In today’s highly industrialized environment, our bodies are constantly under attack by pollutants and harmful substances. Even the air we breathe and the food we eat contains all sorts of toxins, pathogens, and disease-carrying microbes. Without a well-functioning immune system, we wouldn’t live very long.
The immune system is the human body’s main defense system against pathogens and other harmful organisms. It provides two stages of protection: specific defenses and non-specific defenses. Our skin and mucous membranes make up the non-specific defenses, the immune system’s first line of defense that protects our muscles and organs from the outside world. If the non-specific defenses are invaded by an outside threat (e.g., a virus), the specific defenses kick in and detect the microorganisms, which are destroyed before they wreak havoc on our cells.
Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are often found to have one of two kinds of problems with their immune system: either it is weakened or it is over-active. There are many things that can weaken their immune defense, and many of them have to do with poor nutrition. Children with ADHD tend to have unhealthy eating habits – too much processed food, sugar, and refined carbohydrates, and not enough fruits, green leafy vegetables, and omega-3 fatty acids. When the immune system is weakened, brain functions don’t work up to par, and other bodily systems are inflamed. The presence of too many processed foods and saturated fats also weakens the production of a hormone called leptin. Leptin is integral for producing white blood cells, an important component of immune system functions. Finally, a weak immune system can also be caused by constant exposure to toxins like mercury and lead, as well as the continued presence of chronic viral infections.
It is possible for an immune system to get over-activated when it is plagued by constant exposure to antigens or allergens. When improperly digested proteins or food allergens infiltrate the bloodstream, they trigger an immune response that wouldn’t otherwise occur. An over-active immune system also occurs during gut dysbiosis, or an imbalance between healthy gut flora and harmful bacteria. The body’s defenses thus remains constantly on its guard to fight the overgrowth of harmful bacteria. Dysbiosis prevents the gastrointestinal tract from performing its critical functions of nutrient absorption and toxin filtration. Instead, the gut absorbs the toxins and keeps nutrients out, causing deficiencies that trigger chronic hyperactivity and inattention.
The interrelated functioning of the immune system, gastrointestinal system, and neurological system sheds light on the importance of maintaining health by eating the right foods and avoiding processed, sugary foods with artificial additives. This perspective also demonstrates that ADHD is not merely caused by biological factors. Rather, ADHD is the result of many complex environmental triggers interacting with the genetic predisposition to the disorder. This is why the right treatment plan should be designed around eliminating the triggers of the disorder naturally, instead of merely suppressing the symptoms with medication. Only in this manner can a child overcome ADHD for life, without suffering from long-term side effects.