Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD is a neurological disorder, which mostly affects children of school going age and often subsides as the child matures. ADHD can also affect adults. ADHD is a biological condition in which a child has difficulty with concentration or being still. It results in impulsiveness and hyperactivity that prevents the kid from staying at a place or focusing at a thing for even small periods. A child or an adult with ADHD face difficulties while paying attention to things. A type of ADHD in which person does not have issues with hyperactivity but is not able to be attentive is ADD.
ADHD and ADD treatments are still under trials. There is no definite cure for ADHD, however medications and certain alternative therapies have proven beneficial to reduce the symptoms and do not let them worsen. Many studies have linked food habits and diet to increase in ADHD symptoms. While some studies also show the effectiveness of supplements and some natural nutrient rich food items to reduce the symptoms of ADHD. Some doctors advise special ADHD diet plans as an alternative therapy to medication as a natural way control ADHD.
What foods can help alleviate symptoms?
Diet for ADHD must include the food items that promote brain function. Nutritional supplements help in curing the vitamin and mineral deficiencies found in children with ADHD. A diet for ADHD may include naturally available food items or OTC nutrient supplements or both. Another type of diet suggested to control ADHD is elimination diet. This means that certain types of food are advised to be eliminated from a person’s daily diet, which are said to worsen the symptoms.
- Eat whatever is good for the brain: Although the data is not enough to confirm if your diet can help with symptoms but it is believed that whatever you eat affects your body. Foods that enhance the brain functions are suggested to be included in the regular diet. A balanced diet, rich in proteins and omega -3 fatty acids is a helpful natural remedy for people living with ADHD.
- Proteins: A protein rich diet helps in improving concentration and attention abilities. Nuts, cheese, milk, beans and eggs are good sources of protein, which help your child to improve their focus and learning abilities. Proteins make neurotransmitters in the brain that increase brain activity and it also prevents irregular sugar levels in the body. Protein must be included in the diet for ADHD kids as it helps the medication to work better.
- Omega 3 fatty acids: Many studies have confirmed the effectiveness of omega 3 fatty acids to benefit ADHD cure. Omega 3 fatty acids control hyperactivity and have calming effect on brain. It is also found that a child with omega 3 deficiency can have aggravated ADHD symptoms and it could worsen their condition as compared to those who include omega 3 supplements in their diet. Salmon, tuna and cold water fish have high amount of these fatty acids. Also it can be found in walnuts, canola oil and olive oil in good quantities. One can also take omega 3 supplements along with prescribed medication.
- Complex carbohydrates: Adding more of complex carbohydrate to the diet benefits ADHD symptoms. Lots of vegetables, oranges, kiwis, tangerines, grapefruit and pears are natural ways to control ADHD symptoms by adding complex carbohydrates. These help in inducing sleep and calming impulsive actions.
- Zinc and iron rich food: Iron and zinc boost mental health. Iron plays an important role in making dopamine which is a neurotransmitter. Often children and even adults with ADHD are found to be deficient in iron levels. Zinc is also an important factor to regulate and develop neurotransmitters. Foods rich in zinc and iron such as soy, lean meat, poultry foods, nuts and fortified foods are effective in increasing these mineral levels in the blood thus improving mental abilities.
- Supplements are also helpful: A healthy balanced diet can help control ADHD symptoms to some extent but it may not fulfill the existing nutrient deficiency in the body properly. If a child is found to be highly deficient in one or other vitamin or mineral then the doctor may suggest additional supplementation along with regular diet to combat ADHD symptoms.
Deficiency of vitamins like B-complex, zinc and iron could hamper the effects of medication and it could even get worse. Some suggest having a regular vitamin and mineral supplement along with diet to reduce ADHD symptoms. However, each individual has a different case profile which be worked together in consultation with a doctor.
- Herbs: Some herbs like ginseng have brain-stimulating activity. These herbs can be included in regular diet in form of raw herb or a supplement to rejuvenate brain activity and enhance alertness. Herbs improve the cognitive abilities of brain and reduce aggressive behavior.
What not to eat?
Foods that must be avoided in case of ADHD hold equal importance with the diet that should be included. Certain food products can have detrimental effects on brain functions and prove deteriorating if not eliminated from diet. The foods that must be avoided are:
- Foods high in sugar content: High sugar foods are a strict ban in ADHD. High sugar content induces hyperactivity in children with ADHD making them more vigorous and restless. Sugars decrease the attention levels and reduce the effects of medication on body.
- Preservatives and coloring agents: Preservatives like sodium benzoate and artificial coloring agents increase hyperactivity even in kids that do not have ADHD. Colorful cereals, jams, canned foods, jellies, sweetened fruit products and soft drinks must be avoided. Instead one should have foods with no colors and added preservatives.
- Allergens: Foods that may cause allergies like gluten, wheat, soy nuts etc. must be avoided. They increase the hyperactive behavior of your child and may become inattentive. Allergies to a particular food must be discussed with the doctor before any medication is taken.
- Caffeine: Caffeine is said to have stimulating effects on mental activity but large amount of caffeine intake can outdo its benefits. It is thus advised to be taken in less quantity or avoid it completely.
ADHD is a disease with no definite cure but such alternative natural remedies can surely help in reducing the effects and symptoms it can have on children and can help improve their quality of life.
- ADHD Parenting Tips - (https://www.helpguide.org/articles/add-adhd/when-your-child-has-attention-deficit-disorder-adhd.htm)
- About ADHD and hyperactivity - (http://www.foodforthebrain.org/nutrition-solutions/adhd-and-hyperactivity/about-adhdhyperactivity.aspx)
Latest Publications and Research on Diet to control Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
- Can auditory warning signals normalize eye movements in children with ADHD? - Published by PubMed
- Stepped Treatment for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Aggressive Behavior: A Randomized, Controlled Trial of Adjunctive Risperidone, Divalproex Sodium, or Placebo After Stimulant Medication Optimization. - Published by PubMed
- Atypical Cortical Activation During Risky Decision Making in Disruptive Behavior Disordered Youths With Histories of Suicidal Ideation. - Published by PubMed
- Cognitive Modeling Informs Interpretation of Go/No-Go Task-Related Neural Activations and Their Links to Externalizing Psychopathology. - Published by PubMed
- Dietary Phytochemicals as Neurotherapeutics for Autism Spectrum Disorder: Plausible Mechanism and Evidence. - Published by PubMed