The Genetics of ADD and ADHD
A recent article on Medscape (the largest doctor publication in the US, funded by Pharma of course) published an article implicating a specific gene in ADD/ADHD. Science and research has shown is there is a genetic component in most diseases and disorders, however, our genes do not define us and choosing the wrong medicine and diet can have a far greater implication on our health than the biology we were handed.
The study referenced here, implies that glutamate neurotransmission plays a role in ADD/ADHD. This study determined the frequency of genetic mutations involving specific genes ― namely, glutamate receptor genes (GRM), which were found that more than 20% of children and adolescents with ADHD carried the mutations. These recurrent mutations in glutamatergic neurotransmission genes which impair the glutamatergic pathways in the brain. The significance of this study is the demonstration of the actual prevalence of these variants in the general ADHD population. The agenda here is now there are more genes discovered in the diagnosis of ADD/ADHD, more neurotransmitters identified and of course, more DRUGS that can now be used in treatment.
My dispute or concern with this article is, although the research is beneficial, throwing medications at immature brains, immune systems and bodies is poor medical practice and ultimately harmful.
Instead I propose first line treatment in ADD/ADHD should be diet…..perhaps a low glutamate diet.
To review, Glutamate and GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) are the brain’s most plentiful neurotransmitters. Over half of all brain synapses use glutamate, and 30-40% use GABA. Since GABA is inhibitory and glutamate is excitatory, both neurotransmitters work together to control many processes, including the brain’s overall level of excitation.
Many of the drugs of abuse change the balance of glutamate or GABA, exerting tranquilizing or stimulating effects on the brain. Drugs that increase GABA or decrease glutamate are depressants.
Glutamine and glutamate comprise approximately 25% of the dietary amino acid intake and constitute the “glutamate family” of amino acids, which are disposed of through conversion to glutamate. Although glutamine has been classified as a nonessential amino acid, in major trauma, infections, bone or marrow injuries chemotherapy and surgery, consumption exceeds production, it becomes a (conditionally) essential amino acid. L-Glutamate is the most abundant free amino acid in brain and it is the major excitatory neurotransmitter of the vertebrate central nervous system. Glutamate plays a key role in nerve cell differentiation, migration and survival in the developing brain via facilitated Calcium transport, as well as synaptic maintenance and plasticity. Glutamate also contributes to learning and memory. Glutamine via glutamate is converted to alpha-ketoglutarate, an integral component of the citric acid cycle, and subsequently the super-antioxidant glutathione.
So, what does this mean for a child diagnosed with ADD/ADHD?
All healing starts in the gut. If we use this study for its analysis of basic genetic variation in the human population, then let’s take that information and use naturopathic principles of “removing the cause of illness” to heal the body.
Step one- reduce all glutamate from foods. This is most often found in the form of MSG aka “natural flavors”. Monosodium glutamate can be hidden in all sorts of processed foods under names like: monopotassium glutamate, yeast extract, anything “hydrolyzed” such as hydrolyzed protein, calcium caseinate, autolyzed yeast, textured protein, gelatin, soy protein (including isolate and concentrate), whey protein (including isolate and concentrate), carrageenan, bouillon and broth, stock, and “flavors” or “flavoring” (i.e. natural vanilla flavor), maltodextrin, citric acid, pectin, milk powder, soy sauce, anything “protein fortified,” corn starch, corn syrup and modified food starch.
It has been well reported that kids who carry a diagnosis of ADD or ADHD have a leaky blood brain barrier (BBB) this contributes to the misuse of glutamate by the brain. Natural genetic variation in our population may predispose some to glutamate sensitivity as well. The combination of excess glutamate in the diet, and chronic low-grade inflammation as seen in food sensitivities, can contribute to the exact symptoms we see in kids with ADD and ADHD.
So, before any child takes any experimental drug for ADD or ADHD, heal the gut and heal the brain! Start with eliminating any processed foods that contain glutamates and begin to heal the gut!