Why do ADHD Brains Crave Sugar?
We have all gone after scrumptious confectionaries and delicious chocolates in childhood! Some, or probably, many of us, have carried the urge to gorge on ‘sugary foodstuffs’ into adulthood too! Apart from warning us about the risk of health issues, doctors do not condemn us for possessing ‘a sweet tooth’! In other words, it is a perfectly natural occurrence. Then, why should anyone be surprised that ADHD brains have a craving for sweets? It is because the craving is excessive in nature.
The ADHD brain asks for sugar all the time!
Does a normally functioning brain require sugar/glucose?
The answer is ‘yes’!
Glucose is the fuel for all your cells to remain active and function well. It is responsible for the activities of two crucial neurotransmitters in your brain. They are dopamine and norepinephrine. Neurotransmitters are chemicals secreted by the brain. They behave as messengers, carrying messages from one nerve to another in diverse regions of the body.
Dopamine and norepinephrine control your cognitive behaviors, moods, emotions, responses to pain, movements and actions, etc.
Dopamine, specifically, is the happy neurotransmitter. It rewards you when you do something well with feeling emotional well. For example, you store the lessons learned from good experiences in your brain, creating a motivation to do it again. It can motivate you to take up greater challenges where you feel the same emotional well-being. Over time, you it can help you learn to make good decisions and even acquire leadership qualities.
As dopamine secretion increases, you experience excitement, joy, exhilaration, etc. This enables sustained motivating behavior. At the same time, nothing goes overboard, because your normally functioning brain keeps everything under control.
How is the ADHD brain different?
Unlike the ADHD individual, neuro-typicals experience a sense of gratification even while completing mundane chores well. Their brains are not over-aroused. They do not become bored easily. In contrast, the ADHD brain remains unsatisfied and bored with tasks that offer no challenges. The symptoms display themselves easily. Attention wanders. There may be irritation, temper-tantrums, frustration, etc.
These are the signals to indicate that the ADHD brain is in distress. It is demanding glucose to activate dopamine secretion. This is possible when the ADHD patient consumes foods containing carbohydrates, such as bread, pasta, cookies, sweets, etc. Carbohydrates convert into glucose rapidly.
The individual experiences suppression of restlessness. If you have noticed, ADHDers can eat continuously, they are not keen to adhere to set mealtimes.
Their brains are eternally seeking stimulation.
Another odd aspect is that ADHD brains become more active towards the evening. This is the time when the individual prefers to engage with social media, play video games or watch television. It does not help that the blue light emanating from these screens make the brain even more alert.
Naturally, the patient finds it difficult to sleep. Waking up early is also a problem. Such irregular patterns in the sleep-wake cycle have adverse effects on the family’s waking and resting hours.
The ADHD brain is continuously striving to self-regulate. Its stimulation needs vary by the neurotransmitter levels within it. Whatever is the case, it struggles to get its response right.
ADHD brains always wants something riskier, faster, funnier, bigger, louder, etc. There is no satisfaction at all!
However, the brain and body can only take so much. Over time, when everything gets to be too much, the sufferer becomes physically and emotionally overwhelmed. This is often seen as the crash.
Research shows that small amounts of sugar can help the ADHD brain function optimally. The overall goal is to find a balance to help self-regulate this dopamine seeking brain while fueling the energy needed to function optimally.
My suggestion is to keep a journal of what you eat and how you feel cognitively for that given day. When you have a few days logged, analyze it and see if there is a pattern.
Can you use it to help satiate your sugar craved brain and feel balanced?
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