HomeHealth articlesadhdWhat Is the Link Between the Gut Microbiome and ADHD?

The Gut Microbiome and ADHD: Exploring the Link

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Researchers have found a possible link between the gut microbiome and ADHD. Read the article below to learn more about it.

Written by

Dr. Pallavi. C

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Kaushal Bhavsar

Published At February 27, 2024
Reviewed AtMarch 15, 2024


Numerous studies conducted in the last several years have revealed that the trillions of bacteria and other microbes living inside an individual's digestive tract have a big impact on mental health and may even be crucial in the emergence of neuropsychiatric disorders like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which is characterized by impulsivity, hyperactivity, and inattention. However, the precise origins of ADHD are still unknown. The gut-brain axis, a communication network that links the gut, brain, and nervous system, is how the bacteria in the stomach, also known as the gut microbiome, affect mental health.

How Does the Gut Microbiome Influence ADHD?

Although the precise processes are still being worked out, evidence indicates that the gut microbiota may affect ADHD in several ways:

  • Inflammation: An imbalance in gut microbiota, or gut dysbiosis (imbalance in gut bacteria), can create an inflammatory response that can impact brain development and function via the gut-brain axis. The symptoms of ADHD, such as hyperactivity and inattention, may be exacerbated by this inflammation. It has been suggested that neuroinflammation plays a role in the development of ADHD, and a significant number of ADHD patients also have an autoimmune or inflammatory illness coexisting with their ADHD.

  • Neurotransmitter Production: Dopamine and serotonin are neurotransmitters produced by gut bacteria and important for mood, attention, and impulse control. These neurotransmitter imbalances are associated with ADHD, and their production may be influenced by the gut microbiota, which in turn affects ADHD symptoms.

  • Short-Chain Fatty Acids (SCFAs): When dietary fiber is fermented by gut bacteria, SCFAs are produced. These fatty acids give gut cells energy and facilitate the brain. People with ADHD have been shown to have lower SCFA levels, which may contribute to the severity of their symptoms.

  • Immune System Modulation: Changes in this interaction between the immune system and the gut microbiota may factor in ADHD. In certain cases of ADHD, dysregulated immune responses are observed, and gut microbiota may contribute to this process.

  • Leaky Gut: Research indicates that there may be a connection between increased intestinal permeability, leaky gut, and ADHD. Thriving candida albicans may be involved in the gut's permeability, which might result in inflammation. Toxins and inflammatory chemicals may seep into the circulation through a permeable stomach lining, which may affect brain function and exacerbate symptoms of ADHD.

What Are the Ways in Which People With ADHD Can Enhance Their Gut Health?

Even though additional research is needed to confirm a link between gut microbiota and ADHD, one may take steps to enhance the health of their gut microbiota right now, which will benefit both physical and mental well-being. Proceed with the following actions after consulting the physician.

Eat a Diet High in Plants: While no diet will reverse the effects of ADHD, several dietary habits may help individuals better manage their symptoms. A primarily vegetarian diet, for instance, has been linked to a lower risk of ADHD symptoms. In contrast, processed foods, such as hot dogs, many breakfast cereals, and ready-made meals, have been linked to an increased risk of ADHD symptoms, according to a study conducted on 15,000 preschool-age children in China. Important nutrients to consider are:

  • Various foods and drinks are rich in plant fibers and polyphenols, often known as healthful plant chemicals, including vibrant vegetables, walnuts, pomegranates, berries, and green tea.

  • Carbohydrates are high in fiber and beneficial to the microbiota, such as those found in beans, sweet potatoes, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.

  • Foods with omega-3 and monounsaturated fatty acids, such as avocados, sardines, salmon, and olive oil.

  • Generally, minimally processed foods are low in chemicals, sugar, saturated fats, and preservatives.

Make Sleep Top Priority: It should come as no surprise that getting enough sleep helps manage symptoms of ADHD, as children and adults with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (CHADD) state that sleep deprivation exacerbates symptoms such as impulsivity and hyperactivity. A published study suggests that getting enough sleep is linked to a greater diversity of beneficial bacteria and other microorganisms in the gut. The issue is that individuals with ADHD frequently do not get enough sleep. According to estimates from CHADD, around 40 percent of children and adolescents and 50 percent of adults with ADHD suffer from sleep disturbances.

To get more restful sleep every night:

  • Every day, try to go to bed and wake up simultaneously.

  • Steer clear of caffeine in the late afternoon or evening.

  • Before going to bed, turn off the phone and any other devices.

  • According to the Sleep Foundation, many doctors recommend keeping the bedroom between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit for a pleasant night's sleep.

Exercise: An analysis of research published in the October 2017 edition of complementary therapies in Medicine suggests that children and teenagers who engage in moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise can see a reduction in symptoms of ADHD. Additionally, it improves the gut microbiome's makeup. Experts from CHADD recommend as little as 20 to 30 minutes each day. With the doctor's clearance, one might undertake the following kinds of aerobic exercise:

  • Jogging.

  • Walking.

  • Dancing.

  • Swimming.

  • Cycling.

Go Outside and Spend Time in Nature: According to physicians, spending time outdoors is good for the gut microbiota and mental wellness. According to some scientific theories, increased exposure to environmental microbes can complement individuals' protective microbiota, promoting immune system health and aiding in developing adaptive immunity, or the body's capacity to fend off dangerous bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens. According to December 2020 scientific reports research, preschool-aged children's conduct and gut health improved when exposed to germs in the natural environment. According to a different study published in applied psychology, the health and well-being of children with ADHD experienced less severe symptoms when they spent regular time in green areas and the outdoors.


There may be a connection between the gut microbiota and ADHD, according to new research, which emphasizes the need to take the gut-brain axis into account when studying the causes and treatments of this intricate neurodevelopmental condition. Subsequent investigations focused on deciphering the complex interactions among the gut microbiota, neurobiology, and behavior may facilitate the development of novel treatment approaches for ADHD patients.

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Dr. Kaushal Bhavsar
Dr. Kaushal Bhavsar

Pulmonology (Asthma Doctors)


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