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Adaptogens for ADHD: Natural Ways to Fight a Growing Problem

A wave of letters, numbers and learning objectsADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is a condition that has been appearing in increasing frequency among both children and adults. More and more research indicates this disorder occurs along a continuum, allowing the identification of more people affected. The standard medical approach to remediating this disorder involves medications that can lead to significant side effects and potentially long-lasting problems. This is why there is a growing interest in adaptogens for ADHD.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the reported cases of ADHD increased dramatically between 2003 and 2011. A significant number of these cases assessed in children do not improve as they reach adulthood. An estimated 4.5% of adults carry the label of ADHD, and a significant number beyond that suffer from the symptoms of this brain condition.

Symptoms of ADHD

ADHD has three main subtypes: inattentive, hyperactive-impulsive, and combined hyperactive-impulsive and inattentive. All show some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Mood swings
  • Inability to sit still
  • Insomnia
  • Trouble listening
  • Lack of organizational skills
  • Lack of anger control
  • Difficulty staying focused

These symptoms cause significant problems in a typical school setting. ADHD may also appear as a comorbid condition with several other disorders. These include autism spectrum disorder, learning disabilities, anxiety, depression, and addictions.

Many of these symptoms also appear in those who suffer from Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS). Because ADHD symptoms are strongly connected to the brain, the Neuroaffect circuit of the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response mechanism, which is the body's global response to stress, plays a part in these symptoms.

The use of adaptogens for ADHD can bring relief from some of these symptoms, but to understand why, first you must understand how this system works.

Neuroaffect Circuit and ADHD

The Neuroaffect circuit of the NEM stress response involves the microbiome, brain, and autonomic nervous system. These three components work together and can develop problems when faced with chronic stress. An imbalance in any one of these components can affect the others through changes in hormones and neurotransmitters.

Chronic stress affects brain function. It can trigger the release of high levels of cortisol, norepinephrine, and epinephrine through the autonomic nervous system. These hormones/neurotransmitters work to help your body fight the effects of stress. However, they can dysregulate over time, becoming too high, too low, or causing imbalances in other hormones, leading to problems with brain function. Dysbiosis of the microbiome also can lead to high levels of inflammation, which can affect brain function and structure.

ADHD is only one of the serious maladies to come from dysfunction in this circuit.

The Use of Medications for ADHD

The most often tried approach in dealing with this difficult condition involves prescriptions for medications. This same approach is also turned to for anxiety and other brain-based conditions.

Medications for ADHD work to manage symptoms by targeting neurotransmitters in the brain. However, a majority of these neurotransmitters come from your microbiome and gut. If these are dysregulated due to dysbiosis, the supply of these neurotransmitters becomes limited.

These medications may suppress symptoms, but they also bring a multitude of side effects. These include sometimes severe problems with sleeplessness, mood swings, and depression.

Overall, many studies show a lack of long-term improvement in symptoms. And in many cases, those who take these medications often suffer from a lack of self-esteem compared to those who do not take these medications.

For some people, the medications typically used for ADHD work well. They help a large number of children do well in school.

The classes of medications most frequently prescribed to deal with ADHD are stimulants and antidepressants. Stimulants work paradoxically to slow down the mental activity of those with ADHD. On the other hand, once people with this condition reach a certain age, antidepressants seem to work more effectively.

Natural Approaches and Adaptogens for ADHD

However, more and more people are turning to natural approaches to deal with this condition. Adaptogens for ADHD may be just as effective as prescription medications without the side effects or potential for long-term addiction.

The following discussion details some of the natural approaches and adaptogens for ADHD.

However, it is important to consider that different supplements and approaches work differently for every person. Therefore, it's best to talk with your doctor first. You may also need to experiment with different approaches until you find what works best for you.

L-Theanine

 An image of green tea brewed on a tableThis powerful amino acid, found naturally in green tea, has a more calming effect than coffee, in spite of the caffeine contained in it. Research shows L-Theanine reduces anxiety and improves mood. It doesn’t cause drowsiness if taken during the day and works quickly to sharpen mental focus. In addition, when combined with coffee, it may help improve concentration and productivity.

Considerations for Taking Green Tea

  • If taken on an empty stomach, green tea may cause toxicity in the liver, digestive tract, and kidneys.
  • You should find out if you have allergies to anything in green tea. It also may react with some prescription medications.
  • Excessive amounts of green tea can lead to iron deficiency or osteoporosis. In addition, if you suffer from glaucoma or have increased ocular pressure, excess amounts of green tea can make these conditions worse.
  • If you have adrenal fatigue and are very sensitive to caffeine, you should also stay away from green tea. You can get L-theanine through a supplement and not from green tea.

Rhodiola Rosea

This powerful adaptogen for ADHD helps restore balance to the body, increases energy, and improves concentration. You can take this adaptogen alone or in combination with other herbs and amino acids.

Considerations for Taking Rhodiola

  • Pregnant and breast-feeding women should probably avoid this adaptogen for ADHD.
  • It may stimulate the nervous system, possibly making autoimmune conditions worse. Some adaptogens could also stimulate the body in later stages of adrenal fatigue, causing paradoxical stimulation rather than calming. Always consult a healthcare practitioner before starting these supplements.
  • Likewise, it also may lower blood sugar levels too much, especially if you take medications for high blood sugar. In addition, it may lower blood pressure too much.

Ashwagandha

Another adaptogen for ADHD, ashwagandha works more to help you relax, fight anxiety, and reduce depression compared to Rhodiola.

Considerations for Taking Ashwagandha

  • Some evidence suggests this adaptogen for ADHD can cause miscarriages. As a result, pregnant and breast-feeding women should avoid it.
  • It could cause blood sugar to drop too low or could interfere with medications for low blood sugar.
  • If you suffer from blood pressure problems and take medications for them, use ashwagandha cautiously.
  • Do not use this adaptogen if you suffer from stomach ulcers.
  • It may stimulate your immune system, thus making autoimmune conditions worse.
  • It may increase thyroid hormone levels. So either use it cautiously or avoid it if you suffer from thyroid problems.
  • Beware that ashwagandha can stimulate or calm, so those with adrenal fatigue that are not stable should not take ashwagandha as a first-line supplement before their adrenals are well supported with other nutrients like Vitamin C or Vitamin B5.

Ginkgo Biloba

Using this adaptogen for ADHD daily leads to improvement in symptoms after about five weeks, according to research.

Considerations for Taking Ginkgo Biloba

  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women should not use this adaptogen.
  • It might interfere with managing diabetes.
  • Some evidence indicates ginkgo biloba may cause seizures. So, if you have ever had a seizure, avoid using it.
  • It might slow blood clotting, so you should stop using this adaptogen for ADHD at least two weeks prior to any surgery.
  • It could be stimulating to those with adrenal fatigue.

Ginseng

This adaptogen for ADHD works to increase energy, boost memory, and increase brain function. In addition, research shows an increase in dopamine and norepinephrine with this adaptogen.

Considerations for Taking Ginseng

  • Pregnant or breastfeeding women should avoid using it.
  • If you suffer from diabetes, conditions that make you sensitive to hormones, insomnia, or some mental conditions, you should consult your healthcare professional before using it.

Magnesium

An image of magnisuem spelled out with scrabble letters above as well as dots below on a tableStudies indicate children with ADHD experience deficiencies in magnesium compared to those without ADHD. Research shows supplementing with two hundred milligrams per day of magnesium could decrease hyperactivity within six months.

Considerations for Taking Magnesium

  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea have been reported as side effects of magnesium. Just lower your dose if you start getting GI symptoms.

Zinc

A number of studies indicate supplementing with zinc could help reduce symptoms of hyperactivity in children. Children with ADHD frequently show a deficiency in zinc. Eating oysters, crab, legumes, and pumpkin seeds can also increase your zinc levels.

Considerations for Taking Zinc

  • High doses of zinc are unsafe for longterm use.
  • It may lower blood sugar in some people. So, if you have problems with low blood sugar, avoid it.
  • Connections have been shown between poor zinc absorption and alcoholism, rheumatoid arthritis, and vegetarian diets.

Vitamin D

Research indicates an association between low serum vitamin D levels and ADHD. For example, this vitamin appears to play a role in supporting attention and impulse control. So, supplementing with vitamin D brings improvement in impulsivity, hyperactivity, inattention, cognitive function, and oppositional behaviors.

Considerations for Taking Vitamin D

  • If you suffer from atherosclerosis, this vitamin may make your condition worse.
  • It may also make high calcium levels in the blood worse, especially with hyperparathyroidism.
  • If you suffer from lymphoma, this vitamin may increase your calcium levels.
  • In addition, if you suffer from kidney disease, tuberculosis, or inflammation, this vitamin may increase calcium levels.

Vitamin B

B vitamins play a large role in attention and executive function. Each of the several B vitamins supports the brain differently. Each of them affects some symptoms of ADHD. And studies indicate a combination of magnesium and vitamin B6 can bring improvement in behavior, decreased aggression, and decreased anxiety.

Considerations for Taking B Vitamins

  • Excessive and unnecessary dosages of B vitamins can cause serious side effects. For example, vomiting, high blood sugar levels, and liver damage may occur.
  • B Vitamins also tend to be stimulating to sensitive adrenal fatigue sufferers. Use with caution.

Omega 3

Research shows omega 3 to be essential in improving brain health, especially impulse control and attention. In addition, it works to decrease inflammation in the body.

Omega 3 can come from consuming wild-caught salmon, flax, and walnuts.

Research indicates people with ADHD have lower levels of these fatty acids than those without ADHD. Consequently, when given supplementation with the fatty acids, their ADHD symptoms improved.

Other Natural Approaches To Dealing With ADHD

  • Removing additives and artificial colorings from foods can lead to increased attention and better behavior.
  • Gluten-containing grains, sugars, and dairy products often serve as triggers for ADHD.
  • In addition, research shows inflammation underlies many brain-related problems. So, controlling inflammation could help control ADHD behaviors.
  • CBD oil contains properties that drive down the level of inflammation in the brain. And it helps relieve anxiety by activating the prefrontal cortex and lowering the activity of the amygdala. In addition, it works to balance GABA and glutamate levels to bring more calm and focus.
  • Boosting serotonin may improve mood swings, impulse control, and help with sleep.
  • Getting sufficient sleep will also help with ADHD symptoms. Behavioral approaches to sleep seem to lead to better and longer sleep.

Conclusions Regarding Adaptogens for ADHD

Many more people are seeking to control ADHD symptoms naturally due to decreased risk of side effects and long-term addiction. Adaptogens for ADHD can bring improvement in symptoms without the risk of rebounding at night, sleeplessness, irritation, or long-term potential for addiction.

Research indicates benefits from using adaptogens for ADHD in the form of increased attention, decreased hyperactivity, increased ability to focus and concentrate, and decreased anxiety, depression, and aggression.

However, while adaptogens for ADHD appear beneficial, they also require some caution. Many of them can cause significant health issues if used in high dosages. Likewise, pregnant and breast-feeding women should not use many of them, although vitamins D, B, and magnesium and zinc appear to be safe in most cases. It's always a good idea to first check with your doctor.

Different supplements affect people differently. So, you may need to try several to decide what works best for you. If you are suffering from Adrenal Fatigue, you might have an opposite reaction to these supplements that could actually make your ADHD symptoms worse. This is why it is important to consult an adrenal fatigue specialist who can help guide you through your recovery journey. If you find that you are sensitive to supplements, this is especially important to prevent adrenal crashes.

What Can You Do Concerning Adaptogens for ADHD?

If you are suffering from ADHD, here are a few things you can do to help alleviate the situation.

  •  A doctor holding an ADHD hologram in his palmConsult with a healthcare professional who knows about ADHD, supplements, and AFS.
  • Control inflammation and reduce stress.
  • Eliminate sugars, processed foods, artificial colors, and artificial flavors from your diet.
  • Get enough sleep.

Whatever course of action you decide to take, however, please do so with the guidance of your healthcare practitioner who will assess a supplement’s benefits for you as well as recommending the correct dosage.

If you would like to know more about or need assistance determining how to use adaptogens for ADHD, the team at Dr. Lam Coaching can help. We offer a free** no-obligation phone consultation at +1-626-571-1234 where we will privately discuss your symptoms and various options. You can also send us a question through our Ask The Doctor system by clicking here.

© Copyright 2021 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

Dr. Lam’s Key Question

Adaptogens for ADHD provide an alternative to traditional medications with fewer side effects and less propensity for addiction. Studies show that these adaptogens, along with some supplements, could help many of the symptoms of ADHD. However, they are not safe for everyone, especially those with AFS, blood sugar and blood pressure issues, and who are pregnant. Be sure to do your research first.

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