Why I Don't Rely Solely On Nutrition To Treat My ADD/ADHD

I just wrote this incredibly long post on an Adult ADD/ADHD forum on Facebook, and it struck me it might make a good blog post, too, so here it is. The background is a discussion of gluten-free diets and other dietary approaches to overcoming ADD/ADHD.

... I was citing the fact that I was not breast fed for long as evidence that I've been this way since birth, not suggesting that the lack of breast feeding caused the problem. Again, I wasn't breastfed because my mother couldn't get me to hold still long enough -- I wanted to be looking around. Highly distractable since birth.

There is speculation that ADHD is, indeed, affected by maternal nutritional deficiency, specifically iodine -- I have read in several places that ADHD is more common in low-iodine regions, and that iodine deficient mothers have 10 times the risk of giving birth to a baby with ADHD. We did not use iodized salt in my family, because it made my father break out -- and my mom was hypothyroid. Seems likely I was subjected to a maternal iodine deficiency. However, I get plenty of iodine, and have for years; doesn't get rid of the ADHD. I think it unlikely that what the offspring eat will completely fix the results of maternal malnutrition. The damage was done as the brain was being formed. (Did it help that it was the 1950s, and my mom smoked and drank while pregnant? Probably not, but who knows. She always joked that I was made out of pizza and martinis, though I know her diet was actually a hell of a lot better than that, if not what you and I would call optimal.)

Too, there seems to be a genetic component to ADHD, and certainly my father had a lot of the personality traits of being ADHD. He's the one I'm like, both mentally/emotionally and physically. I don't think it's coincidence that I'm the one of the three kids in my family who wound up with the ADHD, too, though Mom was likely iodine deficient for all three pregnancies. Again, can nutrition completely overcome genetics? I'm unconvinced that it can, though of course it can help dramatically.

I'm just not a one tool kind of girl. I've been in and around the world of nutrition and holistic health care all of my adult life. I have tried various dietary approaches, and swallowed many, many supplements. I have had acupuncture and used traditional Chinese herbal medicine. I have undergone hypnotherapy. I have seen many chiropractors, and a few osteopaths. I have used many herbal medicines. I have been Rolfed three times through, and had plenty of good therapeutic massage. I own and use an Audio Visual Entrainment device. I use phototherapy daily -- sun if I can get it, a light box on gloomy days. All of this has left me with the strong impression that *ALL* of this stuff is remarkably helpful for some things, somewhat helpful for others, and completely ineffective for yet others.

I have found exactly the same thing to be true of standard allopathic medicine -- very useful for some things, only modestly useful for others, and completely hopeless for others. (Don't get me started on standard doctors and soft tissue injury. As a massage therapist, I have had too many people who have been in pain for years from an old injury tell me "My doctor says there's no problem." 'Cause being in pain isn't a problem, and the doc can't see the soft tissue injury on an x-ray.)

I'm not a big fan of theoretical purity. I think there are many influences on health, all interacting -- genetics, fetal environment, nutrition, light, exercise, environmental toxins, you name it. Diet can completely fix the problems caused solely by bad nutrition, and it can dramatically help some problems caused by, or influenced by, other factors. I do not, however, believe it can fix everything, nor do I believe that all pharmaceuticals are evil, or even useless.

I eat low carb, and I have eaten very little grain for years. In the past 18 months I deliberately ate a wheat product exactly once -- a couple of La Tortilla Factory tortillas; that was last February. I have been gluten free since reading my advance copy of Wheat Belly this summer. I eat plenty of healthy fats, and very few bad ones. I eat lots of eggs straight from my own backyard. I take several supplements that should improve ADHD -- l-tyrosine, dl-phenylalanine, DMAE, TMG, extra B vitamins, methylated B12. Some of these increase dopamine levels; others help the methylation pathway, which I frankly don't understand, but which is apparently messed up in those of us with ADHD. I also walk quite a lot, which my psychiatrist strongly recommends.

Guess what? I still find that Welbutrin helps. So I use it. I don't consider that a defeat, or capitulation, or selling out. I consider it doing what it takes to live my life in the happiest and most productive way available to me. I'm using all the tools in my box.

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Perhaps another component

It might be another tool in the toolbox. Have you heard of darktime? Kinda the opposite of lighttime. There is a psychiatrist who treats bipolar with dark. Let me see if I can find the link http://www.psycheducation.org/depression/LightDark.htm The article refers to bipolar but there are several disorders that tend to flock together with bipolar: ADD, ADHD, ODD, OCD anyhow you get my drift. I am currently experimenting with darktime and darkening my room from the street lights and etc, I am finding that somehow when I wake up I feel more satisfied, it's hard to explain because it just feels like my brain actually rested. An extremely good and useful book that explains the biochemistry and anthropology of why and how all our hormones and neurotransmitters work together and work so much better when we get adequate darktime. Its called Lights Out.

Darktime

I definitely feel far better sleeping in a very dark room. My mom lived for 15 years in a house with a room in the basement that had no windows; TNBIM would sleep there when we visited, and we both agreed it was *wonderful*. Our home is outside of town, and there are no streetlights; even so we pull our blinds to sleep, the darker it is, the better. When I stay in a home or hotel where there are bright lights outside all night, I find it quite disturbing.

I also sleep with ear plugs -- something about having my ears stopped overnight is also very refreshing. I have always been very sound-sensitive, which apparently is common in those of us with ADD.

Are you aware of Dr. Shauna Young?

She is a naturopath in Durango, Colorado, who has been specializing in autism spectrum disorders (including ADD/ADHD) for the past several years. She gives away her research/diet protocol online at the No Harm Foundation. She has discovered a link between manganese and iron, and although her protocol syncs closely with paleo, it's a little different. It might be helpful -- she is having amazing results.

Speaking as a mum of one of you...

My son, now 21, has been ADHD from conception (I know, I carried him!). He is also dyslexic, but not dyspraxic. He was fully breastfed for six months and I avoided all dairy products (and other dodgies in those low-fat days) while I was pregnant/breastfeeding (because my siblings and I all have various allergies that I wanted to avoid with my own children - successfully). If nutrition was ever a problem for a foetus, I’d be a cabbage – or at least a tomato/banana combo as these were the only foods my mum could tolerate while pregnant with me: she was hospitalised to be rehydrated several times with hyperemesis gravidarum (extreme pregnancy sickness).
ADHD? I suspect it is just how some of us turn out. A bit genes, a bit luck.
It might be a touch hellish to have ADHD these days when we are all expected to conform to a limited norm (and it’s certainly a bit of trial to be the parent/sibling of one), but ADHD people are usually/often outstanding, creative, exciting, brave people.
Take one Dana Carpender, for example: if she didn’t had ADHD, would she be so driven, so creative, so determined to put her message out there? So loved and respected? Probably not.

Well said, Sista!

Dana,

I feel your pain!

We have to consider our quality of life too, and if taking something may improve our daily lives, so be it!

Everyone deserves to be happy, life is too short.

Thank you for all that you do.