Why I Don't Rely Solely On Nutrition To Treat My ADD/ADHD

I just wrote this incredibly long post on an Adult ADD/ADHD forum on Facebook, and it struck me it might make a good blog post, too, so here it is. The background is a discussion of gluten-free diets and other dietary approaches to overcoming ADD/ADHD.

... I was citing the fact that I was not breast fed for long as evidence that I've been this way since birth, not suggesting that the lack of breast feeding caused the problem. Again, I wasn't breastfed because my mother couldn't get me to hold still long enough -- I wanted to be looking around. Highly distractable since birth.

There is speculation that ADHD is, indeed, affected by maternal nutritional deficiency, specifically iodine -- I have read in several places that ADHD is more common in low-iodine regions, and that iodine deficient mothers have 10 times the risk of giving birth to a baby with ADHD. We did not use iodized salt in my family, because it made my father break out -- and my mom was hypothyroid. Seems likely I was subjected to a maternal iodine deficiency. However, I get plenty of iodine, and have for years; doesn't get rid of the ADHD. I think it unlikely that what the offspring eat will completely fix the results of maternal malnutrition. The damage was done as the brain was being formed. (Did it help that it was the 1950s, and my mom smoked and drank while pregnant? Probably not, but who knows. She always joked that I was made out of pizza and martinis, though I know her diet was actually a hell of a lot better than that, if not what you and I would call optimal.)

Too, there seems to be a genetic component to ADHD, and certainly my father had a lot of the personality traits of being ADHD. He's the one I'm like, both mentally/emotionally and physically. I don't think it's coincidence that I'm the one of the three kids in my family who wound up with the ADHD, too, though Mom was likely iodine deficient for all three pregnancies. Again, can nutrition completely overcome genetics? I'm unconvinced that it can, though of course it can help dramatically.

I'm just not a one tool kind of girl. I've been in and around the world of nutrition and holistic health care all of my adult life. I have tried various dietary approaches, and swallowed many, many supplements. I have had acupuncture and used traditional Chinese herbal medicine. I have undergone hypnotherapy. I have seen many chiropractors, and a few osteopaths. I have used many herbal medicines. I have been Rolfed three times through, and had plenty of good therapeutic massage. I own and use an Audio Visual Entrainment device. I use phototherapy daily -- sun if I can get it, a light box on gloomy days. All of this has left me with the strong impression that *ALL* of this stuff is remarkably helpful for some things, somewhat helpful for others, and completely ineffective for yet others.

I have found exactly the same thing to be true of standard allopathic medicine -- very useful for some things, only modestly useful for others, and completely hopeless for others. (Don't get me started on standard doctors and soft tissue injury. As a massage therapist, I have had too many people who have been in pain for years from an old injury tell me "My doctor says there's no problem." 'Cause being in pain isn't a problem, and the doc can't see the soft tissue injury on an x-ray.)

I'm not a big fan of theoretical purity. I think there are many influences on health, all interacting -- genetics, fetal environment, nutrition, light, exercise, environmental toxins, you name it. Diet can completely fix the problems caused solely by bad nutrition, and it can dramatically help some problems caused by, or influenced by, other factors. I do not, however, believe it can fix everything, nor do I believe that all pharmaceuticals are evil, or even useless.

I eat low carb, and I have eaten very little grain for years. In the past 18 months I deliberately ate a wheat product exactly once -- a couple of La Tortilla Factory tortillas; that was last February. I have been gluten free since reading my advance copy of Wheat Belly this summer. I eat plenty of healthy fats, and very few bad ones. I eat lots of eggs straight from my own backyard. I take several supplements that should improve ADHD -- l-tyrosine, dl-phenylalanine, DMAE, TMG, extra B vitamins, methylated B12. Some of these increase dopamine levels; others help the methylation pathway, which I frankly don't understand, but which is apparently messed up in those of us with ADHD. I also walk quite a lot, which my psychiatrist strongly recommends.

Guess what? I still find that Welbutrin helps. So I use it. I don't consider that a defeat, or capitulation, or selling out. I consider it doing what it takes to live my life in the happiest and most productive way available to me. I'm using all the tools in my box.