By Leigh Erin Connealy, M.D., NewportNaturalHealth.com
Over the past few years, I’ve seen an increase in patients who come in worried that they have ADHD, or ADD (they’re basically the same thing, with different names). Nothing has changed—the world isn’t suddenly creating more ADHD victims. However, as knowledge about this disorder has increased, more people are starting to realize that they’ve got it. And that’s the best thing possible. Because, while ADHD can be challenging, there are plenty of strategies you can use to lessen its impact and help you lead a more focused, less stressful, fuller life. And you don’t need drugs like Adderall, either.
First Things First—Do I Have ADHD?
Unfortunately, diagnosing ADHD can be difficult. It acts differently in different brains—no two people share exactly the same symptoms.
That said, there are a few telltale signs that present in most cases. Are any of these problems present?
- Can’t pay attention or stay on task
- Have trouble focusing
- Find yourself easily bored
- Can’t stop moving or fidgeting
- Lose things easily
- Are easily distracted
If this describes you or someone you know, chances are good you’ve got ADHD. Some people also get hyper—that’s the ‘H’ in ADHD—but not everyone.
One important point—you’ve got to display the symptoms for at least six months, and in multiple settings.
In most cases, ADHD is a lifelong condition, first noticed in childhood. But if you weren’t born in the past 30 years, there’s a very good chance that you wouldn’t have been diagnosed while young.
Indeed, my adult patients who come in displaying signs of ADHD usually have had the same symptoms all their lives, but never realized anything was amiss.
That’s why the first step to conquering your ADHD is simply realizing you’ve got it.
If I’ve described you, then discussing your possible diagnosis with a physician is wise. But, even before that, there’s plenty you can do to stop ADHD problems in their tracks.
And that starts with what you put in your body.
Eat For Focus
If you’ve got ADHD, the first thing you should do is cut sugar out of your diet.
Of course, natural sugars—like those found in fruits—are still good. They are necessary for a fully functioning body, and the fiber in fruit helps your body digest them properly.
But any added sugar you eat is devastating for focus. What’s more, studies have found that sugar can exacerbate ADHD symptoms in many people.
Sugar doesn’t have the same effect on all ADHD patients, so if you have your doubts, you can give yourself a test, by ingesting something with added sugar and observing the effects.
However, since added sugar is a poor choice in any diet, I wouldn’t make this a regular practice. If you’ve got ADHD, use that as a motivator to banish added sugars from your plate.
At the same time, make sure you’re well hydrated. Dehydration can lead to confusion, and worsening ADHD symptoms. Not to mention, a body without enough water simply doesn’t work as well in all aspects.
Check Your Vitamins
In many cases, a lack of essential vitamins and nutrients can have a startling effect.
To give one easy example, vitamin B-12 is hugely important in creating and keeping focus. If you’re deficient in Vitamin B-12, your ADHD will be much worse.
Since nearly everyone in North America is deficient in vitamin B-12, it’s a good idea to get your levels checked and start supplementing.
There are plenty of other nutrients that can have an effect on your ability to concentrate and focus—too many to list here. So, when you realize you’ve got ADHD, do a vitamin screen to find out where you’re deficient. Odds are, there are more than a few vitamins where you score low.
And by taking supplements, you can see large, immediate benefits.
Control Your Time
If you’ve got ADHD, tracking your time becomes extremely important.
It’s good practice for everyone—but can be absolutely life-saving in the case of ADHD.
There are plenty of systems you can use. A calendar app on your phone. Post-it note reminders. Appointment keepers you carry with you.
One thing I’d especially recommend, though, is a bullet journal.
If you’ve never heard of bullet journals, they are a new way to track and organize your time, combined with aspects of personal journaling. You can find plenty of examples and guides on the web; the original and most simple explanation is from Ryder Carrol, the system’s creator.
Bullet journals de-emphasize “Do X from 9:00 to 9:30” and focus more on goals, trends, and behavior.
Lots of people with ADHD swear by them—because they serve the essential purpose of giving you a strong time structure, but do it in a way that isn’t likely to bore you or let you lose focus.
Check Your Neurotransmitters
Finally—and perhaps most importantly—you should get a neurotransmitter screening.
In nearly all cases of ADHD, the problem manifests with an imbalance in a neurotransmitter like serotonin or dopamine.
There’s no one-size-fits-all strategy here, because everyone who suffers from ADHD will have a different imbalance. It’s important you find out what yours is.
The good news is, wherever you’re coming up short, supplements like 100 mg of 5-HTP or 200 mg of l-theanine (both precursors of serotonin) can easily make up the difference. And the effects can be startling.
In fact, I recently had a patient—a college student—come to me complaining about her ADHD, and the fact that the Adderall prescribed to her by her home physician wasn’t helping.
I tested her neurotransmitter levels, got her on the proper supplements, and within a week she told me the difference was night and day. Simply put, most medical treatments won’t be very effective if the underlying problem isn’t addressed.
Of course, if you follow the guide I’ve just given you—eliminating sugar, fixing low vitamin levels, getting enough hydration, creating a time strategy, and balancing your neurotransmitters—you probably won’t need any pharmaceutical help.
There’s no reason your ADHD has to interfere with your life, as long as you know it’s there, and treat it right.
- Stevens, Laura. The Sugar Wars: How Diet Impacts ADHD Symptoms. ADDitude. Accessed Feb 5, 2017.
- Staff. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Diagnosing ADHD. WebMD. Published Apr 15, 2015. Accessed Feb 5, 2017.
- Ril. Why The Bullet Journal Is Perfect For My ADHD. Super ADD Mom. Published Jan 19, 2016. Accessed Feb 2, 2017.
- Tartakovsky, Margarita. 12 Best Tips For Coping With ADHD. Psych Central. Accessed Feb 2, 2017