Any ADDer worth his or her salt has heard of neurotransmitters – and has at least some inkling of what they do. And most of us might even be able to name one or two of the key neurotransmitters that come into play in our ADHD brains. But I bet few of us could describe their unique functions – let alone know any alternative ADHD solutions built around them. One ADHD expert, coach Linda Roggli, a.k.a. the ADDiva, found this lack of full awareness so common among her clients that she took to giving them nicknames for easier remembering. (Check out her interview on Attention Talk Radio if you want to hear her neat trick – and a great interview.)
In today’s Crusher Blog, I’ll do a quick summary of the neurotransmitters we should keep track of, and offer a few alternative solutions so that when you put your chosen natural cures for ADD into action, you’ll understand better what’s going on and be more likely to stick to your plan.
The Three Neurotransmitters the ADHD Adult Needs to Befriend
There are three neurotransmitters of importance to the adult with ADHD. Here they are with brief explanation of their role:
1. Norepinephrine is a stress hormone that, in its role as a neurotransmitter, affects key parts of the brain associated with attention and response, among other things. As such, it plays a key role in the ADHD brain. Some medications, Strattera for one, is designed to help with norepenephrine levels.
2. Serotonin is found primarily in the gastrointestinal tract (yep, your gut) and the central nervous system – and is widely believed to contribute to one’s feeling of happiness and well-being. And it’s also related to tryptophan, that chemical that in certain foods helps us with sleep.
3. Dopamine is the All-Star of neurotransmitters, if you ask me. It’s responsible for motivation (or reward-based behavior), though that can be for good or for not-so-good purposes. As you may know, dopamine’s the thing that some drugs jacks up and makes you seek more of in addiction. But if its powers are harnessed for good – such as I describe in Video I, Way 2: Get a Nagging Desire – it can chage your life on both a daily and long-term basis. Dopamine also has a key role in working memory, attention and congnitive function – hence, the All-Star player among the three.
Find Your Own Natural Cures for ADD by Understanding and Leveraging Your Neurotransmitters
Now, as I’ve said many times before, awareness alone can be a powerful alternative ADHD solution. So knowing about these powerful agents in our minds is great. But we can go beyond the awareness to putting these three guys to work for us. Here are a few ways:
Exercise …Harvard psychiatrist John Ratey puts it simply: “Exercise stimulates a brain chemical that acts like Miracle-Gro for the brain.” When you exercise you’re giving your brain a jump-start. When your blood gets pumping your brain releases important chemicals that help crush your ADD. Exercise increases the neurotransmitter chemicals regulating the attention system. And regular exercise also helps improve our mood and our attitude. Get at least 20 minutes of cardio — running, brisk walking, cycling – if you really want to feel a difference. Exercise is one of the best natural cures for ADD, because it stimulates the health-promoting chemicals our bodies produce naturally.
Diet …Protein triggers alertness-inducing neurotransmitters that help you focus. Get quality protein from fish, lean meat, beans, dairy and protein drinks or powders.
Diet can affect serotonin levels, and certain serotonin-boosting foods that may help in this effort are dates, bananas and papayas.
And as mentioned, serotonin’s helpful in sleep: If you have a protein snack – like cottage cheese – a couple hours before bed, the L-tryptophan helps your melatonin and serotonin production.
Self-Motivation …Dr. Russell Barkley tells us that we ADDers are weak in the frontolimbic circuit, which is the center of self-motivation, “where you think about your goals, and it actually motivates you.” He says that WE seem to LACK the ability to engage in a self-disciplined, persistent course toward our goals – unless there’s some looming threat or other incentive. But we can confound that handicap by having strong desires that trigger dopamine production via emotion. As mentioned above, Nagging Desires can fuel that emotion. Watch a snippet of what I mean.
Our ADHD tribe has unique brain wiring, and a unique relationship therefore with these and other neurotranmitters. But a tribe we are, and together we can figure out some ofthe best natural cures for ADD. The more we understand our bodies’ particular chemistry, the better our treatments will work. Like so many unlikely ADD heroes, these chemicals can truly be alternative remedies for our adult ADHD. Know ’em. Put ’em to work for you!!!
P.S. If you haven’t yet heard of www.CrusherTV.com, I hope you’ll check it out. Each Monday night at 10pm we “air” another episode chock full of useful productivity tips and “brain hacks”, and our Guest Experts provide more great ideas. Tons of other benefits for members, including free group coaching sessions. Hope to “see” you there! – Team Crusher