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ADHD is a tough condition and parents often feel stuck having to choose between two equally unpleasant courses of action. On one hand, your child’s lack of focus will likely make success in school and other endeavors very difficult. On the other hand, giving your child brain altering, stimulant drugs can be even more frightening.
At The Center For Functional Medicine, we treat both children and adults who have had their life disrupted by ADHD. However, we take a very different approach to these conditions and focus on the Root Causes, rather than on the symptoms. What might be the Root Causes of ADHD? Things like key vitamin or mineral deficiencies, food and environmental allergies/sensitivities, lack of essential fatty acids or quality sleep, reactions to food additives or preservatives, and ongoing stress are all factors which need to be addressed in order to restore healthy brain function.
Traditional allopathic medicine has become so aligned with drug companies that the entire focus of most office visits is on quickly coming to a diagnosis, and then it’s simply a matter of “Matching the pill to the ill.” The problem is that drug companies view all human disease as problems of chemistry. In the case of ADHD, traditional allopathic medicine considers it a deficiency of dopamine or other neurotransmitters in the brain. Patients are often prescribed stimulant drugs which appear to boost certain levels of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. These medications can sometimes help improve the symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity in the short term, however, at what cost?

Wouldn’t it be more prudent to ask why the brain is not regulating its own chemistry in the first place?

Stimulant medications
  • Amphetamines. These include dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine), dextroamphetamine-amphetamine (Adderall) and lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanse).
  • Methylphenidates. These include methylphenidate (Concerta, Metadate, Ritalin, others) and dexmethylphenidate (Focalin).
Side Effects – ALL drugs have side effects because they are new to nature molecules, designed to block or interfere with various natural body processes.
Suicide risk and heart problems – Several heart-related deaths have occurred in children and teenagers taking stimulant medications. And, there is a real concern of increased risk of suicidal thinking in children and teenagers taking ADHD medications or antidepressants.
As with all complex, chronic conditions, our goal is to find why the body has lost homeostasis (balance) and what we can do to help restore that balance. In the case of ADHD, that requires taking a deep look at each person’s unique history (story), genes, diet and lifestyle factors which may be contributing to a brain imbalance.
Many vitamin deficiencies cause symptoms such as inattentiveness, hyperactivity and forgetfulness. One of the first tests I do on children with ADHD is an extensive Functional Medicine nutritional evaluation. This test tells me whether or not a patient is low in certain amino acids, vitamins, fatty acids or may have heavy metal toxicity. I may also test for impaired methylation, oxidative stress, or heavy metal toxicity from mercury or lead.
Vitamin B12: the preferred form is methylcobalamin, and it is involved in the production and maintenance of the myelin sheath (the protective coating on nerve cells), essential fatty acid metabolism and energy production. Sufficient B12 can also help boost the production of certain neurotransmitters and catecholamines.
Magnesium: known for having a calming effect through its role in neurotransmitter synthesis, such as serotonin. Magnesium is a cofactor in over 300 bodily processes. Signs of a deficiency include sensitivity to loud noises, insomnia, anxiety, hyperactivity, restlessness, panic attacks, salt craving, and both carbohydrate craving and carbohydrate intolerance.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids: healthy fats are vital for your wellbeing and especially important for growing children and their brains. In fact, studies have shown that many children with ADHD have very low blood levels of omega 3 fatty acids. The omega 3 fatty acids DHA and EPA are important both structurally and functionally for optimal brain health. It is imperative to use only trusted sources of these critical fats as they are easily affected by processing, light, oxidation and storage.
Food allergies and intolerances are connected to ADHD. An elimination diet and gut restoration program can often provide substantial improvement in attention and focus, and do so fairly quickly. Recent studies have found that food allergies and additives, or gluten intolerance may be linked to ADHD. In our office, we do a lot of specific testing for food allergies or intolerances. However, this is usually only after an elimination diet or successful gut restoration program. There a many reasons for this, primarily because proper food allergy testing can get very expensive and may not even be necessary after a successful and gut restoration program.
Sleep is often undervalued for those with ADHD. Children with ADHD, on average, need more sleep than non-ADHD children. Lack of sleep can also exacerbate or mimic symptoms of ADHD.
Active movement and play outdoors in nature can significantly reduce ADHD symptoms. Children are not meant to remain seated without moving their little bodies for long periods of time. Physical education and recess time have been significantly reduced which contributes to the problem. Children with hyperactive symptoms benefit the most from regular exercise and activity. We’ll often suggest these kids utilize a sitting disc or fit ball which activates various brain pathways, and can help calm kids and better activate their brains.
Treatment of ADHD is about finding what works best for you or your child. Unlocking the right treatment plan can certainly make life and school a much better experience. Call us at 514-447-7230 to schedule an appointment and let’s begin the journey of restoring healthy brain function.