If you hear about someone suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), you’ll probably assume that it’s a child or adolescent. That’s understandable—more than six million youngsters have been diagnosed with the disorder. But that’s only part of the ADHD story.
Surprising statistic: More than 10 million adults may have ADHD, according to research published in The American Journal of Psychiatry.
What’s more, research shows that less than 10% of adults with ADHD have ever received a diagnosis to explain their symptoms—problems such as an inability to focus and/or impulsivity…traits that may have led to marriage troubles, a stalled career or depression. The majority of adults with ADHD have struggled since childhood.
Even worse, many adults who suspect they have ADHD may forgo diagnosis and treatment because the go-to therapies include stimulant prescription drugs, such as methylphenidate (Ritalin) or dextroamphetamine and amphetamine (Adderall), with many possible side effects such as irritability, agitation, anxiety, insomnia and facial tics.
A better approach: Science-based natural therapies that restore biochemical balance to the brain. Over the past three decades, I have treated thousands of adults and children with these therapies—and found them highly effective.
Important: If you think you have ADHD, seek out a professional (such as a psychologist, psychiatrist or social worker) who has experience treating people with the problem. If you are diagnosed with the condition, talk to your doctor about using one or more of these natural treatments before taking a prescription drug. If you and your doctor determine that you do require a prescription medication, these nondrug therapies may help such drugs work more effectively.
Among the best natural therapies, based on research and my clinical experience, for adults with ADHD…*
Nutritional supplements known as oligomeric proanthocyanidins, or OPCs for short, are usually made from grape seeds, pine bark and/or green tea.
What OPCs do: These plant extracts appear to regulate brain waves, as I’ve observed using an electroencephalograph (EEG), a device that records electrical activity of the brain. My patients using OPCs become more focused in conversation, and I’ve even seen illegible handwriting become readable.
Good advice: The best supplements combine several OPCs. One such product is CurcumaSorb Mind, made by Pure Encapsulations. It contains pine bark extract, green tea extract, blueberry extract and grape extract. Another good product is OPC-3 from Isotonix.
At least half the people in the US don’t get enough of this nutrient, which is involved in more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body.
What magnesium does: Low magnesium can undercut the functioning of glutamate receptors, areas in brain cells that assist the movement of neurotransmitters. The possible results include poor concentration and irritability, anxiety, depression, mood swings, fatigue and sleeping problems.
Good advice: Ask your doctor whether you should be taking a magnesium supplement.
Also: Add magnesium-rich foods to your diet, including nuts, seeds, dark chocolate, leafy greens, such as spinach, and avocado.
OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS
Sixty percent of your brain is fat, which means that this vital organ depends on a steady supply of essential fatty acids, the building blocks of fat, for its health and function.
What omega-3s do: Just about every aspect of neurotransmission—the movement of information from brain cell to brain cell that supports every thought, emotion and action—is affected by omega-3s. Fatty fish and fish oil supply two of the most important omega-3 fatty acids—EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).
Good advice: Eat at least two weekly servings of omega-3–rich fish and take a high-quality (molecularly distilled and tested for environmental contaminants such as heavy metals and PCBs) fish oil or krill oil supplement (1 g to 2 g daily).
If your symptoms of ADHD include irritability, anger and impulsivity, low-dose lithium may help.
What low-dose lithium does: High doses of this mineral are prescribed for bipolar disorder. But very low doses of lithium can be a safe and effective nutritional treatment for ADHD when taken to calm the turbulent emotions that may agitate people with the disorder.
Good advice: Ask your doctor whether it makes sense for you to take 5 mg of lithium orotate, available over the counter, each day.
Also helpful: A diet that limits refined sugar and carbohydrates and emphasizes protein, which promotes the production of dopamine—one of the neurotransmitters that aids focus and attention.
DO YOU HAVE ADHD?
Adults who have ADHD often experience difficulty paying attention, feelings of restlessness and impulsive behavior. These symptoms can result in dangerous driving, poor financial decisions, missed deadlines and substance abuse, among other issues. If you have one or more of the following symptoms that is ongoing and severe enough to negatively impact your life, talk to your doctor…
Impulsiveness…lack of focus…mood swings…easily frustrated… inability to cope with stress…problems planning, prioritizing, multitasking or completing tasks…restlessness…quick temper…disorganization.
*These therapies are generally safe and best tried in the order they appear here, but check with your doctor first, especially if you take medication or have a chronic medical condition.