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From ADHD to a Focused Calm


Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental condition that affects both children and adults, impacting their ability to focus, control impulses, and manage energy levels. While conventional treatments often involve medications, there is a growing interest in exploring natural and holistic approaches to manage ADHD symptoms. This article delves into some natural ways that may contribute to alleviating ADHD symptoms and some interesting causes that may contribute to the condition.

According to several international studies, ADHD has a genetic link. Many researchers have found that environment, diet, nutritional deficiencies and sensitivities, sweeteners, colourings and additives are all contributing factors.

There are also concerns that ADHD is widely over-diagnosed and over treated. Are we overselling ADHD?

Pharmaceutical companies have heavily invested in the research and development of ADHD drugs which may have lead to an increase in awareness of the condition among doctors. Care should be taken when medicalising what may just be normal childhood behaviour which matures and changes as they grow.

As GP Dr David Turner wrote, “Yes, ADHD is a genuine illness. But as GPs we must be careful who we attach this diagnosis to. In the digital age it is easy to add a label, but virtually impossible to remove it – and in years to come, that is something some of our patients may deeply regret.”

For some people a diagnostic label may help alleviate some of the anxiety around a condition that can lead to a lot of self judgement.

Although there may be a genetic predisposition to ADHD the study of epigenetics shows us that when given the right environment we can influence our genes and so our behaviour and coping mechanisms.

Below are some useful points to consider in the management and treatment of ADHD.

The Optimism of Neuroplasticity

The brain changes most rapidly in childhood but it is now evident that throughout life it continues to grow and evolve according to learning and experience. Optimistically this shows us that we can literally rewire the brain.

But Gabor Mate noted that without a change of environment, “the brain cannot develop new circuits or the mind new ways of relating to the world and to self.” Environment matters.

The hopeful science of epigenetics shows how we influence our genes on a daily basis by what we eat, think and do.

ADHD – An Energy Deficient State

Although children with ADHD are often described as over excited and having too much energy this is actually not the case. It takes a tremendous amount of energy to sit still, stay calm and concentrate, as it does to sleep at night.

This seems confusing but in a low energy state the body compensates by producing more cortisol and adrenaline. This gives the perception of energy.

The brain is an organ that relies heavily on glucose for energy.

Eating a nutrient rich diet is advisable, preferably every 3-5 hours. It is important that glucose is utilised well so foods rich in B vitamins, zinc, biotin and magnesium are important – red meat, root vegetables, eggs, fruit, milk etc. Cinnamon can be added to help balance blood sugar too.

Low Blood Sugar

Low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia) negatively influence electrical activity of the cerebral cortex by causing slow rhythms to appear. Eating regular meals is important.

Some parents report that sugar makes symptoms worse but this often comes in the form of biscuits and sweets that contain other irritating ingredients. Fruit and cheese, milk and honey will be helpful snacks.

Avoiding Gluten

Many parents find that when gluten is removed from the diet ADHD symptoms improve significantly.

Study – A possible association of coeliac disease with psychiatric and psychological disturbances such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has been reported repeatedly.

Screen Culture

We are all screen viewing far too much but if you have ADHD the addiction is even more real. Short attention spans crave the ever changing, fast moving screen images and sounds.

For years the American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) advised parents to prevent children under the age of two from watching TV. That advice all changed in 2016 with guidance on moderate viewing time to be used in conjunction with human interaction.

A recent study found that increased screen time actually causes physical changes in the brain which  negatively impacts a child’s language development and literacy skills.

Excessive screen time also impacts a child’s emotional wellbeing.

The Covid era led to a spike in ADHD diagnosis with the increase of screen use during the Covid lockdowns. being associated with worsening ADHD symptoms.

Video games lead to irritability, impulsiveness and inattentiveness.

Let There Be Light

The incidence of ADHD has increased as children spend more time inside. Interestingly sunnier regions that have more sunlight have fewer cases of ADHD. Sunlight is protective and healing.

The researchers state that the preventive effect might be due to an improved circadian rhythm, our sleep/wake cycle which is caused by exposure to bright sunlight.

Studies show a significantly low level of serum vitamin D in children with ADHD. Regular exposure to daylight could make a difference and Vitamin D levels should be monitored.

Gut Dysbiosis and Candida

It is clear when looking at the astounding vagus nerve that this bi-directional pathway impacts our behaviour and mental health.

New research published this year in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry suggests that the microbial composition of the gut may affect a child’s susceptibility to ADHD.

When comparing fecal samples from 35 children with ADHD and 35 healthy controls, the samples from children with ADHD had higher levels of certain species of fungi and lower levels of other species.

Candida gut bacteria are abundant in children with ADHD. This increases the permeability of cells lining the intestines. Leaky gut allows bacteria to flow into the bloodstream, ultimately resulting in inflammation throughout the body and brain.


The Thyroid

One study found that children with ADHD were more likely to have an under-active thyroid (hypothyroidism). Cold hands and feet, difficulty falling asleep and digestive issues may be apparent.

In his book, Hypothyroidism: The Unsuspected Illness, Dr. Broda Barnes notes that the symptoms of hypothyroidism in children can be reversed with thyroid treatment. Here are some of the many symptoms that he highlights:

  • Slow growth and maturation and the child may remain small
  • Slow reactions and mental sluggishness
  • Slow growth of skin, hair and nails
  • Delayed bone healing
  • Muscles that are sluggish and infiltrated with fat
  • Anaemia that can develop in severe hypothyroidism

He stated that it was better to treat the underlying cause of ADHD rather than to just control the symptoms with medication.

Studies show that thyroid hormone deficiency may seriously effect a child’s brain in the womb and also after birth. Even children exposed to mildly low thyroid levels in the womb had more ADHD symptoms than children whose mothers had typical thyroid levels. Private testing can be done.

The Vagus Nerve

The vagus nerve an important part of the parasympathetic nervous system. Also known as the wandering nerve it is the bi-directional information highway between the brain and the gut. The image shows how gut and brain health impact each other.

When the vagus nerve is functioning as it should we feel grounded and able to cope.

Several studies show that children and adults with ADHD have low vagal tone meaning they struggle to adapt to change.

See here ways to activated the vagus nerve.


MTHFR is a gene AND the enzyme that turns folic acid in to folate. This genetic abnormality and can be common in individuals with ADHD.  Several studies show a strong association between ADHD and low folate levels. MTHFR is required for converting folic acid into 5-methyltetrahydro­folate, the predominant circulating form of folate. It is important to take methylated B vitamins.

Supplements, Minerals and Vitamins for a Focused Calm

Magnesium and vitamin B6 have been shown to be very beneficial for ADHD. Vitamin B6 is also able to increase dopamine and lower glutamate. There is increasing evidence that abnormalities in glutamate signalling may contribute to the pathophysiology of ADHD. Magnesium and zinc can also lower glutamate.  Prolactin is a major dopamine-lowering hormone and zinc can help lower this.

  • A good quality B complex – Low concentrations of Vitamins B2, B6 and B9 (folate) are associated with the ADHD diagnosis.
  • B12 – those with an MTHFR mutation are at higher risk of B12 deficiency.
  • Magnesium – children taking this mineral experienced a significant improvement in hyperactivity, impulsivity, inattention, opposition, and conceptual level compared to those taking medication alone
  • Vitamin D – In addition, magnesium affects Vitamin D metabolism.
  • Zinc – A study found that almost one-third of children diagnosed with ADHD aged 6-16 were severely deficient in serum zinc. In another study those with the lowest blood levels of zinc had the most severe conduct problems, anxiety, and hyperactivity as rated by their parents.
  • Saffron – In a study children and adolescents diagnosed with ADHD received 30 mg of saffron daily or Ritalin. Individuals in both groups showed equivalent and significant improvement in ADHD symptoms.
  • Caffeine  Some studies have found that caffeine can boost concentration for people with ADHD. Since it’s a stimulant drug, it mimics some of the effects of stronger stimulants used to treat ADHD, such as amphetamine medications.
  • L-theanine – L-theanine/-caffeine combination was associated with decreased task-related reactivity of a brain network associated with mind wandering. Studies show L-theanine can improve focus, ease anxiety and stress, and reduce insomnia.
  • Lion’s mane mushroom – Numerous studies show it can combat the effects of brain fog, help concentration and lift mood. It can also support gut health, combats inflammation and promotes antioxidant activity.
  • Children’s Mindlinx Multinutrient a specific vitamin and mineral formula for a focused calm.

This list is not exhaustive and other herbs like Rosemary and Bacopa can be really helpful.

Essentials oils can also help. When children with ADHD inhaled vetiver essential oil three times a day for 30 days they had improved brain wave patterns and behaviour and did better in school.

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