3 Diets That Fight ADHD
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.
ADHD For Kids: 6 Steps In Managing Their Money
Many parents report that money is a good motivator for their children with ADHD. It is important, then, to emphasize financial responsibility and to help your child learn money management skills.
How ADHD Undermines Money Management
Most of what we know about the interaction between ADHD and money comes from mistakes that adults with ADHD have made, because no research has been done on the way in which children with ADHD understand money. ADHD interferes with money management in a variety of ways, including:
• Difficulty planning a budget and sticking to it
• Disorganized records Impulsive spending
• Difficulty planning for savings
• Difficulty tracking account balances Losing checks or bills
• Procrastinating on bills or taxes
• Forgetting when bills are due
Sound familiar? For children with ADHD, the same challenges they face with remembering to do and turn in homework can become the challenges they face later with money management.
Children With ADHD Value Money
By the time children are 7 or 8, whether they have ADHD or not, they have a pretty good understanding of what money can do for them, says Gregor Kohls, MA, an ADHD researcher at the Center for Autism Research at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Kohls and his colleagues have studied the use of money as a way to help children with ADHD learn appropriate behaviors. In his research, he found that parents of children with ADHD frequently rely on money as a reward.
Teaching Money Management
But as with all children, parents must teach money management to children with ADHD. Here are some tips and ideas:
Set a good example. “The concept of money is learned especially through parents,” observes Kohls. Your child is learning about the value of money from how you manage your own money, so try to share with him, in age-appropriate ways, how you make your spending and saving decisions.
Give an allowance. A lot of parents give money when a child asks instead of using an allowance. “What this sets up is a situation where the child learns that whenever I want something then I should have it right now,” explains ADHD specialist David W. Kidder, PhD, a psychologist in private practice in Slidell, La. However, learning to delay immediate gratification is an important part of growing up — so set up a weekly allowance with a clear understanding of what activities or items that money is for. Then hang tough while your child learns to wait until next week before he can get what he wants.
Allow earning money through chores. Children should have chores they are expected to do as household members, but allowing them to earn money through additional chores is fine, says Kidder. “That teaches them that if you work for something then you get a reward for it,” he adds.
Do not pay for grades. Earning money by doing extra yard work is fine, but tying money to grades can actually reduce a child’s pleasure in his achievements. “It’s been shown that children will actually decrease the internal motivation to make good grades and base it solely on the external motivation of money,” says Kidder.
Set up a structure for their money. Children with ADHD benefit from structured environments in all aspects of their lives. This is equally true where money is concerned. In addition to stating what their money is to be spent on, you can also teach them to set aside a portion for savings — or develop any other similar structured plan that suits your values.
Help your child plan ahead. Kohls notes that the problems children with ADHD have with planning also extends to money. “There are theories that propose that children with ADHD seek immediate rewards, and have problems [waiting for] a bigger reward at a later period of time,” he says.
Learning money management is just that — a learning process. Children with ADHD face more challenges along the way than their peers, but with your help they can achieve good results.