A Natural Approach To Hyperactivity & Focus In Kids

signs of attention deficit disorder

It is normal for kids to be boundless bundles of energies.  Constantly playing and imagining.  Usually it is something considered positive.  However, for some kids this boundless energy can interfere with their ability to concentrate, stay still, and learn to their fullest in school and can be signs of attention deficit disorder.

Inattention, hyperactivity, difficulty following instructions?  All of these can be signs that will prompt parents and teachers to consider evaluating a child for Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).  Although there is great value in a proper medical evaluation to get your child care and attention they need, we should be cautious of labeling hyperactivity as pathologic or “bad.”

Whether your child is showing signs of attention deficit disorder or has officially received a diagnosis of ADD or ADHD, there are some great options to try prior to turning to medication.

Nutrition & Diet

The first and most impactful place to start is diet.  Our current diets, and especially “kid friendly” diets, tend to be very carbohydrate heavy.  Lacking in fats and proteins.  Cereal, toast, waffles for breakfast.  Granola bars, crackers, fruit gummies, and yogurt as snacks.  Sandwiches, wraps, pasta, nuggets for lunch and dinner.  These are all very carb heavy choices.

This is not to vilify carbs as a food group.  However on their own they can cause problems.  Carbohydrates get broken down into sugar or glucose in the body.  Glucose is quick burning energy, meaning you get a fast boost in energy followed by a crash.  These crashes signal panic in the brain which can cause us to become cranky, upset, tired, and unable to focus.  Carb heavy diets also fuel sugar cravings as a way to “correct” the blood sugar crashes.  Click here to learn about he impact of Healthy Food for Kids and Easy Tips to Help Your Children and Teens Eat Healthier.

The Power Of Fats & Proteins

Each meal and snack should be balanced with a carbohydrate, a fat, and a protein.  Carbohydrates should be coming primarily from your fruits and vegetables, rather than from grains.  When you add fats and proteins, you prevent these lows in blood sugar.  This is because fats and proteins are slower burning sources of energy.  You’ll get your initial boost from carbohydrates and then instead of crashing, the fat and protein take over.

healthy fats and proteins

Healthy fat in particular is a great source of fuel for the brain.  Whereas carbs tend to be fuel for the muscles.  Healthy fats include nuts, nut butter, seeds, avocados, fish, olive oil, and coconut oil.  High quality cheese and plain Greek yogurt can also be good sources of fat and protein.

It is also worth mentioning that some kids may have food sensitivities which can cause inflammation in their body.  Inflammation makes it very difficult to focus.  If the above changes aren’t helping, this may be the next step.

Lifestyle Considerations

Keep your kids as active as positive.  Children are constantly growing and developing their brains and motor skills.  If they have unused energy, they will not want to sit still and focus so provide them with an appropriate outlet.  Consider allowing kids outdoor time or physical play time prior to asking them to sit down to do school work.  Also, consider exercise balls as alternatives to chairs for school work.  This provides a physical outlet for unused energy so that they can focus more effectively.

Signs Of Attention Deficit Disorder Linked With Screen Time

We are also now seeing new studies that show the impact of electronics and screen time on hyperactivity in kids.  Preschoolers exposed to two hours or more of screen time daily were 7 time more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD.  Screen time, outside of school specific requirements, should be limited to less than 2 hours per day.

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Avoid  screens for the first two hours after waking up and for the last two hours before bed.  This prevents blue lights from impacting your child’s circadian rhythm which controls their sleep quality and wakefulness.  Also, children should not be using screens when they are eating.  Over stimulation and multitasking will make it difficult for your kids to focus on just one task.  Click here for to read, “Is Today’s Technology Destroying Your Health?”

Natural Alternatives To Drugs

There are several great nutritional supplements and herbs that have been shown in research to be effective alternatives to common pharmaceutical recommendations.  However, you should always consult with a health care provider prior to starting anything with your kids.  Just because something is natural does not mean that it is the safe or effective for your child.  Allow an expert to direct you.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids Or Fish Oils

These are a great option for improving brain health and focus.  They have been shown to improve attention in both kids diagnosed with ADHD/ADD and in kids without the diagnosis.  Omega-3s are great anti-inflammatories and reducing inflammation in the brain allows for better functioning and concentration.


There are also several herbs that can be used as natural alternatives to medications.  Saffron has recently been shown to be just as effective as methylphenidate in improving inattention and hyperactivity.  Ginkgo biloba, Panax Ginseng, and Bacopa monnieri are additional herbs that have been shown to improve attention and hyperactivity.  Although, they were not compared to standard medications.  For more information, click here to read, “Backyard Medicine – Grow Your Own Natural Remedies”.

Final Thoughts

It is important to remember that a natural approach is all about treating the root cause.  With inattention and hyperactivity, it is not about calming down kids and making them focus.  It is about finding out why they are having trouble to begin with and addressing that concern.  The process will take time, but the results can last into adulthood.

If you are looking for a more natural approach for your kids, the best place to start is with a consult with a health care provider.  This ensures that recommendations are tailored to your child’s specific needs.  Just because something works for one child, does not mean it will for every child.  Everyone needs an individualized health plan designed for their unique constitution.  Click here to access our Family Health Center Directory to locate a health professional near you.

The Author – Dr. Melissa Bucking ND

I am licenced naturopathic doctor serving the Halton region in Ontario.  Health education and empowering my patients to take control of their own health is something I am very passionate about.  I have a special interest in digestive health, cognition & brain health, as well as fertility.  Book a free 15 minute consult today to learn more about my approach and how I can help you!

Types Of IBS Causes And Your Best Solutions

types of IBS

Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS, has become the go-to, catch-all diagnosis for any digestive complaints that don’t have an obvious cause/solution. However, the types of IBS causes and solutions vary from patient to patient.

Common IBS Symptoms Include:

To put it simply, IBS refers to a dysfunctional digestive tract. So, if you or your child have been given this diagnosis, it is likely that you were told the same generalized advice;

“It is stress related and to resolve it you need to better manage your stress.”

Sadly, this is very common response and often doesn’t fully help the problem. Now, I agree that stress is absolutely a big factor in IBS, however it is not the ONLY factor. In fact there are 3 which we need to consider to accurately treat IBS.

3 Major Contributing Factors To IBS

  1. Stress
  2. Unbalanced Microbiomes
  3. Food Sensitivities

Stress Versus Rest And Digest

To understand IBS, we need to understand the basics of digestion which is;

digestion occurs when we are at a RESTED state

To be more specific, it occurs when we activate our parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) a.k.a. rest and digest. This is our recovery mode where we nourish and repair our systems.

The PNS sends cues to activate proper digestion such as:

  • Producing stomach acid
  • Releasing digestive enzymes
  • Activating intestinal movement

These are all essential to break down food properly. The PNS is in direct opposition to our sympathetic nervous system (SNS). Or in other words, fight or flight.

Our SNS is activated when we are under stress. Biologically, our stress response was designed to respond to physical threats (i.e. running from or fighting off predators). Therefore, our SNS directs all energy to our:

  • Heart
  • Lungs
  • Muscles

And slows down “non-essential” functions such as digestion and reproductive function, which of coarse makes sense. Think about it, if you are running from a bear, you don’t need to be digesting your last meal at the same time?

However, the issue is that our current stressors usually are not physical in nature. Therefore, this response is no longer well- adapted. For example, if you get stressed at your morning meeting, you will likely not able to digest your lunch properly.

Why?  Well, when we are chronically stressed and chronically activating our SNS, we lose proper cues to the digestive system. Therefore it is unable to function optimally. In other words, we aren’t able to break down our food properly and end up with:

  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea

Balanced Microbes

You cannot have a conversation about IBS without talking about the microbiome. The microbiome are the trillions of bacteria, viruses, and other micro-organisms that live in our body. Especially our digestive tract. They play crucial role in active digestion as well as being involved in mood regulation signalling.

When it comes to our microbiome, we are mostly concerned about maintaining proper balance. The ratio of different microbes in our gut directly influences our digestive functioning.

Therefore, too much or too little of specific microbes, will throw off proper functioning. So, if the digestive system is not functioning optimally, undigested foods will be consumed by our microbiome producing excessive amounts of gas (i.e. bloating).

Balancing the microbiome is key for effective treatment of most types of IBS symptoms. This might include anti-microbial treatments, probiotics, and specific diets.

To learn more, click here to check out my previous article, What’s The Big Deal About Probiotics?

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Food Sensitivities

Our food choices are crucial when it comes to our health. This is especially true when it comes to digestion. When you are dealing with a dysfunctional digestive tract, there are certain foods that are more difficult to digest and thus cause further issues. People with IBS are also more sensitive to certain foods.

Now, food sensitivities are very different from food allergies. However, they are both immune reactions.

Food allergies cause big inflammation throughout the body such as hives, itching, and anaphylaxis. Where as food sensitivities cause small amounts of inflammation specifically in the digestive tract. This irritates our intestinal lining which can cause constipation, diarrhea, and discomfort.

The Most Common Food Sensitivities In Most Types Of IBS

  1. Gluten
  2. Dairy (especially milk, cream, and soft cheeses)
  3. Foods high in preservatives (i.e. prepackaged granola bars, crackers, yogurt)
  4. Foods high in FODMAPs or Fructose

Eliminating these foods on a trial basis while providing support to eliminate the inflammation and damaged caused, is a key step in treating IBS. Quite often you can significantly reduce the number of food sensitivities you have through this temporary elimination when it come to these types of IBS symptoms.

What I Eat in a Day for IBS + Bloating | Elimination Diets 101

Final Thoughts

IBS is both chronic and complex. There is no quick solution thus several different treatment approaches are available. However, with the proper guidance and support, it is possible to live without daily gas, bloating, and pain.

A functional treatment approach to IBS should always include:

  1. Lowering stress and activating the parasympathetic nervous system
  2. Restoring microbiome diversity
  3. Eliminating food sensitivities.

If you’re looking for start taking action today, download my free guide to Beat Bloating in 7 Steps. These are my foundational steps to start re-training your digestive tract and gain control over your IBS.

DIY Sunscreen That Is Natural, Safe And Effective!

DIY sunscreen

This article will help you to determine which natural sunscreens are both safe AND effective but also what you NEED to avoid. I even include a natural DIY sunscreen that even helps to repel insects!

With the summer upon us, many of us are eager to soak up lots of sunshine. The sun is great for boosting mood and immunity but in excessive amounts the UV rays can also cause skin damage and an increased risk for skin cancer. This is why most of us know to reach for a sunscreen before heading out into the sun.

Unfortunately, many of these products that protect us from the sun’s UV rays, also get absorbed into our bodies and disrupt our hormones. Hormone disruption can cause issues with:

  • Mood regulation
  • Sleep quality
  • Energy
  • Fertility

Things we definitely want to avoid just as much as the skin damage we risk from the sun. This has led to an increase in the production of “natural” sunscreens as a safer alternative. This is great, however you must be cautious of clever marketing and false claims.

toxic chemicals in sunscreen

Look For The Active Ingredients

The first step in picking safer sunscreen is knowing the ingredients to avoid. These are the main chemicals we find in sunscreen that we know cause hormone disruption:

1. Oxybenzone
2. Octinoxate/Octyl methoxycinnamate

We also need to cover the natural products that claim to have sun protecting factors (SPF) but don’t have enough research to back them up.

I would recommend avoiding these if they are the ONLY active ingredient:

  • Carrot seed oil
  • Red raspberry seed oil

They are not harmful so you don’t need to avoid them but they cannot be relied on as your sole sun protection.

6 Common Chemical Sunscreen Ingredients Can Get Into the Bloodstream

Safer & Effective Active Ingredients

The best alternative active ingredients are mineral sunscreens which do not get absorbed. These ingredients are:

1. Zinc Oxide
2. Titanium Dioxide

These both have proven broad spectrum UV protection and have not been shown to interfere with our hormones.

There are also some natural products that do have evidence to support their sun protecting factors (SPF). The following natural ingredients all have around 5 SPF:

  • Coconut oil
  • Almond oil
  • Lavender oil
  • Peppermint oil

These are all great additions to your sunscreen but should not be relied on solely as they do not provide enough protection.

how much spf do you need?

How Much SPF Do You Need?

SPF stands for sun protecting factor and it is a measure of how much it blocks UVB rays. The higher the number, the more protection it provides. However, the numbers are not equivalent to the amount of protection. For example, SPF 30 does not provide double the amount of protection as SPF 15.

SPF 15 blocks out 93% of UVB rays, while SPF 30 blocks out 97%. SPF 50 then blocks out 98%. This means there really isn’t a significant benefit to getting sunscreen above SPF 50.

SPF also has nothing to do with the length of time spent in the sun but rather with the intensity of the sun. If you are out in the sun when UV rays are higher (i.e. mid-day), you need to limit your sun exposure in addition to applying sunscreen, instead of simply trying to apply higher SPF sunscreen.

Click here to read everything you need to know before having Fun in the Sun.

make your own sunscreen

Try Making Your Own Sun Screen

If you love DIY best for your natural products, you can also make your own sunscreen at home. I’ve adapted this recipe from Wellness Mama and added essential oils to provide some protection against insects as well.

DIY Sunscreen Ingredients:

  • ½ cup of almond oil
  • ¼ cup of coconut oil
  • 3 tbsp. beeswax
  • 1-2 tbsp. shea butter
  • 2-4 tbsp. non-nano zinc oxide
  • 20 drops of lavender augustifolia essential oil and/or peppermint essential oil

Instructions For DIY Sunscreen:

  1. Fill a big saucepan half full with water and put on medium heat
  2. Mix all your ingredients except the essential oils and zinc in a large mason jar and place in pan
  3. Stir your ingredient every few minutes until completely melted (wash the stirring instrument immediately when your done or you will be scrapping beeswax off)
  4. Remove the jar from the pan and slowly stir in each tbsp. of zinc.
  5. Add in the essential oils and stir them thoroughly
  6. Allow to cool on the counter. You may need to add more or less beeswax to get the right consistency.

This formulation gives about 20-30 SPF. The problem with homemade formulations is that you cannot guarantee their composition. This formulation is also not waterproof and should be applied every 3-4 hours.

In addition to sunscreen, always use safe sun practices. Wear hats and try to avoid prolonged sun exposure, particularly between 12-4 pm. Cover the skin where you can to reduce exposure to sun rays.

If you are looking for more direction on sunscreen products that are safer for your skin, check out the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database.

What’s The Big Deal About Probiotics?


Probiotics are one of the most common self-prescribed supplements I see in patients.  When I ask them why they are taking them, I often get the standard “I heard they were good for me”.  Followed by “I’m not sure if they are helping.”

Without understanding why a probiotic can be good for you, it is hard to gauge if it is working for you.  In addition, there are vast differences in probiotics.  Picking an appropriate choice depends on the kind of “good” you are trying to achieve.

Understanding Probiotics

To understand probiotics, you must be introduced to your amazing microbiome.  The microbiome consists of the trillions of microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, viruses, etc) that live in and on our bodies.  The microbiome exists primarily in our digestive tract and embodies the concept of good bacteria.  We have evolved to live symbiotically with our microbiome.  Meaning that we rely on one another for survival.  The health of our microbiome is crucial for our own health.  Particularly our digestive health and our immune system.

Digestion, Nutrition, & The Microbiome

The majority of our microbiome exists in our digestive tract.  Particularly the large intestine.  It supports the break-down of a variety of foods.  Primarily in more fibrous foods such as vegetables and legumes.  The microbiome also turns indigestible foods into short chain fatty acids (SCFA) which are anti-inflammatory for our system.

A healthy microbiome also plays a role in our metabolic health.  Aiding in both blood sugar regulation and fat digestion and storage.  In animal research, mice without a microbiome are more prone to obesity and diabetes.  In humans, we see a similar effect.  Those with a healthy balanced microbiome tend to be leaner versus those with “unbalanced” or unhealthy microbiomes who tend to be overweight.

The microbiome is considered healthy when there is a good balance between the various species that we know are beneficial to our health.  Also called commensal organisms.

When there is too much of one species or if there are harmful (pathogenic) species present in the microbiome, then it is considered unhealthy.

Eat This, Not That!

The food choices that we make have a huge impact on the health of our microbiome.  Eating an abundance of vegetables, particularly non-starchy vegetables, fruits, and whole grains has a positive effect on the health of our microbiome.  In contrast, diets that are high in refined sugars, sugar alternatives, and preservatives (found in packaged foods) have a profoundly negative effect on our microbiome.  The use of anti-biotics and frequent laxatives also harm our microbiome because they flush out and kill our good bacteria and organisms.

An unhealthy microbiome leads to unhealthy digestion, causing bloating, gas, heartburn, constipation, and diarrhea.  It has also been linked to a variety of digestive conditions including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).  Research has shown that probiotics can have a positive effect on these conditions by returning the microbiome to a more balanced state.  For further information, click here to read, “The Brain in Your Gut”.

Immunity, Inflammation, & The Microbiome

A healthy microbiome is also essential for the health of our immune system.  Our microbiome is an active part of our immune system.  Our commensal organisms will attack outside germs to prevent them from infecting us.  The microbiome also plays a major role in educating our immune system.

An unhealthy microbiome tends to be a poor teacher and promotes a more inflammatory immune system.  This leads to wide-spread inflammation in your body which has been linked to arthritis, psoriasis, eczema, diabetes, depression, and anxiety.  It also leads to a weaker immune system overall, meaning you are more likely to get sick.

Using probiotics in these conditions can help shift the microbiome to educate a less inflammatory and stronger immune system.  It is also important to note that antibiotics, pain killers, and corticosteroids, which are all used to treat the above conditions, have a negative impact on our microbiome health.  Using probiotics after rounds of these medications is a great practice for supporting your microbiome health.

What Makes A Good Probiotic?

It is always helpful to consult a knowledgeable health care professional when picking a probiotic.  Especially when it comes to treating specific conditions.  There are specific strains that have been shown to be beneficial for specific conditions.  They can also recommend better quality brands to ensure that you are actually getting the probiotics stated on a label.  That said, there are general rules that everyone should know when picking probiotics.

What To Look For When Choosing Probiotics

Firstly, you want a minimum of 10 billion CFU (colony forming units).  This is the number of organisms present in the probiotics.  Our microbiome organisms vastly outweigh the cells in our body.  If you are getting a probiotic with a lower number than 10 billion, the probiotic is likely not making it all the way through your digestive tract.  Thus won’t be as effective.

Secondly, you want to look for a variety of species on the ingredient list, usually 10 -15 total.  Most should be lactobacillus species or Bifidobacterium species.  These make up the bulk of our microbiome.  In specific conditions, you may only want 1-2 species in your probiotic but for general health, a variety is more appropriate.

Most probiotics must be kept in the fridge as they are living organisms.  To see noticeable changes, I recommend a minimum of 4 weeks of consistent dosing, although some conditions require up to 3 months of dosing.

Lastly, I probiotics are not meant to be taken for a lifetime (really there are very few supplements that would even fall into that category).  They should be used strategically and temporarily to shift and balance your microbiome back into its healthiest state.  On a daily basis you should be supporting your microbiome through diet & lifestyle.

Aim for 7-9 servings of vegetables per day.  Drink lots of water, and avoid artificial sweeteners and refined sugar.  Consider adding fermented foods in your diet to give your body small doses of probiotics for maintenance.  Kimchi, kombucha, sauerkraut, and plain yogurt are all great options to incorporate into your diet.  Click here to read, “7 Must-Eat Fermented Foods for a Healthy Gut”.

gut health

8 Easy Tips

For Good

Gut Health

1. Sit down to eat.

Digestion is a resting activity.  If you are eating on the move, your body is sending its energy to keep you moving instead of focusing on breaking down that food.
Take time to enjoy your food!  Sit down, smell it, and taste every bite!

2. Increase your vegetable intake.

Yes you must eat your veggies.  There are so many reasons but for your gut it’s about feeding your microbiome and keeping you regular.  Your plate should be half filled with a variety of veggies – raw or cooked, both are great!

3. Say goodbye to packaged foods.

Your gut doesn’t know what to do with the preservatives.  Plus these foods tend to be high in sugar which is going to feed bad bacteria.

4. Try adding a fermented food to your diet once a week.

Kimchi, sauerkraut, & kombucha are all great things to add to your diet to get an extra dose of good bacteria for your gut.  Yogurt can be great too however many popular brands (ex: Activia) are filled with extra sugar that makes your gut friendly decision a bit counter-productive!

5. Limit your red meat consumption to once per week.

Even better get consider grass-fed, hormone-free cuts of meat to get your fix!
Red meat can be inflammatory on the gut and eating too much has been linked to colon cancer!  Click here to read, “What Meat Do You Eat?”to learn more about what kind of meat is best for you.

6. Sigh it out.

Or hum or sing.  That vibration you feel at the back of your throat when you do these activities is stimulating the vagus nerve.  The vagus nerve runs from your brain to your gut and promotes relaxation and digestion.  Stress reduction + gut health promotion in less than 30 seconds!  Click here to learn more about The Healing Power Of Mantra Meditation.

7. Get yourself moving.

Physical activity is always the answer.  Not a fan of the gym?  That is okay – it’s about moving and getting that heart rate up.  Find something you enjoy and aim to get 30 minutes per day.  Walking, dancing, vigorously cleaning the house, walking up and down the stairs – whatever so long as you are moving!

8. Try adding some gut friendly tea into your life.

Peppermint, chamomile, and ginger are all tasty teas that we consider carminatives – a fancy word for saying they promote digestion!  A great way to end a good meal!