As is so often the case, Americans want to reach for pharmaceutical fixes for our various maladies, and so it is with ADHD. Right now, it is estimated that there are more than 6.5 million American children who have been given this diagnosis. Making this even worse is the fact that about two-thirds of these children are receiving powerful, mind-altering medication, the long-term consequences of which have never been studied.
I think it’s very important that we recognize that there’s a strong gut issue that relates to these children, and, for the most part, is being ignored. Apart from the fact that being born by cesarean section dramatically increases the risk for ADHD, as does frequent antibiotic exposure (both of which affect gut bacteria), a high percentage of children with ADHD have straightforward bowel abnormalities in comparison to age matched controls.
A new study evaluated 742,939 children and demonstrated that those children with ADHD had a dramatic increased prevalence of constipation almost threefold higher than those without ADHD. Fecal incontinence was sixfold higher in the ADHD group, and visits to the doctor because of bowel issues was also dramatically increased in kids with ADHD. Importantly, these findings did not differ depending on whether or not the children with ADHD were on medication.
A holistic perspective is one that looks at the entire individual. That is, embracing the notion that gut dysbiosis may play an important role in terms of how the brain works not only in ADHD, but across the spectrum of brain related disorders. Indeed, we are just beginning to understand the profound relationship between what goes on in the gut and what goes on in the brain. Moving forward, I have no doubt that understanding this relationship will open the door for some incredible ideas in terms of therapy for these conditions.