Why Is My ADHD Child Clumsy & Have Digestive Issues?

You mean to tell me there is an actual explanation and link as to why virtually all kids with ADHD have digestion issues and many (not all) are clumsy? Yes!

Kids with ADHD typically still have what are called Primitive Reflexes. These are simply reflexes that you’re born with that act as training wheels for your first few months of life. Because you’re only born with about 25% of your brain developed, you need these training wheels or kick starter to help survive life until your brain can mature.

The thing is, you only need these reflexes for about the first 4–6 months of life. After that, your brain and frontal cortex SHOULD be mature enough to where it can do complex tasks and no longer needs these training wheels. So the higher functioning part of the brain (frontal cortex) will then shut off these primitive reflexes at the survival part of the brain (brainstem) when they’re no longer needed.

So, if you still have primitive reflexes, it means your brain didn’t grow as efficiently as it should have from the bottom (brainstem) up (frontal cortex).

When you retain your primitive reflexes and keep those training wheels on, this doesn’t allow your core muscles to develop to the level they should. Movement, which is controlled by your core muscles, is what drives stimulation to the brain. So without proper core muscles and movement you won’t have proper stimulation to the brain, which can result in lower functioning areas of the brain.

And circling back around to the original question, it makes sense if your core muscles are not as mature and strong as they should be you will have more problems with coordination, balance, awkward gait (movement patterns), clumsiness, etc.

Another reason for the clumsiness is because kids with ADHD typically have very strong left brains and fairly weak right brains. They have an unevenness of skill where they’re extremely talented at left brain tasks and not very good at right brain tasks. It just so happens that the left brain is in charge of fine motor skills, things like using your fingers, operating an Xbox controller, etc. And the right brain controls gross (large) motor skills. Things that you probably typically think of when you hear “muscles”. Gross motor skills would be in charge of running, jumping, throwing, etc.

Because there’s an imbalance in the brain between left and right, there’s also typically an imbalance in their vestibular (balance) system. The vestibular system is within the inner ear. Typically, just like their brain, they will have one side that is over-active and the other side that is under-active and this would obviously lead to balance and coordination issues.

ADHD kid’s nerve systems are typically in a chronic sympathetic (fight or flight) state. Most of the time since birth. It’s like their brain and nerve system have been stuck on the gas pedal since day 1. This can lead to decreased proprioception (ability to use muscle control and balance to resist gravity) to the brain, furthering clumsiness and lack of coordination.

Now to the digestion and/or food sensitivities portion. I would say that every child with ADHD has some type of digestive issue, food sensitivity, or is a picky eater. But because there always seems to be one exception, I’ll stick with “virtually all”.

But why is this? One reason again is because they have a stronger left brain than right. Picture the left brain as kind of revving up the nerve system and the immune system while the right brain more depresses it. If you have more revving of it you will see things like autoimmune issues, asthma, allergies, and food sensitivities, all common things seen with ADHD kids. And anything else where your immune system is too active.

Another is because the brain didn’t quite develop the way it should have (back to having retained primitive reflexes), that means your gut didn’t either. You have a Vagus Nerve (actually 2, a right and a left) that runs all the way from your brainstem area to your gut. How cool is that?? Seriously. By far my favorite nerve. This vagus nerve helps aid in digestion and the gut-brain connection. Healthy Brain = Healthy Gut. Immature Brain = Immature Gut. This Vagus Nerve also works as a massive “brake pedal” and calming mechanism for the body. Kids with ADHD have most commonly been on the gas pedal since day one because their Vagus Nerve isn’t being stimulated enough.

Can any of this be helped? Absolutely! That’s why at Restore Chiropractic we actually focus on the brain and Nerve System. The fantastic thing about all this is the brain isn’t injured in any way. The problem is that certain areas and pathways of the brain have been under stimulated and are weak, almost like if you haven’t been going to the gym on a regular basis. So the logical thing to do? Stimulate the weak areas of the brain AND make sure to bring your global nerve system down off that gas pedal and into more of a parasympathetic, brake pedal, response. An easy rule of thumb, when the body is in a gas pedal, fight or flight state, your body gradually breaks down into health concerns because your body is in a constant survival state. When your body and nerve system are in a relaxed brake pedal state, your body starts healing, growing, and developing.