To Better Manage ADHD, Reduce Glucose Levels to Increase Self-Control

To begin this article, let’s explain what ADHD is, and what it is not.

Contrary to popular belief, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is not a lack of focus and attention, but a self-regulation disorder affecting the self-control or functions of those who have it, according to Russell Barkley, Ph.D.  Dr. Barkley, whose research includes childhood defiance, believes self-control is neurogenetic in origin. It is not the skills and knowledge of how to become successful that are lacking in those with ADHD, but the application of those skills and knowledge at the appropriate times.

Many people refer to ADHD as an attention deficit disorder. Dr. Barkley refers to the disorder as IDD, or intention deficit disorder, or even MDD, motivational deficit disorder. Basically, with ADHD the intention and motivation to do something (activation) is delayed.

Effects of Glucose on Self-Control: Activation vs. Procrastination

How does glucose affect performance? Activation, or the energy of activation, is defined in biology as “the amount of energy needed to convert molecules from a ground state to a transition state, or the energy needed to initiate a reaction.” Until the future is immediate for someone with ADHD, there is no planning. This is procrastination. The will, or intention to do something, to plan ahead, is non-existent. Could this be due to a lack of glucose as fuel for more willpower?

Consider this: the brain weighs 3% of your total body weight, but requires 25% of glucose intake, at rest. Glucose crashes or deficits lead to lack of self-control (willpower.) Studies have shown the need for stable glucose levels to increase willpower. Glucose levels are depleted by tough self-control tasks. Remarkably, sipping a sugary drink during a given task can improves performance, according to several studies.

Does self-control depend on some kind of limited energy source? Self-control appears to be highly susceptible to glucose. Glucose might therefore be related to a broad range of social behaviors. Self-control depletes large amounts of glucose, and could be lost when glucose is low or ineffective to the brain (i.e.: when insulin is low or insensitive.)

To regain self-control, glucose needs to be restored to a sufficient levels. This pattern is evident in such acts as controlling attention, regulating emotions, quitting smoking or other addictions, managing stress, resisting impulsivity, and from criminal and aggressive behavior Self-control failure is most likely during times of the day when glucose is used least effectively.

Therefore, glucose may be beneficial to those with ADHD, but only if glucose levels are sustained.

The Benefits of Glucose

After his father died prematurely of a heart attack at 53, Dr. Barry Sears began researching ways to reduce inflammation while sustaining energy. He founded the low-fat and low-glycemic Zone Ddiet, which consists of specificcertain proportions of fat, carbohydrates and protein. The Zone Diet’s success is determined by participants your hunger levels the next four to six hours after eating, while maintaining peak mental focus.  Carbohydrates are encouraged with the Zone. Sports nutritionists feel that limiting carbohydrates can harm athletic performance, especially in endurance athletes. A small amount of fat slows carbohydrate absorptions in the intestines to evenly and steadily distribute glucose into the bloodstream.

In every study I’ve found where children’s glucose levels are tested, testing durations do not last longer than one month. Most tests last only a few weeks. In these tests, researchers add sugar to a diet already based in sugar and carbohydrates to test the effects of the glucose on the body, and the subsequent crashes that may or may not result.

Critics have argued the reliability of these studies, stating that participant selection is subjective and small duration and sample sizes lack reliable sufficiency of testing outcomes. It is common knowledge that processed sugars haves harmful health effects. So would avoiding sugars all together make more sense? Would studies have been more effective if results were based off of participants abstaining from sugar for a month?

Effects of Carbohydrate and their Inclusion in our American Diet

If glucose (sugar) is the main mechanism of our self-control, can our diet lessen its effects on our body? If so, what type of diet? Furthermore, where is our diet lacking, in regards to sustaining optimal glucose levels? Since carbohydrates in the body exhibit the same effects as processed sugars and glucose, people with ADHD may do better to avoid them altogether, or replace them with protein. Protein energizes the brain and stimulates insulin to aid muscles in using glucose. Small portions of meat and seafood are encouraged in the plant-based, low-carbohydrate, protein-based Paleo Ddiet. In this diet, foods that cause inflammation or added bacteria toin the gut are discouraged; foods such as grains, dairy, legumes and all processed and refined foods.

The Paleo Ddiet also takes into account sleeping habits, low-strain exercise, and coping with stress by keeping cortisol levels down. By adding protein to every meal, you will achieve a lower glucose level will be achieved, and and possibly prevent a spikes may be prevented. Diet Matters in Controlling ADHD The cureanswers to curings for ADHD and other self-regulation disorders such as autism are closer than we think, and finding those cures begins. Most have to do with controlling first what we put into our bodies. A high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet is required to help regulate glucose levels, prevent glucose spikes and crashes, and maintain willpower.