ADHD (otherwise known as attention deficit disorder) is a non-discriminatory disorder affecting people of every age, gender, IQ, religious and socio-economic background.(1) If you have children who you suspect have atypical neuro behavior, there’s a large chance they inherited from you (most commonly the mother). ADHD, AD/HD, and ADD all refer to the same disorder. The only difference is that some people have hyperactivity and some people don’t. (1)

ADHD affects anywhere between 3-6% of the adult population, and is one of the top psychiatric illnesses noted to cause interference with daily activities and overall functioning. This disease can be noticed as early as the age of 7 in children, and up to 70% of these kids can have continuing problems as they get older. (2) Think about your own childhood struggles, and see if you can find patterns and behaviors that affected your progress or success.

“As I became older, my adult ADD continued to have a severely negative impact on my ability to focus, complete tasks, and even stay engaged during conversations.”

-Neil S.

If ADHD isn’t addressed early in life, issues such as drug problems, dropping out of school, issues with jobs/careers, and even time in prison could be potential outcomes for adults living with this condition. However, it can be tricky to diagnose this disease, since half of people that have ADHD also have another similar corresponding mental illness, such as anxiety or mood disorders, which can make it difficult to narrow down the ADHD diagnosis. (2)

Some of the symptoms and behaviors that typically appear with ADHD are:

  • Impulsiveness
  • Sensory dysfunction
  • Restlessness, inability to sit still for any length of time
  • Anxiety/depression
  • Unreliable mood swings
  • Unable to concentrate fully at given tasks or conversations
  • Easily distracted
  • Makes careless mistakes or lacks attention to detail
  • Avoids tasks that require sustained mental effort
  • Hyperfocus
  • Blurts out answers or excessive talking
  • Hot temper/quick fuse
  • Very impatient
  • Issues with self-confidence and self-esteem
  • Gets bored easily
  • Sleep restlessness, active mind

Currently, there are several ways that management of ADHD can be made possible, but this will be on a case by case basis. Some of the more natural management patterns include self-esteem enhancement activities, proper structure of daily living, and goal setting, especially for those who don’t notice a huge disruption in day to day activities or interruption from family/career/etc. However, there is another path of symptom management that many choose, and that is medication. (2)

“I was done with taking prescription medications like Adderall and the numerous bad side effects that came with them.”

– Neil S.

Unfortunately, the side effects of the medications on the market today to help with ADHD can have some adverse reactions; one popular medication, known as Ritalin, can lead to headaches, appetite loss, issues with sleeping, and anxiety/nervousness, just to name a few. (3) This is just one of the many stimulants available to patients suffering with ADHD, although antidepressants are utilized as well. Both of these options alter substances within the brain, and can have differing side effects for each person.

In particular, research has been done on those patients that have been using stimulants like Ritalin for extended periods of time, in order to note long term usage effects. Over time, studies have shown that taking this type of medication consistently can decrease the occurrence of depression as the patient ages; however, an updated study performed over the course of twelve years (and observing over 6500 children) noted that constant use of these stimulant drugs can cause a correspondingly large increase in the use of antidepressants during puberty. (4)

Research for this particular study began with children ranging from six to eight years old, who were prescribed a stimulant like Ritalin in order to manage symptoms from ADHD. These children – and their corresponding medicine intake over the years – were recorded until they reached twelve years of age. After this span of time, researchers noted that children who consistently took their medication had a higher chance of using antidepressants during puberty. (4)

Because of this information, and the increase in use of antidepressants with age, it’s important to be aware of behavioral and emotional issues that might arise during this fragile period of time. Which leads us to the question – is there a better way to manage ADHD and its symptoms, without the use of medications? Yes there is!

Neurofeedback is one of the many areas that have been delved into in regards to being effective at managing symptoms of ADHD. This process works by acquiring information about a patient’s brain waves, which are then in turn calculated and rendered back to the patient…. essentially making it so that the patient can see their brain activity in real time. This type of feedback then allows the patient to modulate their brain activity, and correspondingly change behaviors and emotions. (5) Research has shown that this type of neurofeedback can be helpful in decreasing hyperactivity and improving short attention spans, as well as reducing impulsive actions that are often seen with ADHD. In essence, neurofeedback accesses the subconscious, “reconnecting” pathways in the brain that can create ease in areas that individuals with ADHD struggle with. Combined with awareness and conscious efforts, improvements can build upon themselves if similar or new trauma is not introduced.

Another area of natural management that is interesting to see progress in is gut health and its correlation to ADHD. We know that having a healthy gut microbiome not only improves the immune system, but also many other aspects of health. The connection between the gut and brain is irrefutable in the medical literature and those suffering from ADHD have a significantly altered microbiome. Foods that help to build up the healthy microbiome within the gut can be noted to improve symptoms of ADHD, which makes sense, since the health and wellness of the brain and corresponding moods and emotions are based directly off reactions from the health of the gut. (6)

“By avoiding certain foods I learned I was sensitive to via a food sensitivity test, I was able to generate more focus, virtually eliminate brain fog, and keep my energy levels up throughout the day.”

– Neil S.

One study in particular noted that a protein called zonulin, which is found within the intestinal tract, increases when the permeability of the gut isn’t working the way that it should, AKA “leaky gut”. Because of this increase in zonulin, children have been noted to have increased symptoms of ADHD, as well as issues with functioning properly around peers. (7) This again points us in the direction of having a healthy gut in order to help manage symptoms that affect the brain!

Although there is much research left to do, it’s interesting to note that even though there are pharmaceutical interventions that are used to help manage ADHD, there are also natural solutions out there as well – and ones that have fewer negative side effects than medications. If you have questions or would like to speak more in depth about the relationship between gut health and brain waves, please speak with your local functional medicine doctor in Boulder.

  1. National Institute of Mental Health: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd/
  2. Kates N. (2005). Attention deficit disorder in adults. Management in primary care. Canadian family physician Medecin de famille canadien, 51(1), 53–59.
  3. WebMD: Ritalin.
  4. Bar-Ilan University. (2019, March 27). Childhood methylphenidate treatment predicts antidepressant use during adolescence.
  5. Enriquez-Geppert, S., Smit, D., Pimenta, M. G., & Arns, M. (2019). Neurofeedback as a Treatment Intervention in ADHD: Current Evidence and Practice.Current psychiatry reports, 21(6), 46. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11920-019-1021-4
  6. Harrell, M. (2016). Gut health and healthy brain function in children with ADHD and ASD. Counseling Today.
  7. Özyurt, G., Öztürk, Y., Appak, Y. Ç., Arslan, F. D., Baran, M., Karakoyun, İ., Tufan, A. E., & Pekcanlar, A. A. (2018). Increased zonulin is associated with hyperactivity and social dysfunctions in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Comprehensive psychiatry, 87, 138–142. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.comppsych.2018.10.006


I came in specifically for treatment for an ongoing battle with adult ADD. Since I was a child, my ADD had hindered me from being in the here and now and staying focused on one thing at a time.  As I became older, my adult ADD continued to have a severely negative impact on my ability to focus, complete tasks, and even stay engaged during conversations. I was done with taking prescription medications like Adderall and the numerous bad side effects that came with them. I was initially drawn to Dr. Autoimmune for their neurofeedback treatment, however, after becoming educated on the close relationship between the brain and the gut, I decided to take it an extra step and go through a complete gut microbiome reset.  It turned out, I was not only suffering from ADD, but also “leaky gut”. Dr. Ian and his staff educated me on how the gut is responsible for creating the majority of the neurotransmitters your brain depends upon in order to function at it’s highest level. I was put on a strict detox diet for about 45 days, then slowly began to reintroduce certain foods back into my diet. By avoiding certain foods I learned I was sensitive to via a food sensitivity test, I was able to generate more focus, virtually eliminate brain fog, and keep my energy levels up throughout the day. The diet coupled with the neurofeedback has been amazing.  I began to notice a difference in the way I thought in a couple of months after treatment began.  I was calmer, more aware, and above all, focused. Let me just say, you will not see results overnight.  You MUST do your part and eat well and avoid the foods determined by your diet protocol.  Getting adequate sleep is also key.  BUT, if you stick with the program, and do as Dr Ian and his staff recommend, you WILL begin to notice significant results in the weeks and months that follow treatment. This is an ongoing journey, and I’m grateful I chose Dr. Autoimmune to lead the way

-Neil S.

Autism Spectrum Disorder: the who, what, when, where, & why.

ASD or autism spectrum disorder is a type of developmental disorder, which affects behavior and communication. Though patients suffering from autism may get diagnosed from the disorder at any age; but, it is considered a developmental disorder as its symptoms appear during the initial two years of a child’s life.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), which is a guide used in the diagnosis of mental disorders, states that people suffering from ASD have the following:

  • Difficulty with interaction and communication with other individuals
  • Repetitive behaviors and restricted interests
  • Symptoms, which hurt the ability of the person to function optimally at work, school and other walks of life

Causes of ASD
According to CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) at least 1 in 70 kids in the USA suffer from ASD (autism spectrum disorder), which is an alarming number.

Though, scientists suggest that aberrations in genes that act together with certain environmental factors as the causative factor of ASD; however, several studies have highlighted that neuroinflammatory processes play a more critical role in the causation of ASD. Over the last decade, intense research has been done to find out how exactly immune dysfunction alters brain function and causes autism.

According to a review published in the journal ‘Current opinion in neurology’, autoantibodies (antibodies that target tissues of your own body) targeting brain proteins have been found in both children suffering from autism and their mothers. The review further states that there is alteration in both humoral and cellular immunity in patients with autism. Moreover, in some patients with autism active inflammation in the central nervous system has been found (>60%).

Another review published in the journal ‘Immunology letters’ suggests that ASD is characterized by immune dysfunction. Symptoms of immune dysfunction present in ASD are neuroinflammation (inflammation in the nervous system), increased responses of T lymphocytes, presence of autoantibodies etc. Research is pointing at a reaction to foods in the child’s diet that may cross react with cerebellar proteins, diminishing brain development and executive function (cerebellum fires to the frontal cortex which is critical to behavioral control, mood and attention so anything generating inflammation in one area may create problems in others). These responses are associated with core symptoms of ASD including repetitive behaviors and impaired communication and poor social interactions. Hence, it can be suggested that the immune dysfunction present in ASD patients affects neurological processes and various aspects of neural development; thereby, resulting in changes in behavior and communication.

Another study published in the ‘journal of neuroinflammation’ found various biochemical compounds related to inflammation in the plasma of patients suffering from autism. These chemicals can change blood flow, impact nutrient utilization and impede “neuroplasticity”, or the process of neurons connecting and creating a healthy neuron-network.

Heavy Metal Exposure Raises the Risk of ASD
It has been found that exposure to heavy metals such as lead, copper, aluminum, cadmium and mercury at various stages of development of the child may raise the risk of ASD. Prenatal exposure to heavy metals can result in defective brain development of the fetus. Consuming fish, using aluminum cooking utensils and living nearby gasoline stations has been found to result in maternal exposure to toxins.

According to a study published in the journal ‘behavioral neurology’, environmental exposure of children to toxic heavy metals during their developmental period plays a vital role in the causation of autism. The exposure to these heavy metals may be prenatal or postnatal. Some of the possible sources of exposure to heavy metals include fertilizers, chemical products, building materials, industrial paints, fish (which has high amounts of mercury), dental fillings containing silver, and preservatives containing mercury (thiomersal) present in vaccines. Lead is present in the dirt found near roads or in paint on old houses. Children who eat paint chips or who have pica (an illness in which the child eat non-nutritious things such as paint or drywall) may get toxic levels of lead in their blood.

Females who have chronic heavy metal exposure and have accumulated high levels of heavy metals such as mercury in their body tissues and blood may pass these metals to their growing fetus or infants through breastfeeding.

Vaccinations as a Potential Source of Heavy Metal Exposure
It has been found that mercury present in the preservatives used in vaccines is also a potential source of heavy metal exposure for children. Moreover, vaccines given for measles, mumps and rubella or MMR that is given during early life is also correlated to the disorder.

The causative factors of autism or ASD remains controversial and elusive, but both environmental and genetic factors have been suggested. However, recent studies suggest that exposure to heavy metals during key phases of development of a child may play a vital role in the causation of ASD. Moreover, autism is a neuroinflammatory condition and not a genetic aberration, which results from immune dysfunction resulting from environmental factors such as heavy metal exposure. This is the most important point as many so called “Autism advocacy groups” would like to normalize the behavior found in kids suffering with autistic spectrum. There is no doubt many children grow into healthy, productive adults even with Autism but for others this condition rules their life and their parents’ lives. Instead of saying we have a new “normal”, functional medicine and functional neurology looks to the reasons why someone developed incorrectly, what inflammatory triggers they have and how we can rehabilitate the brain to improve function and create less dependence on medication.

If you are curious about how we can provide a deeper level of natural support to your child then please join us for our ADD/ADHD & Autistic spectrum lecture at Dr. Autoimmune in North Boulder this Wednesday, August 1 @ 6:00PM. Limited seating available so RSVP is required!

Looking forward to providing you with the info to let your family’s health soar!
Ian Hollaman, DC, MSc, IFMCP

  1. Farida El Baz Mohamed, Eman Ahmed Zaky, Adel Bassuoni El-Sayed, Reham Mohammed Elhossieny, Sally Soliman Zahra, Waleed Salah Eldin, Walaa Yousef, Youssef, Rania Abdelmgeed Khaled, Azza Mohamed Youssef. Assessment of Hair Aluminum, Lead, and Mercury in a sample of autistic Egyptian Children: Environmental Risk Factors of Heavy Metals in Autism. Behavioral Neurology. October 2015; 2015: 545674.
  2. Afaf El-Ansary, Laila Al-Ayadhi. Neuroinflammation in autism spectrum disorders. Journal of neuroinflammation. 2012; 9: 265.
  3. Exposure to heavy metals may increase risk of autism. Medicalnewstoday. Available at: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/317754.php Accessed July 20th
  4. Autism Spectrum Disorder. NationalInstituteofMentalHealth. Available at: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/autism-spectrum-disorders-asd/index.shtml? Accessed July 20th
  5. Gamakaranage C. Heavy Metals and Autism. Journal of Heavy Metal Toxicity and Diseases. September 2016; 1:3.
  6. Charlotte Madore, Quentin Leyrolle, Chloe Lacabanne, Anouk Benmamar-Badel, Corinne Joffre, Agnes Nadjar, Sophie Laye. Neuroinflammation in Autism: Plausible Role of Maternal Inflammation, Dietary Omega 3 and Microbiota. Neural Plasticity. September 2016; 2016.
  7. Jennifer Mead, Paul Ashwood. Evidence supporting an altered immune response in ASD. Immunology letters. January 2015; 163(1): 49-55.
  8. Paula Goines, Judy Van de Water. The Immune System’s Role in the Biology of Autism. Current Opinion in Neurology. April 2010; 23(2): 111–117.