The Prevalence of ADHD
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders in kids. According to the CDC, 6.8 million children aged 3-17 years old, or about 10%, are impacted by it. The lifetime prevalence for adults with ADHD is approximately 8%.
ADHD is a brain health disorder. It is not a willpower or personality defect. Common symptoms of ADHD can include difficulty paying attention, issues with controlling behavior, and hyperactivity (over-activity). It can also impair an individual’s ability to focus, make decisions, follow through with tasks, and overall functioning in everyday life. As a result, ADHD can impact almost every aspect of life, including interpersonal relationships, academic and professional performance, and self-esteem.
ADHD often co-occurs with other symptoms and psychological issues, such as anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders. In fact, one survey found that 64% of children with ADHD had at least one other mental, emotional, or behavioral issue. Furthermore, although symptoms can be similar in individuals, they may be caused by different biochemical factors, lifestyle patterns, and brain signaling imbalances. This means proper diagnose and treatment of ADHD is complex and it needs an integrative approach.
An Integrative Approach to ADHD
Although an estimated 70% of children with ADHD are on medication, it isn’t helpful for everyone and it can result in side effects and medication errors. In fact, a recent study showed that there was a 300% increase in ADHD medication errors in those under 20 years old. Furthermore, if we are only using drugs, we are likely not fully supporting all imbalances in the brain or improving its function.
This is why we need a new approach that is personalized, comprehensive, and holistic.
Dr. Stoychev offers such an approach, and he shares it with us on this episode of the Essential Oil Revolution podcast. He is a brilliant physician that offers a unique, compassionate, accessible, inclusive perspective in how he treats his patients. He integrates his training in natural and conventional psychiatric care to assess all the underlying factors as to why someone’s brain is imbalanced.
As a licensed naturopathic doctor and registered dietitian, Dr. Stoychev is transforming the lives of his patients that suffer with ADHD. Having struggled with it himself, he has become a leading expert. As a result, Dr. Stoychev is not just relieving symptoms of ADHD, but revitalizing people’s brains so they can get back into their lives and function optimally.
I am so excited for you to listen to how Dr. Stoychev is balancing people’s brains and to learn more about many aspects of mental health and ADHD that most are not familiar with.
Below is a summary of our discussion, but make sure to tune in to the full episode so you don’t miss all this valuable information.
Dr. Stoychev’s Journey to Specializing in Mental Health
Dr. Stoychev didn’t always want to specialize in mental health. It was through his training as a dietician that he first recognized how vital the mind was in impacting the physical body and all the important aspects of everyday living. Later, when he was in naturopathic school, he was diagnosed with ADHD. Growing up in Bulgaria, he realized how he likely had ADHD as a child, but it “fell through the cracks,” and went unnoticed.
During his training, Dr. Stoychev began applying his knowledge of dietetics and naturopathic medicine and was able to recover from his ADHD symptoms. As a result, he became extremely skilled in this area and set out on a mission to help others so they wouldn’t have to suffer as he did.
Dr. Stoychev feels it is paramount that we honor that we are all human and collectively go through many hardships. Therefore, it is imperative that we have understanding professionals who support us through these trials. This is especially true when someone is neurodivergent, as their brain is working exceptionally hard to get by day-to-day.
ADHD: What It Is, Why It’s Missed, and the Myths
Healthcare providers diagnose ADHD through the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth edition (DSM-5). It based on matching certain criteria and clusters of symptoms. There are currently three types of presentations of ADHD which are classified as combined, predominately inattentive, and predominately hyperactive-impulsive.
Studies suggest that less than 20% of adults whose brains are imbalanced are aware that they have ADHD. Concerningly, about one-fourth of those who do know they have it pursue treatment. This likely means that even with awareness increasing, many people are getting missed and suffering in silence.
There are also many misconceptions about ADHD. Many people believe it occurs in childhood and/or you eventually outgrow it. However, research shows this is not true. The symptoms can become more subtle as one ages, but the brain issues are still there. This internalization of symptoms can cause additional mental health disorders.
Dr. Stoychev has witnessed his adult ADHD patients often have become more astute at masking symptoms as they age, although attention and/or hyperactivity issues can still be present. This can have devasting consequences. For example, if an adult is unable to focus at work, they could end up getting fired. The boss may mistake their inability to complete tasks as a lack of work ethic rather than as a brain health issue.
Women with ADHD also get missed more than males. This may be due to how they are socialized and the hormonal effects on brain development. Specifically, females tend to become more internal with distress vs. being overtly hyperactive. As a result, a lot of Dr. Stoychev’s female patients are often not diagnosed until later in life.
Addressing ADHD from a Naturopathic Perspective
Cortisol and Essential Oils on the Brain
Naturopathic medicine looks at all people holistically. This is important for those with mental health issues and ADHD, because brain functioning impacts all areas of life.
One factor often not addressed in ADHD is cortisol dysregulation. (R, R, R) Dr. Stoychev finds that his patients with ADHD have a reverse sleep-wake pattern in relation to cortisol. They tend to have low cortisol in the morning and high levels at night. This can cause extreme fatigue and anxiety upon waking and lead to insomnia and sleep disorders in the evening. It can also mean one may have adrenal dysfunction where they experience dizziness with change of positions, appetite shifts, problems with motivation, and other wide-ranging symptoms.
One can measure cortisol through salivary cortisol and/or discover this issue based on symptom patterns. Dr. Stoychev often can determine cortisol dysregulation through his medical history intake. He will only run labs when they are necessary and if they will change his treatment plan.
Specific essential oils can be implemented at different times of the day to help with either stimulation or sedation when cortisol patterns are inverted. For example, peppermint can be used in the morning to enhance focus and lavender and bergamot can be used in the evening to lower cortisol levels.
How Hormones Impact ADHD
Dr. Stoychev has found a very distinct link between hormonal fluctuations and those with ADHD. For example, there is a bi-directional relationship between PMDD (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder) and ADHD.
PMDD is a severe form of premenstrual syndrome with extreme mental and physical symptoms occurring prior to one’s menses. It is believed that women with PMDD are very sensitive to changes in estrogen levels. Estrogen is important for neurotransmitters, including dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. Therefore, when estrogen drops before one’s menstrual cycle, ADHD can get worse as well other mood disorders. This can also increase one’s chance of having more PMDD symptoms.
According to Absolute Advocacy:
Estrogen has a strong impact on the dopaminergic system; according to the Reproductive Health Research Institute, “estrogen increases dopamine synthesis and decreases its degradation, reuptake, and recapture”. Those with ADHD struggle with the reuptake of dopamine–in other words, it is not that we lack dopamine, but that our brains do not process it the same way that non-ADHD brains do. Estrogen can make that transmission even more difficult; in times of low estrogen, our executive function worsens.
The Foundations of Health for Supporting ADHD and PMDD
Dr. Stoychev finds that supporting all the foundations of health are critical for optimizing brain health in his patients. These include:
Often those with ADHD have sleep disorders. These include insomnia, RLS (restless leg syndrome), sleep apnea, delayed sleep-wake disorder, and others.
Sleep hygiene practices that can help include:
- Minding caffeine. This is due to caffeine’s long half-life and its impact on deep sleep. One should aim to decrease caffeine intake, avoid it on an empty stomach, and stop caffeine before 2pm. One can avoid caffeine withdrawal symptoms by decreasing intake slowly. Decaf can be used as a substitute if someone enjoys the taste of coffee.
- Exposing yourself to early morning sunlight.
- Not eating too close to bedtime.
- Magnesium supplementation when appropriate.
2. Nutrients for the brain.
The brain needs nourishment to function. These include:
- Macronutrients: protein (for neurotransmitters and to stabilize blood sugar), complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats (the brain is made of fat).
- Micronutrients such as iron. One study found iron enhances medication efficacy in those with ADHD and iron deficiency increases symptoms. One can determine their iron status with blood panels, such as ferritin, but should be cautious with supplementing iron without proper guidance.
3. Addressing gut health.
The gut and brain communicate via the microbiome (the collection of the microorganisms and their DNA in and on our body). These microbes impact neurotransmitters, immune and inflammation modulation, hormones, and overall digestive health. Fermented foods, yogurt, and probiotics may help to support one’s digestive health.
4. Stress reduction.
Stress impacts gut health and all aspects of the brain.
Essential Oils for the Brain and ADHD
Rosemary and peppermint are two of Dr. Stoychev’s favorite essential oils to support brain circulation, memory, and dopamine, which is crucial for ADHD support.
Lavender essential oil can help with calming, lowering cortisol, and sleep.
Dr. Stoychov provides an amazing DIY hack. It includes alternating various oils in a diffuser for memory improvement. This was based on a study he found where researchers diffused essential oils for two hours every night for six months.
The subjects were 60- to 85-year-olds with memory impairment. Compared to controls, the researchers found the subjects using aromatherapy had their memory skyrocket by 226%! According to UCI:
All were given a diffuser and seven cartridges, each containing a single and different natural oil. People in the enriched group received full-strength cartridges. Control group participants were given the oils in tiny amounts. Participants put a different cartridge into their diffuser each evening prior to going to bed, and it activated for two hours as they slept.
People in the enriched group showed a 226% increase in cognitive performance compared to the control group, as measured by a word list test commonly used to evaluate memory. Imaging revealed better integrity in the brain pathway called the left uncinate fasciculus. This pathway, which connects the medial temporal lobe to the decision-making prefrontal cortex, becomes less robust with age. Participants also reported sleeping more soundly.
The oils included in the study were rose, orange, eucalyptus, lemon, peppermint, rosemary, and lavender.
This episode was a wealth of information. If you struggle with ADHD, or know someone who does, you won’t want to miss it, because there’s even more golden nuggets in the conversation.
Be sure to tune into the full episode here!
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Links to Learn More About Dr. Stoychev and His Offerings:
Bio of Dr. Stoychev
Dr. Stoychev is a licensed Naturopathic Doctor in the state of California. He completed a one-year primary care residency program at the Center for Health and Wellbeing with a heavy focus on naturopathic psychiatry and mental health. Dr. Stoychev received his undergraduate degree in Nutrition and Dietetics in London, United Kingdom, where he became a Registered Dietitian. He then went on to achieve his four-year Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine at Bastyr University California.
Dr. Stoychev specializes in integrative psychiatry, gastroenterology, endocrinology, neurology, sleep disorders, cardiovascular health, and hormone balance. He has expert knowledge in clinical nutrition, lifestyle medicine, nutritional supplements, homeopathy, and merging natural approaches with medications and bioidentical hormones.
As a member of the Psychiatric Association of Naturopathic Physicians, Dr. Stoychev believes mental health is a key determinant of health. For this reason, he integrates it into every patient visit, along with all the other core foundations for wellness such as nutrition, hydration, physical activity, and sleep.
Having lived in various countries across the world, Dr. Stoychev has a multicultural background that has influenced his unique, personalized approach to medicine. As a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, Dr. Stoychev has experience serving its unique healthcare needs. Inclusivity in access to care for members of any community aligns with his tenets as a doctor. Dr. Stoychev is on a mission to make holistic mental health care more compassionate, accessible, understandable, and actionable. This is through the care he provides to his patients in his practice and his influential social media presence. Find him at https://www.drgeorgistoychev.com/.
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Disclaimer: This material is for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for any illness. You should check with your doctor regarding implementing any new strategies into your wellness regime. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. (Affiliation link.)
This information is applicable ONLY for therapeutic quality essential oils. This information DOES NOT apply to essential oils that have not been tested for purity and standardized constituents. There is no quality control in the United States, and oils labeled as “100% pure” need only to contain 5% of the actual oil. The rest of the bottle can be filled with fillers and sometimes toxic ingredients that can irritate the skin. The studies are not based solely on a specific brand of an essential oil, unless stated. Please read the full study for more information.
Thanks Pixabay and Canva.