ADD and ADHD are growing in numbers. Thankfully, the research into the life-changing effects of food is growing too!
ADD and ADHD are neurological and behaviour-related conditions, affecting children, teens and adults. Symptoms typically include: difficulty in concentration, impulsiveness and high energy, finding it difficult to sit still for any period of time, and more.
Research indicates a direct link to foods we’re eating. It’s the usual “bad guys”: refined sugar, artificial sweeteners, chemical food additives, nutrient deficiencies, preservatives and food sensitivities/allergies.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, children may exhibit one or more of these ADHD symptoms:
• Difficulty in concentrating and diminished focus
• Easily distracted
• Easily bored
• Difficulty organizing or completing tasks
• Prone to losing things
• Doesn’t listen
• Difficulty in following instructions
• Fidgety behaviour, squirming
• Extreme difficulty being still and/or quiet
Sounds like a lot of normal children to me! And, some adults! As has been the pattern of Mental Health, creating names for all sorts of normal human behaviour, and then prescriptions to dumb down the individuals, I see this with many ADD/ADHD diagnoses. (See wakeup-world.com “Opposition Defiant Disorder” – Non-Conformity and Anti-Authoritarianism Now Considered an Illness)
Unfortunately, the medical profession has seen fit to prescribe Ritalin and Adderall and other drugs, which have many negative life-altering side effects, including suicidal thoughts and personality changes. (See naturalnews.com PSYCH DRUG America: More than 8 million children now on mind-altering psychiatric medication)
Thankfully, there are healthy foods, supplements & lifestyle changes for treatment that work! And with no negative side effects!
Let’s start with the food!
Top Foods for ADHD (Dr. Axe – Food is Medicine)
Additive-free, Unprocessed Foods — Food additives are toxic. These include: artificial sweeteners, preservatives & food dyes that are typically found in processed foods. They wreak havoc with all of us, so let’s get it out of the kitchen! Instead, concentrate on eating whole foods, real foods!
Foods High in B-Vitamins — The Bs are critical to maintaining a healthy nervous system. Foods high in the Bs include: organic wild animal products and green leafy veggies. B-6 is especially effective in improving behaviour. “According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, Vitamin B-6 is needed for the body to make and use essential brain chemicals including serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. In fact, one preliminary study has found that B-6 is slightly more effective than Ritalin in improving behaviour!” (University of Maryland Medical Centre) B6 is found in eggs, legumes, wild tuna, bananas, wild salmon, grass-fed beef & poultry.
Poultry — Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that helps our bodies to produce serotonin, needed for mood, sleep, behaviour and more. Research has found an imbalance in serotonin levels in those with ADD/ADHD (University of Michigan Health System). Serotonin imbalance is linked to impulse control and aggression, two common symptoms of ADD/ADHD.
Eat Breakfast — We ALL need to eat a healthy breakfast, to get off to a good start for the day. A healthy breakfast, consisting of 20g of protein, helps our bodies normalize blood sugar and hormones. Check your health food store for great protein powders and enjoy a morning smoothie!
Wild-Caught Salmon — High in Vitamin B6, but also high in Omega 3 Fatty Acids. “According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, a clinical trial indicated that lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids had more learning and behavioural problems (like those associated with ADHD) than boys with normal levels of omega 3s.” (Dr. Axe)
ADHD Foods to Avoid (Dr. Axe – Food is Medicine)
Sugar — This is the primary trigger for most children, and some adults with ADHD. Avoid all forms of concentrated sugar, including: candy, desserts, soda or fruit juices. Read labels. Sugar has many different names: HFCS (high fructose corn syrup), dextrose, cane crystals, corn sweetener, evaporated cane juice, fructose, agave nectar, caramel and more. Use raw honey, stevia instead.
Gluten — Some researchers and parents report worsening behaviour when their child eats gluten, which may indicate sensitivity to the protein found in wheat. Avoid all foods made with wheat such as bread, pasta and wheat cereal. Look for gluten-free or even grain-free alternatives.
Conventional Dairy — Most cow’s milk dairy contains A1 casein that can trigger a similar reaction as gluten and therefore should be eliminated. If problematic symptoms arise after eating dairy, discontinue use. Goat’s milk, however, does not contain the protein and is a better option for many individuals with ADD/ADHD.
Food Dyes — Children with ADHD can be sensitive to a variety of food dyes, therefore all processed foods should be avoided. Colouring and dyes appear in nearly every commercially processed food. Food dyes can be found in sports drinks, candy, cake mixes, chewable vitamins and even toothpaste!
Caffeine — Caffeine is known to cause anxiety & nervousness in some people, and should be avoided.
MSG and HVP — These two additives are believed to decrease dopamine levels in both children and adults. Dopamine is associated with the brain’s pleasure and reward systems. For individuals suffering with ADD/ADHD, balanced levels of dopamine are essential.
Nitrites — Commonly found in deli meats, canned foods and many processed foods, nitrites are linked to an increase of childhood type 1 diabetes, certain types of cancer and IBS. In addition, it can cause rapid heart rate, difficulty breathing and restlessness that can worsen ADHD symptoms.
Artificial Sweeteners — Artificial sweeteners are just bad for your health, but for those living with ADHD, the side effects can be devastating. Artificial sweeteners create biochemical changes in the body, some of which can harm cognitive function and emotional balance. Avoid aspartame, sucralose (Splenda), saccharine, xylitol and sorbitol.
Soy — Soy is a common food allergen and can disrupt hormones that cause ADHD.
Personal Food Sensitivities/Allergens — Eliminate the top seven allergens, including soy, wheat and conventional dairy mentioned above, as well as peanuts, tree nuts, eggs and shellfish. In addition, eliminate any foods or beverages that are personal allergens. This might include papaya, avocados, bananas and kiwis (for those with latex allergies) and/or coriander, caraway or fennel (all from the same family) and/or chocolate. Choose one food or category at a time, and eliminate for 4 – 8 weeks, then try back in the diet and notice any changes within 2 – 3 days.
Making these food changes can work wonders! Part 2 will deal with the recommended supplementation and lifestyle for ADD/ADHD. Stay tuned!