Sunday, October 29, 2017

Understanding and Supporting the ADD Brain

ADD /ADHD- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is defined as a developmental disorder marked by persistent symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity not caused by any serious underlying physical or mental disorder. The core signs and symptoms of ADD include:
  • Short attention span for regular, everyday tasks 
  • Distractibility, forgetfulness 
  • Disorganization 
  • Fidgeting, restlesness 
  • Problems with follow-through 
  • Poor impulse control 
  • Easily bored or frustrated with routine tasks 
ADD is associated with a dysregulation within the brain’s prefrontal cortex- the part of the brain involved in complex behaviours such as working memory, executive functions such as decision-making, planning for the future, judgment, attention span, and inhibition.

Causes of ADD
While the exact cause of ADD is not known, several factors such as genetics, maternal alcohol or drug use, birth trauma, jaundice, brain infections and head trauma are all considered to play a causative role in ADD symptoms. Other contributing factors include daily life influences such as:
  • Limited physical education in school
  • Excessive use of video games
  • Diets filled with processed foods
  • Exposure to environmental toxins
Types of ADD
American psychiatrist and brain disorder specialist, Dr. Daniel Amen, has categorized ADD into 7 Types, each with its own set of characteristic symptoms and neurotransmitter imbalance:

1. Classic 2. Inattentive 3. Over-Focused 4. Temporal 5. Limbic 6. Ring of Fire 7. Anxious

ADD Brain - Gift or Burden?
While many who's lives has been touched in some way by ADD would agree, having or parenting or teaching or living with someone with ADD can be challenging. It can be difficult for the non-ADD brain to understand or relate to the non-linear ways of thinking and behaving of the ADD brain.

The downsides of unsupported ADD are many, including:
  • Academic problems
  • Low self-esteem
  • Depression
  • Job failure
  • High risk behaviours
  • Obesity
  • Divorce
A supported and cared for ADD brain, on the other hand, can help one develop into:
  • Explorer
  • Leader
  • Risk taker
  • Creative artist
  • Entrepreneur
  • Inventor
Supporting the ADD Brain - A Holistic Approach
There are many treatment options when it comes to supporting the ADD brain. And as Dr. Amen states, "ADD is not just a single and simple disorder; therefore, treatment is not a one-size-fits-all solution." A holistic and foundational approach is therefore very important.

Nervous System Support Basics:
  • Sleep: 10 hours for school-aged children, 9 hours for teens, 7.5 hours for adults
  • Omega 3: high EPA fish oil
  • Anti-anxiety remedies
Dietary / Gut-Brain Basics:
  • Probiotics
  • Low allergenic and inflammatory foods (avoiding gluten, dairy, sugar)
  • Nutrient-dense foods
  • Protein-rich foods
Lifestyle Basics:
  • Time in Nature
  • Exercise - daily
  • Hydration
Vitamins & Minerals Basics:
  • B Complex
  • Vitamin D
  • Magnesium
  • Iron
  • Zinc
Our exploration of the ADD brain continues as we strive to better understand how it functions and how we can best support it. With the right support, those with ADD can develop and flourish into the multi-sensory, multi-dimensional and norm challengers and changers they are here to be.

Dr. Nadine Cyr N.D. is a Naturopathic Doctor and a mother of a child with ADD. She has a special interest in working with children, adolescents and adults with ADD and those who love and care for them.