By Marie Parks
Many people are familiar with ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) in children. However, research has shown that 60% of children who have ADHD will continue to experience symptoms as an adult. It is estimated that between 1-5% of adults in the U.S. have ADHD.1
It is not uncommon for healthy people to occasionally have a hard time focusing. However, individuals with ADHD express the following characteristics constantly — to the point where it can interfere with work and social life.2
- Distractibility – Difficultly concentrating and paying attention to a task
- Hyperactivity – Restless with a constant need to do something
- Impulsivity – Not sufficiently able to control immediate reactions
How is ADHD Diagnosed?Adults who have had ADHD as children are more likely to have it than adults without a history of this disorder. However, other individuals are still able to develop the disorder later in life. Adult diagnosis is more difficult than children because of the overlap in symptoms between other psychiatric conditions such as depression or alcoholism.3
The DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition) has outlined the criteria that fall under the three main subtypes of ADHD. These criteria can be applied to adults, but are mainly used for diagnosis in children.
The “Utah criteria” are commonly used to diagnose adult ADHD. This set of guidelines, and they are just guidelines, can help you and your doctor come to a correct diagnosis.
Here’s a brief rundown of the criteria:
1. Childhood history consistent with ADHD. Here are a few symptoms:
- Often does not give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, or other activities.
- Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (not due to oppositional behavior or failure to understand instructions).
- Problems organizing activities.
- Often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat when sitting still is expected.
- Hyperactive often associated with poor decision making.
- Hot temper with outbursts of anger.
- Inability to complete tasks.
- Impulsive, often associated with poor decision making.
- Very low stress tolerance.
We strongly recommend that you see your doctor if you have any of these symptoms. However, in the meantime, here are some tips for getting a head start on treating your potential ADHD.
Bad Food and Good Food for ADHDThe medications used for ADHD in children and adults are similar. After someone has been diagnosed with ADHD, they’re usually prescribed a stimulant medication such as Ritalin or Adderall, which increase the concentration of dopamine.
Stimulant medications have the highest response rate, but may not work for everyone. Some individuals may respond better or have fewer side effects with non-stimulant medications, such as Atomoxetine.4
Certain foods such as egg yolks and red meat are rich sources of arachidonic acid. Additionally, the typical Western diet is composed of foods that are high in omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids promote the accumulation of arachidonic acid in the body. As a result, it’s important to consume a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, flaxseed, and fish oil supplements.
Zinc is also gaining favor among behaviorists as a potential treatment. Zinc is necessary for the metabolism of melatonin and dopamine, which doctors feel play a role in ADHD. For instance, zinc supplementation has shown to have beneficial effects in children with ADHD.6
Also, let’s not forget about magnesium, a mineral involved in over 300 metabolic reactions within the body. One study compared hyperactivity in children given magnesium supplements for 6 months to children who received a placebo. The magnesium supplemented group showed a significant decrease in hyperactivity compared to their previous state than the placebo group.7
Optimizing Hormone Messengers Can Help with ADHDHormone balance is important for all aspects of health. While an imbalance of hormones can cause many symptoms, it can also result in some of the same symptoms that are associated with ADHD. Women are especially prone to fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone because of their menstrual cycle. Research has shown that hormone fluctuations can affect the symptoms of ADHD that a women experiences.8
Due to the hormone fluctuations in both men and women, combined with the fact that as individuals age hormones tend to decrease and become off-balance, it’s important to do routine hormone blood tests.
For more information on maintaining youthful hormone levels for optimal health, please see the following links to our male and female hormone restoration protocols:
Your First Steps for Gaining ControlFirst, get a comprehensive work-up and proper adult ADHD diagnosis. Then take a close look at your diet and re-establish a 2:1 or better yet a 1:1 omega-6 to omega-3 fat ratio. And since you’re focusing on your diet, why not add in some extra zinc and magnesium while you’re at it?
Next, get a hormone blood test and have your doctor correct any deficiencies and imbalances. Go ahead and use our protocols as a guide. And please, don’t forget that our health advisors are only a phone call away. They can be reached at 1-800-226-2370.
- Am Fam Physician. 2000 Nov 1;62(9):2077-2086.
- CNS Drugs. 2011 Jul;25(7):539-54. doi: 10.2165/11589380-000000000-00000.
- Reprod Nutr Dev. 2005 Sep-Oct;45(5):549-58.
- Acta Med Croatica. 2009 Oct;63(4):307-13.
- Magnes Res. 1997 Jun;10(2):149-56.
- J Clin Psychol. 2005 May;61(5):579-87.
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