All Posts in Category: Mental Health

Iron Can Strengthen Attention

As a parent, it can be difficult to keep up with all the information about your child’s health, especially if they are suffering from conditions like attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD).  It is complex and multifactorial. ADHD is the most common childhood neurobehavioral disorder, affecting between five and ten percent of school-aged children. There is much evidence to suggest that an imbalance of neurotransmitters (dopamine and noradrenalin) plays a central role.

Research suggests iron levels may play a role in the severity of ADHD symptoms experience by a child.  The link between deficient iron levels and ADHD is not completely clear, but there have been some interesting studies to date.

Iron helps regulate dopamine and noradrenalin production, as well.  In animal studies, iron deficiency decreases the density and activity of dopamine receptors, meaning the dopamine present is unable to be used effectively by the brain. Serum ferritin levels (which are a marker of iron stores in the body) have been observed to be significantly lower in children with ADHD when compared to levels of children without the disorder.

Remember, it is merely one of many links in a very complex chain contributing to the condition. Dispite that, trials have been published where iron supplementation to children with ADHD and low serum ferritin have been monitored to observe possible the effects. The majority of this current research supports the idea that supplementing with iron significantly improves the severity of ADHD symptoms.

Children with ADHD and low iron can show signs of increased irritability and inattentiveness, depression, poor memory, and may even have symptoms of Restless Leg Syndrome. If you are wondering if your child has low iron levels, speak with a medical doctor or naturopathic physician about testing serum ferritin levels and the potential for supplementation – do not supplement without the results of a blood test and your physician’s approval (excess iron has another set of potential challenges). Naturopathic physicians are also well suited to provide strategies for increasing iron levels beyond supplementation.


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Probiotics: Good for More than Our Guts

Most people are aware of the digestive benefits of probiotics, but research now suggests that probiotics may also stimulate the immune system during times of stress, improve our mood, and decrease the amount of time that flu symptoms are experienced. Probiotics are live microorganisms (or ‘good bugs’) that, when administered in adequate amounts, offer health benefits to the host. More and more health care practitioners are beginning to recommend probiotics; they are often touted as a staple supplement due to their ability to balance the microbiome (the population of trillions of bacteria within our bodies).

One of the best ways to positively influence declining immune health that is due to stress is with the use of probiotics. Stress has a significant influence on the amount of ‘good bugs’ there are in our system relative to the number of ‘bad bugs’. In chronically stressed individuals, bad bacteria (like Enterobacteria and E. coli) tend to increase in number, while good bacteria like Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli decrease. Probiotics can help restore the Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli populations, thus having a positive effect on the immune cells within the gut and the immune system as a whole.

Another way probiotics positively influence our health is through their impact on our mood. There is now evidence that shows gut health to be inextricably linked to brain health. This is called the gut-brain axis and it encompasses bidirectional communication between the gut microbiome and the brain. Altered microbiota, for example, has been linked to depression, anxiety, and autism spectrum disorder. The good news is that when probiotics are introduced to the system they are able to modulate the severity of these mood disorders. Probiotics have also been shown to increase brain activity and improve mood even in healthy individuals.

Trials have also been conducted that assess the effectiveness and safety of probiotics when used to prevent and modulate acute upper respiratory tract infections. At this time, the research is very positive – the use of probiotics for respiratory infections shows beneficial results. Probiotics not only reduce the incidence of an acute infection, but also the duration and severity of an acute upper respiratory tract infection.

As more research becomes available, the consensus is that the gut microbiome appears to have an influence on nearly all systems and levels of the human body. Supplementing with probiotics is a one way to replenish, rebuild, and maintain the gut microbiota. Talk to your naturopathic physician about the specific strains and dosing that would work for your needs.


Ahanchian H, Jafari SA. Chapter 42 – Probiotics and Prebiotics for Prevention of Viral Respiratory Tract Infections. 2016.

Manuel PM, et al. Oral probiotics supplementation can stimulate the immune system in a stress process. Journal of Nutrition and Intermediary Metabolism. 8:29-40. 2017.

Quick M. Cochrane Commentary: Probiotics For Prevention of Acute Upper Respiratory Infection. EXPLORE: The Journal of Science and Healing. 11(5):418-420. 2015

Zhou L, Foster JA. Psychobiotics and the gut-brain axis: in the pursuit of happiness. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment. 11:715-723. 2015.

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