ADHD,ADHD Parents,Adult ADHD

More Than Medication for treating ADHD18 Nov

Sarah Ferman, Psy.D., L.M.F.T.

While medication is often essential to the treatment and management of ADHD, there are several key strategies that must also be in place in order to maximize the outcome of your  medication regimen and optimize your success. Three essential strategies for people with ADHD are adding some type of physical exercise to their life, increasing protein intake to power the brain, and avoiding foods that render many ADHD medications inactive.

We all know that exercise is good for our bodies, but did you know that it is also good for your brain? I often tell my patients that exercise is like a tiny dose of natural Ritalin.  Exercise and ADHD medications both have something in common, they both almost immediately elevate dopamine and norepinepherine in the brain.   In turn, this helps the brain to quiet down impulsivity, decrease the need for instant gratification, as well as wake up the executive function in the pre-frontal cortex of the brain. Waking up the pre-frontal cortex provides mental space between thoughts and actions, and therefore gives you more time to evaluate consequences and make better decisions.  In addition, exercise has been shown to improve mood, decrease problems with sleep as well as decrease stress and restlessness. Exercise is an essential part of treating and regulating ADHD.

Did you know you might be eating foods that actually render your medication useless! Have you ever had a morning where you just can’t figure out why your medication isn’t working like it normally does?  The facts are simple here. Certain foods, especially those high in Citric Acid or/or high in Vitamin C (also called Ascorbic Acid), decrease or renders many popular ADHD medications inactive. So if you are taking stimulant medication with orange juice in the morning, you have just canceled out part of the effect of that dose of medication. Another culprit are multivitamins, if you take your ADHD medications in the morning, you would be wise to take your multivitamins in the evening. I recommend you limit your intake of juice, soda, and lemonade to the evenings only.  In addition, read the labels of your favorite snack bar and breakfast cereal, you might be surprised to find lots of vitamin C in those products as well.  Mornings for most individuals with ADHD are tough enough, so avoid those foods or beverages in the A.M. and you’ll find that things just work better.  

How about foods you should be eating?  The science here is pretty straight forward. Most medications for ADHD work on the regulation of Dopamine in the brain. Protein and foods that contain protein provide the body with the essential building blocks for the production of Dopamine in the body. If you are not eating enough protein (especially in the morning when your brain’s gas tank is on empty) then you are not providing your brain with what it needs to produce Dopamine. Without protein, the ADHD medications just don’t work as well. Increase your intake of dietary protein and you increase your medications ability to help your brain function better. An easy rule of thumb is protein clarifies thoughts and carbohydrates cloud thoughts.  That does not mean eliminate “carbs” all together. It does mean taking a good look at how much high quality protein you are taking in and how many sugary high carbohydrates could be avoided. 

Living with ADHD can be greatly improved with a few simple steps. First, get regular exercise like walking or riding a bike.  Second, avoid foods that contain Vitamin C or high amounts of Citric Acid one hour before and after taking your ADHD medication.  Finally, give your brain some protein, especially in the morning and avoid empty carbohydrate calories, and you will give your brain a terrific performance boost. 

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Most medical doctors who treat ADD/ADHD do so as part of a larger practice. ADHD Specialists focuses primarily on only treating ADD and related conditions. This intense focus allows us to continually sharpen our clinical skills, attend specialized training, utilize the latest therapies, and build our process to meet the specific needs of our clients.

Often medical, testing and counseling services are all separately owned and located practices. It just does not make sense to have to travel from one location to another to treat the same condition. Besides the issue of time and travel, how cohesive and effective is care being delivered in multiple locations by multiple, unrelated providers who don’t have time to talk to each other?

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