An old Disney animation illustrated how the brain functions featuring a plant foreman in someone’s brain efficiently routing all his messages and coordinating all his assembly line processes. A good way to explain Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD would be to see that same plant foreman unable to keep all the messages coordinated properly because in the brain of a person with ADHD, the “executive functioning,” or foreman, just can’t keep everything straight. Prescription medication happens to be the traditional ADHD treatment, though recently, many physicians and psychiatrists are trying out naturopathic treatment options to help minimize, hopefully eventually eliminate the reliance on drugs in both children and adults.

ADHD is the label we give to a neurobiological disorder. A final and definitive answer as to its actual cause or causes is yet to be agreed upon, but it is often inherited; is more common in boys than girls and affected individuals exhibit some or many of these actions:

•    Poor attention span

•    Extreme distractibility

•    Hyper-activity

•    Procrastination

•    Poor organizational skills

•    Forgetfulness

•    Inability to complete tasks

•    Poor social skills (thought to be due to a lack of awareness of how others are reacting)

It is projected that 7% – 9% of our school kids have this disorder, and 4.7% of adults. Teenagers who go untreated  are more likely to engage in substance abuse as a form of self-medication. Adult ADHD victims have higher rates of drug use as well, and very likely were not clinically diagnosed or treated earlier. By their adult years, the habit of self-medicating with drugs is more developed.

Despite the fact that boys are twice as likely to have ADHD, girls are more likely to become substance abusers. Somewhat surprisingly, their substance of choice is carbohydrates, which temporarily raises their Serotonin levels. This creates a calming effect and is more socially acceptable than street drugs. However, excessive carb intake can lead to obesity.

It is not unusual for those diagnosed with ADHD to have low self-esteem and suffer with clinical depression. As well, low blood sugar and allergies affects as many as 75% of all afflicted children. When put on food elimination diets (eliminating trigger foods, such as refined food, soy, milk products, chocolate, wheat, oranges and eggs and then adding them back one-by-one to help evaluate which helps or hinders symptoms), 62% of the research subjects demonstrated a lessening of symptoms.

Treating those with substance abuse or eating disorders who also have ADHD is difficult for the same reason classes or work is difficult – poor concentration. Getting to an AA meeting or counseling session presents challenges, as does attempting to sit still for long periods of time.

Because the potential effects of the powerful stimulants and anti-depressants used in ADHD treatment are to date not known, holistic treatment methods are being put into practice. In addition to elimination diets, vegetable-based dietary supplements are being used to help controll neurotransmitters important to executive functioning, such as dopamine and norepinephrene, which also improve blood circulation to the brain. More protein in the diet is thought to energize alertness inducing neurotransmitters.

Physical exercise appears to have a relaxing effect on children with ADHD particularly. This should not be completely surprising, since bottled up energy does produce hyperactivity, fidgeting, inability to concentrate, etc, even in full grown adults with no other symptoms of ADHD. There’s nothing like a few laps around a track to relax hyper-fidgety children and adults.

It is hoped that more naturopathic treatments are going to be found to be useful to decrease the symptoms. Making sure that these children and adults get the appropriate nutrition, avoiding foods that prove to be allergens, and proper exercise seems to be working out with some positive results. It seems naturopathic trends in ADHD therapy really do provide food for thought!