ADHD Treatment and the Environment
The environment is important in ADHD diagnosis and treatment. One of the most perplexing questions facing health care workers today is explaining the incredibly increased numbers of people with diseases such as ADHD, Type II diabetes, asthma and autism. The rate of increase of these diseases can only be attributed to environmental changes and most researchers now believe that a likely cause of the increased incidence of these disorders is increased exposure to environmental factors that change gene functioning.
A new report in the journal Epigenomics comes to the conclusion that, “Many environmental factors that have epidemiological association with common human disorders are likely to exert their effects through epigenetic alterations. This general mechanism of gene-environment interaction poses special challenges."
I have explained the process of ADHD epigenetics in another post. In short, the importance of taking the individual’s environment into account when determining the diagnosis and management of ADHD is of upmost importance. We know that factors such as nutritional deficiencies (such as iron and magnesium deficiencies), nutritional allergies or food sensitivities (such as Gluten and dairy allergies) and inadequate diets (such as junk food diets) can cause or worsen symptoms of ADHD. We know that babies exposed to tobacco, alcohol, heavy metals or illicit drugs are more likely to develop ADHD, we know that inadequate exposure to green space or exercise can worsen ADHD and we know that stress worsens the outcome of all illnesses.
Researchers are spending millions of dollars looking at the genes that run amuck in ADHD. They are now finding that some genes only run amuck if other environmental dangers are present. The successful treatment of ADHD, they are finding, also depends on the presence or absence of these environmental dangers.
Some treatments may work, researchers are discovering, by undoing some of the gene recoding that the environmental hazards may have brought on. In the case of environmental hazards that we cannot control, these treatment s may be our only solutions but where environmental factors can be improved, they should be prior to starting treatment with a prescription medication.
Physicians in the U.S. rarely have the time, energy, resources, inclination or training to delve into the lifestyle and environmental factors that contribute to the illnesses of their patient populations. With the exponential rise in incidence of conditions such as Inattentive ADHD and other illnesses, whose symptoms are caused or worsened by environmental factors, they may be forced to find the time and the resources to evaluate and address these factors.
Epigenomics. 2012 Aug;4(4):383-402.
The epigenetic lorax: gene-environment interactions in human health.
Latham KE, Sapienza C, Engel N.