What are ADHD diets? Can they help you or your child? Are there foods you should eat—and foods to avoid? Many can stand to benefit from treatment with medication, behavioral therapy or both, but some also report success with dietary interventions.
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Before diet, discuss your plans with your doctor, who can weigh the impact of dietary changes on a current treatment plan.
Can a Diet Help ADHD?
It’s often difficult for someone with ADHD to remain still. Many people with ADHD also do things impulsively—acting before thinking. Other symptoms linked with ADHD include feeling anxious or depressed, having negative thoughts, and having trouble sleeping. ADHD affects children, teens, and adults.
There is no “cure” for ADHD. However, medication and behavioral therapy are prescribed for many people with ADHD. But what about ADHD diets? Can they help too?
What Is an ADHD diet?
Ideally, an ADHD diet would help the brain work better and lessen symptoms of the disorder, such as restlessness or lack of focus. A diet may include the foods you eat and any nutritional supplements you may take. You may hear ADHD diets described in the following ways:
The Feingold Program, based on the work of Ben Feingold, a California allergist, involves eliminating artificial colorings, flavorings, preservatives and aspartame from the diet. The Feingold program also cuts out foods with salicylates, an ingredient found in aspirin. During his work in the 1960s, Feingold noticed that parents who eliminated additives and preservatives from their kids’ diets reported calmer, better-behaved children. The Feingold Association website reports that parents and children who follow the Feingold elimination diet usually see behavioral improvements within 3 days to 3 weeks.
This includes adding vitamins, minerals, or other nutrients to make up for deficiencies in your diet that may contribute to ADHD symptoms. The assumption is that nutritional component that your body needs is lacking from your diet. Nutrient deficiencies could contribute to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder symptoms in many children, and feeding kids sardines, tuna, salmon or fish oil supplements could reduce hyperactivity symptoms by up to 50 percent. Researchers think that children with ADHD break down omega-3 fatty acids, critical for optimal brain and nerve function, more readily than other children. Children with behavioral symptoms may also lack dietary zinc, iron, B vitamins and magnesium. To combat nutritional deficiencies in your child’s diet, have him take a daily multivitamin and talk to your child’s doctor about the possibility of testing for nutritional deficiencies.
Eliminating sugar from your child’s diet could improve symptoms of attention deficit disorder. University of South Carolina researchers who studied hyperactive children found that the more sugar kids ingested, the greater their restlessness.
Scientists have longer debated whether sugar-free diets help behavioral symptoms in children with attention deficit disorder, and no definitive conclusions exist. To eliminate sugar from your child’s diet, avoid foods with corn sweetener or syrup, dehydrated cane juice, dextrose, maltodextrin, molasses, sucrose or sorghum in the ingredients list.