Episode 3: Treating ADHD Naturally When You’re a Woman

AG_ADDW Ep3 square

Jump to:

Can’t listen to the episode? Here’s the transcript:

Hey guys, what’s up. My name is Lacy and this is An ADD Woman, where we’re going to talk about treating ADHD naturally when you are a woman.

So on my blog, Mothering the Storm (https://www.lacyestelle.com), some of my most popular blog posts are how to treat ADHD naturally (https://lacyestelle.com/how-i-naturally-combat-mine-and-my-sons-adhd-symptoms/). Now this was something I wrote from firsthand experience and it has I believe over 10,000 shares on Pinterest, Facebook, and the like, but what’s most interesting to me is that what worked for me very well in the beginning over time has definitely changed.

And while I will say that treating ADHD naturally is always something you want to strive to do, it does not mean that it is a solution that will fix absolutely everything. Ultimately, when you really think about it, ADHD, just like any other amount of illness, comes down to a matter of chemical imbalance in your brain.

Sometimes your diet and your lifestyle routine, your exercise, all those different things can compensate for that lack of chemicals. Not always.

And sometimes there’ll be things specifically in your adult life as a woman that your exercise routine or your dieting or your non dieting or your coffee intake no longer can make up that gap between, you know, what your brain has and what your brain needs.

So with that, I’m going to kind of go over, you know, what I used at that time, why I did it that way and what I’ve found since then. So I hope you’ll stick around. It was a very long process and here’s the truth. I started treating my ADHD naturally long before I had a diagnosis. I went on a diet.

This was six years ago. I read a book by JJ Virgin called The Virgin Diet (https://www.amazon.com/Virgin-Diet-Drop-Foods-Pounds/dp/0062406795/). Highly recommend that book. It’s excellent. She’s very, very good. And she’s a woman, so she’s definitely talking to women about women and our weight struggles. And she talked about a lot about high inflammation foods. Foods that naturally cause inflammation in our body and what to do about them, how to cut them out, how to deal with them, how to recognize them, how to recognize when your body is reacting to them.

She talks a lot about something that we hear a lot about these days, especially, I feel like it’s kind of a buzzword, the whole idea of food intolerance, right? Where people went through this idea of, you know, you have food allergies, which definitely cause can cause a life-threatening reaction, but then you also have this thing called food intolerance and you had mixed reviews from people from different doctors that will say, oh, it’s a thing, or it’s not a thing.

Well, I’m here to tell you a lot of the doctors that I follow. Dr. Axe , Dr. Amen, a lot of them talk about how the chemicals in our brain are directly related to the bacteria and our gut health that our gut houses. Our immune system, and it houses, you know, how we create dopamine, how we create serotonin, how we create norepinephrine, all these, I know stupidly long words. But all of those are chemicals in your brain that help you function the best.

Ultimately, if you are eating high inflammation foods, and you’re putting them into your body over and over again, and you’re not realizing that they’re causing you inflammation, they are wreaking havoc on your gut and your gut brain link system. Well obviously, it’s not going to work at optimum levels.

If you’re constantly giving your body the wrong foods…

I went through that diet and I lost 40 pounds in three months and I kept that weight off for probably four years over the last two years since I’ve had my third. I have on and off, gained it back. And I think that comes down to a couple of things.

One, your body will always adjust to what you’re doing. They say it a lot in exercise. You hear it a lot. When personal trainers will say, you have to keep switching it up, you have to keep your body kind of guessing because your body will always want to just kind of coast. I think I got very complacent with where I was with my eating habits and I became.

Lazy, not only that, but you know, the hormones that I dealt with all throughout my pregnancy, sometimes during my pregnancy, as a woman who has ADHD, who was having terrible nausea, terrible morning sickness, most of the time I was in pain, as uncomfortable as any other woman, who’s had a pregnancy can relate.

I just ate whatever food I could keep in my stomach.

You know, I wasn’t always super concerned about health wise. I actually had the strangest craving at the beginning of the pregnancy. I wanted sharp cheddar cheese and apples. It sounded so good to me. That was the only thing I wanted to eat for the first three months.

Even though I hadn’t had dairy, I hadn’t been eating dairy for three weeks. After I basically derailed all of my good, healthy eating habits throughout the pregnancy. Then I went in to being a mom of three, and I found myself always reaching for the easiest foods. So coming back to how to treat ADHD naturally, what worked for us, what didn’t work for us originally, this post that I wrote, um, the actually now that I’m looking at, it has been shared close to 12,000.

It was because at the time I was trying to help my son control his ADHD. He was eight years old, I believe at the time that we did this and I was trying to help him control his ADHD without needing to put him on medication. Why? Because at the time I think I had a very strong misunderstanding of medication for ADHD.

I just immediately thought medication just means bad.

If I have to put my child on medication, maybe that means that I’m one of those “lazy parents who just can’t control my child.” I’m using quotations here, people. So if you can’t hear the sarcasm in my voice, Please know it’s there. I can’t control my child.

They can’t get him under control. I don’t discipline well enough mind you. I had some pretty toxic friendships and relationships throughout all this time of my life. And I definitely had this misconception in my head that I was just this really bad parent, or it was either that, or my kid was just really messed up.

And as a mom, you are constantly blaming yourself. This has to be something I did either during my pregnancy. Maybe it’s something I did during their, their youth years, their, their little years, their toddler years, I screwed up somewhere along the way. And now my kid is paying for it because they can’t control their behavior.

And I can’t control. So everything is just feels out of control.

And in my attempt to do this, we cut out a lot of foods for my son. The main foods were cut out where the high inflammation foods that I had cut out the previous year, we cut out corn, gluten, dairy, peanuts, sugar, eggs, and soy. Yeah. You might be asking yourself what in the world is left after you’ve cut all that stuff out.

Well, basically non-processed food. We’d had to cook everything from scratch. This wasn’t super difficult at the time because I was working in a minimally part-time job. I was freshly divorced, unfortunately, but I was staying with family. And so I was always kind of able to cook him stuff and being that I had gotten pretty good at cooking from scratch over the years previously only.

With my new diet, but also previous to that, I had gotten pretty good at baking adapting, certain recipes. Wasn’t super difficult. I was able to cook him, you know, stuff that looked like the process stuff. I would cut him up, you know, different meats and cheeses and fruits and put them in cute little trays and make it appeal to his eyes prior to it appealing to his stomach that it looked like he was eating a Lunchable.

Even if we all knew it wasn’t really a Lunchable. Now at this time, I was asking my son all the time. How are you feeling? Do you feel better? Do you feel like you’re functioning better? I also added a long list of supplements to his diet. At the time, one of the first ones being Barlean’s Fish Oil, Omega Swirl.

This is still one of the best supplements that I can’t recommend to people enough.

It works for kids who have sensory issues. Not as far as treating their sensory struggles. Okay. But if you need your kid to take fish oil, cause we all know it is probably one of the healthiest things you can get into your body.

Omega-3s are just so good for you, but you obviously can not always get a child to swallow an omega-3 pill. Not to mention my sister and I have talked at length. How some fish oils, just give you those nasty burps afterwards. Now I don’t know about you, but nobody wants to taste fish oil later on after they’ve already consumed it.

So Barlean’s Fish Oil Omega Swirl , it tastes like, gosh, it almost tastes like candy. My kids would beg me to have more and I would have to tell them, no. It is a little expensive. It’s about $30 a week. And that’ll only get you about 15 servings if I remember correctly, but it literally tastes like, I guess the best thing I could compare it to would be maybe like lemon yogurt.  Well, that is, if you get the lemon flavor, they have all sorts of different flavors. I think they even have one out there that’s like strawberry smoothie, it is a cream. You actually pour it onto a spoon. You take it like, by the tablespoon. Oh man. It is so good. You’ll be looking forward to your omega-3 everyday.

The other thing we added was just a regular multivitamin.

Now something that I always come back to hundred blogs is the brand Garden of Life. I’m very impressed with their brand of supplements. I think they’re very good. And I really like that they care so much about making sure that the ingredients in their products are very wholesome, that they do what they say they’re going to do.  And they’re, plant-based primarily. So I did put him at that time on a Garden of Life, it was a Vitamin Code Kids Chewable Whole Food vitamin. He would take that everyday. I also put him on Probiotic Chewable. Now at the time I was also taking probiotics. 

As I’m going through this, I’m reviewing what I did for my kid. And I would like to try to think about how you can apply it to your life as a woman, as an adult woman. 

Probiotics are huge. And this is all going back to talking about how our gut influences. So much of the chemical makeup in our body, our gut needs to have things that needs to thrive.  Probiotics are definitely high on that list. Now for me, the brand I chose for probiotics was again, Garden of Life. Now Garden of Life has a probiotic line, which is really great. And you can actually choose your probiotic based on your needs. They have a Woman’s Probiotic specifically, which has certain strains and actually added supplements into it that just women might need or benefit from.

But they also have one for Mood Support. When I was pregnant I couldn’t take any supplements and I definitely couldn’t take ADHD medications. But let me tell you being pregnant with hormones, it wreaks havoc on your brain when you have ADHD! At one point I started taking Garden of Life’s Mood Probiotic.  Now I did talk to my doctor about this prior to taking them, and I do strongly recommend you talk to your doctor before you take any supplements while you’re pregnant. But once I started taking it. I felt so much better. It took probably about two to three weeks for me to really see a difference. But the mood support in that probiotic is excellent.

So I added that to my son’s diet way back then too.  We also added enzymes. So when you’re dealing with food intolerances and you’re trying to get your gut, right and I know I keep saying this, but your gut health is definitely directly linked to your mental health. And I know I’m not a doctor, everybody on here knows I’m not a doctor full disclosure.  (If you didn’t know it, I’m not a doctor, but there are a lot of studies out there that you can look at the information in regards to the brain and gut link.) 

With that said, enzymes are really important to be able to break down your food properly.

And a lot of times, these days with the bad foods that we put into our body, we don’t have the enzymes in there to actually break them down properly.

So I did have my son taking an enzyme as well. That’s something that you can take as an adult.  I haven’t taken any type of enzyme and had it or seen a direct effect, but I will say I haven’t seen a bad effect of it, of taking one. So. I don’t think it could hurt you. 

Garden of Life also has have a B12 Sublingual spray.  So anytime you take B12, you definitely want to keep it under your tongue. Have it be sublingual, enter straight into your bloodstream that way. Garden of Life actually has a spray and spray right under your tongue. Now this was not recommended for kids at the time. I did talk to a pharmacist and they said, it’s not going to hurt him if he wanted to take it.  So we did do that as well. Um, and I took that under the tongue as well. 

And then, magnesium. It is so underrated as to how important it is.

I was just talking to somebody the other day about how ADHD can cause sleep disruption. Well, what is a number one problem with ADHD people is if we get bad sleep, it directly affects our symptoms so much so, that actually sleep apnea can be misdiagnosed as ADHD. And then children get put on stimulants before they’ve had a sleep apnea test to see if they’re actually getting adequate sleep! ADHD mimics almost the exact same symptoms. Magnesium also helps you regulate your sleep. Not only does it do that, it also binds to gabba, or gamma and amino butyric acid.

I don’t know if I’m saying that correctly, but you get what I’m saying. That’s a primary inhibitor neurotransmitter, which basically means it’s something your body has to utilize prior to being able to give you the right chemicals in your brain to be able to relax. So it cannot do it without magnesium and Garden of Life has one here.

And if you’re deficient in magnesium at all, you’re not going to be getting good sleep. And if you’re not getting good sleep, you’re not going to be able to control your ADHD symptoms.

These things do not work for everyone. As an adult woman, here’s what I have also found when you are trying to utilize your diet and your routine to treat your ADHD.  There’s a couple of things, you have to be aware of. One thing major … when you are PMSing, man, your symptoms are through the roof! I have not found yet a study, but I can tell you some things that really jump out to me. There is a diagnosis now for PMDD, which is premenstrual dysphoric disorder. I believe basically just means that you get heightened PMS.

Women I’ve talked to who have ADHD all tell me that they have extreme PMS. Well, why is that?

So well, we have a regulation disorder? ADHD is a regulation disorder.

We struggle to regulate ourselves if we can’t regulate ourselves. And then we add hormones on top of it. Do you think that we’re going to be able to regulate our emotions a couple of days prior to our period?

Not at all. Those were the days that I have my friends calling me, they’re ready to pack their bags on their husband. They’re ready to make some seriously rash decisions. And I’m always having to go “Let’s, just take it down a notch and let’s step out of the box. And let’s really look at this situation.”

Are you letting your emotions kind of rule the show or are you letting your logical self rule the show when your hormones are in play? Let me tell you. There is not a treatment in the world, I don’t think, that I have found yet that can actually help you remain of calm and sound mind. Even in my experience, since my lifestyle and diet and fitness routine were not enough after I had my third son to control my ADHD or at least in the capacity that I was able to fulfill them, I did go on medication.

But let me tell you the days leading up to my menses every single month, my medication did not work.

It would work in the way of. I wouldn’t have a complete meltdown, but I always would still have some sort of irritability. Everything would bother me way worse. I’d want to cry over something silly. Now, granted, everybody has, you know, at least most women have PMS, but to also have days just prior to my period where I couldn’t focus, couldn’t get much done, wasn’t very motivated, didn’t want to physically get moving or get going. I think that all comes back to hormones and as a woman and as an adult woman, these are things that will affect us, that they’re never going to affect our male counterparts. So they’re not calling to be a catchall underneath that ADHD diagnosis.

You sit down with a doctor and they find out that you have ADHD. They’re never going to be like, oh, but also watch yourself a couple of days prior to your period, you might go over your budget. Or you might flip out and break up with your boyfriend, or you might freak out on your kids and feel terribly guilty about it.

They’re not going to tell you that because when they study ADHD, they study men and women, and they’re not trying to pay attention to specific things in regards to just one.

I wish they were. I do feel like we’re more onto it now. It’s coming, but it’s just not known, but flat-out PMS and ADHD. They are not.  That’s firsthand. The other thing I can tell you is that as a woman, treating ADHD naturally becomes way harder when sugar is involved. Now, when I did the diet that I did, I cut out sugar entirely for three full weeks. Once I took it out, adding it back was actually harder than cutting it out because every time that I would try to add it, I’d get a headache. I’d get nauseous. I wouldn’t feel good. I’d feel drained. I immediately had reactions to the sugar. Now what happens when your ADHD goes uncontrolled, you might be addicted to sugar. You might be addicted to food. Now, how can I say that? I’m not a doctor? Well, here’s the thing. There’s a direct link with dopamine.

Sugar releases dopamine. And what happens to us when we have ADHD that goes unchecked and we’re trying to treat it naturally. We want sugar because we want dopamine. We want that quick high, that will make us feel better. We search for that stimulant and you know what happens when we get it, we put it in our bodies and right after we get that little short, short, short wavelength of little bit of extra dobutamine from the sugar we crack.

And we crash even harder than we did prior to eating it. And then we want to just take a nap. Then, then we tell our brains. Now we need to focus. We focus when you try harder. Well, everything that I have researched ADHD brains, who that are literally working their hardest physically to focus are shutting down, straight up. They’re shutting down. So there’s when you have this sweet tooth. Okay. And this is also coming back to possible PMS.  Maybe you crave chocolate going into your period. Well, let me just tell you, okay, that chocolate is not helping you with your period, and it is also not helping your ADHD. I wish it was different.

I wish it was different. I have read countless studies about how certain high contents of cacao help but the cacao hasn’t got a lot of really great health benefits, but, and supposedly if you eat chocolate in amounts with high cacao amounts, like 70% or higher, you actually supposed to get some energy from it.  Not I, because if there’s even just even the slightest bit of sugar in that chocolate my energy is gone. The other thing I will say is because us as women versus men, because we burn fat and we burn our calories differently than they do now, we don’t really burn our calories differently. Okay? It’s the same biological process I would imagine than men, but our bodies are not adept at wanting to burn fat.

I’ve also heard countless times about how getting into ketosis for women or for anybody with ADHD for that matter how helpful it is when it comes to having energy.

Yes. Ketones definitely, definitely feed your brain a good amount of dopamine. Tricking our brains into getting into that mode that works now, how do we do that?  So if we’re trying to naturally treat our ADHD as women, high fat, high fat diets help you get into ketosis. Now I am not recommending a ketogenic diet whatsoever. I actually don’t really like the keto diet. I think it’s become a fad. And personally, what I see happen most of the time with that diet is men and women alike eating way too many oily monounsaturated fats, like cheese, cheese, cheese, cheese, and by doing so saying that they’re on they’re on keto and really the cheese is not helping.

What you need is healthy omega-3 fatty acids. You need nuts and you need avocados and you need olives and olive oil, not cheese, nothing against cheese, okay? It has its place at the table. I will say that, but as a woman, dairy is generally not your friend and I’m saying this as my own opinion, okay? I am not saying this as a doctor, we all know I’m not a doctor.

So you take what I tell you and you go do your own research, okay? This is just a podcast of Lacy Estelle’s opinion and how different things affect ADHD as a woman.

But I can tell you, there is not a woman I have met yet that her body truly gets along with dairy. And if you don’t believe me, cut it out for a while and see for yourself.  Truly, truly cut it out of your diet for three weeks and tell me you don’t feel better. Tell me your face doesn’t clear up. Tell me your PMS symptoms don’t get better. Tell me that it does not have an effect on you, please email me and say, “I’ve eaten dairy and I cut it out for three weeks and when I added it back, I didn’t get a headache or migraine or get moody or super tired.  None of that happened to me. So you’re wrong.” Please be my guest. I can’t wait to see you in my inbox because I think you’re probably a walking miracle!  

But in the meantime, oh, the rest of us will be saying goodbye to dairy because it does not help you. So if you’re going to do keto and you’re going to try to get ketones into your body to try to help you naturally combat your ADHD, you have to do it with healthy fats.  You can not do it with unhealthy fats. I’m not saying that dairy is always unhealthy. I am saying that generally it causes more harm. So you’ve got to get your body into ketosis and you’ve got to cook real food and you can’t keep eating stuff out of a box, but also fast forward to my life and where I am right now.

I have gained 20 pounds over the last year and a half. And I’m very unhappy about it because I worked really hard to eat right. But I got lazy and here’s the other thing. I relied too much on my medication that I was taking for my ADHD to just always be doing what it’s supposed to do for me without really keeping myself in check.

And here’s the problem when you have ADHD, okay? We have a regulation disorder.

We struggle massively to self-discipline and keep ourselves in check. If you tell us to do chores, we’re like, ah, yeah, no, my brain wants to take a nap. A nap. Oh, do the dishes? No, nap. Oh, vacuum. Oh no, nap. So with that said, I have a lot of weight creep on and what I decided to do recently regardless of the time of year, because I’m recording this and it’s right around Christmas time is to get myself back in, check by talking to all of you about the way these things have affected my body.

I went through anemia recently. Now I wasn’t anemic. I was anemic in the fact that my iron level was super low, but I wasn’t diagnosed with anemia with iron deficiency to see, but I was extremely iron deficient for quite a few months, um, come to find out. And that was all due to a specific type of birth control that I was on.

They since took me off of that, but all that to say, that that is only something women generally are going to have to worry about. And I’m not saying that men don’t have iron deficiencies, I’m sure they do. But if you’re a woman who has heavy periods and your iron is low, my iron levels directly affected my ADHD medications ability to do its job.

Not only that, but because of the fact that I lack short-term memory, and then when my ADHD medication is not working properly, I’m not paying close attention to my own habits.

The weight crept back on. I was depressed for months. I didn’t really realize I was struggling massively with these hormone and mood swings and different things.

Along those lines, I wasn’t angry or irritable, but I would just cry at night and my husband would ask me, what is wrong? Are you okay? I’m like, I don’t know. I don’t know, but I’m just not happy. Happiness to me is a more a state of mind than anything else, okay? So to say that I am wasn’t happy is not to say that I was unhappy with my life, that is not the case. What I can say it was to do with…  it had a direct result of the way I was viewing myself. I just did not like me. That’s not like me and it’s still not really like me to not like myself, not like who I am and how I am. I’ve always been fairly confident even in the times where I’ve struggled with my confidence.

I’ve always known where my worth comes from and that’s God. but I was in this really deep hole and then come to find out my hemoglobin was a five.

Now, if any of you are listening to this and you are in the medical field, you probably need to pick your jaw off the floor right now. Or you’re probably thinking, oh my gosh, I hope that you went to a hospital.  I didn’t go to a hospital, but luckily, my nurse practitioner, she’s phenomenal. And she immediately sent me to have IV infusions of my iron done. So I went through that for about two months. And after that, my iron started to come up, but man, it still took a while. My body was in recovery mode and I wanted to sleep constantly.  It took all of me to not take a nap every single day. And mainly most of that was because I have to work. So all that to say that was a direct result of my periods being too heavy. So as a woman, if you’re having heavy periods and you’re feeling tired and sluggish all the time, and you know, you have ADHD or you suspect you have ADHD, it’s going unchecked too.  And all of a sudden you’re making really strange decisions and you want to sleep all the time, go to your doctor, get your iron checked. Because what I read about iron after that was having a better understanding of how it relates in carrying certain nutrients to your cells so that your cells in your body can actually do their jobs.

If you don’t have enough hemoglobin, then your cells cannot carry the nutrients properly or carry the chemicals properly to get them to where they’re supposed to go in your body.

And that’s the simplest non-scientific non-doctor terms I can give you about it. I’m not even in the medical field, this is all just stuff that interests me.

And because I’m ADHD, I can hyper focus on it. So somehow I can try to understand it. I’m sure that there’s somebody out there, oh, there’s probably many people out there, okay, way smarter than me that can say, “yeah, you’re not exactly explaining that right.” That’s great. What I’m just trying to get across to you is that your iron can definitely affect you and it can definitely affect your ADHD, whether that’s been proven or not.  It affected mine. So here we are. I’m getting ready to start and embark on this whole new health journey where I focus more on feeling better and less on my waistline. When I first was trying to lose weight, I just really didn’t like my body and I wanted to like my body again.  And I got to a point where I liked my body a lot, but now I’m at a point where for my own self to survive, my health has got to improve and it’s got to improve in a way that doesn’t necessarily mean my waistline will get smaller, but it just means that I’ll be able to get through the day without wanting to take two naps or three naps, or just manage my life in general.

So that is going to wrap up this episode of An ADD Woman podcast.

What did you think? Do you think that your PMS and your ADHD don’t conflict with each other? Or do you feel like, wow, I never really thought about that. I would love to hear from you, make sure you check out the show notes because I will definitely be putting a lot of links in there for Garden of Life so you can learn about their brand and everything they have to offer as far as supplements. The greatest thing about Garden of Life is they do sell everything on Amazon. So you can find almost everything there as well as Barlean’s Fish Oil. 

How about you? Have you ever done anything like that to treat your ADHD naturally?

Has that ever been something that you’ve wanted to do and haven’t. I can’t recommend enough how helpful medication can be when you’re treating ADHD, but maybe you don’t have another option right now, or maybe stimulants don’t work very good for you. Or maybe you had a previous opioid addiction and you can’t take stimulants so you’re forced to choose something different. I think that you will be able to find a way to thrive. And if any of the things I just said are of interest to you, I’d strongly recommend that you check out the blog that I wrote about called how to treat ADHD naturally, it’s on Mothering the Storm, at lacyestelle.com.  You can go there and look at it. I’ll link to it again in the show notes as well. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Love to hear what you think. And I’ll be talking to you guys soon.

Picture of Lacy Estelle

Lacy Estelle

Lacy Estelle is the writer of Lacyestelle.com and the Podcast host for An ADD Woman.

Read More