By Rachael Richardson, RDN, LDN (registered licensed dietitian + registered licensed nutritionist) in practice since 2002
Attention deficit & hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and anxiety are both relatively new diagnosis in history; yet they affect a massive amount of Americans today! Generalized anxiety affects potentially over 10 million people in this country. ADHD affects many millions too (6 million in 2015 based on Center for Disease Control data). And yet, most people are receiving no treatment, due to lack-of-effective and side-effect free medical treatments. Of those treated, many take benzodiazapenes and/or adderal, both of which are "controlled" substances, and highly addictive! So, many people still search for and NEED alternative solutions to manage their brain chemistry. Does this ring true for you?
Before we talk about solutions, let's consider the root cause(s) of brain afflictions such as Anxiety and ADHD. And why have these conditions become so common? Could it be the Flouride- a well known brain toxin found in all typical drinking water? You may remember the story or saying that describes that the best way to change society is to add something to the water. Scary stuff.
Well, perhaps it's other gases, like car fumes? That's possible. We all know it's not smart to inhale car exhaust. And yet it's kind of unavoidable.
But wait. Could anxiety, ADHD, and other brain imbalances be the result of insufficient good bacteria in our tummies, which work internally to produce "neurotransmitters." If you have dysbiosis- an imbalance of bacteria- brain imbalances can just POP up. If you're not producing enough neurotransmitters, your brain will likely malfunction. So let's dig in....
Dysbiosis occurs in many ways. Through the use and consumptions of antiobiotics, antibiotic residues found food, pesiticides found on most grains, and produce. Chlorine also kills good bacteria. As do most chemicals including over the counter medications.
And while bad bacteria are always present, having enough good bacteria (probiotics) helps keep things balanced. Sugar feeds bacteria, as well as yeast and other parasites. All forms of sugar can feed bad bateria. Some even have problems with even tropical (sweet) fruits, due to sugar content, despite the health value of fruits.
When dysbiosis is present, you may feel constipated, irritable, gassy or bloated. If this is the case, it's tough to produce enough of your own neurotransmitters. This results in many different health issues, including but not limitted to foggy thinking, anxiety, depression, poor memory, rashes, sinus issues, chronic yeast growth, and auto-immune disease.
And there is more! There are also food allergies, intolerances and sensitivities that can play into brain issues. Gluten, Soy, Corn, Dairy, Nuts and Shellfish are some of the most prevalent. It's all measurable in the blood based on the presense of antibodies- IgGs, IgAs. IgEs and more. These antibodies can be detected so you can actually test to find out which foods you're reacting to. If you are reactive, you'd want to cut those foods out temporarily, at least, while building a healthier gut- including the mebrane, tissue and bacteria- while reducing inflammation. You can reduce inflammation by eating more of certain foods and less of others. Defintely cut out chemicals and processed foods to start. So...are allergens the main perpetrator causing mental imbalances?
As you can see the answer is complex and different based on the individual. And, of course, all of the items above are on the list of potential causes of brain imbalances is ridiculously expansive. And, we haven't even begun into the controversy of electromagnetic frequencies, found in our phones, tablets and laptops- all with the strong potential for major impacts on our natural brain patterns and waves, personalities, reactions, thoughts, and thought process.
Keep reading for solutions. Though understandable, you need not be afraid of this information. Sure, It's concerning. However, throwing up your arms and giving up is NOT the desired outcome here.
In this article, I hope to provide some clarity around which are the most problematic brain antagonists that we eat. Also I'll tell you which foods and nutrients are typically needed to add back in to rebalance, calm, and protect the brain.
Always keep in mind that while nutrition is of paramount importance, other treatments may be needed too; breathing exercises, yoga, cardiovascular exercise, inversions like handstands, and neurofeedback "brain training"- to name a few. Then there's the plant world which is filled with neuroprotective and regenerative herbs, specifically mushrooms. All of this is being researched as we speak, and the evidence is moving the needle and the conversation at hand further toward good solutions to reverse the damage and protect your brain! It's all called "neuroplasticity"
To get started with some concrete and proven solutions to shifting a restless brain into balalnce, here are some food and nutrition tips. Make sure to sign up for our newsletter so we can keep you posted with more recommendations/
Essential TIP ONE
Eliminate (or reduce) food sources of neuro-toxins. Note: many of the following brain toxins excite the brain cells so you may have become addicted to them. Sorry if that happened. While it may be hard and a struggle to cut out certain foods, your brain and our humanity will thank you later.
Last for now, please do NOT forget that ignorance is NOT bliss. Below are primarily ingredients found in packaged foods. So to find these neurotoxins, you will have to read the ingredient list of every food you eat, drink or otherwise consume. If you find your favorite food has a questionable ingredient (see below) in it, do not buy it, try to return it if you already have it, and let the grocer know it's BECAUSE you read on the label that it contains "a known neurotoxin".
Here's the list to avoid:
- Aspartame (pink), Splenda (yellow), Saccharine(blue): found in many diet products and other foods too that you wouldn't expect. Definitely don't add it to your tea or coffee or anything else. To be completely candid, I'm not sure that Splenda's worst consequences are not on the thyroid. However all organs work together. We are one big organ system!
- Artificial Colors and Clavors: Ie. red #1 blue #40 yellow #11
- Natural Flavors: found in many/most packaged food. Unless you know the manufacturer and they have confirmd the specific flavor used is safe, it's tough to trust "natural flavors". Why? Becuase there's a list that all get clumped into that phrase, and many of them are no good. Basically, "Natural Flavors" is that it's a catch all, and can include even MSG.
- Monosidum Glutamate (MSG): a known neurotoxin found in a lot of Chinese sauces including most soy sauce! It makes foods saltier and yummier, so is addictive taste wise. But it also excites and damages the nervous system.
- Gluten: found in wheat, some oats, barley and rye. Gluten has been well found to negatively impact most people, and specifically those with any brain imbalances
- Casein: found in most dairy,
- Soy: in "soy lecithin", all tofu and tempeh products, check all vegetarin products, spefically "vegan chicken nuggets", etc.
- Flouride: in most water- Can you get bottled Spring water, or use non-BPA plastic water containers found easily at Whole Foods - both the container and the water refills. Also, consider flouride free toothpastes, and any medications which consume flouride. Xylitol is a well accpeted alternative. Xylitol gum and candy are delicious too!
- To some degree, all sugar. White process sugar and corn syrup, fructose, etc are the worst! Depending on your medical condition, you may be able to tolerate a small amount of maple syrup, honey or fruit juice or concentrate. Less is typically best! The reason: all sugar spikes in the body can cause attention issues and anxiety, usually an energy plummet comes later.
Essential Tip #2
- Balance Your Blood Sugar- this means balance your "macros" or macronutrients which are carbs, protein and fat. Carbs, when eaten in high quantities and without protein and healthy fat to slow the uptake, will cuase a blood sugar surge, resulting in exessive energy that may manifest as attention deficit, rapid thoughts, heightened emotions, or anxiety. Later it can lead to extreme fatigue, food cravings and depression.
Okay, so we are a nutrition solutions company, and even though we strive to educate, we don't believe in just compaining. We strive to figure out and help others implement real solutions. so, here are some kid-friendly meal ideas which balance the blood sugar, provide brain nutrients and eliminate neurotoxins, all supportive of improved brain health.
- 2 eggs with veggies (mushroom, tomato, spinach, etc)
- 1 slice of avocado gluten-free toast
- tea, coffee (with heavy cream), warm water with lemon
- gluten free oats (1/2-3/4 c)
- plain greek yogurt (1/2-3/4 c) - yogurt can be coconut or another type
- chopped apple (red and/or green and/or yellow)
- sesame seeds and other chopped nuts (almonds, pecans, walnuts)
- ground cinnamon
- natural turkey breast- wrapped around julienened peppers, cucumber, cilantro, carrots, or another fruit or vegetable, dipped in mustard or another sauce who's label's been checked.
- tuna, chicken, turkey or salmon salad on "Mary's Gone Crackers" (seeds and brown rice) or another "healthier" cracker, or cucumber rounds
- Chicken, avocado, tomato salad, with finely diced red onion, garlic, sea salt, herbs of any kind, etc.
- Chili (beans, meat, vegetables, tomato and seasonings) - can do a white chicken chili with carrots or a black bean vegetarian one with peppers, onion, tomotoes, mushrooms, and avocado.
- Stir fry- ex. broccoli, cabbage, onions, carrots and shrimp, with garlic and ginger
- deviled eggs with 1/2 sandwich on gluten free toast with almond butter
- lunch burritos- gluten free wrap with refried beans, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and guacomole inside, and sauteed in olive oil or ghee on all sides and packed into tin foil
- 1-2 chicken legs, with a side of lettuce and healthy dressing, with carrots and hummus
For more meal planning and recipe ideas, feel free to contact us. Rachael, our main dietitian/nutritionist can be reached at Rach.Richardson@gmail.com
Also, supplements can very much support brain chemistry. Here are our favorites.
- High DHA Fish Oils- these are omega's 3's, which boost DHA, a neccessary component for healthy brain cell receptor sites. ProDHA fish oil with strawberry essence is our favorite.
- HLC Mindlinx- this probiotic was originally designed specficially for children with attention issues and Autism. It contains specialized strains of bacteria to lessen the deleterious affects of both proteins, gluten and casein, found in wheat and dairy respectively.
- Magnesium- most Americans are both calcium and magnesium deficient. It has to do with poor diet, and overffarmed land, devoid of the original mineral content. As Magnesium is the chief mineral literally needed by the muscular and nervous systems to be in "relaxation phase", many people find a noticable more relaxaed healthy feeling just by supplementing abour 400 mg of high quality magnesium/d. We prefer magneisum glycinate in capsule form. This "buffered magnesium chelate" is manufactured at one of the most prominent and respected mineral labs, Albion Labratories.
- Theanine, GABA or both- These nutrients are also needed for neurotransmitter production. The neurotransmitters are, how they sound, needed to transmit energy between brain cells. Theanine is a precursor to GABA, which is considered a "relaxation" brain wave and neurotransmitter. These products have worked well for us and our clients. Here is a link to our entire recommended selection of GABA/neurotransmitter favorites. E-mail us if you need guidance.
- Vitamin B Complex with a very available form of B6 called "PCP". B vitamins are cofactors in hundreds if not thousands of neurochemical and metabolic reactions in the cells. Its a good idea to take one of these daily. Our preferred brand is: B Supreme B-Complex by DFH
- Vitamin D3 with K2- Deficiencies in D3 can cause depression, immune dysfuction and potentially many other problems. It is now well understood that D3 must be taken with K2 to prevent calcification of the arteries. Here's the form we recommend: Emulsi-D3 Synergy Liquid
- Lion's Mane- so, this is one that you may not have heard of yet. However we ecourage you to learn about it's neuro-regenerative properties. It also comes in a powdered "hot chocolate" form, which we love. Lion's Mane Mushroom Elixir Packets
For further supplement suggestions, please email: Rach.Richardson@gmail.com . We will respond directly to your supplement inquiry, and recommend a nutritional counseling package if it's warranted.
- Also, keep in mind the power of exercise to raise neurochemistry and improve focus, and remember to keep including some key healthy brain foods, such as: blueberries, mint tea or water, green tea, all fresh produce low in pesticides, proteins such as grass fed eggs and wild fatty fish, purified water, nuts and seeds, particularly walnuts, coconut oil. You've got this!