How Environment, lifestyle and stress Impact ADHD

ADHD isn’t just a genetic disorder, stress, foods, and the environmental toxins play a part in ADHD. These environmental factors play a huge role in brain development as well as genetics.

So what causes ADHD?

Over the past 30 years ADHD has grown and has become more prevalent in children and adults. ADHD was started off as hyperactivity impulse disorder, over time shifted to attention deficit disorder and inattention, then towards functioning, and later to executive functioning. All of these translations of ADHD aren’t wrong. In fact, each set of these symptoms is distinct and an important part of ADHD. These facets were poorly integrated with one another painting an incomplete picture of a highly complex condition.

Today, researchers understand that ADHD is primarily a disorder of self-regulation. This theory weaves together all of the symptoms into one cohesive picture. The ability to manage self-regulation allows children and adults to manage impulses, engage or disengage in attention, and navigate between deliberate and automatic responses to different situations. For an individual to be able to manage self-regulation, the brain needs to interconnect. Brain nodes regulate both attention and emotions. When one area of the brain isn’t connecting well, the other parts will suffer.

It is now understood that ADHD doesn’t focus on a single under performance of the brain, but is understood that ADHD manifests when neurons misfire in a multiple areas of the brain. Researches also suggest that these neurological misfires may be driven by the environment as much as or more so than genetics.

This framework provides more awareness and a complex view of ADHA which provides hope that if ADHD has adverse effects by the environment, with that being said, then it can be improved by the environment with healthy choices, structure and predictability.

We don’t want to dismiss the fact that genes play a role in a person genetic system in certain diseases or disorders including ADHD. The entire genetic system is highly dynamic and responsive to input. We need to understand that the environment and personal experiences affects an individual’s development and behavior altering regions of DNA, with effects that may last a lifetime.

Researchers suggest that lifestyle changes can help to offset the effects of ADHD genes activated by genetics, food, environment, chemicals, or other factors. There is more research needed to be conducted, however there are a few things that are clear that can make positive impact on ADHD such as: Omega-3 supplements. Children diagnosed with ADHD on average have 38 present lower blood levels of omega -3 than children who do not have ADHD. Oregon Health and Science University conducted a study of 439 children, those with lower blood levels of DHA, a fatty acid found in cold water fish, had defiance, hostility, mood swings and learning difficulties. A research concluded in the journal Clinical Psychology Review, “There is sufficient evidence to consider omega-3 fatty acids as a possible supplement to established [medication and behavioral] therapies” in ADHD.

Australian Researchers conducted a study with children with ADHD and the benefits of omega-3. These children took omega-3 supplements every day for four months. According to the study, Australian Researchers revealed these children exhibited less inattention, less hyperactivity, less disobedience, less hostility, better memory and improved with their spelling.

Along with omega-3s, by implementing aerobic exercise, healthy nutrition and stress management with children and adults with ADHD can have real positive effects on ADHD symptoms.

Researchers recommend anyone with ADHD should follow these strategies:

1. Exercise: There is strong evidence that children and adults with ADHD benefit from regular exercises improving attention. In fact, exercises can help to reverse negative ADHD symptoms if done a regular basis.

2. Sleep: Sleep is necessary for rebuilding the body and mind. Sleep improves attention skills and promotes learning.

3. Nutrition: Having a balanced diet by introducing the rainbow into family meals and limiting processed food and red food coloring can help with attention, reduce hyperactivity and impulse control in children.

4. Stress Management: ADHD contributes to stress for the whole family, and often creates an unhealthy environment between parents and children. Learning how to manage stress through mindfulness, self-care, and parenting courses to learn skills and to understand your child will stop or slow down the negative epigenetic changes in the brain that worsen ADHD.

For more information on how to support your child with ADHD and comorbidities such as Oppositional Defiance Disorder or Autism Spectrum Disorder contact Deb Kartz or join our Facebook Group community, Heart Centered Moms, and share your story and receive support.

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