ADHD affects 1 in 5 young kids and can cause major issues with interactions at home and school. Also, it affect their ability to socialize.
There are millions of cells, known as neurons, densely packed into various regions of the brain.
Each region is responsible for a particular function. Some regions interact with our outside world, interpreting vision, hearing, and other sensory inputs to help us figure out what to do and say.
Other regions interact with our internal world, our bodies, in order to regulate the function of our organs.
Information in the brain is carried to other parts of the body along neural networks or pathways via the action of neurotransmitters.
Scientists have identified 50 different neurotransmitters to date, but there may be as many as 200.
Each neurotransmitter has a unique molecular structure, similar to a “key,” that fits only to a specific lock.
When the “ key” neurotransmitter finds the the right lock within a neuron, the neurotransmitter binds to and communicates with that neuron.
Neurotransmitter Imbalances in ADHD
Neuroscientists have found that deficiencies or imbalances in specific neurotransmitters are at the root cause of many common conditions including anxiety, mood disorders, impulsivity, and obsessive compulsive disorder.
Those with ADHD have an imbalance or deficiency in the neurotransmitter, norepinephrine.
Norepinephrine is synthesized within the brain, and the precursor to norepinephrine is dopamine.
Regions of the Brain
Those with ADHD commonly have an imbalance of neurotransmitter activity in four regions of the brain:
1. Frontal Cortex
This area of the brain is responsible for processing and maintaining information, as well as high level functions.
As a result, when there is an imbalance of norepinephrine in this area, lack of focus, difficulty with organization, and impaired high level thinking may result.
2. Limbic System
This area of the brain is responsible for regulating our emotions.
When there is a neurotransmitter imbalance in this area of the brain, one may become restless, lack focus, or have difficulty controlling emotions.
3. Basal Ganglia
This is the area of the brain that regulates communication within the brain.
Information from all areas of the brain gather here and is then communicated to the correct areas of the brain.
When there is an imbalance here, it can cause information to “short-circuit,” resulting in lack of focus or impulsivity.
4. Reticular Activating System (RAS)
This area of the brain is the major information highway, where many neurological circuits enter and leave the brain.
A deficiency in the RAS can cause lack of focus, impulsivity, or hyperactivity.
These regions of the brain must be connected via the neural circuitry and the neurochemical reactions that give and receive information for high level processing and balance in behavior.
Most medications for ADHD aim to raise the level of norepinephrine.
Instead of looking to increase norepinephrine, the better question should be how do we enhance the brain circuitry without altering brain chemistry?
Brain Chemistry and Gut Health
We now understand that neurochemistry can be altered by inflammatory diets which include gluten, dairy, and sugar.
Therefore, getting on a simple anti-inflammatory diet can help our kids and ourselves to normalize and balance brain chemistry.
I have an ADHD child who struggles in school. He’s super smart and the most amazing child. He also has many allergies.
His hyperactive immune system, as indicated by his allergies, are very telling of his immunological imbalances. Also, he has gut permeability issues contributing to this that are likely worsened by his diet.
As a parent, I struggled with my son for a long time.
Recently we had a visit with the allergist who recommended epi pen, corticosteroids, nasal spray and allergy shots for the rest of his life.
I declined, as I knew the issues were so much deeper than simple allergies.
We decided to go the Functional Medicine and Holistic route and thankfully my son is at an age where he understands the impact of food on his health.
In short, my son’s diet is now completely free of gluten, dairy, and most processed foods, and it’s amazing how much his sinuses have cleared.
Like everything else, any symptom of medical diagnosis warrants a deeper look and a birds eye view of why you have such symptoms in the first place.
Rather than reaching for a pill, it’s always worth the effort to do our part in creating balance within by helping our bodies heal themselves.
Timing and Motor Activity
We can also improve focus and attention by enhancing the sensorimotor system by using modalities like the Interactive Metronome.
We’ll talk more about this amazing treatment modality in the coming weeks.
Thank you for tuning in. Next week we will dive deeper into brain organization and communication.
If you or anyone you know struggles with ADHD, memory deficit, or other neurological issues, contact us today at 678-335-5566.
See you next week.