Many people in our modern society seem distracted, impulsive, bored, or addicted to certain behavior patterns. These traits are often ascribed to children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Today, many children with ADHD have become adults with either ADHD or ADHD-like symptoms because they do not consume adequate neuronutrients— literally, “brain nutrients”—that the body needs to make mood- and behavior-modulating neurotransmitters. The problem with this type of behavior is that it reduces our ability to clearly focus, hurts our productivity and relationships, and, at times, risks serious injury.
Increasingly, people devote just a little attention to
each of their multitasking activities, not giving full
attention to any of them—including eating. The false
urgency of technology, such as e-mails and texts,
contributes to this problem. Changes in our work
and social habits, as well as in our eating habits, have
contributed to the prevalence of distractible and
impulsive behavior. Some characteristics of this cluster
of behavior include:
Acting on Impulse
Impulsiveness is a classic symptom of ADHD in children. Instead of darting out in front of cars, however, impulsive adults spend their days darting about mentally or physically. They have difficulty thinking before acting, and they accomplish far less than they might otherwise.
Distractibility & Impulse-Addictive
The blend of impulsiveness and distractibility has set the stage for what could best be described as impulsive-addictive behavior. Similar to being addicted to drugs or alcohol, getting a hit triggers the release of neurochemicals, including endorphins, adrenaline, or dopamine. Withdrawal, the phase when levels of these neurochemicals decline, results in a feeling of uneasiness or outright anxiety. Because of these uncomfortable feelings, we can become addicted to activities that prompt a quick surge of these neurochemicals. Gambling is perhaps the oldest and best-known form of impulsive-addictive behavior, but today an obsession with checking e-mail, surfing the Internet, and texting have a similar effect.
A Healthy Diet
Sound eating habits provide a strong foundation for optimal brain chemistry. Eat a little protein at each meal to stabilize blood sugar, protecting you from mood swings. Eat a variety of high-fiber nonstarchy vegetables including dark leafy greens, cucumbers, peppers, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, green beans, kale, and leeks and fruits like berries, melons, apples, and kiwi.
Cook with olive and macadamia nut oils, which are rich in oleic acid, an anti-inflammatory. Stress triggers an inflammatory response, which these oils can help protect against. Drink water and teas. Avoid soft drinks, which contain large amounts of sugar, caffeine, or both. Diet soft drinks also have their downsides: the artificial sweetener aspartame is closely related to a stimulating neurotransmitter, which may contribute to impulsive or hyper behavior.
Incorporate fresh fish, which are high in omega-3 fats, into your diet. Modern processed foods—what you buy at fast-food restaurants or in packagesfor use at home—are generally rich in highly refined omega-6 fats and contain virtually no omega-3s.
GABA. Gamma aminobutyric acid helps the brain filter out nonessential information—that is, distractions. Impulsive behavior often entails responding to nonessential and distracting stimuli, and it is likely that GABA will be of benefit.
B-complex vitamins. B vitamins are essential for healthy neurotransmitter levels and activity. Combined with magnesium, vitamin B6 has been found to reduce poor attention, twitchiness, physical aggression, and moodiness in children.
N-acetylcysteine. NAC may help to restore normal brain levels of GABA, as well as the body’s reserves of glutathione, a potent antioxidant.
Learn to disengage. Develop an inner switch that alerts you when you see yourself start to act impulsively. For example, if you’re shopping, out to dinner, or socializing with friends, you don’t have to answer your cell phone. If you feel restless, which can be a prelude to impulsive actions, look for one calming activity, such as reading a book or magazine or listening to music. The more you use this inner switch, the better you will become at resisting impulses. Resist the impulse. When you find yourself beginning to slip into impulsive-addictive behavior, consciously resist the pattern. This may generate a little anxiety at first, but you will likely get better at it so that you mentally note but otherwise ignore the impulse.
Be mindful. To focus and improve your memory, you have to first pay attention. This often means consciously ignoring potential distractions, such as trying to do too many things at once. Stick to doing what you have to do until you finish it. If it’s a time-consuming project, you can give yourself a break after an hour or two and work on something else. That kind of work shifting may actually sharpen your concentration.
Although a nutritional approach might strike you as being simplistic, it is actually a rational and reasonable way to correct many behavior problems. If you support your brain’s production of neurotransmitters, they can help keep your brain sharp and focused—making you calm and productive.
The Food-Mood Solution by Jack Challem (John Wiley & Sons, 2007). Sample chapters at jackchallem.com.
|Printable Version||E-mail a Friend|
|Southern Beans and Greens|
|If you are not familiar with how to prepare dark greens, this recipe is...|