Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD) has been defined by the medical community as a neurologically-based disorder. When disorders are neurological in origin, this means they typically affect the brain in addition to the nerves around the body.
Unfortunately, brain-based disorders (and psychiatry in general) are areas of medicine that are typically studied in isolation. “Psychiatry” is a separate practice on its own. It is rare for psychiatrists to work alongside functional and integrative medicine practitioners. Additionally, some psychiatrists can be quick to prescribe brain-based medications (stimulants, SSRIs, among others) before looking into the potential root cause of the problem.
How Does the Body Communicate with the Brain?
The brain and the body communicate through an intricate system of neurotransmitters. According to Medical News Today, neurotransmitters are “chemical messengers in the body that transmit signals from nerve cells to target cells.” Three of the six neurotransmitters and their functions are listed below:
- Serotonin: Involved in the regulation of sleep, appetite, and aggression.
- Dopamine: Helps with memory, learning, and movement control.
- Gaba: Helps the brain control impulses.
Dopamine and MTHFR
Interestingly enough, people with a MTHFR gene variance may not be able to make as many neurotransmitters as quickly as other people. One of these neurotransmitters is dopamine. As explained above, dopamine has a large impact on memory and learning. Additionally, the frontal lobe of the brain is “run” by dopamine. The frontal lobe is the area of the brain that helps us to reason, stay in control, and regulate ourselves emotionally. People with ADHD may have difficulty with emotional regulation, memory, impulsivity and attentiveness.
Could it be possible that impaired methylation pathways are to blame for lower dopamine in the brain, and in turn for some or all of these behaviors that are observed in people with ADHD?
Folate and the Brain
We also know that Folate (Vitamin B9) is a vital nutrient needed for the synthesis of neurotransmitters such as Serotonin and Dopamine. Morris et al. showed that, relative to controls, individuals with low folate had significantly reduced memory function. Another study showed that folate system genetic variants could affect ADHD associated traits by attenuating folate metabolism. In other words, because folate metabolism is impaired in those with MTHFR, it can impact the synthesis of Serotonin and Dopamine.
So, Can Folate Cure ADHD?
While it can’t exactly be taken that far, there is a clear link between dopamine levels and optimal brain function. Those with an MTHFR gene variance may have lower levels of dopamine, since methylation pathways are slowed. If we focus on supporting those methylation pathways with key vitamins and nutrients, it is possible that ADHD symptoms can be lessened or remediated.
Today, doctors are treating ADHD by prescribing stimulant drugs. This “one size fits all” approach does not work well for kids or even adults with a MTHFR variance. Treatment should focus on addressing the root cause, which may involve addressing impairments in the methylation pathways. L-methylfolate (the only active form of folate that can cross the blood brain barrier) may help with the synthesis of neurotransmitters in ADHD patients.
It is always best to talk with your doctor to understand how to get your brain and body working optimally.