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How Gut Health Effects ADHD

Updated: Dec 15, 2023

The Health of Out Gut Can Be Responsiblo for the Onset of ADHD

There is a strong link between gut health and ADHD. Recent studies have suggested that the trillions of bacteria and other microbes parked inside your intestinal tract have a strong influence on your mental health, and may even play a significant role in the development of neuropsychiatric conditions, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Those microbes inside your gut influence your mental health via the gut-brain axis, a communication network connecting the gut, brain, and nervous system.

Studies show that people with ADHD have a different composition of bacteria and other microorganisms in their gut than people who don’t have the condition. For them, this gut-brain connection may be disrupted, leading to an imbalance of gut bacteria and impaired digestive function. Things like stress, poor diet, and lack of sleep can make these issues worse.


A Proper Nutrition to Support Gut Health and Help Manage ADHD

The gut-brain connection is complicated, but supporting both digestive and mental health is so important for those with ADHD, because there is a strong connection between gut health and ADHD. The good news is that there are lots of natural ways to support gut and brain health together. Things like eating a nutrient-dense diet with lots of fiber while avoiding sugary and processed foods can promote healthy microbiome and effect our mental health. Although no diet can change the course of ADHD, certain eating patterns may make managing the symptoms easier.

A study of nearly 15,000 preschool-age children in China, published in the November 2018 issue of the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, linked a primarily vegetarian diet with a lower risk of ADHD symptoms, whereas processed foods, such as ready-made meals, many breakfast cereals, and hot dogs, were linked to an increased risk of ADHD symptoms.

Medical Herbs for ADHD


Sleep is Crucial in Supporting Gut Health and Managng ADHD Getting enough high-quality sleep should be the foundation of any ADHD treatment plan. Research confirms that adequate sleep is pivotal for cognitive function and ADHD symptom management. Without proper rest, issues like inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity are exacerbated. Sleep deprivation impairs executive functioning skills like focus, working memory, organization, and self-control. Many with ADHD suffer from sleep disturbances like insomnia and a delayed circadian rhythm. This prevents the deep restorative sleep needed for optimal brain performance. Establishing strong sleep hygiene habits is essential. This includes maintaining a regular bedtime/wake time, limiting blue light exposure at night, and creating an ideal sleep environment that is cool, dark and quiet. Natural sleep aids like magnesium, herbal teas, meditation and melatonin can help induce drowsiness (Avoid overusing sleep medications which can cause a medication dependence) Getting on a sleep schedule where you get 7-9 hours per night helps regulate the ADHD brain and allows medication/therapies to work best. Make sleep a priority for effectively managing ADHD symptoms and improving daily functioning.

Exercise Supports Gut Health and Helps Manage ADHD Moderate to intense aerobic exercise can alleviate ADHD symptoms in kids and teens, according to studies. It also has positive effects on the composition of the gut microbiome, per a review published in the April 2019 issue of Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews. Research shows regular exercise is one of the most effective natural therapies for supporting gut health and easing ADHD symptoms.


Physical activity helps in several key ways: - Improves focus - Exercise boosts brain chemicals like dopamine and serotonin to sharpen focus and concentration. As little as 20 minutes of cardio can have an immediate focusing effect. - Enhances mood - The natural high from exercise releases feel-good endorphins that boost mood and motivation in those with ADHD. Reduces hyperactivity - Physical exertion is a constructive way to channel excess energy and restlessness. After exercise, fidgeting and impulsiveness tend to decrease. Strengthens executive function - Increased blood flow from aerobic activity enhances cognitive skills like planning, organization, and emotional control. - Improves sleep - Regular exercise leads to deeper, more restorative sleep which is essential for effective ADHD symptom management.

For those who suffer from ADHD exercise and movement should be a daily habit. Engage in cardio, yoga, sports, strength training or any activity you enjoy. Schedule outdoor exercise whenever possible for an extra mental health boost. Just be sure to pick activities that hold your interest.


Spending Time in the Nature is Highly Recomended to Maintain a Healthy Gut and Alleviate ADHD Symptoms

For those living with ADHD, finding natural ways to improve focus and concentration can be life-changing. One simple yet powerful intervention - spending time outdoors in nature. Research shows being in natural green spaces has a profoundly positive impact on ADHD symptoms. The sights, sounds, smells and sensations of the outdoors engage the senses and provide a healing balm for the distractible ADHD mind. Several studies confirm that exposure to nature boosts focus and attention span in both children and adults with ADHD. One reason is that natural settings effortlessly capture interest and fascinate the ADHD brain, making it easier to sustain focus. Outdoor activities like hiking, camping, or playing sports in the park allow the body to move while the mind is immersed in nature. This powerfully boosts focus, reduces hyperactivity, and enhances mood and emotional regulation. Exposure to sunlight and fresh air while outside also increases vitamin D and oxygen levels, provides a grounding, and balances neurotransmitter levels in ADHD brains. Making outdoor time a priority, especially in green natural spaces, is a simple yet transformative lifestyle change for those with ADHD. Even 20-30 minutes a day can lead to measurable improvements in functioning. So take your ADHD treatment outdoors! Bask in the healing rays of the sun, breathe fresh air, listen to birdsong, and soak up the sights and sounds of nature. It's one of the most nourishing treatments for your mind available.


Medical Herbs for ADHD and Gut Health

As a clinical herbalist, I'm often asked if herbs can help support focus, attention, and impulse control for those with ADHD. The answer is Yes. There are several medicinal herbs that have shown promise in research studies for easing common ADHD symptoms, alongside gut health support. Here is a list of some of them:

- Bacopa (Bacopa monnieri) - This traditional Ayurvedic herb has been shown to improve memory, concentration, and information processing. Studies suggest bacopa may help sharpen focus and attention while reducing restlessness and impulsivity. - Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) - Ginkgo acts as a natural cognitive enhancer and neuroprotectant. Research indicates it may boost attention, short-term memory, and concentration by increasing circulation and modulating neurotransmitters. Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) - Lemon balm has an active compound called rosmarinic acid that boosts levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter that promotes calmness and relaxation. Studies show it can improve mood and cognitive performance. - Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) - This mildly sedative herb increases levels of serotonin in the brain to promote relaxation and sleep. Studies confirm it reduces restlessness and fidgeting while also improving focus.

Herbs that support the digestive system like chamomile, peppermint, and ginger are also important as part of the natural treatment for people with ADHD.


Probiotics Support Gut Health and Help Manage ADHD

Because of the strong link between gut health and ADHD, probiotics supplementation can be very beneficial for people with ADHD for many reasons:

Probiotics help restore balance of gut bacteria. Many people with ADHD have an imbalance of gut microbiome which can exacerbate ADHD symptoms. Probiotics contains healthy bacteria that can repopulate the gut.

Probiotics have anti-inflammatory effects which may improve gut permeability and brain inflammation associated with ADHD.

The gut microbiome interacts directly with the brain via the vagus nerve. Probiotics optimize this gut-brain axis. Boost the absorption of vitamins and minerals important for brain function like iron, vitamin D, zinc. Increase production of neurotransmitters in the gut, which are involved in mood, focus and impulse control like dopamine, serotonin and GABA. Alleviate digestive issues - Many with ADHD struggle with bloating, constipation, diarrhea. Probiotics can help regulate GI function. Ease anxiety and depression - Probiotic strains like L. helveticus and B. longum have been shown to reduce anxiety/depressive symptoms common in ADHD.


Best Probiotics for supporting gut health and alleviating ADHD symptoms:

· Lactobacillus rhamnosus - This strain has been shown in studies to help reduce anxiety and depression which often accompany ADHD. It may also help improve focus and attention. · Bifidobacterium bifidum - Research indicates this probiotic can help improve cognitive function, working memory, and problem-solving skills by positively interacting with the gut-brain connection. · Lactobacillus acidophilus - This probiotic may help regulate neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin which are often imbalanced in ADHD. It also helps produce vitamins B and K in the gut. · Bifidobacterium longum - Studies show this strain can reduce inflammation and modulates the gut-brain axis in positive ways that may improve ADHD symptoms. · Streptococcus thermophilus - This probiotic helps produce neurotransmitters in the gut that are essential for brain functions like focus, concentration, and impulse control. · Lactobacillus plantarum - This probiotic helps optimize serotonin levels which can calm the mind and improve mood regulation issues associated with ADHD.

The most effective approach to help manage ADHD symptoms is to take a broad spectrum probiotic supplement that contains a blend of these strains. Adding probiotic foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and kimchi to your diet can also help populate your gut with beneficial microbes.



Gut Health and ADHD

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