ADHD and alternative ways to cope with it

Intro

(ADHD) is a brain disorder marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development. It effects millions of children and adults in america and treatment for it usually consists of stimulant medications that increase a persons levels of dopamine and norepinephrine throughout the entire brain. Dopamine and norepinephrine are neurotransmitters in the brain that are essential to the proper functioning of our brain circuits responsible for attention, reward and thinking. These medications are useful for many people with ADHD and for some they do a great job at treating it, however these medications are known to have uncomfortable side effects like problems falling and staying asleep, lose of appetite, increased anxiety, personality changes, stomach aches, headaches,heart issues, and even seizures. In addition to this by treating ADHD with stimulant medications that increase levels of these neurotransmitters throughout the whole brain, we are treating peoples brains as if they were just a big bag of chemicals that we can pour more into. But in reality our brains are more then just a bag of chemicals, a better analogy for our brain is comparing it to a finely tuned race car and when you change the oil on your car you don’t just pour oil all over the engine block, because if you did some of it might leak into the right place but its likely that a lot of it will do more harm then good. With this in mind people diagnosed with ADHD who don’t respond well to stimulant medication should consider alternative treatment options when trying to find ways to cope with their ADHD, treatment options that function like a expert mechanic instead of a guy with a big can of oil.


Neurofeedback

links to original creators (1) (2)

One exciting possible treatment for ADHD that’s currently being studied employs the use of neurofeedback to improve attention and impulse control. this treatment ussualy involves some kind of videogame that works by utilizing a technology called EEG which can measure electrical wave patterns in our brains through electrodes placed on the scalp. Research has shown that people diagnosed with ADHD display specific brain wave patterns in particular they display too much slow wave patterns and not enough fast wave patterns. With this in mind games can be designed to correct these abnormal patterns through attention based video games and EEG feedback . These games work by having the subject wear a EEG device that measures their brain waves and relays this information to a video game that provides the subject with positive feedback when they display wave patterns that are associated with their attentive state. Due to individual variation each participant is first assessed with a basic attention test to determine their individual optimal attentive state which is used to give feedback to the subjects during the video game training sessions.

The video game interface consists of a EEG headband that is connected to a computer via Bluetooth technology. The computer screen displays a game that includes a island landscape and a avatar in the center of the screen who is controlled by the participants brainwaves. In order to make the avatar move the players have to focus their attention on the game which will result in their brainwaves displaying a attentive state and the avatar moving. In addition to this the players attentive state is rated on a scale from 1–100 and the more focused they are the faster the avatar will move. The game used in this particular study had 3 difficulty levels , in the first level the players goal was to simply make the avatar run around the island as fast as possible, in the next level the player had to make the avatar run around and collect fruits as many fruits as possible, these fruits were displayed in the game as hovering in the air all over the map, and to collect these fruits the player had to run up to them and then click a key on the keyboard to make their avatar jump and grab the fruit. In the last and hardest level the player was instructed to grab these same fruits but in a particular order. The study that used this device consisted 20 unmediated 6–12 year old children who participated in 3 30 minute sessions a week for 8 weeks followed by 3 more booster sessions given out once a month for 3 months. At the end of the study the participants showed a significant decrease on ADHD impassivity and hyperactivity scales which suggest that this game and others like it could be used as a alternative to normal ADHD treatments

Image of the ADHD treatment game in use

ADHD an your gut bacteria. How you can change your gut bacteria to improve the health of your brain

Research has suggested that there is a link between your digestive system and the health of your brain. In particular this research has shown that having healthy bacteria in your digestive system can impact levels of serotonin and dopamine in your brain which are neurotransmitter that are related to mood, learning, motivation and attention. Dysfunctional levels of these neurotransmitters can impact your behavior and can lead things like inattention and hyperactivity, the 2 hallmarks of a ADHD diagnosis.

One particular study suggests that children with ADHD have on average higher rates of digestion issues then children without ADHD. This study looked at 742,939 children and found that children with ADHD went to the doctor for constipation at a rate almost 3 times higher then then children without ADHD, they also found that children with ADHD had rates of fecal incontinence (not being able to control when you produce a bowl movement) that were 6 times higher then children without ADHD. Most importantly this study found that whether or not the children with ADHD were on medication had little to no effect on theses results which suggests a link between ADHD and issues in the digestive system.

In addition to this research has also shown that bacteria in our gut may alter the way our nervous system functions and supplementation of probiotics early in life can reduce your chances of developing brain disorders like ADHD and autism.

With this in mind one alternative way to help cope with your’ ADHD is taking a probiotic to help flood your digestive tract with good bacteria that will overwhelm and push out the bad bacteria. There are hundreds of different probiotics currently on the market that use hundreds of different strains of good bacteria but most come from 2 main groups. Lactobacillus bacteria and Bifidobacterium bacteria you might have to try a few before you find one that works for you but when you find the right one it can be very beneficial to both your mental and overall health.

Some other ways you can improve the health of your digestive system and through that your brain is to avoid taking an antibiotic unless its absolutely necessary because these medications don’t just kill the bad bacteria in your body , they kill the good bacteria too. Yet another way to improve your brain and gut health is to stop feeding the bad bacteria and start feeding the good bacteria. Bad bacteria thrive on sugar so lowering your sugar intake can help to starve them out. On the other hand you can help feed your good bacteria by eating foods high in starch such as carrots, onions and sweet potatoes.

Using Micro-nutrients to treat ADHD

Recent studies have shown that our emotions and our behaviors may be connected to our intake of vitamin and minerals in our diet. Researchers studying the effects of these nutrients believe that with the right blend they can treat psychiatric conditions such as ADHD, anxiety, depression and many more. One study published in 2007 that looked into this showed that ADHD may be linked to a deficiency in a certain king of fat ( Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids). The researchers in this study found that supplementing children's diets with this kind of fat along with certain micro-nutrients to help maximize absorption significantly decreased the patients ADHD symptoms. Another more recent study published in 2014 used a double-blind randomized placebo-controlled trial setup (considered to be the gold standard in research) to investigated treating ADHD with micro-nutrients in adults. And they also found that micro-nutrient supplementation is a effective way to decrease the symptoms of ADHD.

Child who used micro-nutrients to treat ADHD

Exercise- Running, Yoga and Tia Chi

Another alternative way to treat the symptoms of ADHD is through exercise and some great ways to do this is by running, practicing yoga, or tai chi.

Running

One study showed that moderate intensity exercise such as running for 20–30 minutes can improve excutive functioning skills which are related to attention.

Yoga

Yoga is a form of exercise that has originated in India around 5000 years ago. It uses flowing body weight exercises and stretches to exercise the body while focusing your attention inward on the present moment. Recent study's suggest that practicing yoga can beneficial to children with ADHD (1), (2), (3). These studies showed that regular yoga practice could significantly decrease the symptoms of ADHD. Yoga has also been shown to significantly reduce stress levels .

Tai Chi

Is a slow moving form of exercise that is similar to yoga and was developed originally as a martial art around 3000 years ago in China. It consists of low-impact, slow-moving exercises that you move though without stopping. Each motion is named and molded after a animal motion for example (crane spreads its wings). As you progress through these motions you take slow deep breaths while focusing your attention inward on your bodily sensations.

Some studies have suggested that practicing tai chi can be beneficial to people with ADHD. One study found that teenagers who practiced tai chi 2 times a week for 5 weeks showed decreased ADHD symptoms. similar to yoga , tai chi has also been shown to be benificial in stress reduction.

Behavioral Therepy

A new study has shown that behavioral therapy is a more effective method for treating ADHD then stimulant medication. The study used 146 children aged 5–12 years old and broke them into 2 groups. the first got low doses of stimulant medication and the second got low doses of behavioral therapy. after 8 weeks of this if the children's symptoms weren't properly managed they got a higher dose of the treatment that they were on or they got a dose of the treatment they didn't start with. After the study was completed the results showed that the group that started with the behavioral therapy first did the best. The study also found that stimulant medication is best used as a second line of treatment after behavioral therapy has already been explored.

ADHD and the great outdoors

Studies have shown us that spending time outside can increase attention in children . This study showed that even 20 minutes spent outside can increase attention in children with ADHD. Whats great about his info is that its free, safe and natural and can be a great akternative way to help cope with the symptoms of ADHD

Conclusion

ADHD doesn't always have to be treated with medications. Hopefully with these alternative treatments those suffering from this disorder can live a better fuller life without having to take a pill everyday.