A Diet for ADHD

Although there is no conclusive evidence that a diet for ADHD alone can treat most cases of ADHD, the way a child eats can play a major role in managing ADHD and its symptoms.

A good, balanced diet with all the required food groups, vitamins and minerals is the first step in treating ADHD.  In some children, food allergies, sensitivities, reactions and deficiencies, as well as too many artificial ingredients and preservatives can exacerbate ADHD symptoms.

Dietary Intervention
To determine if your child's ADHD can improve with changes in diet, you'll have to start with a strict study in how he reacts to the removal of specific foods from the diet. Dietary intervention programs, such as the Feingold Diet, removes all processed foods from the diet, as well as dairy, sugar and fried foods, for two weeks and then returns the foods to the diet, one by one, to determine which foods might trigger the ADHD symptoms.

It may be that too much sugar is magnifying hyper activity. Or your child might have a heightened sensitivity to certain foods, preservatives or additives.

Dietary intervention requires two straight weeks of:

  • No dairy products
  • No yellow foods (especially corn and squash)
  • No junk foods
  • No fruit juices
  • Cut sugar 90-100 percent
  • Cut chocolate by 90 percent
  • No NutraSweet or artificial sweeteners
  • No processed meats and no MSG (no meat with chemicals listed on package)
  • Cut fried foods by 90 percent
  • No food colorings

Make sure to add extra water to your child's diet. Without dairy products and fruit juices, dehydration is a danger. At the end of two weeks, begin adding these foods back into the diet, one food every four days, in high quantities. Watch for reactions, such as red splotches on the skin and temper tantrums.

Organic Foods
Organic foods are grown naturally without the use of chemicals or irradiation. Many consumers believe that "unnatural" methods of cultivation are unhealthy and choose organic foods on the belief that they are healthier. Organic foods may have special benefits for those with ADHD.

Replacing your favorite foods with organic alternatives can help to remove chemicals and additives in everyday foods from the body.  While food additives have not been conclusively linked to ADHD, some children's behavior is affected by additives and conditions like ADHD can become worse.

A Good ADHD Diet
A good, healthy, balanced diet can help the body to fight ADHD tendencies.  Here are a few guidelines to follow:

  • Meals high in protein and low in carbohydrates.
  • Avoid cereal and milk for breakfast. Try a protein shake with fresh fruit.
  • Avoid caffeinated drinks.
  • Eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables.
  • Add flax seed and fish oils, either added to food or taken as a supplement.
  • Avoid processed foods and serve homemade instead.

Nutritional Supplements
Adding natural nutritional supplements to your child's diet is, in some ways, the opposite of the elimination approach. Instead of removing bad foods, nutritional supplements add good things to your child's diet.

While studies show no direct link between nutritional supplements and ADHD, some children show improvements with fatty acid supplements, glyconutritional supplements and others.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (www.fla.gov) has more information on supplements and manufacturers' claims about them.

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