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  #76   ^
Old Fri, Sep-28-18, 13:50
Luckyk26's Avatar
Luckyk26 Luckyk26 is offline
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For what it's worth, I've been doing a lot of research on CBD oil. It started because my vet suggested it for my dog's seizures. However, they are having great success with depression and autism and all kinds of things with very little side effects. I have no personal experience with it, just thought I'd throw that out there. Hope I don't offend anyone - it wasn't my intention.
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  #77   ^
Old Fri, Sep-28-18, 13:53
Ms Arielle's Avatar
Ms Arielle Ms Arielle is offline
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https://therenegadepharmacist.com/d...ilar-diet-soda/



Quote:

Excitotoxins are shown to freely penetrate certain brain regions and rapidly destroy neurons by hyperactivating the NMDA subtype of Glu receptor in studies.

Cravings for more coke are explained by the release of two neurotransmitters in the brain, dopamine and glutamate.

Caffeine and aspartame increases dopamine levels as shown in various studies.

Aspartic acid taken in its free form (unbound to proteins), significantly raises the blood plasma level of aspartate and glutamate.

Researchers say glutamate is more essential to addiction than dopamine. Source: Phenotype Offers New Perception on Cocaine The Scientist Date: 21 Jan 2002

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7854587


this is misleading as the study above , in which the real thing is used does NOT increase the blood plasma.

caffeine and aspartame increases dopamine.
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  #78   ^
Old Fri, Sep-28-18, 13:59
Ms Arielle's Avatar
Ms Arielle Ms Arielle is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Luckyk26
For what it's worth, I've been doing a lot of research on CBD oil. It started because my vet suggested it for my dog's seizures. However, they are having great success with depression and autism and all kinds of things with very little side effects. I have no personal experience with it, just thought I'd throw that out there. Hope I don't offend anyone - it wasn't my intention.



Thanks for your input. No offense. It is legal in this state.

Will try to research it more. It has not come up in any thing yet, but it could be because it has not been an accepted option for so many reasons.

THe only thing I know is that Dr AMen is not a supporter of smoking the leaves. His take is that the effect is not localized enough: hurting some areas and helping some areas of the brain at the same time.

Perhaps more information is now available.
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  #79   ^
Old Fri, Sep-28-18, 14:05
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Luckyk26 Luckyk26 is offline
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I would assume smoking would increase the risks of other health risks too - although I could be wrong. This was a good article because it explains how it helps the brain function properly. https://cannabismd.com/health/autis...nd-mild-autism/

My boyfriends daughter (now son) has autism, aspergers, is transgender, has an eating disorder and is suicidal. I know the feeling of wanting to do absolutely everything and feeling powerless. Hopefully something helps.
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  #80   ^
Old Fri, Sep-28-18, 14:57
Ms Arielle's Avatar
Ms Arielle Ms Arielle is offline
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Thank you. Trying to help the brain is a struggle. Too few experts know what they are talking about. So I look to Dr AMen and work from there.

Found this:

Quote:
Using CBD Oil for Anxiety: Does It Work?
How it works
What the research says
Side effects
Is it legal?
Overview
Early research shows promising signs that a product made from cannabis known as cannabidiol (CBD) oil may help relieve anxiety. CBD is a type of cannabinoid, a chemical found naturally in marijuana and hemp plants. Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), another type of cannabinoid, CBD doesn’t cause any feelings of intoxication or the “high” you may associate with cannabis. Learn more about the potential benefits of CBD oil for anxiety, and whether it could be a treatment option for you.

How CBD oil can help anxiety
CBD oil is thought to work with a brain receptor called CB1. Receptors are tiny proteins attached to your cells that receive chemical signals from different stimuli and help your cells respond.

The exact way CBD affects CB1 is not fully understood. However, it’s thought that it alters serotonin signals. Serotonin is one of your body’s chemicals and plays a role in your mental health. Low serotonin levels are common in depression. Not having enough serotonin can also cause anxiety in some people.

The conventional treatment for low serotonin is prescription selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Zoloft and Prozac are both SSRIs. CBD, for some people, may be an alternative to SSRIs for anxiety management. However, you should talk to your doctor before making changes to your treatment plan.

Research and evidence
Several studies point to the potential benefits of CBD for anxiety. For generalized anxiety, the National Institute on Drug Abuse says that CBD has been shown to reduce stress in animal studies. Study subjects were observed as having lower behavioral signs of anxiety. Their physiological symptoms of anxiety, like increased heart rate, also improved.

Studies have also shown some benefits for other forms of anxiety, such as social anxiety disorder (SAD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). CBD may also help treat anxiety-induced insomnia.

In 2011, a human study on CBD and its effects on SAD was published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology. Participants were given either an oral dose of 400 milligrams of CBD or a placebo. The results showed that those who took the CBD dose experienced overall reduced anxiety levels.

On the other hand, a 2017 comprehensive review of CBD studies in psychiatric disorders found inconclusive results. According to the authors, there isn’t enough evidence to claim CBD as a treatment for depression. However, the authors do note positive results for anxiety disorders. Based on their review, more human tests are needed to better understand how it works, what ideal dosages should be, and if there are potential side effects or hazards.

CBD has also been studied in other neurological disorders. A 2016 study found some antipsychotic benefits of CBD in schizophrenia. The authors indicated a preference for CBD over antipsychotic drugs, which are known to cause significant debilitating side effects.

CBD oil side effects
CBD is generally considered safe. However, some people who take CBD may experience side effects, including:

gastrointestinal discomfort
sleeping difficulties
mood changes
dry mouth
dizziness
fatigue
You shouldn’t stop taking any medications you’re already using without talking to your doctor first. Using CBD oil may help your anxiety, but you could also experience withdrawal symptoms if you suddenly stop taking your prescription medications. Symptoms of withdrawal include:

irritability
dizziness
nausea
fogginess
Is CBD oil legal?
CBD oil isn’t legal everywhere. In the United States, some states allow it for only specific medical purposes and some don’t. You may need to get a license from your doctor to be able to use CBD. If cannabis is approved for medical use in your state, you may be able to purchase CBD oil online or in special cannabis stores or clinics. As research on CBD continues, more states may consider the legalization of cannabis products.

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  #81   ^
Old Fri, Sep-28-18, 15:51
Ms Arielle's Avatar
Ms Arielle Ms Arielle is offline
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Quote:
Blueberry Headband
This is another hybrid strain, with a THC content of 18-26% and a CBD content of under 1.0%.

It’s perfect for those looking to stimulate their creative sides, and will also give you a serious boost of energy. It will also help you to be more social, which means it’s awesome for those with Autism.


https://cannabismd.com/health/autis...nd-mild-autism/
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  #82   ^
Old Fri, Sep-28-18, 17:28
Ms Arielle's Avatar
Ms Arielle Ms Arielle is offline
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Need to compare this to Dr AMen's section on temporal lobe ADD


Quote:
Endocannabinoids can also play a role in excitation of the neuronal networks, thus having effect on the quality of a seizure. Previous studies have documented deficiencies in endocannabinoids in temporal lobe epilepsy patients as well as a rise in anandamide concentrations post seizures in mice, suggesting an antiseizure activity profile.


https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5473390/
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  #83   ^
Old Fri, Sep-28-18, 17:33
Ms Arielle's Avatar
Ms Arielle Ms Arielle is offline
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Quote:

THC is a partial agonist at both CB1 and CB2 receptors and achieves its psychoactive properties likely through modulation of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and glutamine. THC seems to possess antiseizure activity but may be a proconvulsant in certain species.1


Dr AMen discusses GABA-- find pages in Healing ADD book


Quote:
The authors summarized the finding that a CBD dose of 200 mg to 300 mg daily was safely administered over a short period. The only reasonable conclusion made was that the efficacy of CBD use could not be confirmed, but the rate of adverse reactions in each of the studies was low over a short period.


Quote:
results from mice and pig models demonstrate that CBD can reduce the density of necrotic neurons and modulate cytokine release.


Quote:
Tumor growth in both the THC and CBD groups was significantly reduced.

Last edited by Ms Arielle : Fri, Sep-28-18 at 18:00.
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  #84   ^
Old Fri, Sep-28-18, 18:25
Ms Arielle's Avatar
Ms Arielle Ms Arielle is offline
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http://n.neurology.org/content/90/15_Supplement/P3.318

Quote:
Cannabidiol Based Medical Cannabis in Children with Autism- a Retrospective Feasibility Study (P3.318)
ADI ARAN, Hanoch Cassuto, Asael Lubotzky
First published April 9, 2018,

Abstract
Objective: This retrospective study assessed safety, tolerability and efficacy of cannabidiol (CBD) based medical cannabis, as an adjuvant therapy, for refractory behavioral problems in children with ASD.

Background: Anecdotal evidence of successful cannabis treatment in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are accumulating but formal studies are lacking.

Design/Methods: Sixty children with ASD (age = 11.8± 3.5, range 5.0–17.5; 77% low functioning; 83% boys) were treated with oral CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) at a ratio of 20:1. The dose was up-titrated to effect (maximal CBD dose − 10mg/kg/d). Tolerability and efficacy were assessed using a modified Liverpool Adverse Events Profile, the Caregiver Global Impression of Change (CGIC) scale, the Home Situations Questionnaire–Autism Spectrum Disorder (HSQ-ASD) and the Autism Parenting Stress Index (APSI).

Results: Following the cannabis treatment, behavioral outbreaks were much improved or very much improved (on the CGIC scale) in 61% of patients. The anxiety and communication problems were much or very much improved in 39% and 47% respectively. Disruptive behaviors, were improved by 29% from 4.74±1.82 as recorded at baseline on the HSQ-ASD to 3.36±1.56 following the treatment. Parents reported less stress as reflected in the APSI scores, changing by 33% from 2.04±0.77 to 1.37±0.59. The effect on all outcome measures was more apparent in boys with non-syndromic ASD. Adverse events included sleep disturbances (14%) irritability (9%) and loss of appetite (9%).

Conclusions: This preliminary study support the feasibility of CBD based medical cannabis as a promising treatment option for refractory behavioral problems in children with ASD. Based on these promising results, we have launched a large, double blind, placebo controlled cross-over trial with 120 participants (NCT02956226).

Study Supported by: N/A

Disclosure: Dr. ARAN has nothing to disclose. Dr. Cassuto has nothing to disclose. Dr. Lubotzky has nothing to disclose.

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  #85   ^
Old Fri, Sep-28-18, 18:31
Ms Arielle's Avatar
Ms Arielle Ms Arielle is offline
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April 10, 2018; 90 (15 Supplement) APRIL 22, 2018
Exposure-Response Analysis of Cannabidiol (CBD) Oral Solution for the Treatment of Lennox–Gastaut Syndrome (P1.271)
Gilmour Morrison, Maria Luisa Sardu, Christian Hove Rasmussen, Kenneth Sommerville, Claire Roberts, Graham E. Blakey
First published April 9, 2018,


Quote:
Results: Both dose levels showed a separation between the change from baseline of drop seizures for active treatment compared to placebo after approximately 15 days. At the 20mg/kg dose, a higher proportion of patients achieved ≥75% and 100% seizure reduction. Logistic regression analysis of the drop seizure responder rate revealed a significant (p<0.01) positive correlation with the AUC for CBD and 7-OH-CBD exposures. Predicted probability of response was in the order of 80% for the highest AUCs. For several AEs, logistic regression found a significant positive correlation between the probability of a subject having at least one AE and the respective AUC of the analytes.

Conclusions: Results suggest that the observed efficacy and safety responses are directly related to CBD and 7-OH-CBD exposure. Add-on CBD could represent a viable treatment for an otherwise pharmacoresistant condition.

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  #86   ^
Old Fri, Sep-28-18, 18:36
Ms Arielle's Avatar
Ms Arielle Ms Arielle is offline
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Quote:

In a seminal article published in 1943, Leo Kanner1 described cases of school-aged children with notable impairments in social interaction and the presence of somewhat atypical, often repetitive, behaviors, which he characterized as “inborn autistic disturbances of affective contact.” While the term “autism” was coined by Bleuler in the early 1900s in connection with schizophrenia, it was Kanner (and then Asperger) who laid the foundation for autism being considered a neurodevelopmental disorder. Not until 1980, however, did autism become a formal clinical diagnosis (American Psychiatric Association, DSM-III, 1980). Since then, the term has evolved to encompass a wide range of cognitive abilities, comorbidities, and developmental stages known collectively as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and increased awareness and broadening of this spectrum have been accompanied by a rapid rise in prevalence, now estimated to be 1:68 children.2


http://n.neurology.org/content/88/14/1303

Last edited by Ms Arielle : Sat, Sep-29-18 at 07:35.
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  #87   ^
Old Mon, Oct-01-18, 07:29
Ms Arielle's Avatar
Ms Arielle Ms Arielle is offline
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More on MAIOs ---one source said these are no longer in favor as the it also interferes with other biochemicals that cause side effects.


Other sources to look at
http://n.neurology.org/
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  #88   ^
Old Sat, Oct-27-18, 09:26
s93uv3h s93uv3h is online now
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Have you seen Janet's thread on Dr. Mark Hyman's Broken Brain video series? One video each day for 8 days. Tonight (and tomorrow) - Episode 4 - ADHD and Autism will show. Sign up below to get the video links:

https://brokenbrain.com/trailer/?id=1

Janet's Broken Brain thread:

https://forum.lowcarber.org/showthr...135#post9303135



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  #89   ^
Old Mon, Dec-17-18, 08:47
s93uv3h s93uv3h is online now
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Attention! Is Your Diet Causing ADHD? 2012 - Dr. Georgia Ede

What is ADHD?
Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, affects about 4% of children and about 2% of adults. ADHD is a complex condition and poorly named, because it is not really an attention deficit—but rather an inability to regulate attention. People with ADHD have trouble directing attention to what’s most important, and sustaining that attention for as long as required. This can cause all kinds of problems in school, at home, on the road, at work, and in relationships.

I would estimate that about a quarter of my students at Harvard University and Smith College present with a chief complaint of “difficulty concentrating.” When I worked at the Hallowell Center, which specializes in the treatment of people with attention-related disorders, 100% of clients came to me because of problems with focus and productivity. Nearly every psychiatric diagnosis—depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, substance abuse, and PTSD, just to name a few—can affect the ability to concentrate. Even common issues like stress or lack of sleep can impair attention. Therefore, the majority of people who have attention problems do not turn out to have ADHD after all, which is why a skilled psychiatric evaluation is so important in determining the underlying problem. Whether you are interested in treating ADHD with diet or simply improving your concentration, it is important to understand how diet affects attention regulation.

The Chemistry of Concentration
We psychiatrists are fond of saying that ADHD is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, and that medicines can help to correct the imbalance. There are at least two brain chemicals (or “neurotransmitters”) that seem to be involved in ADHD: dopamine and norepinephrine. These are tiny messengers that send signals from one brain cell to the next. If levels of dopamine or norepinephrine are too low, or if the system that processes these neurotransmitters is not functioning properly, a stimulant medication (like Ritalin® or Adderall®) might help by forcing brain cells to release higher amounts of these chemicals. But what causes the chemical imbalance in the first place? Why are the levels of these chemicals too low in the first place? Where do these chemicals come from?

Brain chemicals come from food.
After all, where else could they possibly come from? This seems so obvious, but many doctors don’t think about the connection. We are trained to think about which medications might correct the imbalance, not what causes it in the first place. Which foods does your body need to make these important chemicals?

Dopamine and norepinephrine are made from protein.
The body breaks down proteins in foods like fish, chicken, and beef, into amino acids, and one of these amino acids is called tyrosine. The body then uses special chemical reactions to turn tyrosine into the dopamine and norepinephrine brain cells need to communicate with each other:

TYROSINE → DOPAMINE → NOREPINEPHRINE

Therefore, those not getting enough protein (especially at breakfast), may have difficulty concentrating. For more information about proteins and amino acids, including daily requirements and best food sources, see my protein page.

The brain is mostly made of fat.
Yes, even yours About 2/3 of the brain is made of fat, and about 20% of that fat should consist of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids keep cell membranes flexible and healthy. Without these special polyunsaturated fats, brain cells become stiff and can’t communicate with each other easily. So, even if there is plenty of dopamine and norepinephrine around, brain cells may not be able to pass these chemicals back and forth properly if the right fats aren’t built in to their membranes.

The brain is picky about omega-3’s
The brain’s favorite omega-3 fatty acid is called DHA. There are 3 types of omega-3 fatty acids: ALA, DHA, and EPA. ALA is found in both plant and animal foods. Popular vegetarian sources of ALA include flaxseed, walnuts, and chia seeds. ALA is often called the “parent” omega-3 because of this pathway:

ALA → EPA → DHA

From looking at this pathway, you might think that if you eat enough ALA, you’re all set. But here’s the problem–the body has a very hard time converting ALA to EPA and DHA, so about 95% of it remains stuck in the form of ALA. However, we convert EPA to DHA very easily. This means that in order to be sure our brain gets enough DHA, we need to eat EPA and DHA themselves. Plant foods do not contain any EPA or DHA. EPA and DHA are hard to find in the typical American diet, because the best sources are wild animal foods, such as cold-water, fatty fish (like salmon and mackerel), and naturally-raised animals, such as grass-fed cows and pasture-raised chickens. This is why public health officials sometimes recommend omega-3 supplements. These supplements are typically in the form of fish oil, but there are also new vegan-friendly supplements available which are made from algae.

Omega-3’s and ADHD
There have been many studies of omega-3 fatty acids in the treatment of ADHD, but most have shown no benefit or only modest improvement compared to medications. However, many experts seem to agree with this conclusion, quoted from a recent review [Bloch 2011]:

“Based on the currently available evidence, using omega-3 fatty acid supplementation in lieu of traditional pharmacologic treatments is not recommended in children with significant ADHD symptoms. However, given the evidence of modest efficacy of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation and its relatively benign side-effect profile, omega-3 fatty acid supplementation, particularly with higher doses of EPA, is a reasonable treatment strategy as augmentation to traditional pharmacotherapy or for those families reticent to use psychopharmacologic agents.”

The bottom line is that medications seemed to work much better than omega-3 supplements. In the studies that did show a modest benefit from omega-3’s, the doses of EPA that seemed to work best were between 300 and 600 mg per day. But wait…doesn’t the brain prefer DHA? Yes. Even though the brain loves and needs lots of DHA to work properly, researchers find that EPA supplements seem to work much better than DHA supplements. As these were short-term studies, the thinking is that EPA works better because of its fast-acting anti-inflammatory properties.

Is your brain unbalanced?
There’s another kind of essential polyunsaturated fatty acid we need to take into consideration: omega-6. Theoretically, if you eat too much omega-6, it is harder for the omega-3’s to work properly, because they compete with each other. Many scientists believe that these two types of polyusaturated fats–the omega-3’s and the omega-6’s–need to be in balance for our brains and bodies to function at their best. Omega-6 fatty acids are found in a wide variety of plant and animal foods, but certain kinds of plant foods are extremely high in omega-6. Animal fats contain on average 10-20% omega-6, whereas vegetable oils, such as soybean, corn, peanut, and sunflower oil, contain 50-80% omega-6. The average American eats a diet that is far too high in omega-6 and far too low in omega-3. Would the omega-3 ADHD studies have been more impressive if the people in the experiments were also asked to reduce the amount of omega-6 they were eating? Hard to say..

For more information about omega-3 fatty acids, the difference between EPA and other omega-3’s, best food sources, and how to improve your omega-3 balance, please see my fats page.

Minerals are mandatory: Iron and Zinc
Iron is the most prevalent mineral in the body. When we think of iron, we usually think about its role in our red blood cells, where it functions to carry oxygen from the lungs out to all of our cells; we don’t usually think of it as a brain mineral, but remember our neurotransmitter pathway from the top of this article? The first step on the road from tyrosine to dopamine and norepinephrine requires an enzyme called tyrosine hydroxylase, and this enzyme needs iron in order to do its job. Iron is also important in regulating dopamine function. Therefore, iron deficiency, which is relatively common, can impair concentration.

The second most common mineral in the body is ZINC. Brain cells that release dopamine out into the “synapse” (space between cells where communication occurs) vacuum it back up using a dopamine transporter. This crucial transporter is regulated by zinc. Zinc binds to the dopamine transporter and slows it down, allowing dopamine to remain active in the synapse for a longer period of time before being pulled back into the cell to be recycled. It is essentially a natural “dopamine reuptake inhibitor.” Interestingly, this is also one of the ways in which stimulant medications work to improve dopamine activity.

There have been two clinical trials of zinc supplements in the treatment of ADHD, both of which noted some benefit. An Iranian study found that Ritalin + (15 mg of elemental) zinc given for 6 weeks worked twice as well as Ritalin + a sugar pill. A Turkish study found that (40 mg of elemental) zinc given for 12 weeks worked twice as well as a sugar pill.

Zinc and iron supplements can be hard to stomach. Zinc frequently causes nausea, and iron supplements can cause constipation and other gastrointestinal problems. Are there alternatives to supplements for people who have mineral deficiencies? What is causing these deficiencies in the first place? Are there dietary changes we can make that can improve our mineral status?

Plant foods are very low in zinc, whereas animal foods are excellent sources of zinc.

While both plant and animal foods contain iron, the type of iron found in animal foods (called “heme” iron) is 8 times more bioavailable (useful) to us than the type found in plant foods.

Seed foods (which include grains, beans, and nuts) contain phytic acid, which interferes with our ability to absorb essential minerals. For more information, please see my grains/beans/nuts/seeds page.

Some plant foods contain tannins, which interfere with iron absorption. For more information, please see my fruits page.

Tips for treating ADHD with Diet

Be sure to eat some protein at breakfast

Include foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids in your diet (healthy animal foods), or take a daily supplement containing at least 300 mg of EPA
Reduce omega-6 intake by minimizing vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds
Improve mineral absorption by reducing phytic acid intake (minimize grains, beans, nuts and seeds)

If you have iron deficiency, increase meat intake and reduce phytic acid intake (grains, beans, nuts, and seeds) and/or take a heme iron supplement.
Improve zinc status by reducing phytic acid intake (minimize grains, beans, nuts, and seeds), and including animal foods in your diet. Zinc supplements may also be helpful.

If you eat a vegan or vegetarian diet, please see my vegan diets page for information about how to optimize your mineral status.

So, paying more attention to the quality of your diet just might help you pay more attention to…everything.

Learn more about how to treat your ADHD with diet in my posts “Sugar and ADHD” and “Food Sensitivities and ADHD.”
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  #90   ^
Old Mon, Dec-17-18, 09:02
Ms Arielle's Avatar
Ms Arielle Ms Arielle is offline
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THIS IS EXCELLENT. Sums up my understanding of the situation. My one note is that oysters are a great source of zinc. ANd animal sources for minerals is better absorbed by the body. Hence I have been buying more grassfed beef for my son. He gets protein, iron and zinc and better omega 3- omega 6 profile. ( BUy it when I can)

Just picked up an DHA/ EPA supplement. ANd coQ 10 as that is often low as well.

Seems like with many ADDers there are other issues also going on at the same time. My son gets sick a LOT. Picked up a book by Deprak looking at the body type for info on its health, and how to use meditation and calming meethods to find balance ( for the type A person in the old AMerican system.) Anxiety is an underlying issue and the stress of HS. Lots of headaches .

IMHO diet is very underrated.


Quote:
Originally Posted by s93uv3h
Attention! Is Your Diet Causing ADHD? 2012 - Dr. Georgia Ede

What is ADHD?
Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, affects about 4% of children and about 2% of adults. ADHD is a complex condition and poorly named, because it is not really an attention deficit—but rather an inability to regulate attention. People with ADHD have trouble directing attention to what’s most important, and sustaining that attention for as long as required. This can cause all kinds of problems in school, at home, on the road, at work, and in relationships.

I would estimate that about a quarter of my students at Harvard University and Smith College present with a chief complaint of “difficulty concentrating.” When I worked at the Hallowell Center, which specializes in the treatment of people with attention-related disorders, 100% of clients came to me because of problems with focus and productivity. Nearly every psychiatric diagnosis—depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, substance abuse, and PTSD, just to name a few—can affect the ability to concentrate. Even common issues like stress or lack of sleep can impair attention. Therefore, the majority of people who have attention problems do not turn out to have ADHD after all, which is why a skilled psychiatric evaluation is so important in determining the underlying problem. Whether you are interested in treating ADHD with diet or simply improving your concentration, it is important to understand how diet affects attention regulation.

The Chemistry of Concentration
We psychiatrists are fond of saying that ADHD is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, and that medicines can help to correct the imbalance. There are at least two brain chemicals (or “neurotransmitters”) that seem to be involved in ADHD: dopamine and norepinephrine. These are tiny messengers that send signals from one brain cell to the next. If levels of dopamine or norepinephrine are too low, or if the system that processes these neurotransmitters is not functioning properly, a stimulant medication (like Ritalin® or Adderall®) might help by forcing brain cells to release higher amounts of these chemicals. But what causes the chemical imbalance in the first place? Why are the levels of these chemicals too low in the first place? Where do these chemicals come from?

Brain chemicals come from food.
After all, where else could they possibly come from? This seems so obvious, but many doctors don’t think about the connection. We are trained to think about which medications might correct the imbalance, not what causes it in the first place. Which foods does your body need to make these important chemicals?

Dopamine and norepinephrine are made from protein.
The body breaks down proteins in foods like fish, chicken, and beef, into amino acids, and one of these amino acids is called tyrosine. The body then uses special chemical reactions to turn tyrosine into the dopamine and norepinephrine brain cells need to communicate with each other:

TYROSINE → DOPAMINE → NOREPINEPHRINE

Therefore, those not getting enough protein (especially at breakfast), may have difficulty concentrating. For more information about proteins and amino acids, including daily requirements and best food sources, see my protein page.

The brain is mostly made of fat.
Yes, even yours About 2/3 of the brain is made of fat, and about 20% of that fat should consist of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids keep cell membranes flexible and healthy. Without these special polyunsaturated fats, brain cells become stiff and can’t communicate with each other easily. So, even if there is plenty of dopamine and norepinephrine around, brain cells may not be able to pass these chemicals back and forth properly if the right fats aren’t built in to their membranes.

The brain is picky about omega-3’s
The brain’s favorite omega-3 fatty acid is called DHA. There are 3 types of omega-3 fatty acids: ALA, DHA, and EPA. ALA is found in both plant and animal foods. Popular vegetarian sources of ALA include flaxseed, walnuts, and chia seeds. ALA is often called the “parent” omega-3 because of this pathway:

ALA → EPA → DHA

From looking at this pathway, you might think that if you eat enough ALA, you’re all set. But here’s the problem–the body has a very hard time converting ALA to EPA and DHA, so about 95% of it remains stuck in the form of ALA. However, we convert EPA to DHA very easily. This means that in order to be sure our brain gets enough DHA, we need to eat EPA and DHA themselves. Plant foods do not contain any EPA or DHA. EPA and DHA are hard to find in the typical American diet, because the best sources are wild animal foods, such as cold-water, fatty fish (like salmon and mackerel), and naturally-raised animals, such as grass-fed cows and pasture-raised chickens. This is why public health officials sometimes recommend omega-3 supplements. These supplements are typically in the form of fish oil, but there are also new vegan-friendly supplements available which are made from algae.

Omega-3’s and ADHD
There have been many studies of omega-3 fatty acids in the treatment of ADHD, but most have shown no benefit or only modest improvement compared to medications. However, many experts seem to agree with this conclusion, quoted from a recent review [Bloch 2011]:

“Based on the currently available evidence, using omega-3 fatty acid supplementation in lieu of traditional pharmacologic treatments is not recommended in children with significant ADHD symptoms. However, given the evidence of modest efficacy of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation and its relatively benign side-effect profile, omega-3 fatty acid supplementation, particularly with higher doses of EPA, is a reasonable treatment strategy as augmentation to traditional pharmacotherapy or for those families reticent to use psychopharmacologic agents.”

The bottom line is that medications seemed to work much better than omega-3 supplements. In the studies that did show a modest benefit from omega-3’s, the doses of EPA that seemed to work best were between 300 and 600 mg per day. But wait…doesn’t the brain prefer DHA? Yes. Even though the brain loves and needs lots of DHA to work properly, researchers find that EPA supplements seem to work much better than DHA supplements. As these were short-term studies, the thinking is that EPA works better because of its fast-acting anti-inflammatory properties.

Is your brain unbalanced?
There’s another kind of essential polyunsaturated fatty acid we need to take into consideration: omega-6. Theoretically, if you eat too much omega-6, it is harder for the omega-3’s to work properly, because they compete with each other. Many scientists believe that these two types of polyusaturated fats–the omega-3’s and the omega-6’s–need to be in balance for our brains and bodies to function at their best. Omega-6 fatty acids are found in a wide variety of plant and animal foods, but certain kinds of plant foods are extremely high in omega-6. Animal fats contain on average 10-20% omega-6, whereas vegetable oils, such as soybean, corn, peanut, and sunflower oil, contain 50-80% omega-6. The average American eats a diet that is far too high in omega-6 and far too low in omega-3. Would the omega-3 ADHD studies have been more impressive if the people in the experiments were also asked to reduce the amount of omega-6 they were eating? Hard to say..

For more information about omega-3 fatty acids, the difference between EPA and other omega-3’s, best food sources, and how to improve your omega-3 balance, please see my fats page.

Minerals are mandatory: Iron and Zinc
Iron is the most prevalent mineral in the body. When we think of iron, we usually think about its role in our red blood cells, where it functions to carry oxygen from the lungs out to all of our cells; we don’t usually think of it as a brain mineral, but remember our neurotransmitter pathway from the top of this article? The first step on the road from tyrosine to dopamine and norepinephrine requires an enzyme called tyrosine hydroxylase, and this enzyme needs iron in order to do its job. Iron is also important in regulating dopamine function. Therefore, iron deficiency, which is relatively common, can impair concentration.

The second most common mineral in the body is ZINC. Brain cells that release dopamine out into the “synapse” (space between cells where communication occurs) vacuum it back up using a dopamine transporter. This crucial transporter is regulated by zinc. Zinc binds to the dopamine transporter and slows it down, allowing dopamine to remain active in the synapse for a longer period of time before being pulled back into the cell to be recycled. It is essentially a natural “dopamine reuptake inhibitor.” Interestingly, this is also one of the ways in which stimulant medications work to improve dopamine activity.

There have been two clinical trials of zinc supplements in the treatment of ADHD, both of which noted some benefit. An Iranian study found that Ritalin + (15 mg of elemental) zinc given for 6 weeks worked twice as well as Ritalin + a sugar pill. A Turkish study found that (40 mg of elemental) zinc given for 12 weeks worked twice as well as a sugar pill.

Zinc and iron supplements can be hard to stomach. Zinc frequently causes nausea, and iron supplements can cause constipation and other gastrointestinal problems. Are there alternatives to supplements for people who have mineral deficiencies? What is causing these deficiencies in the first place? Are there dietary changes we can make that can improve our mineral status?

Plant foods are very low in zinc, whereas animal foods are excellent sources of zinc.

While both plant and animal foods contain iron, the type of iron found in animal foods (called “heme” iron) is 8 times more bioavailable (useful) to us than the type found in plant foods.

Seed foods (which include grains, beans, and nuts) contain phytic acid, which interferes with our ability to absorb essential minerals. For more information, please see my grains/beans/nuts/seeds page.

Some plant foods contain tannins, which interfere with iron absorption. For more information, please see my fruits page.

Tips for treating ADHD with Diet

Be sure to eat some protein at breakfast

Include foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids in your diet (healthy animal foods), or take a daily supplement containing at least 300 mg of EPA
Reduce omega-6 intake by minimizing vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds
Improve mineral absorption by reducing phytic acid intake (minimize grains, beans, nuts and seeds)

If you have iron deficiency, increase meat intake and reduce phytic acid intake (grains, beans, nuts, and seeds) and/or take a heme iron supplement.
Improve zinc status by reducing phytic acid intake (minimize grains, beans, nuts, and seeds), and including animal foods in your diet. Zinc supplements may also be helpful.

If you eat a vegan or vegetarian diet, please see my vegan diets page for information about how to optimize your mineral status.

So, paying more attention to the quality of your diet just might help you pay more attention to…everything.

Learn more about how to treat your ADHD with diet in my posts “Sugar and ADHD” and “Food Sensitivities and ADHD.”
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