Unlocking Focus and Attention: The Power of OPCs

Dr. Tanya Hudson
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Catch yourself (nearly all the time) daydreaming while needing to get work done and noticing every squirrel outside your window?  Yes, feeling squirrely is a thing! 

Struggling to check off even one item on your TO-DO list? 

Not remembering why you walked into the kitchen or your neighbor’s name? 

Wondering if you might have ADHD?

I hear you.  These symptoms can feel downright scary and beyond frustrating.  With over half of ADHD patients also experiencing anxiety, treating attention deficits of all ages has been a huge part of my practice for the last 15 years.

Focus and attention issues are real and they can wreak havoc on families, children, futures, jobs, and marriages. 

Did you know that a sober adult with ADHD can drive in a similar fashion to an intoxicated adult?  Yikes!

And more than 75% of children with ADHD will continue to show symptoms into adulthood.  Not good.

As you probably know, there are many medications designed to improve focus, most of them being stimulants.  While these medications often reduce symptoms (and can be life-saving), they offer only a band-aide approach to care, leading to a re-occurrence of symptoms when the medication is removed. 

I approach treatment with a wide lens, looking at diet, stress, anxiety, sleep, GI health, neurotransmitter imbalances, hormones, nutritional deficiencies, food sensitivities, and genetics.  I use scientifically researched nutritional supplements which contain naturally occurring ingredients, such as vitamins and minerals, herbs, and amino acids.

One exciting and very effective herb I have used for nearly a decade with my patients is pine bark. 

Pine bark, also known as Pycnogenol, has been shown in studies with ADHD children to increase alertness and focus; decrease impulsivity, restlessness, aggression, and disruptive behavior; and improve cooperation with parents and teachers.  Awesome! 

So what is the key ingredient in pine bark?  Get ready—oligomeric proanthocyanidins or OPCs.  I suggest saying OPCs!  Much easier!  OPCs are plant extracts, found in pine bark, blueberry, red grapes, green tea, and chocolate (yes!  We love more reasons to eat dark chocolate!).

Pine bark

Ok, so HOW can these OPCs help with memory, focus, and attention?

We will need to understand brain waves.

The ADHD brain has a dominance of what are called slow-moving “theta waves,” and a low level of fast-moving, “beta waves.”

Theta waves are seen when a child or adult is daydreaming, inattentive, or distracted (just like I can be on a beautiful sunny day in Portland, and I am stuck inside!). 

Fast-moving or “beta waves” are linked to times of clarity and focus.  We want more of these!

OPCs have been shown in studies to actually affect these brain waves, decreasing theta waves and increasing beta waves, hence improving focus, clarity, and task completion!  Love this!

Researchers are not entirely sure how OPCs affect brain waves, but here are some theories (stay with me!  I want you to have the science behind all this!):

  • Regulate the levels of norepinephrine and epinephrine, key neurotransmitters in the ability to focus.
  • Slow the production and release of histamine, which in high quantities can worsen allergic reactions and contribute to the symptoms of ADHD. 
  • Reduce damage to the fat-rich cells of the brain.
  • Strengthen the blood-brain barrier, thus keeping pesticides and food additives out of the brain.
  • Improve blood flow to the brain, therefore helping to deliver key brain nutrients, such as zinc. 
  • Decrease inflammation in the brain by boosting certain enzymes.

I generally see improvement in focus, mental acuity, and behavior in 3-4 weeks on OPCs (adults and children).  In over a decade of using OPCs, I have never seen a side effect.  Of course, with any herb, there is the possibility of an allergic reaction, so you should look out for rashes, GI upset, headaches, or any other “out of the ordinary” symptoms. 

Remember, OPCs are only a “piece of the treatment puzzle” when addressing memory issues, poor focus, lack of concentration, etc. Please call or fill out my inquiry form to set up a “virtual” appointment with me if you wish to dive deeper into symptoms, exploring not only OPCs, but other helpful treatments which address neurotransmitters, nutrient deficiencies, food intolerances, stress, GI health, and poor sleep.  I’m here to help!