Attention Deficit Disorder and the Limbic System

Millions and millions of children are being diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (abbreviated ADD) and ADHD every year. The numbers are steadily increasing every year with no signs of slowing down. Something clearly is changing in our children, but what? If attention deficit disorder is suspected in a child, or even an adult, there are potential problems to rule out. It is imperative to finding the best treatment option for these children.


Ruling out potential problems


A common first line defense for attention deficit disorder and ADHD is prescription drugs. But before jumping into dulling the senses and decreasing stimulation through pharmaceuticals, we must consider if the problem is better corrected through natural means. Our children and families, after all, should not be burdened with a lifetime of drug therapy if it can be avoided. We must look to brain function for guidance. But how?

First, an impaired functioning nervous system MUST be identified and corrected or all other treatments will be limited or useless. Yes, prescription medication has their time and place, but often results in simply patching a problem instead of CORRECTING the underlying cause. There are specific centers in the brain that, if not functioning properly, can result in certain behavioral problems.

“The choice is whether to patch the fault or find a complete solution.”

The higher cognitive functions like information processing and memory formation is essential to the young child. The limbic system of the brain is responsible for successful integration of our 10 bodily senses and making sense of the world around us. In additional to the 5 senses we commonly think of, the brain also senses changes in temperature, pressure, chemical or hormone levels, and proprioception (sense of posture and body position).

Our bodies have an internal system called the Automatic Operating System (aOS for short) that can be compared to a computer or cell phone’s operating system (think Apple’s iOS). Our aOS is responsible for ensuring smooth “background performance” of the body by coordinating things like attention, sleep, digestion, breathing, and heart rate. These things are very important for pediatric health. The aOS works without conscious effort, taking in information from our ten sensations and transmitting the nerve information to the brain.

While a computer’s iOS may need to be updated with new advances to prevent sluggish performance, our bodies’ aOS is a little different. In order to have OPTIMAL function throughout the body, brain and nerve health must be maintained. Attention deficit disorder and ADHD are just one “symptom” that can arise from a fault in our aOS. The choice is whether to patch the fault or find a complete solution.




A key area that influences the performance of the aOS is the limbic system. What is the limbic system, you ask? It is a collection of brain centers (the hypothalamus, amygdala, and hippocampus) that influence arousal, motivation and learning. It helps us respond to emotional stimuli and is involved in reinforcing behavior. The limbic system of the brain is responsible for successful integration of our 10 bodily senses and making sense of the world around us.

In additional to the 5 senses we commonly think of, the brain also senses changes in temperature, pressure, chemical or hormone levels, posture and body position, as well as sensing pain. Seems pretty important, right? Well, if the limbic system becomes overwhelmed with abnormal or excessive information from the body, then problems can develop.


“A child with attention deficit disorder or ADHD may have a faulty response to minor stimulus, creating an effect that is only appropriate for times of more serious stress.“


The amygdala, a part of the limbic system, is our “emotional brain” and is responsible for handling stress within the body. The amygdala is a very helpful portion of our brain that helps decide what to do with the thousands of senses the brain receives every minute. Responses to this information can either be healthy or unhealthy.

A healthy response to sensation means that the body addresses important problems by creating a temporary adaptation. A good example is this kind of response is the body redirecting heat to the organs of the body when someone is experiencing hypothermia. When the person’s body temperature increases, the body allows heat to return to their toes and fingers. This kind of adaptation is a healthy response in times of stress.

On the other hand, it would be inappropriate if the person simply takes a cold shower but the body interprets this as hypothermia and prevents heat from reaching their arms and legs, resulting in shock. The body overreacted because the brain interpreted the message wrong.

An overreaction in a child, whether it is a behavioral outburst or inability to focus in school, may be from a similar response in the brain’s limbic system. This can happen in the brain if the limbic system is taxed.

This excess activation of the amygdala and hippocampus causes a stress response in the body. Our bodies are very resourceful in dealing with stress, but if these brain centers become overtaxed, this may result in a host of problems.  Possibilities include sensitivity to pain, adrenal fatigue, thyroid dysfunction, high blood pressure, and mental fog in the adult. In a child it could result in behaviors that include a withdraw from social activity, acting out towards parents and teachers, inability to complete tasks, and lack of motivation.

We are able to safely and painlessly assess if a child may have decreased cognitive resiliency due to excess stress to a brain center. We find that a child’s behavioral problem most often result from a problem in the craniocervical junction of the spine or from the brain directly. These problems can then be corrected through either structural chiropractic adjustments or brain therapy. Our doctors are able to assess if a brain center is not making appropriate connections with other parts of the brain, and perform neurologic integration therapy that naturally improves the child’s function. The beauty of this approach is that we are not treating symptoms, but looking at overall function of the brain. When function is improved, we find that many of these problems have promising outlooks.

One pediatric patient with attention deficit disorder had a dramatic improvement in only 2 months of care. The boy said,

“I am now able to focus better in school and am making better grades. I don’t get distracted as much, plus my body feels a lot better too.”

His mother states that he is also making more eye contact and his teacher even noticed he was paying more attention in class. This is just one example of what is possible with an optimal functioning nervous system!


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Sickness From Nervous System Toxins

As a specialist in nervous system and nerve health, my job sometimes requires to think outside the box for difficult cases that come to the office. Patients who respond slowly to an initial phase of care may have external toxic stressors that must be addressed to allow the nervous system to fully recover. Nervous system toxins could be caused by things patient eats, drinks, inhales, wears, or rubs on their skin. A common nervous system depressant may be lurking in their homes, believe it or not.

Cleaning products are meant to help us live with less bacteria and viruses in our homes and places of work. They are found in various forms of sprays, wipes, and liquids. But the “dirty” secret is that common household products available in supermarkets around the globe are dangerous to our nervous system health.

“The individuals who cleaned their homes with common household cleaners had impaired lung capacity equivalent to smoking twenty cigarettes per day”

Our society is obsessed with cleanliness. Anything less than surgical grade clean is less than acceptable, especially in the home. A baby’s crib must be sparkling clean, the play pen has to be wiped down after each use, and the kitchen and bathroom floor has to look clean enough to eat off of. But our fixation on sanitation can have grave consequences for many unlucky individuals.

Reactions to individual cleaning products are not widely documented for a key reason: the cleaning companies are protected by law from disclosing complete ingredient lists on their labels. Why? Wouldn’t you want to know what is contained in the products you apply to your clothing, eating surfaces, and spray into the air? Without having consumer access to what’s inside these products, it can be easy to think, “It must be safe or they wouldn’t be able to sell it in the store”. But scientific research and my experience with patients tell us otherwise.

An independent long-term study conducted over a 20 year period wanted to answer one simple question: is there a difference in lung health of those who did use common household spray and liquid cleaners compared to those who did not? The results were nothing short of shocking.   The individuals who cleaned their homes with common household cleaners had impaired lung capacity equivalent to smoking twenty cigarettes per day!

“Nervous system toxins should be eliminated as a potential culprit.”

At this point, you may be thinking, “But these results can’t be common. Besides, I only clean once a week, not every day”. The study concluded that women who used home cleaning products as little as once per week saw the same reduction in lung capacity as those who smoke a pack a day over the same period. These same products also have the ability to damage our nervous system.

Common symptoms that we see in our office include headaches, migraines, fibromyalgia, and autoimmune disorders. Some lesser common conditions are attention deficit disorders (ADD/ ADHD), seizures, dizziness and vertigo. Though the conditions may appear to be very different and independent from one another, I have found connections to the severity of the issue and the level of stress to the nervous system. Without a properly functioning nervous system, anything can develop.  Nervous system toxins should be eliminated as a potential culprit.

One thing I may discuss are some recommendations to decrease toxic exposure, including cleaning products. This is especially important when dealing with pediatric patients. Children and pets being smaller and lower to the ground, are much more prone to develop adverse reactions. The vapor from spray and liquid cleaners are most highly concentrated at or near ground level. So unlike adults who stand well above the level of the floor, babies, children, and pets can inhale these fumes to a greater degree than adults. We have found that some patients have quicker results when fully implementing our recommendations.

A quick and easy test to see if your cleaners are up to our recommendations or not is to look at the end cap of the product. If your detergent, liquid, or spray has a childproof seal on it when new, this product likely has chemicals that are harmful to your nervous system and overall health. It should be thrown out immediately. In addition, a more thorough look at the available ingredients listed on the container can give additional safety information.

Clorox wipes, for example, are commonly used to disinfect countertops, shelves, toys, and much more. The main ingredients in the wipes are Alkyl Dimethyl Benzyl Ammonium Chloride and Alkyl Dimethyl Ethylbenzyl Ammonium Chloride. These are the same ingredients as pesticides. The harmful effects of ingesting pesticides are clear and absolutely a no-no for any health conscious individual. So why would we use it in our house for our loved ones to breath? These are just two examples of the nervous system toxins that are contained in these products. What many people don’t realize is that there are safe alternatives out there cleaning just as well without the potential side effects.

Some take away points from the above-mentioned study are:


  • Cleaning once per week can reduce lung capacity to the same severity as smoking a pack of cigarettes per day.
  • Women are affected more commonly than men.
  • Children and pets are especially sensitive to cleaners affecting their nervous system.
  • Cleaning at home is just as harmful as being an occupational cleaner, if not more so.
  • Liquid cleaners are just as dangerous as sprays.
  • Asthma rates increased with women who cleaned with products regularly.
  • Over time, negative effects can build up.
  • Childhood caps = Nervous system toxins likely in the product.


If you think you or your loved one may be experiencing the effects of nervous system toxins, we have resources to help you heal. Call to schedule a complementary consultation to find customize your individualized options!


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If you are unfamiliar with New Spring Chiropractic, we are a family practice that loves to care for people of all ages.  Our techniques allow us to be gentle yet effective in our care, making it safe for even the little ones.  We see patients for wellness care as well as chronic and acute conditions.  If you would like to learn more about how we can help you and your family,  please call us at 386-227-7534 and schedule a complementary consultation with one of our doctors.



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