The Possible Root Causes of ADHD Explained

The Possible Root Causes of ADHD Explained

By Layla Gordon, Registered Nutritional Therapist, DipION, mBANT, CNHC, O.A. Dip. Ba (Hons)

ADHD is common. In fact, many adults are now often being diagnosed with ADHD after spending decades wondering why they sometimes react the way they do in certain situations. Within ADHD there is a spectrum and, in fact, ADHD as a term is quite misunderstood. The term refers to ‘attention-deficit’ and ‘hyperactivity’ but there is also a ‘hyper-focus’ and a mixture of all of these within it to varying levels. ADHD can also sometimes come with other traits, such as autism, ODD and OCD, for example. In my clinic, I see clients very often who are on the ADHD spectrum, because there is a very significant link between the brain (neurotransmitters, emotions and anxiety), for example, and symptoms which relate to gut health and IBS.

In researching what may be at the root cause, I have found that ADHD is complex, and is influenced by both genetics and the environment. What is very well studied is that there is a link between ADHD and low dopamine, and that this may be involved with an immune and oxidative stress imbalance. (1)

An interesting pathway in relation to this is the possibility of decreased levels of the antioxidant enzymes glutathione and paraoxonase, due to oxidative changes and cellular immunity at a genetically predisposed level. (1). The damage done by ‘free-radicals’ during normal metabolic processes may damage DNA and neurons and cellular immunity may also damage neuronal cells. (2)

This is interesting from a nutritional standpoint for many reasons, but one being that glutathione is the master antioxidant, and an enzyme found in phase 2 of liver detoxification, which is crucial to our ability to detoxify damaging particles. Glutathione production can be upregulated naturally in many ways and it can also be supplemented.

Paraoxonase also has antioxidant properties, as it circulates in the bloodstream and is associated with HDL (good cholesterol). Paraoxonases are detoxifying enzymes and may help in preventing the formation of LDL (bad cholesterol), (3).

Nitric oxide is another component that may play a role in central nervous system pathology, as it can present as both a reactive oxygen species and a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system, (4) . Nitric oxide is produced naturally by our bodies and it helps to relax the inner muscles of the blood vessels, as well as allowing blood, nutrients, and oxygen to travel to every part of our body effectively and efficiently. However, an overproduction of nitric oxidant levels might affect an individual in a negative way, in particular in relation to dopamine levels, and it may also damage the pathways of attention and physical activity, (5).

One study found that inhibiting nitric oxide with treatment was beneficial, and also that reducing maternal smoking may also help to reduce incidences of ADHD in children as inflammation and oxidative stress are correlated with smoke inhalation, (5).

One of the key factors contributing to ADHD may be a dopamine deficiency. Studies have shown that changes in oxidative metabolism and cellular immunity may be at the root cause of low dopamine production in ADHD, (6).

One study in particular has shown that the antioxidants glutathione and paraoxonase are lower in ADHD patients which may cause cellular injury, for example, around the central nervous system and in relation to dopamine production, (6).

In addition to this, the study also found that there may be a link between cellular immunity and ADHD, as two children within the study developed the onsets of ADHD following streptococcal infections, (6), suggesting that the role of our bacterial and microbiome health may also play a role in the development of ADHD.

These are just some of the findings so far within the global research of ADHD. While ADHD can often be a positive skill for many people who are often able to ‘hyper-focus’ and are often much more likely to have a certain amount of ‘drive’ and determination due to their specific personality type, ADHD can also come with what is termed as ‘emotional dysregulation’ which can make it hard for a person with ADHD to regulate their emotions. This can lead to a person overreacting, taking risks, feeling depressed or anxious and this ‘may’ also be what then contributes to the physiological occurrence of IBS in many people with ADHD. For this reason, it is always good to inform yourself as much as possible as to whether you or anyone that you know may have ADHD, so that you can help to manage the symptoms using a blend of lifestyle and natural interventions.


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