When I was ten years old, I attempted to nail a backflip in gymnastics. I landed off-center, causing a weird pain in my big toe so I leaned in to take a closer look. Yikes – what’s that? My instructor told me that I bursted a small vein, and it would disappear in a couple of days. I was young, so of course my body healed quickly.
I’m now 53. Young at heart, right?
A couple of months ago, I woke up to that same weird pain, but this time in my right thumb. I knew for sure I didn’t land on my thumb – it’s been a minute since I’ve done a backflip! I decided to give it a few days and see if it would go away on its own.
It got worse. It spread to my wrist, my fingers, my ankles… My doctor told me it was inflammation, prescribed medications, and encouraged me to change my diet.
I’m a health coach, and I know how to use nutrition to optimize my health. As some of you know, I moved to Switzerland almost a year ago: the land of chocolate, cheese, milk products, and lots of fresh baked goodies. Although the portion sizes are much smaller than in the U.S., the frequent indulgences add up if you give it enough time – which I did!
I was able to keep up my exercise routine for the most part and during a yoga class, I followed a guided meditation body scan. This allowed me to focus my attention on different areas of my body. When my attention focused on the areas that were in pain due to inflammation, I literally “saw red”.
Eat Right, Think Right!
It was time to clean up my act and reduce the inflammation
As a brain health coach who specializes in adult ADD/ADHD, I knew switching my diet away from processed, sugary foods would have an almost immediate positive impact on my body, and would also impact my brain.
How Anti-Inflammatory Foods Work
There’s strong evidence suggesting a link between inflammation and ADHD, even though the exact science behind this connection is not yet fully understood.
When inflammation occurs in the brain, it is referred to as neuroinflammation. Some studies have shown that individuals with ADHD may have higher levels of certain inflammatory markers in their blood or cerebrospinal fluid compared to those without ADHD. Neuroinflammation can affect brain regions involved in attention, impulse control, and other cognitive functions.
Inflammation can also affect the levels and functioning of neurotransmitters in the brain, such as dopamine and serotonin, which are known to play a role in ADHD. Altered neurotransmitter levels could disrupt normal brain communication and contribute to ADHD symptoms.
It’s important to note that while there are suggestive links between inflammation and ADHD, this does not imply a direct causal relationship. ADHD is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder, and its etiology likely involves a combination of genetic, environmental, and neurological factors.
What we do know for sure is that reducing inflammation through a balanced, anti-inflammatory diet including a variety of fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and lean proteins will have a positive overall impact on our health.
FOODS TO EAT
Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are rich in antioxidants, particularly flavonoids
Salmon, mackerel, sardines, and trout are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids
Spinach, kale, collard greens, and other leafy vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants
Curcumin, the active compound in turmeric, is a potent anti-inflammatory agent commonly used in traditional medicine.
Extra-virgin olive oil contains oleocanthal, which has anti-inflammatory properties similar to NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).
Almonds, walnuts, and other nuts are rich in healthy fats, fiber, and antioxidants
Green tea contains polyphenols, particularly epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which exhibits anti-inflammatory effects
Ginger contains compounds with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, making it a popular ingredient in herbal remedies.
Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, a powerful antioxidant known for its potential to reduce inflammation
AVOCADO AND AVOCADO OIL
Avocados and avocado oils are very rich in nutrients and sources of mono-unsaturated fats as well as fat-soluble vitamin E and carotenoids.
Pro-inflammatory foods to avoid for ADHD
Reducing inflammation is not just about adding specific foods to your diet; it also involves avoiding pro-inflammatory foods like sugary snacks, processed meats, refined carbohydrates, and excessive amounts of unhealthy fats. (All foods that make you “see red”) Cutting-edge research shows that food can actually turn off certain disease genes and turn on health-promoting genes. Food truly is medicine.
I can tell you from personal experience that with these dietary shifts, I am no longer “seeing red”. As my body has healed, it has become easier and easier to choose foods that I know will heal my body, keep me energized, and keep my brain sharp and focused.
As an expert in ADD/ADHD, and also someone diagnosed with this condition, I know it’s not easy to make changes.
Oftentimes, we make big plans and then forget what we committed to, or we can’t find the heartfelt letter we wrote to ourselves explaining why it’s time for a change. We’re passionate one minute about a goal and suddenly lose interest. We go all in on a diet and then give up if we don’t follow it perfectly. It’s an exhausting rollercoaster to be on.
Trust me, I get it. Don’t despair. There’s hope.
With a few simple changes, you can be on the road to feeling more focused, energized, and strong. Sign up for my free guide: Distracted to Driven: 6 Strategies for the Scattered Brain.
As with any dietary changes or concerns about inflammation-related health conditions or ADD/ADHD, it is essential to consult with your healthcare professional for personalized advice and guidance.