6

votes

Paleo and ADHD?

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created August 11, 2010 at 5:28 PM

I've been Paleo in the Robb Wolf school of thought for about eight months about 90% strict, and maybe it's because in the same time period I've also started my own business and I notice it more but I feel completely ADHD. I can't focus on mentally intensive tasks. I bounce around from distraction to distraction to distraction. I even start to think about a hard work problem and minutes later I'm already searching for something new to read. Check email. Check Facebook. Check Twitter. Check RSS feeds. Check email again. It cascades too - I fall behind, that stresses me out, I have an even harder time concentrating, I fall further behind, I fill recreational time with work because I haven't been effective on work time, I stress out more, I fall further behind.

I've had a number of persistent physical ailments that have gotten better since Paleo. I had eczema, alopecia areota, and hypoglycemia that have all gone straight away on this diet. This is the only thing I can't kick.

Is there something I'm missing in my diet? Something I should be doing differently? Any success stories with hints toward a solution?

306aa57660d911781231f8090c2a5619

(3808)

on June 28, 2011
at 08:41 PM

What does "occasional" mean? If it's once every few months, the beer probably isn't the issue. Once every week or two, and it could be. If "occasional" is relaively frequent, try avoiding gluten entirely for a while. Finding an alternative to the beer (gf beer, hard cider) might help. Once people go off gluten, the occasional "cheat" can have a stronger effect. I also agree that just cutting way back on the internet may be necessary. I can't tell you how many times I've sat down to do something specific, and find myself 3 hours later checking forums or FB, not having done that thing.

8a4ce6a9e1ab27616920b828df08b259

(354)

on June 28, 2011
at 05:08 PM

You gotta lay off the internet a bit. Yeah, diet will help tremendously, but the 'net is flashy and dynamic and the nemesis of anyone with ADD. I eat paleo AND take ADD meds, but if I let myself search the internet, facebook, or even look at questions here, it all goes to sh*t. Eating paleo helps, for sure, but it doesn't break bad habits for you.

8a4ce6a9e1ab27616920b828df08b259

(354)

on June 28, 2011
at 05:04 PM

Wish I could +1 a zillion times! I have ADD, too, and often tell my husband that my brain is just better than everyone else's and the world can't keep up. ;-) Seriously, though..great info you posted.

226b10cbb6b1d3530b00d2d84a2dc86e

(3313)

on June 28, 2011
at 05:03 PM

The book is actually very Paleo but it goes beyond the theory part of it and more into a prescription for health that is comprehensive, including tips for relaxing, exercising, sleep regulation and manipulating brain biochemistry through natural vitamins, minerals, herbs, etc. It's worth every penny.

35b6ce9b7f9dda8d40d3e6a1812ab0a9

(439)

on June 28, 2011
at 02:53 AM

@BamBam...I'm running to Amazon now...thanks...veggie money is going to a book. Can I eat the book when I'm done? I haven't even spent the money for The Paleo Solution yet. will check library first. (doubtful...)

226b10cbb6b1d3530b00d2d84a2dc86e

(3313)

on June 27, 2011
at 11:57 PM

The most fascinating book that I have ever read on nutrition is one where the writer (Mark Hyman, MD) links diet to brain function. It's called (cheesy title warning), "Ultramind Solution". Read that book and he will give you all the ammunition you need to decrease your stress hormone levels and boost all the great feel-good chemicals we can make in our brains.

62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on August 12, 2010
at 03:16 AM

"Moreover, behavior that may seem like a drawback today may not have been so in ancient environments" Exactly! And there is plenty of evidence, if you look, to show that current methods of educating the young are every bit as unnatural and inefficient as is the current governmental eating recommendations. Children were never meant to sit in chairs and stair and chalkboards for half of their waking hours!

36dd8a49324c45fb49a38765000eca1e

(377)

on August 11, 2010
at 09:53 PM

I totally agree. While diet can play a huge role in our mental health, it can't change all wiring in your brain. I've dealt with ADD my whole life, and if there's one thing that exacerbates it, it, it's stress, and there are few better remedies for relieving stress than meditation. I also wanted to point out that lack of sleep, caffiene, excessive exercise, and caloric restriction have all done well to fuel my issues with ADD, that is, they are all efficient stressors.

4145b36f1488224964edac6258b75aff

(7821)

on August 11, 2010
at 07:28 PM

I strongly suspect that procrastination existed prior to agriculture. Good answer.

893dfbf1c1073268739f796939bf7a79

(50)

on August 11, 2010
at 06:37 PM

I'm off gluten save an occasional beer. The only dairy I'm consuming is pastured, so lectin-free. It's entirely possible this is not caused by the diet - I suppose I'm wondering more if there's a dietary remedy.

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13 Answers

5
6869a1f2294b3a717a53645589a91d18

(1689)

on August 11, 2010
at 07:30 PM

Check email. Check Facebook. Check Twitter. Check RSS feeds. Check email again

here are a few related articles http://scienceblogs.com/cortex/2009/08/information.php http://scienceblogs.com/cortex/2009/07/primal_information.php http://www.slate.com/id/2224932/pagenum/all/#p2

addiction to information i imagine as a positive and valuable characteristic in the evolutionary context. information sources back then were far and few between, so no danger of the animal derailing itself or anything would exist.

today information sources are abundant, and many successful things (like games, blogs, twitter) are deliberately tailored to hit that pleasure we get from new information (and the prospect of new info that drives us back to the info sources, etc..).

solution wise, man is of course not necessarily subject to his instinct. overwriting instinct, i think, is best done by first recognizing/becoming conscious of when you are preforming the undesirable behavior, and secondly by then consciously choosing to preform the desired behavior. success then requires a general level of consciousness and an ability to preform the desired behavior. i think meditation can meet both these requisites.

meditation develops general consciousness i think simply by practicing being conscious. meditation also enable the ability to preform the desired behavior (focus/concentration), because successful meditation requires exactly that, concentration. in this sense i see concentration as a skill like any other, requiring practice for you to become proficient in.

also maybe try having specific goals or plans for a day, perhaps written down a day ahead. "from 2pm till 4pm i'll only work on this project or thing. after that i'll spend a while going through feeds/twitter/email etc. then after that i'll do xyz until i'm done.." etc.

i doubt this is an issue of diet if you've already gone paleo and experienced relief of physical symptoms. theoretically i imagine a messed up diet could influence thought/encourage erratic thought, and that over enough time, that mode of thinking becomes habit due to sheer repetition.

36dd8a49324c45fb49a38765000eca1e

(377)

on August 11, 2010
at 09:53 PM

I totally agree. While diet can play a huge role in our mental health, it can't change all wiring in your brain. I've dealt with ADD my whole life, and if there's one thing that exacerbates it, it, it's stress, and there are few better remedies for relieving stress than meditation. I also wanted to point out that lack of sleep, caffiene, excessive exercise, and caloric restriction have all done well to fuel my issues with ADD, that is, they are all efficient stressors.

5
58a49b7e6356bd3eaaefed676445b720

on August 11, 2010
at 06:29 PM

I think you need to ask yourself if you really think this is diet-related. You mentioned these problems coming along with starting a business. Are you inherently distracted or are distractions a convenient escape from doing the things that might be somewhat daunting or unpleasant?

I'm not trying to come down on you, and I am a Paleo enthusiast myself, but sometimes it helps to step back and examine things outside of the dietary viewpoint.

4145b36f1488224964edac6258b75aff

(7821)

on August 11, 2010
at 07:28 PM

I strongly suspect that procrastination existed prior to agriculture. Good answer.

4
Ae011d9f1c8654ea66854ca2a977c397

(1165)

on August 11, 2010
at 09:29 PM

I too have ADD and have been eating Paleo for 8 months. I still struggled with ???hot and cold??? energy levels but the final switch over to grass fed meats has helped that tremendously.

I think that those with ADD actually have a Paleo brain. It has been shown that the prevalence of the ADD gene is more common the further you get from Africa. It is therefore postulated that the ADD gene is responsible for human migration and that is why it survived and spread. Besides always wondering what was over the next hill the ADD gene would have also been valuable because it allows you to concentrate on many things at once. This would have kept early explorers alive in new territory as they were able to access multiple new threats at once. People with ADD are also usually good at many things so they would have been of great value to a tribe. Unfortunately, in today???s world we have so many people that it has become all about the specialist. The person that can concentrate and do one thing very well is rewarded (even if they are horrible at everything else). The person with ADD who keeps an (uncontrollable) eye on many things and learns many things very well (but not expert level) struggles in this modern setting. I find what helps is plenty of sunshine (even when working), community when working (maybe go to a coffee shop), and standing or going for a walk while thinking or even a phone conversation. This is still an area I struggle in even though Paleo has helped many other areas.

From Discover Magazine;

???Stronger evidence that natural selection has continued to shape the brain in recent epochs comes from studies of DRD4, a mutation in a neurotransmitter receptor that Moyzis, Wang, and many others have linked to attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Children diagnosed with ADHD are twice as likely to carry the variant gene as those without the diagnosis. DRD4 makes a receptor in the brain less effective in bonding to dopamine, which might explain why Ritalin, which increases the amount of dopamine in the space between neurons, is often helpful in treating the problem.

Sequencing studies suggest that the DRD4 mutation arose 50,000 years ago, just as humans were spreading out of Africa. Its prevalence tends to increase the farther a population is from Africa, leading some investigators to dub it ???the migratory gene.??? At least one allele (or copy of the gene) is carried by 80 percent of some South American populations. In contrast, the allele is present in 40 percent of indigenous populations living farther north in the Americas and in just 20 percent of Europeans and Africans. Children with the mutation tend to be more restless than other youngsters and to score higher on tests of novelty-seeking and risk-taking, all traits that might have pushed those with the variant to explore new frontiers.

In the context of a modern classroom, it may be hard to understand why kids who appear distractible and disruptive might have a survival advantage. But research shows people with DRD4 do not differ in intelligence from national norms; if anything, they may on average be smarter. Moreover, behavior that may seem like a drawback today may not have been so in ancient environments. When broaching foreign terrain filled with unknown predators, ???having the trait of focusing on multiple directions might have been a good thing,??? Wang says. ???People focused in one direction might get eaten.???

62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on August 12, 2010
at 03:16 AM

"Moreover, behavior that may seem like a drawback today may not have been so in ancient environments" Exactly! And there is plenty of evidence, if you look, to show that current methods of educating the young are every bit as unnatural and inefficient as is the current governmental eating recommendations. Children were never meant to sit in chairs and stair and chalkboards for half of their waking hours!

8a4ce6a9e1ab27616920b828df08b259

(354)

on June 28, 2011
at 05:04 PM

Wish I could +1 a zillion times! I have ADD, too, and often tell my husband that my brain is just better than everyone else's and the world can't keep up. ;-) Seriously, though..great info you posted.

2
Dbe5290b790e6e2d2bd59d581d9cf164

on March 01, 2011
at 02:29 PM

Most of the studies I have read link SUGAR to be the main cause of all ADD/ADHD issues in kids and adults. The sugar agitates the brain and causes changes in neuron and chemical messenger firing patterns. You say you're strict 90% of the time? why are you eating dairy? is there a specific life threatening reason why you need it in your diet? Go strict and eliminate all excesses for 2-4 weeks and see how you do. I feel sugar from the occasional cheat could be throwing you off, what type of beer do you typically drink? full flavored? blue moon? anything along those lines have incredibly high sugar/carb(glucose aka sugar) content. Paleo seriously helps my ADD when I stay strict. So give it a shot and good luck!

1
62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on August 12, 2010
at 03:22 AM

A year ago, I'd say it's all hard wired, but I'll tell you something that amazes me even now, after my mother went paleo, she stopped being whiny, lazy, and argumentative and she has way more energy now. I never in my wildest dreams would have thought that grains could make a person unpleasant, but apparently they did to her. I now have a MUCH better relationship with her for the last 6 months since she went paleo. She used to pick fights at least once per week, but now no more! They say that insulin can make a person aggressive. I guess I didn't really believe it could have THAT much of an effect, but seeing is believing. I still don't believe that paleo can solve all problems, but I have been impressed by how many problems it does seem to solve. .

1
95f407502f92a7bc460e8f83652341de

on August 11, 2010
at 06:14 PM

I second the get off gluten and dairy, MORE fat, and if you are more of a fish protein eater, eat more large land animals, beef. You need to get grounded...

Also address endocrine/adrenal issues...

0
226b10cbb6b1d3530b00d2d84a2dc86e

(3313)

on June 27, 2011
at 11:51 PM

Brother, if you are 90% Paleo you are inviting trouble through the 10% gateway. Even though you might not have a celiac diagnosis, there is a chance your body systems are thrown out of whack due to a gluten sensitivity. I'm not talking about a full-blown autoimmune episode like you might see with a celiac, I'm saying that every individual each with his/her unique genotype responds to gluten in a negative way along a spectrum. You might lean closer to the hypersensitivity/allergy end of the spectrum perhaps right beside celiacs.

Moderation seems to be a general rule of thumb when consuming any type of food, except it could be different for you and gluten. Even one small wheat-based cookie could be triggering a low-level autoimmune response where the villi in your intestine are under attack from a small army of WBC's. If this is the case, your rate of absorption of all those wonderful nutrients you pay good money $$ for may be plummeting - your brain biochemistry suffering as a side effect. You need high levels of cofactors and coenzymes to catalyze brain cell reactions where you make amino-acid based neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. If you are lacking in these neutransmitters, your nervous system is handicapped in its regulatory role and your stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline start to take over the reigns as the endocrine system is also a regulatory system.

Certain nuerotransmitters, like gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) actually help control and manage stress-hormone levels.

One cookie might not sound like a huge deal. In fact, for a great many people it is considered moderation and they can get away with it. But do they really get away with it or is there something going on beneath the surface that will manifest as a different set of symptoms at a different point in time?

Gluten is dangerous because it is not what nature wants in our bodies - at all. In my book, it's really not worth the risk, especially for you because of where you might fall on the gluten sensitivity spectrum.

Does anybody have a positive reaction to gluten? I'd like to meet him/her.

Seriously, I'd like to see the science on that but the grain industry is savvy. They are smart about spinning and putting the science on the public. We must prove gluten causes negative reactions in everyone? Who's running THAT experiment? Who's FUNDING it? Forget it.

Perhaps the damage from one cookie endures for up to one month, so if you cheat with gluten even just once per month, you never achieve the optimal balance of all body systems.

Try 100% Paleo, GFCF and see if you can get past this final hurdle that is barring you from homeostasis.

One beer triggers anxiety in me. I can feel it and I'm nowhere close to a celiac diagnosis.

226b10cbb6b1d3530b00d2d84a2dc86e

(3313)

on June 27, 2011
at 11:57 PM

The most fascinating book that I have ever read on nutrition is one where the writer (Mark Hyman, MD) links diet to brain function. It's called (cheesy title warning), "Ultramind Solution". Read that book and he will give you all the ammunition you need to decrease your stress hormone levels and boost all the great feel-good chemicals we can make in our brains.

226b10cbb6b1d3530b00d2d84a2dc86e

(3313)

on June 28, 2011
at 05:03 PM

The book is actually very Paleo but it goes beyond the theory part of it and more into a prescription for health that is comprehensive, including tips for relaxing, exercising, sleep regulation and manipulating brain biochemistry through natural vitamins, minerals, herbs, etc. It's worth every penny.

35b6ce9b7f9dda8d40d3e6a1812ab0a9

(439)

on June 28, 2011
at 02:53 AM

@BamBam...I'm running to Amazon now...thanks...veggie money is going to a book. Can I eat the book when I'm done? I haven't even spent the money for The Paleo Solution yet. will check library first. (doubtful...)

0
21a2813241857e7532967e32e490061b

(50)

on June 27, 2011
at 11:25 PM

What about omega 6 and 3 ratio? I have had ADHD like symptoms. Getting the urges to move around to concentrate and such. When I changed the diet I felt I was so much calmer, but then I was very mindful of my omega ratio. Last few months I was eating quite a lot of pork and poultry and not so much omega 3. Again I felt these symptoms coming again but didn't understand why. Then it hit me one day that ADHD symptoms have shown to improve somewhat for some with omega 3. So now I'm going to take more care of omega ratio. It's too early to tell yet but I think it's plausible it has some effect.

0
Bebfd153c7f9cf2e5e8b4ebd65470afb

on June 27, 2011
at 07:42 PM

When you say you are 90% strict with your Paleo eating, what characterizes the 10% that you are not strict? Is there a food you still allow yourself as a part of your daily diet, or is it that you follow the diet 90% of the time, but the other 10% of the time you fall off the diet for a meal or two, then get back on the wagon?

Either way, is there a specific food or foods that you still permit regularly, or a specific food you gravitate to when you veer off program? That may be your clue as to what is triggering the ADHD. Chances are you have a delayed food allergy or sensitivity that is messing you up - you may even be sensitive to a food that the Paleo diet permits. It can also take a long time for an allergen to "run its course" through your body. In the case of a delayed food allergy, you also tend to crave the exact foods you are allergic to.

For example, I have a delayed food allergy/sensitivity (IgG) to eggs (yes, Paleo permitted, but I just can't do them). When I eat them, I develop symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis - it doesn't take much to affect me, either, and the symptoms get worse the more eggs I ingest. I usually start getting sore 3-4 hours after I eat eggs, and the discomfort lasts for 4-5 days. At one point, I was eating eggs daily and was sore constantly - even if I ate them every few days, I would be sore all the time, because I wouldn't have time to recover.

I am also allergic to sunflower seeds/oil, and they affect my mood - depending on how much I ingest, I will be anything from extremely lethargic to full blown suicidal. (I am symptom free as long as I stay away from them.) No matter the severity of the reaction, it takes a full week for the reaction to run its course.

I should mention I was tested through a homeopath and a lab that does IgG allergy testing.

Anyway, I just read the Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf and he does mention additional foods to avoid on Page 201 of the book. He mentions these things in the context of people who have autoimmune diseases, pain, or inflammation, but this could apply in your situation.

0
783296641123fa52b8237aef3d7be108

on March 10, 2011
at 08:09 PM

I have been paleo for over 6 months and have found that eating this way has seriously improved my adhd. You should try going completely gluten and casein free because casein proteins in dairy can have similar effects to gluten on the brain. Try to be very strict because if you have a leaky gut from eating these foods you will continue to leak these proteins into your system causing brain effects. It takes ahwile for a leaky gut to heal and until it does you may have symptoms even from small exposures. Also consider having your thyroid checked because the acute stress of starting your own business and the low carb paleo diet may have caused some thyroid down-regulation. I have had such success from eating this way in improving my ADHD that I stared a blog about paleo and ADHD at http://gingervenom.blogspot.com/. I would love to hear from other ADD'ers who eat paleo and their experiences.

0
Dfb10aaeb173ba93600620339f4443b7

on August 11, 2010
at 11:18 PM

Easy.

It's stress.

0
Ae011d9f1c8654ea66854ca2a977c397

(1165)

on August 11, 2010
at 09:28 PM

I think that those with ADD actually have a Paleo brain. It has been shown that the prevalence of the ADD gene is more common the further you get from Africa. It is therefore postulated that the ADD gene is responsible for human migration and that is why it survived and spread. Besides always wondering what was over the next hill the ADD gene would have also been valuable because it allows you to concentrate on many things at once. This would have kept early explorers alive in new territory as they were able to access multiple new threats at once. People with ADD are also usually good at many things so they would have been of great value to a tribe. Unfortunately, in today’s world we have so many people that it has become all about the specialist. The person that can concentrate and do one thing very well is rewarded (even if they are horrible at everything else). The person with ADD who keeps an (uncontrollable) eye on many things and learns many things very well (but not expert level) struggles in this modern setting. I find what helps is plenty of sunshine (even when working), community when working (maybe go to a coffee shop), and standing or going for a walk while thinking or even a phone conversation. This is still an area I struggle in even though Paleo has helped many other areas

From Discover Magazine; “Stronger evidence that natural selection has continued to shape the brain in recent epochs comes from studies of DRD4, a mutation in a neurotransmitter receptor that Moyzis, Wang, and many others have linked to attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Children diagnosed with ADHD are twice as likely to carry the variant gene as those without the diagnosis. DRD4 makes a receptor in the brain less effective in bonding to dopamine, which might explain why Ritalin, which increases the amount of dopamine in the space between neurons, is often helpful in treating the problem. I too have ADD and have been eating Paleo for 8 months. I still struggled with “hot and cold” energy levels but the final switch over to grass fed meats has helped that tremendously.

Sequencing studies suggest that the DRD4 mutation arose 50,000 years ago, just as humans were spreading out of Africa. Its prevalence tends to increase the farther a population is from Africa, leading some investigators to dub it “the migratory gene.” At least one allele (or copy of the gene) is carried by 80 percent of some South American populations. In contrast, the allele is present in 40 percent of indigenous populations living farther north in the Americas and in just 20 percent of Europeans and Africans. Children with the mutation tend to be more restless than other youngsters and to score higher on tests of novelty-seeking and risk-taking, all traits that might have pushed those with the variant to explore new frontiers.

In the context of a modern classroom, it may be hard to understand why kids who appear distractible and disruptive might have a survival advantage. But research shows people with DRD4 do not differ in intelligence from national norms; if anything, they may on average be smarter. Moreover, behavior that may seem like a drawback today may not have been so in ancient environments. When broaching foreign terrain filled with unknown predators, “having the trait of focusing on multiple directions might have been a good thing,” Wang says. “People focused in one direction might get eaten.”

0
95ab15c8ef50ff0daf87ccbdd52cd3b8

(2384)

on August 11, 2010
at 05:46 PM

Are you completely off gluten? How about dairy? If not, try a week completely clean -- those two often turn out to be ADHD culprits (gluten was, in my case).

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