Hi, my name is Sydney and I have ADHD. Never in my life did I think I would be FREE from medications and still able to maintain focus. But here I am! Through this blog post I am going to share exactly how I manage my ADHD and was able too flush my pills!
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The ADD/ADHD ‘Epidemic’
I’m sure you’ve heard that ADD/ADHD is one of the most common diagnosed disorders in American children, and has become more increasingly diagnosed as the years progress… There’s lots that could be blamed for this—technology, increased availability for sources of distraction, our constant need to have immediate information and constant contact with others, the list goes on and on… BUT, did you ever think about how the quality of food readily available has decreased over the years? I’m sure you heard what is really in McDonald’s French Fries… Did that raise any red flags for you? What about other foods that say they’re healthy?! Do you trust them? No, I’m not a conspiracy theorist or trying to make you second guess everything on every food label at the grocery store, but I am trying to open your eyes to the facts that they might not be telling you the whole truth. Just like there’s propaganda in politics, there’s propaganda against so much in the food business as well.
Applied education is power, people. Do your research. Not everything you read on the internet is true.
So, back to my point…. Let’s look into what we eat. If you or your child suffer from diagnosed ADD/ADHD, how’s your/their diet? How many items do they eat that have ingredients on the label that you have no idea what they heck they are or how to even attempt to pronounce them?! How much sugar is in it? What’s the vitamin/mineral ratio to calories like? If it’s not packaged, like meats or eggs, do you know what the animal’s diet/life was like? Has it been genetically modified? That’s another thing I want to stop and have you think about… When you hear ‘Genetically Modified Organism’, does TMNT (teenage mutant ninja turtles) pop into your head? Well, it totally pops into my head. GMO is great for farmers and crop product, meaning crops are less affected by pests and less susceptible to diseases, but what does that mean when we ingest them? Truth be told, the jury is still out on GMOs and their effect on our health… but why risk it? When in doubt, leave it out! That’s what I say.
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Let’s talk about why I started into this food research in the first place. The main reason was John (my husband) and his Crohn’s disease. To help him avoid flares we typically follow a gluten-free and dairy-free (essentially paleo) nutrition plan. Through helping him avoid flares with our eating style, I noticed my ADHD and started to be at bay as well, peaking my interest in what was actually happening with myself as well.
ADHD & Me
I was diagnosed with ADHD late in life- Junior year of college to be exact. I have the visual stimulation version of ADHD. For an example – when I would study at the library and someone would walk by, I would get distracted from what I was studying and derailed from my work. It was a problem. So I took it upon myself to go through the steps to looking into a resolution. After the appointments and tests, I was subsequently prescribed a few different medications, the first of which being Strattera, which made me sick to my stomach and caused a large amount of rapid weight loss. While on Strattera, my appetite was significantly suppressed to where I could only tolerate diet coke and carrots. I couldn’t keep anything else down, no matter what I tried. After Strattera, my doctor put me on Adderal (XR and regular release). Adderal had some pretty serious effects on me – extreme increase in my resting heart rate (121 was a regular BPM at rest for me), anxiety, irritability… All I knew was it wasn’t good, and I needed to get off of it. Adderal is one methyl chain away from being Methanphetamine, and when I learned that gem of a discovery, I stopped taking it cold turkey. Something else, better, had to be out there, not only for myself, but everyone with this disorder.
After noticing my attention and focus increasing during our first round of the 21DSD, I became interested in doing more research on diet modifications for those with ADD/ADHD. Could going paleo allow me to fully come off of my medications? My interest has spiked… time to dive into food research…
What we eat is SO important
I read a few articles about how those with Autism Spectrum Disorders have benefitted immensely from eliminating processed, refined, preservative and artificial additive ridden foods from their diets. Symptoms that had positive responses to this diet change included hyperactivity, behavior control, aggressiveness, temper tantrums, impulsivity, and a laundry list of other symptoms, surprisingly some of which are common to those with ADHD (no I’m not saying Autism and ADHD are the same, just that they have certain symptoms in common, stay with me.). Well, as I kept reading about the diet changes, I was realizing how paleo-like these diets really were.
By definition, if you are following a Paleo Diet, you are eating whole foods, avoiding modern, processed and refined foods and eating as close to nature as possible. In addition, you are focusing on eating nutrient-dense foods to maintain energy levels while avoiding foods that could cause stress to the body (blood sugar swings, digestion issues, etc). The thought process is that ‘Paleo’ foods are the foods that our bodies evolved to use for optimal health, which is where the whole idea ‘If a caveman wouldn’t eat it, it’s not Paleo,’ came from. Paleo: based on science, evolution, and your body’s physiology. Makes sense, huh? Plus, a paleo diet is more nutritionally dense than any other diet!
Maybe we should stop asking why real food is so expensive and start asking why processed food is so cheap… @sydneydelucchiClick To Tweet
These foods are ones that I have decided to avoid the best I can. But let’s be honest, I’ll still indulge in the occasional donut.
Refined foods- “If it’s popped, puffed, flaked, floured, shredded, or instant, it’s been refined.” Radhia Gleis, PhD, MEd, CCN. These are bad carbs. Man-made. Macronutrient and calorie rich, but micronutrient poor, thus not giving your body what it needs to feel satisfied–vitamins and minerals. Bad carbs such as these are the driving force in the blood sugar roller coaster.
Enriched foods—Foods that have had nutrients added back that are lost in processing. Common with breads and other grain-based products.
Fortified foods – foods that have had nutrients added to them, regardless whether they were there before processing.
Enriched and/or fortified foods have synthetic vitamins and minerals added in. When nutrients are added to foods in synthetic forms and without their cofactors (cofactors are complementary nutrients necessary for proper absorption and utilization) your body cannot use them correctly. Therefore, eating enriched and fortified foods is silly and inefficient. Why would you put anything in your car that wouldn’t make your car go?
Sugar — After completing our 21DSD, I’m a huge advocate of cutting out as much sugar as humanly possible from my diet. I rid myself from the crazy ‘hangry’ bouts, and felt so good, inside and out! Now, if you must sweeten, sweeten responsibly! Go Organic. Be creative, but don’t over do it!! Sweeten with whole dates, raw honey, real fruit juice, maple syrup, molasses, stevia (green leaf extract), green apples, cinnamon, mashed bananas, etc! There is conflicting evidence on the effects of sugar in the diet, so to keep my post scientific I won’t suggest that ‘sugar is the devil’ for ADD/ADHD, but from personal experience, adding sugar only makes me more wired, more distracted, and more moody (yikes!)… So I try to stay away (I do have that occasional donut though).
Blood Sugar levels should not resemble an amusement park ride.- Your blood sugar pretty much governs many aspects within your body. If your blood sugar is out of whack, the rest of your hormonal balance can and likely will suffer. If you know anything about hormones, you know how important having them balanced and regular is… Well, regulate/balance your blood sugar, and balance your hormones!
How I ditched my meds for good
You need a break from all the stuff you thought was ok and ‘clean’, right? You feel personally victimized by sugar and ‘whole grain’ that you want to skip lunch? I hear you. It will be ok though! Here are some suggestions I have found to help avoid the ‘crap’! With the right diet and exercise, I was able to ditch ALL my ADHD medications and be a fully functioning, working, adult!
Gluten-Free and Fabulous
Did you know that there could be an underlying, undiagnosed cause to your ADD/ADHD? For example, if you are gluten intolerant or have Celiac disease, and you haven’t been diagnosed yet, this disease/intolerance could be irritating the lining of your gut causing malabsorption of nutrients from the foods you are ingesting. Missing nutrients from the diet deprives the body of those necessary nutrients and it’s a downward spiral from there. Try cutting gluten out of your diet for a few weeks, then add it back in and see how you feel. If you feel like a horse in a room full of unicorns when adding gluten back in, doctors are recognizing this as a positive test result to gluten sensitivity. Grains in general are not nutritional powerhouses, so if you do decide to go Paleo and have your, don’t worry about being deprived of any nutrition. Replace that dinner roll with a veggie side! Going gluten free does not deprive your brain from carbohydrates. Veggies and fruits provide plenty of fibers and carbs AND provides far more vitamins and minerals that you need to be healthy compared to grains.
Paleo, supplements, and the developing brain
The Paleo Diet is centered around eating raw, natural, unprocessed foods. Essentially meaning gluten-free, dairy-free, grass-fed, responsibly sourced foods. Centered around a high nutrient to calorie ratio so your nutrition is exceptionally efficient, and you avoid the over processed chemically modified products out there.
Parents: No, going paleo won’t deprive your growing child of nutrients they need to develop properly, as long as you are building their meals appropriately for them! Focus on protein first, then fats, and then carbs (fruits and veggies). Studies show that increasing the amount of omega-3s your child eats can have positive impacts on their brain development and help curb ADD/ADHD symptoms. You can also supplement with fish oil pills or fermented cod liver oil. **BUT, as I am not a medical professional, please seek a provider’s guidance prior to altering or supplementing your child’s diet in any way!**
Exercise has been a HUGE factor in my unmedicated ADHD adulthood. Starting with Spinning, and rounding out with Pure Barre, these outlets of physical activity keep my brain sharp, aware, and me ready to get ALL the things done. In addition to the amazing benefits exercise has to your overall health, I find that, for myself – similar to a puppy – if I exhaust my body with a workout I enjoy that also has elements of mental capacity requirement (if you haven’t done Pure Barre or Spinning before, hop to it friend!), I find that it helps me reign my hyperactivity in. Bonus, these workouts I am obsessed with are set to AMAZING music, and I have always been a human that is driven by the beat.
Coffee. Is. Life. Coffee has taken the place of my Adderal in the sense that it is my stimulant to help ‘settle down’ my brain. For me, I find a grande ‘Redeye’ (grande drip coffee with 1 shot espresso) is the perfect concoction to help me ‘adult’. AND , lately I have been adding Bulletproof Coffee Pods (MCT oil, coconut oil, ghee, & a hint of madagascar vanilla) for the XR (extended release) component.
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I have also heard parents of ADD/ADHD children offering their child some coffee in the mornings to help with their attention! If you have a child with ADD/ADHD, this is something you may want to look into (and as always, discuss with your child’s medical provider).
I find that the caffeine (in the right dose) helps me laser focus into my tasks. There is such a thing as TOO much caffeine, so finding the right ‘dose’ to help your ADHD is critical. Play around with it. Here’s your excuse to go get yourself a coffee 😉
How to be ADHD and free of medications Step 1: look at your diet. Step 2: Move your body. Step 3: Drink the coffee.Click To Tweet
Lifestyle Change is a Commitment
Changing your lifestyle is a commitment of time. Yes, there will be added steps, preparation and planning, but it is 100% worth it! Remember why you started! Join The Dynamic Life Collective to get all my tips first hand and have access to a tribe geared to helping hack life!
One downside for me, as we turned to Paleo, was no more peanut butter (as legumes are on the ‘no’ list for paleo)… BUT, I now make my own almond butter and it’s even better than the canned peanut butter we get from the store… Added bonus? I know everything that goes into it, and there’s no preservatives or added synthetic stuff. Definitely set some time aside to menu plan and plan time to prep breakfasts and snacks for the week to have at hand. If you make it easy for yourself to follow, it’ll be easy to stick to the plan!
Make it a family affair! Include the family, get the kids to pick some recipes they want to try and help you prepare, give them a job, make them accountable for a part of it all and help them understand the why! By doing this, you are not only instilling healthy lifestyle choices into them, but they will be more prone to sticking with the plan as well and it will instill long lasting life changing habits that will help them succeed!
It is very important to instill optimal nutrition habits with children with a healthy, not obsessive attitude toward food. The important thing to remember is that you don’t have to be ‘perfectly paleo’. Do what works for you and your family!
Thanks for reading!
Thanks so much for reading this post. I hope you found some help here with how to manage ADD/ADHD without medications. Please comment below if you have tips that may help others manage their ADD/ADHD. If you loved this content, please share with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, Stumbleupon, or Pinterest!
Check out Diane Sanfilippo’s 21DSD program, and Practical Paleo & Sarah Ballantyne‘s The Paleo Approach for more information on the Paleo Diet!
Excellent article!! People are too pill happy because they want an instant fix. Big props to you for taking care of yourself! Thanks for sharing. I’m going to pin the crap out of this blog.
Thank you for reading, Mandy! We are definitely in the age of instant gratification, and it’s important to remind people there are other alternatives. So glad you enjoyed this post and thank you so much for the shares! xoxo, S
Anne @TheCalifornienne says
This was such a wonderful post! I love everything you outlined here. I often look at my diet/exercise first when I’m feeling anxious or down. So cool to see someone that does the same for their ADHD