Recent studies are suggesting a possible link between Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ADHD) and obesity. Data collected from weight loss clinics are identifying that obese pediatric and adult patients referred to obesity clinics may present with higher than expected prevalence of ADD/ADHD.
A review of studies of those with ADD/ADHD also suggests that study subjects identified as having ADD/ADHD are heavier than the general population.
The link between ADD/ADHD and obesity has been explained by several theories. One suggests that ADD/ADHD might lead to obesity via abnormal eating behaviors. Another theory is that the impulsiveness of binge eating behavior might actually contribute to ADD/ADHD. Another theory postulates that both obesity and ADD/ADHD may be the expression of common underlying biochemical abnormalities in the brain of at least some of the those with both obesity and ADD/ADHD.
For most of those with obesity and ADD/ADHD, these therapeutic strategies would be beneficial:
- neurotransmitter testing to enable better regulation of brain biochemistry in the person who may be less genetically able to produce the correct levels of certain neurotransmitters. Use of certain amino acids as dietary supplements to modify abnormal neurotransmitter levels may assist in controlling both ADD/ADHD and overeating behaviors
- dietary interventions aimed at modifying the intake of simple sugars and stimulant type foods that encourage both obesity and ADHD related symptoms
- healthy aerobic exercise to encourage both weight loss and a ‘re-patterning’ of brain function
Focus on Healthy Eating
Just as ADD/ADHD adults may struggle to comprehend speech, they may also have difficulty interpreting what their bodies are telling them. These individuals mistake being upset or bored with a need to eat. Using ADD/ADHD as a tool to help lose weight, these individuals need to focus on cooking healthy food or starting exercise rather than focusing on what can’t be eaten. Foods that are typically overeaten should not be kept in the house. ADD/ADHD adults should only eat these types of comfort foods when with family or friends in a public place.
Take Time to Exercise
With boredom or fatigue, the ADD/ADHD individual should overcome the moment by engaging in a short burst of activity, such as a brisk 10 minute walk to increase energy levels while reducing fatigue and hunger.
Avoid Boredom and Stimulate Your Brain
Brains need a minimum daily requirement of stimulation. Boredom and restlessness frequently translate into eating. Doing interesting tasks decreases reliance on food as a way to keep busy.
Television provides little brain stimulation and is a common trigger for overeating – television should be avoided if the person with ADD/ADHD finds themselves looking for snacks at every commercial break.
Schedule When You Eat
People with ADD/ADHD and obesity are often unaware of their feelings. These individuals may actually need to be reminded to eat in order to avoid hunger pangs and overeating. Eating something healthy and low in simple carbohydrates and calories every four hours will keep both blood sugar and the brain on track.
Be Attentive to the Experience of Eating
Those with ADD/ADHD and obesity need some smart food rules. They need to sit down at a table to eat with others. They should not be multitasking while eating. Flat screens such as TV’s smart phones, and iPads should not be in places where they eat. They should avoid reading books, newspapers or performing work tasks while eating. Eating should be about the meal with slow, thorough chewing of each meal occurring. Taking the time to taste food instead of gulping it on the run may help with feeling full longer and make it harder to want to habit snack when bored.
Teach Yourself When to Stop Eating
Those with ADD/ADHD who are obese should be using preset serving sizes. It is also helpful to eat with someone who can help with compliance on portion sizes.
If there is frustration with any of these behavior modifications, neurotransmitter regulation is another option. Tiny biochemical messengers called neurotransmitters help nerves to communicate with each other and affect every cell, tissue and system in your body. Fatigue, weight gain and sleep difficulties can all have different biochemical causes . One patient with ADD/ADHD and obesity may have serotonin issues, whereas another may have glutamate levels that are abnormal. Using neurotransmitter regulation to bring brain chemicals to a more normal range may make it easier to be compliant with the various behavior modifications mentioned previously in this article.
Crosby Chiropractic & Acupuncture Centre has been offering neurotransmitter testing to patients in addition to having both nutritional consults available and this Centre has a variety of weight loss plans available in order to ensure that our patients get a care plan tailored to their individual needs.