Food and ADHD
By Xaver Y.R. Chen (yrchen) on 2015-01-09 19:36:59
Eating a balanced diet is important for us all. When we eat well, we feel better. We are healthier and happier. Good nutrition is especially important for children who are growing and developing.
Good nutrition can play a complementary role in a child’s treatment. When a child’s diet is balanced and healthy, his (or her) ADHD symptoms may be a little better controlled. Studies show that children with healthier diets tend to behave and perform better at school. Chances are that these desired effects extend to the home as well.
We suggest parents offer their children a variety of foods from as many food groups as possible at each meal or snack. By doing this, your child is more likely to get a better balance of protein, carbohydrates and fats—all of which the body burns at different rates.
Hunger surges can also create problems. A child who is hungry is apt to have more difficulty maintaining his concentration, frustrate more easily, and can become more irritable. Eating at regular intervals throughout the day helps keep tummies from growling and feeling empty.
Skipping meals and snacks may also produce low blood sugar levels. As a result, children are more likely to be cranky and moody. Foods that are especially high in processed sugars may spike blood sugar levels. Spikes in blood sugar may result in energy bursts and more active behaviors. Soon after the spike, blood sugar levels often fall resulting in sleepy, cranky, moodiness. This is sometimes referred to as the “spike and crash syndrome.”
While studies have not shown sugar to cause or worsen the symptoms of ADHD, limiting your child’s intake of added sugar makes sense both from a weight-management standpoint as well as when trying to avoid sudden energy bursts and then falls that processed sugar can provide—the quick energy peaks and valleys can leave kids uncomfortable and possibly unable to focus.
A small percentage of children with ADHD have sensitivities to certain foods or food additives, such a colourings or preservatives. Eliminating these substances from the diet may improve the ADHD behaviours; however, before indiscriminately eliminating multiple foods, be sure to discuss any dietary changes with a physician and/or nutritionist. If your child eats a fairly good diet but could use some improvement, ask your homeopath about using a multi-vitamin supplement while you work on his/her nutrition.
It appears to be more prevalent in boys than girls. Whilst it is usually thought of as a condition that affects children, there are also a significant number of adults who continue to show symptoms of ADHD. Diagnosis is usually by a doctor or educational psychologist. Teachers and parents are often the first people to notice symptoms.
ADHD is generally characterized by an inability to pay attention, being hyperactive and acting on impulse without thought for danger or consequences. Other symptoms may include:
Leaving projects or work unfinished
Inability to sit still
Unable to follow instructions
Being clumsy or accident prone
Not responding to discipline or rules or behaviour
Reckless and unpredictable behaviour
The causes are uncertain, but there are likely to be chemical imbalances in the brain. Other contributory factors include diets high in sugar, food additives or stimulants, nutrient deficiencies, cigarette and alcohol exposure, maternal smoking during pregnancy, low birth weight, food intolerances and lack of Essential fats. The following dietary measures may help:
Avoid sugar – cakes, biscuits, sweets, fizzy drinks etc.
Avoid refined carbohydrates – white bread, white rice, white pasta, white flour etc.
Avoid artificial additives – sweeteners, colourings, flavourings, preservatives.
Eat small regular meals and snacks – to keep blood sugar levels stable.
Avoid foods to which you may be intolerant – wheat, dairy, chocolate and additives are common culprits in children. MSG, oranges, soya, peanuts, corn, yeast and eggs are also worth considering.
Include sources of Essential fats in the diet – oily fish, hemp seeds, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts and avocadoes.