Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, is a developmental disorder that usually presents symptoms of hyperactivity, impulsivity, and difficulty paying attention. Recent studies have found that in many cases foods and allergies can cause these symptoms to be worse, particularly in children. In the 1970’s Benjamin Fiengold originally presented the idea that food containing artificial substances and certain natural substances contributed to the disorder and since then dietary programs have been developed in order to help lessen the symptoms.
ADHD diets typically address one of three different categories, overall nutrition, supplementation, and elimination. Although research about the effectiveness of these diets has been limited with no concrete results, most experts agree that properly monitored nutrition can help ease some of the symptoms. As with any treatment option, the doctor most familiar with the patient, is the best to advise on which plan would be the most beneficial.
The overall nutrition diet addresses an overall eating plan for ADHD patients. The goal of this diet is to supply all the proper nutrients for the brain to function better. The overall nutrition diet suggests eating protein foods like eggs, cheese, meat and nuts at each meal as well as adding protein to after school snacks. The diet also reduces the amount of what are called simple carbohydrates, meaning food high in sugars like candy, foods that contain corn syrup and items that contain white flour or white rice. Instead, it replaces those sugars with ones that are called complex carbohydrates such as vegetables, fruits and whole grains. The diet also includes Omega-3 oils found in fish and certain nuts.
Many doctors consider nutritional supplements very important to those with ADHD. Supplements can add a lot to the person’s diet, particularly children who may be picky eaters and are missing out on key nutritional ingredients because of their refusal to eat certain foods. ADHD experts Richard Sogn, MD and Daniel Amen, MD recommend taking a 100% vitamin and mineral supplement each day. Because individual needs and supplements vary, always remember to consult your doctor before taking a supplement or giving one to your children.
The ADHD Elimination Diet works on the theory that certain foods may be worsening the symptoms of ADHD. The goal in of the elimination diet is to identify and eliminate those foods for daily eating. The diet begins by identifying any food or substance you think may be making the symptoms worse. That food or any food contain that substance is then eliminated completely from the diet. If ADHD symptoms decrease then you continue to avoid that food or substance. Foods that are usually eliminated from ADHD patient’s diets, particularly those of children, are foods with additives, like MSG, nitrites, and yellow or red food coloring, and foods high in sugar. Many patients also eliminate caffeine from the diet, although some argue there are certain benefits of caffeine that can help with symptoms, but it is unclear and usually thought the negative side effects outweigh the benefits of caffeine.