ADHD In the Gut

gut brain

We are learning first hand how ADHD begins and ends in the gut.  It is not a faulty brain wiring effect but a symptom of a body out of balance.  If you feed and nourish the body, the brain will fix itself.

Think about it.  Most children today are eating nutrient deficient convenience foods, all day long.  Breakfast, lunch and dinner with a few horrendously sugar filled processed snacks in between.  Pop tarts or toast (highly processed “fortified” grains, sugars, preservatives), granola bars (sugar, sugar, sugar), pizza or chicken nuggets (processed grains, processed faux cheese, sugar laden tomatoes, ammonia filled aspects of chicken byproducts bound with fillers and powdered grains), soda (sugar, aspartame – a neurotoxin, carcinogen), chips (GMO corn, preservatives, MSG – a neurotoxin) and then for dinner pasta or some other out of a can or box variety of 20 minute dinner, often with sugary deserts and more snacks an hour before bed.  This is NORMAL for most children in our country today.  Day in.  Day out.

Some children might take extra vitamins if they are lucky.  They might eat some berries or apple slices or carrot sticks if their parents insist.  All the well intentioned PSAs from Mrs. Obama are falling on very deaf, and very stressed family ears.  Eating well takes time, knowledge and a financial commitment.  Cheap food is also the worst food.

Our children are not getting the most basic vitamins and minerals and their guts are compromised by vaccines, antibiotics, chemicals in air, water and food.  Our communities, government regulators, policy makers and leaders have failed to protect our children from the onslaught of chemicals in our environment and food supply.  The average American walks into a grocery store and just wants to get out with something they can afford and that will feed their family.  What they end up with is usually more toxic than they realize.

Frankly, given the inputs our children are given, I’m shocked they are growing at all.  Our children are facing an epidemic of metabolic diseases and formerly adult only diseases.  Less than 30 years ago, allergies were not usually fatal.  Few children ever had cancer.  Even fewer had diabetes.  And learning disorders of the magnitude we see now were just unheard of.

npr gut brain

I was stunned to find out that Utah leads the nation in autism rates.  Officially (CDC stats), 1 out of every 47 children in Utah will be diagnosed with autism this year.  Our school special education director said she sees the number being closer to 1 in 9.  I believe she includes children on the spectrum with Aspergers and ADHD.  Salt Lake City has one of the worst pollution “inversion” problems directly related to industrial pollution on the North American continent and the world’s largest mining hole visible from outer space.  On a bad day, children are warned to stay indoors and driving on the highways through pollution pea soup is on par with infamous Beijing, China.  In one very sad way, Americans are gaining on the Chinese.

We live in a giant, organic fish tank.  Planet earth has a fixed biome and we’ve somehow managed to tilt the balance so far off kilter that it may lead to our own extinction.  Nothing is ever thrown away because there is no away.  Every single atom is recycled, for better or for worse.  We kill millions over oil to fuel our constant consumption machine.  Our fish tank is filthy and we have not figured out how to clean it.

What can we do?  We can stop consuming chemicals in our food, air and water.  We need legislation to start the ball rolling in the right direction.  I’m not a fan of big government but our children are up against entrenched and highly profitable industrial Goliaths.  Until we know for sure what is interacting with what in our children’s bodies, there ought to be some sort of limit on chemicals in use.  We need a “precautionary principle” in all civic governance as it relates to “products” released in our air, water and soil.  Literally thousands of chemicals are used in our shared biome without ANY studies of safety.  We know pharmaceutical drugs can be deadly when the wrong ones collide in an individual.  How on earth could anyone possibly know the impact of chemicals we are exposed to daily with each other?

We also need to end giant subsidies to food groups that are suspect (wheat, dairy, meat) and funnel more to organic fruits and vegetables.  I often joke that vegetables really need their own lobby.  It would not be hard to give incentives back to small farmers and encourage “Victory Gardens” the way we did during World War II.  If it’s important (and it is) we can do it.

victory garden

We can start nourishing our bodies with real, living, ripe fruits and vegetables.  We can grow gardens and support local agriculture.  We can stop shopping at big box stores and start spending less of our money on planned obsolescence, manufactured coveting and trends.  We could start making connections between inputs and outputs, nourishing and health, our bodies and our brains.  We are what we eat.  What we are eating is barely edible and certainly not nourishing.

What do we eat?  Fish oils should be high on the list along with other healthy fats like avocado and coconut oil.  Healthy fats are not only recommended but required for healthy brain development and healing.  Fats help carry out the toxins we are exposed to every day and create ourselves when we are under stress.  Without fats, our bodies are forced to store these dangerous chemicals in our own fat cells.  If we don’t have enough cells waiting, our bodies wisely create more.

Unfortunately, most people continue to drink diet sodas and order low and no fat items because they’ve been thoroughly brainwashed over the last forty years.  Before some of us were born, our government was very concerned about heart disease.  They asked the scientists to figure out what was going on.  The scientists said people were getting heart disease because they ate too much meat and fat.  The meat lobby must have had more sway so our government went after fat.  A fledgling convenience food industry lunged at the challenge to create new “foods” that had less fat.  Except food without fat tastes horrible.  So they had to add sugar to make their convenient, modern foods palatable.  The more sugar they added, the more their sales increased.  And thus began the great decline in American health…an unintended, tragic consequence of good intentions relying heavily on speculative, narrowly focused science.  We know better now but the fast food industry lifestyle is so heavily entrenched with families working harder than ever for less income.

coconut oil

It seems like common sense but I’ll say it anyway, to heal the brain, nourish the body.  Don’t pop Costco vitamins.  Make an effort every single day to eat living, nourishing foods.  There are so many foods on that list.  Shop in the fruit and veg department.  Avoid the aisles.  Just don’t even go down them.  Join a CSA (consumer supported agriculture) and get fresh, local produce from your area every week delivered to your door or nearest farmer’s market.  Start even a small herb garden and add vibrant micronutrients to your meals.  Read, research, learn.  After a generation or two now raised on convenience foods, this may seem like a monumental task.  I get it.  I don’t love cooking myself.  But I love being healthy.

Most importantly, I love seeing my son happy and healing.  Every meal he knows he needs “fat bombs” and brain foods.  It has taken us a few months but he is eating a wider range of foods WILLINGLY now.  Yes, he still wants to reach for the sugar converting carbs, but he knows better and he feels better when he doesn’t.  At just seven, he’s learning more about how to nourish his body than I knew for most of my life.


At his last Brain Balance update, his primitive reflex scores were cut in half and every other area of brain and physical development was AT or ABOVE age level.  His reading level improved 150% in just two months.  The combination of diet and targeted exercise is healing his symptoms of ADHD and SPD.  ADHD is not a localized, permanent brain chemical imbalance as mainstream medical claims.  It is a symptom of a body that needs nourishing support to make vital neural connections.  And the brain can and does do that when provided the proper inputs.

As they say at Brain Balance, the brain cannot access or adapt to new inputs before there is functionality.  Diet can be a major obstacle to improved functionality.




Further Information:

How the Gut Brain Influence Mood & Behavior – Scientific American

Gut Bacteria Might Guide the Workings Of Our Minds – NPR

How Fish Oils Healed Brain Injured Boy – CNN

Grain Brain by Perlmutter

Fat Chance by Dr. Lustig

Sugar – the Bitter Truth by Dr. Lustig

In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan

Fed Up – a documentary about the obesity and food crisis by Katie Couric (premiered at Sundance ’14)

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