology/neurobiology/.
6.         Aarts E, Ederveen TH, Naaijen J, Zwiers MP, Boekhorst J, Timmerman HM, et al. Gut microbiome in ADHD and its relation to neural reward anticipation. PloS one. 2017;12(9):e0183509.
7.         Evrensel A, Ceylan ME. The gut-brain axis: the missing link in depression. Clinical Psychopharmacology and Neuroscience. 2015;13(3):239.
8.         Reynolds JL. Is There a Connection Between Gut Health and ADHD?2017 31 Jan 18. Available from: https://health.usnews.com/health-care/patient-advice/articles/2017-09-08/is-there-a-connection-between-gut-health-and-adhd.
9.         Sarris J, Wardle J. Clinical Naturopathy: An evidence-based guide to practice: Elsevier Health Sciences; 2014.

 

About ADHD – an Inside Perspective

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I’m pretty vocal about the fact that I have ADHD.   I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 29 years old, so have lived with it all of my life (and most of it without realizing that was what made me so different).  I find that depending on the circumstances it can be an incredibly creative and positive quality to have.  Left unchecked and without ways of recognizing and managing it, it can also be a burden both to those who have it, and friends or family who are trying to support and help someone with (diagnosed or undiagnosed) ADHD.

After a long journey which involved a lot of self management and digging around to find out what works for me, I’m in a place now where 95% of the time it does not affect me negatively.  When it does, I recognize it and can make changes to sort it out quickly.  A big part of having ADHD for me is impulsivity.  And I always know when something has gone a bit skewy for me because that’s always the first thing that crops up – I start making super impulsive (and compulsive) decisions and it’s almost like someone else has taken over and is driving my actions – I have no control over what I am doing.

What was ADHD like for me?

In school, I was not a hyperactive or bothersome person.  I was extremely shy, and very self conscious about it.  Apparently some people thought I was snobby because of my shyness.  I never ever EVER wanted to get in trouble, and that was a big driving force for going unnoticed.  In class, I used to write notes to friends, and was distracting in that manner, without attracting the attention of a teacher.  At home, instead of doing school work I’d literally sit at my desk and stare at the wall for 2 hours, or I’d write endlessly in my diary.  

Because of this “not wanting to get in trouble” driving force, I would ALWAYS make sure stuff got handed in on time.  But for me that meant rushing to get it done the morning of, the recess or lunch before it was due.  If I realized I wasn’t able to get it done before it was due, I’d pretend to be sick to stay home so that I could finish it.  Plus the fact that I was able to get fairly good grades (mostly As and Bs with the odd C here or there and that darn D in Physics tarnishing my record!!) meant that there was really no reason for anyone to suspect that there was anything going on with me.  I was excellent at pretending.  Unfortunately, this does not translate well into the real world and the work force.  Eventually, something has got to give.

Fast forward to the start of my 20s, and in the back of my mind I’m thinking “it’s okay, I’ll grow out of it……. surely……” Mid 20s come around and I still can’t focus on anything, I am distracted at work, and by now the hyperactive of ADHD has started coming out the more comfortable I get around people.  In the work place I’m “that person” who is going up to everyone and poking them and saying “hey… hey… hey… what you doin?  what you doin?..” *poke poke poke*

Throughout this time I am trying new things like business schemes or MLM'y type ventures, usually to help my money situation (which due to my unchecked impulsivity is becoming more and more dire).  But of course I get excited about things, start them, get bored, stop….. Rinse, repeat.  People would say "set goals, that's the only way you will succeed".  So I did, and I never reached them because - you got it- I got bored.  "Write lists!  Check them off!".  Excellent at writing lists, list are amazing!  Getting through them?  Nope.  There were always new lists to be made.  I kept coming back to square one where I was once again starting something new, or doing a New Years Resolution, or deciding yet again "TODAY I'LL FINALLY DO THIS AND FOLLOW IT THROUGH".  But nope.

This leads to my self confidence becoming more and more eroded.  As I head into my late 20s and start to realize that no, in fact this laziness and procrastination and never following through with anything is not going to way I hit this point at almost 30 years old where my point of view of myself was this:

“There is no point me trying anything new, or to do anything, because no matter what happens I always fail, I never achieve any goals so I may as well not bother trying anything”

Failure. Lazy. Procrastinator. Always gives up. Can’t finish anything.  Useless. Never going to achieve anything in life.  What’s the point.

At 29 years old, I felt broken, my life was a complete mess – both personally and in particular financially – I had no sense of self worth, I was struggling with depression, and punishing myself in many different ways.

To emphasise this, what led me down a path to my eventual diagnosis was me at this time in my life sitting at a computer crying and typing in things to Google like “why am I such a lazy person” and “why do I fail at everything”.

I was surprised to somehow end up on pages about ADHD, which I thought I could never have, and I started doing online quizzes and scoring 90% ++ on every single one.  I started reading other stories about ADHD (which at that point my perception of it was “hyperactive boys in the classroom” and that was it) and relating to so many of them, that I started to think that actually maybe there was nothing wrong with me and I wasn’t a loser but this was something I could actually change.

Now can I just make a point here, that if you have a loved one who in a place of vulnerability says to you “I think I might have x, y or z”, please do not laugh in their face.  This was what happened to me, and it automatically made me shut down and continue on for a number of months without pursuing it.  However after this particular person was no longer circulating in my life and I decided that it was worth getting checked out.  I figured if I have it, then I can do something about it.  If I don’t, at least I can cross it off the list and keep looking.

I went to my doctor, who I had been seeing since I was about 10 years old, and VERY nervously I managed to rush out the words “I THINK I HAVE ADHD BUT I WANT TO GET CHECKED AND MAYBE I DON’T BUT I AT LEAST WANT TO EXPLORE IT PLEASE CAN YOU HELP”

And thankfully he is a wonderful doctor and simply said “Yep, I can refer you, here’s the letter off you go”.

So I did.  And I scored off the charts for all the tests. 

My life has changed a LOT since that initial diagnosis 8 years ago, and the journey wasn’t all easy.  I do not want this post to go on for too long, so the next post I write will talk about what options are available for helping with ADHD.

The reason I wrote this today was because if you recognize any of this, or you have ADHD but struggle with it, or you have kids who you think might have ADHD, just know that you are not alone and there is actually nothing wrong with you.

 

Just a little about me....

This week I thought I’d share a little bit about me, beyond what you may have read in the About section.

As far as employment history goes – my background is 15 years in the IT industry.  So, this is a pretty big change!  

My interest in natural (or dare I say it “alternative”) therapies probably stems back for at least 10 years.  I put the “alternative” in there not as a “either this OR that” but more because some of my personal beliefs about life are in that realm – I have always believed that there is more to life than just the physical reality and my first dabble down this path was when I was living in Montreal, Quebec and found an interest in natural therapies, crystals and energy work.   

I struggled in school with attention and focus, and through most of my 20s with various emotional and mental health issues (including depression and anxiety).  A lot of my mental health issues stemmed from my belief that there was something wrong with me, because I was trying to function like everyone else and couldn’t.  At age 29 was diagnosed with ADHD (which I will talk more about in another blog entry).  This diagnosis was a pivotal moment for me, because it gave me answers about why I behaved the way I did, why I struggled in the areas I did, and the knowledge that there was actually nothing wrong with me. 

It was a conversation with a friend who was studying Ayurevda at AIHM (where I decided to go to study) that changed my path career wise.  I loved what she was telling me about what she was learning, I read the book she gave me, and I started to take on board some of the changes from a dietary and lifestyle perspective.  And it was when a number of health issues that I had been experiencing for many years (adult acne, IBS, ADHD, depression) ALL started to improve that I decided I wanted to become a complementary health practitioner.  I would never have thought that any of the issues I had were interconnected, but the changes I made improved them all.  After a couple of years thinking about it, I finally decided to just go for it and enroll to study Naturopthy.  During my studies I also learned Swedish Massage which I loved so much that I decided to go to TAFE this year and complete my Diploma of Remedial Massage.

It is my personal experience with finding my way through the adult diagnosis of ADHD, depression and anxiety, my lack of self belief and self worth and overcoming these things to be living a life where I am happy, and creating amazing things that gives me a strong focus and passion on helping others experiencing mental or emotional difficulties and helping them through their own journey to turn things around.

My little fam bam

My little fam bam

I am also a mother to two children –Alex who is 6 and Archer who is just over a year old.  Motherhood has been no walk in the park, especially during my single parent journey during Alex’s first couple of years, and then juggling school and work throughout my second pregnancy and through Archer’s first year.  It is through this journey of motherhood that I developed an interest in child health, which is my other area of focus. 

I am super lucky to have a husband who is so incredibly supportive of me, and his support means that I can do this work and study - we met when I was going through college and he was there for me to make sure the home was running smoothly while I had my late nights and weekends in the student clinic to get my studies done.  

Like most people who end up in this field, it is my past experiences that have shaped who I am and motivated me to try and find ways to help others who may be in a similar situation.  It might not be exactly the same, but those who have struggled with their health (physical, mental, emotional) and are yet to find a way to move forward.  If this is you, or someone you know, then I’d love to see you!