Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a common condition that is affecting increasing numbers of both children and adults. It is a considered to be a neurodevelopmental disorder that involves a ‘persistent or ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that gets in the way of daily life or typical development’.
It is a multi-faceted disorder and the exact causes are not yet understood. A combination of factors is thought to lead to a diagnosis and certain people appear to be more susceptible – those born prematurely or with a low birthweight, people with epilepsy and those with brain damage (from birth or from an accident later in life).
Children with ADHD are more likely to struggle with gastrointestinal issues, such as constipation, and the link between the digestive system and the brain is one of the areas now being studied in relation to ADHD and other mental health issues.
The research has looked at a number of areas, one of which the role of a balanced gut bacteria in producing neurotransmitters, chemical signals in the body, including noradrenaline, serotonin, dopamine and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).
Another area of research is food allergies and intolerances and the potential for foods that are not properly digested to cause brain-related effects. Difficulties with digestion might also lead to problems absorbing some vitamins and minerals, resulting in micronutrient deficiencies.
Supporting gut health might therefore be a useful strategy for those with ADHD. This can include following a nutrient-dense diet that excludes foods that might cause a reaction (gluten, dairy, soy, eggs, sugar) and taking supplements to support the gut and overall vitamin and mineral intake.