Tag Archives: Brain Function

Rethinking Physical Activity for ADHD

Even now, there’s not much known about the chain of events that results in the symptoms indicative of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Excessive impulsivity, chronic inattention and inability to remain still are the trademark symptoms first noticed by parents and teachers.

Thankfully, more and more research now suggests that it might be related to a deficiency in the production of dopamine, a chemical in the brain that helps regulate behavior, mood, and controlled movement.

In the treatment of ADHD doctors currently tend to prescribe stimulant medication such as Ritalin because it has been shown to increase the availability of dopamine in the brain.

However effective stimulants carry risks that are unavoidable. Many parents are left wondering if a natural alternative to chemically increasing concentration and attention span actually exists.

This topic is certainly controversial since most medical experts agree that there is no “cure” for ADHD and that the condition requires sustained management.  While medications can be used to control symptoms and learned techniques can improve attention, most patients with ADHD continue to exhibit signs of the illness even later in life.

A number of experts have lately begun looking at something rather new called “Brain Exercise Therapy” (BET). The therapy is comprised of mental and physical workouts that they claim build brain mass and neural pathways.


It seems quite promising that, given the brain’s plasticity, engaging in activities that require new skills and problem solving allows patients to stimulate neuron growth. The connections that are created in areas of the brain that are deficient in neurotransmitters, advance overall brain function and heal specific deficits in the ADHD brain.

We all know adults who are successful in the relationships and careers, but their lives are very disorganized. There’s no clear direction or consistency to their daily lives.

Dr. Gimpel, a board-certified psychiatrist, neurologist and director of the Brain Power Clinic in Jerusalem agrees that any activity that requires new, challenging ways of thinking can help this type of chronic disorganization.

BET games such as juggling and chess are essential for teaching strategy, memory, and planning skills.

Dr. Gimpel uses an effective analogy to explain what games can do for your brain.

“In each brain cell, we have a little fuel tank, much like in a car”, he says. “The trouble with ADHD patient is that this tank of fuel has holes, so you don’t have enough fuel to allow for effective stimulation between brain cells. When you do these activities, you are creating new cells and with each one comes more fuel.”

However, it is important to remember that much like one visit to the gym won’t build muscle mass, these changes in the brain do not normally occur until after 50 to 70 hours of BET. Fortunately, many of these activities are fun for everyone, not just those with ADHD and the whole family can and should participate.

References:

Health.com, “Brain Games and Exercise: A Drug-Free Treatment for ADHD?” http://www.health.com/health/condition-article/0,,20252861,00.html Accessed November 11, 2011

candies with food dyes

Effects of Food Dyes in ADHD Patients

candies with food dyesThere is an alarming trend among pediatric patients that has recently made front page news. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention surveyed 73,000 children and concluded that one in every 10 has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

This is an upsetting 22% increase since 2003. Although there is still quite a bit of controversy regarding the causes and treatment of ADHD, research has confirmed that a toxic food supply and unhealthy lifestyle patterns are the chief contributing factors for this disorder.

There seems to be a consensus among researchers in considering chronic ADHD as a sign of mild brain damage. When certain regions of the brain remain chronically inflamed they fail to function in a proper way. Inflammation inhibits frontal lobe function, which in turn is responsible for concentration and emotional stability.

Other more “primitive” or basic regions of the brain go on overdrive establishing a pattern of poor responses to otherwise mild stimuli. In short, it leads to poor concentration, emotional outbursts and an exacerbated sense of frustration.

There seems to be a strong link between ADHD and a diet that causes inflammation. The main culprits are food additives and other chemicals that are neurotoxic. They are present in every conceivable food item in the market, sometimes in combination with other toxic substances.

A recent study published in The Lancet, concluded that food dyes along with the common preservative sodium benzoate cause many children to become significantly more hyperactive and distractible. This study also concluded that food additives and dyes can do as much damage to children’s brains as the lead in gasoline.


There are also some digestive problems that can dramatically affect brain function and development. A common factor among patients with ADHD is a weak digestive system and the presence of food allergies.

Often times a fungus infection can be present which could be producing more toxic substances that further disrupt the brain‘s proper function. It is wise to address any underlying intestinal problem in order to heal it by avoiding allergens and supplementing with high quality probiotics.

The most common food allergens to avoid include all dairy products and gluten containing grains such as wheat, barley, rye, oats, kamut, & spelt. Soy products are a typical culprit, as are some nuts and eggs.

An anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle are highly recommended for a steady improvement from this condition. Anti-inflammatory foods help to modulate the immune system. To effectively eliminate inflammation from the tissues, it is key to completely avoid precooked foods, sugars, and trans fats.

Children, teenagers and adults with ADHD symptoms do very well to incorporate to their daily routine a regular exercise program. Many hyperactive kids are naturally drawn to activities such as bouncing and jumping on a trampoline as well as balance sports such as skating, surfing and snowboarding. All of these balance based activities powerfully enhance the correct functioning of the brain and play an important role in the overall well being of the patient.

Best Dietary Tips for a Healthy Brain

Coffee Makes the brain alertThere s a great deal of buzz about foods and dietary supplements. The manufactures promise they can do everything, from sharpen focus and concentration, to enhance memory, attention span and overall brain function.

Is there any evidence that they really work? Aging healthfully is key to maintaining proper function of many organs and the brain is one of them. The good news is that you can increase your chances of keeping a healthy brain when you consume some common, yet powerful, foods and beverages.

Caffeine makes you alert…in moderation

There are certain substances, like caffeine, that can energize your brain. It can help you focus and concentrate. It is found in coffee, chocolate and as an additive in some popular drinks. It gives you that unmistakable wake-up buzz but the effects are usually short term. Most importantly, overdoing it on caffeine will make you jittery and uncomfortable, so moderation is key.

Sugar feeds your brain…in moderation

There is no doubt that sugar is your brain’s preferred fuel source. However, we are not talking about table sugar, but glucose, which your body metabolizes from the sugars and carbohydrates you consume. Favor complex carbohydrates and healthy, naturally sweet snacks over refined sugar and you are sure to help your brain stay sharper without packing on the pounds.

Always Eat Breakfast to wake up Your Brain

Many studies have found that eating breakfast may improve short-term memory and attention. Students who eat breakfast tend to perform significantly better than those who skip it. Best foods to eat in the morning include high-fiber whole grains, low fat dairy, and fruits. However, researchers also found that high-calorie breakfasts appear to hinder concentration.

Fish and Fish oil keep you brain Supple

Fish is the preferred protein source for a great brain boost. It is rich in omega 3 fatty acids, essential for brain function and development. These healthy fats truly are vital for your brain. In fact, higher amounts of dietary omega 3 fatty acids are linked to lower dementia and stroke. They also seem to play a role in enhancing memory, especially as we get older.


Avocados and Whole Grains Keep Cholesterol at Bay

Nothing is more important to organs in the body than abundant blood flow. This is especially true for the heart and brain. Eating a diet high in whole grains and fruits like avocados can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and lower bad cholesterol. Such changes reduce your risk of plaque buildup, thus enhancing blood flow creating a tasty way to fire up brain cells.

Go Nuts and Add some Chocolate too

Nuts and seeds are good sources of vitamin E which is a powerful antioxidant. Its absence in the diet has been associated with cognitive decline as you age. Dark chocolate not only has very powerful antioxidant properties but it also contains natural stimulants like caffeine which enhance focus and concentration.

Enjoy up to an ounce a day of nuts and dark chocolate to provide all the benefits you need without excess calories, fat, or sugar.

Blueberries Are a Brain Superfood

Research in lab animals shows that blueberries may help protect the brain from the damage caused by free radicals. It may also reduce the effects of age-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. Studies also show that diets rich in blueberries significantly improved both the learning and muscle function of aging rats, closing the gap between the older rats and their much younger counterparts.

The main conclusion is that if your diet lacks essential nutrients, it will decrease your ability to maintain a healthy brain. To achieve the most benefit for your brain consistently strive for a well-balanced diet full of a wide variety of healthy, wholesome foods.

References:

Web MD, “Slideshow: Brain Foods That Help You Concentrate” http://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/slideshow-brain-foods-that-help-you-concentrate Accessed September 18, 2011.