ADHD is prevalent these days, wreaking havoc on personal lives, families, and kids in school. There are drugs on the market to deal with it, and lots of different natural remedies for ADHD, but what if there was a way to deal with it from the root — from the inside out—by considering gut health and ADHD — or even probiotics and ADHD?
As a parent, this can be disheartening when you begin to peel back the layers to discover that a medical disorder may be at the root of your child’s focus and behavior troubles. But if you feel your child might have ADHD—or if they have already been diagnosed—don’t worry. You are not alone (LOTS of parents struggle with this), and you have more options than you might think.
Obviously, as parents, we will do whatever is possible to set our kiddos up for independent, healthy, and fulfilling lives. So the question becomes: what’s the best option for achieving this when approaching ADHD?
If you’re like most parents, psychiatric medications like Ritalin might seem an obvious choice to improve your child’s school and family life (because let’s face it: an ADHD diagnosis can impact everyone involved).
After all, these drugs help ADHD children by increasing neurotransmitters norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin in the central nervous system.
But guess what else also does that? Gut bacteria!
Yes, the same neurotransmitters that are given a boost by ADHD drugs are actually naturally created in our guts by trillions of microorganisms that live there (a.k.a. our microbiome) and then delivered to the brain.
This all literally all begins in the gut, and this is important to understand when looking at ADHD.
Gut Health and ADHD Symptoms
Gut bacteria support nearly every facet of health and are part of the inner ecosystem of microbes that develop in each of us, beginning in the womb.
That’s why healthy gut flora is important for so many functions in the body, including optimal mental and emotional function (the creation of neurotransmitters and proper chemical balance in the brain), which is crucial for children with ADHD.
For the gut microbiome to be healthy, it requires an abundance of the good bacteria, also known as probiotics. About 85% of gut microbes should be a variety of probiotics in order to optimize important functions in the body and brain.
This is easier said than done since so many things work against us (and our children) when it comes to the good flora we need to keep us healthy and thriving.
Probiotics and ADHD — How to Restore Your Child’s Gut Health
Ideally, we should expose our children to healthy bacteria as early as possible (even prenatally through maternal probiotic supplementation) and avoid practices that damage our friendly flora. This will give kids healthy connections between gut and proper brain chemical balance.
But since many factors in our modern environment can negatively affect the microbiome, one of the best ways to ensure our kids are continually exposed to strong probiotic colonies is through high-quality probiotic supplements.
In one promising study, probiotics combined with other nutritional supplements were shown to be just as effective at improving symptoms of ADHD as Ritalin. This makes sense because as we’ve already discussed, the neurotransmitters needed for healthy brain balance are produced in the gut!
In another fascinating trial, researchers gave 75 infants either probiotics or placebo for the first six months of life, and then followed them for thirteen years. At the end of the study, none of the kids in the probiotic group had developed ADHD, compared to 17% of kids in the placebo group.
Steps to Balance the Gut and Improve Mental Function
If we’re not actively stocking our guts with good gut bacteria, the scales will likely tip and the bad guys will soon outnumber the good guys. Thankfully, you can help your children fortify and improve their gut health.
1. Take a high-quality multi-strain probiotic formula to balance gut bacteria and promote a healthy digestive system. The best probiotics can withstand stomach acids and enable the bacteria to reach the gut alive to perform their health-enhancing duties. Otherwise, the stomach’s acidic environment might make the probiotic totally useless, which is a huge waste of money. Usually, anything you can find at CVS on a shelf is not high quality, you want it to be refrigerated and not containing D-Lactate.
2. Eat probiotic-rich foods such as non-dairy yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso soup, pickles, tempeh, and kombucha tea.
3. Consume prebiotic to ensure the friendly flora in your gut stay alive and thrive! Prebiotics are a type of nondigestible fiber that feeds the probiotics in your gut. Some popular prebiotics includes oats, bananas, Jerusalem artichoke, dandelion greens, garlic, leeks, and onions. You can also purchase a prebiotic like this one that we use.
4. Encouraging free playtime to help alleviate stress almost instantaneously while encouraging a more balanced microbiome.
For more microbiome-boosting, get kids outside to play and get extra dirty. This exposes them to healthy microbes that help to keep their digestive tract and immune system strong year long.
5. Revamp the family diet.
Focus primarily on whole, plant-based foods, preferably those that are organic, hormone, pesticide and antibiotic free. Include fresh vegetables with every meal to nourish the body with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
We did the Feingold diet and eliminated gluten, dairy, and dyes….this list is great to help you make the transition and find good kid-friendly substitutes for food.
6. Avoid or reduce exposure to products that interfere with our body’s natural hormones (endocrine disruptors).
These can include items that contain BPA (plastics and aluminum cans); dioxins (animal products such as meat, eggs and dairy); atrazine (non-organic corn and unfiltered drinking water); phthalates (plastic containers and plastic wrap); arsenic (unfiltered drinking water); perfluorinated chemicals (non- stick pans or stain and water-resistant coatings) and pesticides (non-organic produce). Please, please, make sure that you have a good water filter in your home.
7. Remove or reduce exposure to possible triggers, such as added stressors and video games. These flood the brain with the important neurotransmitter called dopamine, leaving very little dopamine leftover for motivation, focus, and attention.
8. Consume an abundance of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, amino acids, essential fatty acids, and phospholipids.
The next move we made was to get our kids on a great multivitamin and a great omega even before doing a diet change. Many kids who have ADHD are deficient in magnesium, zinc and many other important nutrients. Ever heard of the saying ” zinc makes you think” well its so true.
9. Watch the carbs. Excess carbs and refined sugars can lead to gut dysbiosis which can cause all kinds of health and behavioral issues as well as yeast overgrowth.
10. Consider Liver Support – The liver filters out all kinds of toxins so give it some support. Detox baths are one way to do that, we love this bentonite clay to do weekly detox baths and help rid the body of built up toxins.