Does My ADHD Kid Need Meds? Managing ADHD with Diet

Imagine the scene: you have finished dinner and your child is about to start his homework. However, he is fidgeting, not sitting still, and cannot seem to get focused on his work. You know your child has ADHD, but his attention has waned since the afternoon. Is it possible your child’s diet is affecting his ADHD?

Although research is not yet conclusive, there is considerable anecdotal and scientific evidence that certain food groups exacerbate ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, symptoms in children.

A recent study done by the ADHD Research Centre in the Netherlands has shown that a certain number of ADHD cases may in fact be caused by severe food allergies. Dr. Lidy Pelsser, the lead author of the study, concluded that for up to 64% of ADD cases following a restricted diet can greatly improve the symptoms of ADHD. Her study involved placing children on a very elaborate diet, then slowly removing foods one by one over five weeks. Parents and teachers both noticed astonishing improvements in behavior and concentration in many of the children.  Dr. Pelsser found, “After the diet, they were just normal children with normal behavior.”  Studies like these have demonstrated the connection between diet and ADHD.

One of the most often cited foods to avoid is anything with artificial food coloring, especially red and yellow dyes. These dyes have been linked to increased hyperactivity in children. The U.K. Food Standards Agency even advises parents of children with ADHD to avoid food dyes.  One suggestion is to restrict your child’s consumption of most candies, juice, and processed food such as chips and other snacks, which usually contain artificial food dyes.

The Modern Food Wheel

The old food pyramid is out. Now, a balanced diet is divided up according to portions of what you should eat each day.

Simple carbohydrates, including sugar, have also been shown to increase ADHD symptoms. While studies have not shown a direct relationship between sugar and ADHD, simple carbohydrates such as white bread, pasta, and peeled potatoes cause blood sugar levels to spike and increase restlessness and hyperactivity. It is best to avoid over-consumption of sugar and simple carbohydrates.

On the other hand, there are foods that should be eaten to help manage ADD, such as protein.  Protein gets digested more slowly than simple carbohydrates, providing longer, steadier amounts of energy. Protein will also help concentration. Make sure to include some good sources of protein for breakfast, such as eggs or cheese. Nuts, hummus, and cheese also make great protein-filled snacks in the afternoon.

Another important food group to include in your child’s diet is complex carbohydrates, especially fruits and vegetables. Because the body takes longer to digest complex carbohydrates, they provide more long-term energy and help with concentration. Fruits and vegetables should be substantial parts of any meal, and fruit can also make a great snack!

Finally, another food that is highly recommended for managing ADHD is anything with Omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish, walnuts, and Brazil nuts.  These foods are important for normal brain function.  There is also mounting evidence that these foods can help with ADHD symptoms.

Regardless of the cause of ADHD, it is essential to find effective ways to manage the symptoms and ensure that your child is successful. Even with a well-regulated diet, children can still struggle to succeed in school.  For children with ADHD, it is even more important to learn how to focus, manage workloads, and develop study habits for them.  At Cardinal Education, we pride ourselves on helping every child succeed to the best of his or her abilities.

Like what you see here? We are happy to permit you to use our material as long as you link back! Please refer to us as the Cardinal Education Blog.

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