There are a number of factors that may contribute to the causes of ADHD. What I will share with you on this page comes not only from professional experience but personal knowledge as well. My son had severe ADHD symptoms, also known as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, when he was a child and when I made the changes I am about to present to you he became a brand new person, almost overnight.
Like many disorders, the causes of ADHD are believed to lie in disruption, imbalance, or deficiency of crucial neurotransmitters in the brain, like norepinephrine, epinephrine, serotonin, dopamine, GABA, and PEA. The problem may be that the excitatory neurotransmitters are too high or the inhibitory neurotransmitters are too low or a combination of both.
Neurotransmitters are chemicals in the brain that are responsible for regulating our cognitive and mental performance, behavior, thoughts, perceptions, emotions, mood, weight, energy, perception of and response to pain, and the cycle of sleep.
In a healthy brain, these neuro-chemicals are produced and released in the precise amount and timing as needed, however, it takes very little to upset this delicate balance, which can result in a vast number of psychological and physiological symptoms like ADHD.
Neurotransmitters can become disrupted or impaired by a variety of factors including genetics, diet, environmental toxins, blood sugar, nutritional deficiencies, fungal or bacterial overgrowth in the gut, hormonal imbalances, food sensitivities, head trauma like a concussion, excessive stress, and adrenal disorders.
Two Primary Causes of ADHD
As I see it, the two primary causes of ADHD are diet and environmental toxins, because each of these factors has a profound impact on the production and function of neurotransmitters in the brain.
Neurotransmitters are inhibited or altered by the diet the child is eating or the environmental toxins they are exposed to. Furthermore, if the diet is not rich in the nutrients needed to form neurotransmitters, then they will not be produced in sufficient numbers.
Diet and ADHD
The main contributor in the diet that results in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is sugar. Sugar is an addictive mind-altering drug that causes depletion in a wide variety of neurotransmitters including GABA, serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins and leads to sugar addiction. Sugar is also the primary food source for Candida and bacteria in the gut. Other factors in the diet that have a similar impact on the brain include sugar substitutes, pesticides, caffeine, food additives, preservatives, artificial colorings and flavorings, chocolate or raw cacao, white flour, and other refined junk food. These substances are not foods, they are chemicals. The human body was not genetically designed to process these substances properly, they result in disruption of brain function. Some people have a sensitivity to a substance called salicylate, a naturally occurring substance in some foods. In sensitive individuals, it has a negative impact on neurotransmitters. By removing foods that have the highest level of salicylate, many people with ADHD, as well as those with OCD, autism, and Tourette’s find improvement. Read more on the diet for ADHD.
Environmental toxins are the second primary contributor to ADHD. Many people think their child isn’t being exposed to any environmental toxins, but they are being exposed to a sea of them on a daily basis. I’m talking about chemicals that are found in the products that you use every day. Your bubble bath, shampoo, toothpaste, laundry soap, cleaning supplies, dish soap, air fresheners, perfume, cologne, dryer exhaust, etc., contain toxins that are harmful to your emotional and physical health. Pesticides used to repel mosquitos, ants, cockroaches, flies, fleas, ticks, etc., and herbicides, also known as weed killer or prevention, and those on your food are especially harmful to the brain and nervous system. They are also endocrine disruptors, meaning they disrupt the endocrine system in addition to the nervous system. Most schools contain high levels of toxins, a place where our children spend a great deal of time. Among other things, these chemicals alter and disrupt the neurotransmitters in the brain and often result in ADHD, as well as depression, anxiety, conduct disorder, violence, and many more.
Other Causes of ADHD
Other common causes of ADHD include Candida overgrowth, SIBO, nutritional deficiencies, and unidentified food sensitivities.
- An undiagnosed food sensitivity or food allergy can also result in altering or disrupting neurotransmitters in the brain. Some common foods that may be at the root of ADHD symptoms include corn, wheat, barley, oats, dairy, legumes, chocolate, yeast, and peanuts, but any food can be a potential offender.Other foods that people with ADHD may have trouble processing include foods that contain salicylates. Salicylates are a naturally occurring chemical found in a variety of foods like apples, apricots, almonds, raisins and many more. By identifying your child’s food sensitivities or allergies and then removing them from their diet, great improvements in attention deficit disorder can be achieved. I recommend the ALCAT test.
- One of the first signs of a nutritional deficiency is impaired brain function like hyperactivity, attention deficit, depression, anxiety etc. Neurotransmitters cannot be produced or function properly without adequate nutrition. Correcting these deficiencies will improve ADHD symptoms. A deficiency in fatty acids is very common in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
- An overgrowth of Candida yeast, that is an epidemic in our society is another major cause of ADHD, because it emits toxins that alter neurotransmitters in the brain. Following a Candida diet, which is basically the same as an ADHD diet, and taking the necessary steps to reduce yeast overgrowth, is another effective method of alleviating the symptoms of ADHD. The same is true for bacterial overgrowth in the gut.
- High levels of ongoing stress also disrupt neurotransmitters in the brain and can result in not only attention deficit disorder, but depression, anxiety disorders, OCD, addiction, auto-immune disorders and a variety of other conditions. This can be stress that is the result of child abuse and neglect, poverty, domestic violence, natural disaster, bullying or any other circumstance that puts the individual in a situation where stress is incessant.
- Many children with ADHD have an imbalance in neurotransmitters. They are often deficient in dopamine, serotonin, GABA, or acetylcholine and have too much norepinephrine. However, as discussed above the primary reason neurotransmitters become imbalanced or depleted is through diet, chronic stress, nutritional deficiencies, and environmental toxins. But there can also be a genetic polymorphism that prevents the formation of certain neurotransmitters.
ADHD symptoms may be cognitive, behavioral, social, or emotional. The three primary symptoms are, of course:
- attention deficit or inability to pay attention
However, within each one of these symptoms are a variety of sub symptoms which may include but are not limited to:
- doesn’t listen and/or follow instructions
- fails to follow through with chores, tasks and responsibilities
- work is messy and careless
- have trouble applying themselves
- has difficulty staying focused and/or getting organized
- avoids school work or anything that requires cognitive effort
- is easily distracted and forgetful
- often loses or misplaces things
- is fidgety or squirms around all the time
- can’t remain seated
- runs and climbs excessively
- is excessively clingy
- excessive talking
- can’t wait their turn
- poor grades in school
- frequent accidents
- chronic underachiever
- temper tantrums
- mood swings
- difficulty getting along with others
- periods of high energy and low energy
- low self-esteem
- (as it progresses into teens, then getting in trouble with the law frequently occurs)
ADHD Symptoms in Adults
Although ADHD is most common in children, it is also common in adults. However, adults may present with restlessness instead of hyperactivity. In addition to many of the cognitive symptoms listed above, they often experience difficulties maintaining gainful employment or successful interpersonal relationships, develop a variety of addictions and end up in jail or prison. Regardless of whether it occurs in children or adults, the causes of ADHD are the same.
According to the DSM V, to qualify for a diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, the symptoms of ADHD must persist for at least 6 months and are inconsistent and maladaptive with their level of development. In other words, their social, academic, and or work life is significantly impaired.
3 Types of ADHD
ADHD comes in three different variations, however, there is actually a different name for each variation
- Combination of attention deficit and hyperactivity – ADHD
- Impaired attention and concentration without hyperactivity – ADD
- Hyperactivity without attention deficit – Hyperactive
Treatment for the Causes of ADHD
The good news is that when you identify the causes of ADHD you can see immediate improvements in symptoms by making simple changes in diet and lifestyle.
- Remove sugar, caffeine, white flour, pesticides, food additives, chocolate, preservatives, and sugar substitutes from the diet
- Eat organic and whole foods
- Eliminate grains and other high starch foods
- Switch to environmentally friendly cleaning products and personal care products
- Avoid pesticides and herbicides
- Identify and correct nutritional deficiencies
- Address Candida or bacterial overgrowth
- Reduce stress and teach them to manage stress with exercise, relaxation, deep breathing exercises, art, music etc.,
- Identify hidden food sensitivities or allergies (I recommend the ALCAT test.)
- It is my opinion that following a slightly modified version of the Paleolithic diet is the best diet for ADHD.
My son’s attention deficit hyperactivity disorder was so severe that I was in tears on a daily basis because I couldn’t manage his behavior. He was literally hanging from the chandeliers, bouncing off the walls, and incapable of doing his school work. I had to hold him back in first grade because he couldn’t keep up.
When I removed all the substances I mentioned above from my son’s diet, switched to organic foods, and cleaned up the toxins from our environment, it was a miracle. He was now able to sit still, obey rules, do his schoolwork, and was no longer impossible to handle. I was astounded and overwhelmed with relief. Not only that, I found relief from depression and anxiety attacks that I had suffered with over a decade by following the same diet and lifestyle.
In my son’s case, the substance that had the most significant impact on his ADHD symptoms was sugar. We could literally turn his symptoms off and on with the ingestion of sugar. He would sometimes cheat and sneak sugar when he was away from home and every time he did this his symptoms would return. However, since we kept his diet clean the majority of the time, he was symptom-free the majority of the time.
The key to success in eliminating ADHD symptoms lies in a commitment to permanent changes in diet and lifestyle, if one returns to an unhealthy diet and the use of environmental toxins, symptoms usually return. However, by eating a diet and living a lifestyle that provides relief for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, you are also eating a diet and living in a manner that promotes health in every other way as well.
The causes of ADHD are also the cause of most other health conditions, syndromes, and diseases like heart disease, obesity, addiction, type 2 diabetes, depression, anxiety, OCD, compulsive overeating, and many more. So you’ll be protecting yourself from these possibilities as well. It is the diet and lifestyle that your body was supposed to have and nature intended.
I highly recommend you read Is This Your Child” and Our Toxic World both by Doris Rapp, M.D. They go into more depth about many of the causes of ADHD that I have discussed on this page, and if you need more personal guidance, then contact me for a phone consultation.