How Food Affects ADHD
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder; a type of inflammation that occurs in the brain where the transportation of nutrients to the brain is compromised. ADHD may be due to a genetic predisposition, pre-natal/post-natal conditions or environmental factors such as nutrition, which I will focus on here because the good news is that it can be controlled or even altered through good nutrition.
ADHD symptoms may vary from hyperactivity, inattentiveness, forgetfulness, fidgeting, lack of concentration, making careless mistakes, acting without thinking, excessive talking, being easily distracted, and impulsivity.
It is very overwhelming to discover that your child has ADHD. And a child suffering from malnutrition may be mistakingly diagnosed with ADHD, simply because his body is lacking essential nutrients which reflects on his behavior, mood and even academic performance. For a child to be diagnosed with ADHD, there should be at least six symptoms, constantly occurring for no less than six months, both at home and at school. So watch your child closely and trust your intuition before anything.
In his book, The UltraMind Solution, Dr Mark Hyman advises “treat the body, not the symptoms. Understanding the root cause behind symptoms, helps you cure ADHD without medication.” He also adds that “only a few cases will still need medication after nutrition is adjusted.”
Nutritional Root Causes of ADHD:
Food sensitivities: the most common food allergens are gluten, dairy products, soy, eggs, corn and nuts. When children are taken off gluten and dairy especially, there is a significant improvement in ADHD symptoms. If you suspect your child has ADHD or has already been diagnosed with ADHD, this is your starting point. Remove all wheat and dairy products. Once you have removed those, begin removing the other allergens one by one.
Nutritional deficiencies: supermarket packaged foods loaded with trans fats, processed sugars, refined carbs and a number of unrecognizable ingredients, are lacking sufficient levels of vitamins, minerals as well as omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, zinc and iron–all necessary for the proper functioning of neural pathways in the brain. The brain is also the biggest fat organ in the body with 60% of the brain being fat. So, depriving this fat organ of good fat and feeding it big amounts of trans fats and saturated fats, found in supermarket foods, affects its efficiency.
Imbalanced Gut Flora: exposure to too many antibiotics at an early age; imbalanced dietary habits; lack of digestive enzymes; and yeast accumulation in the gut from foods high in sugar, are among the main causes of a gut flora imbalance.
Begin by removing the high allergen foods mentioned above and keep a food diary of your child’s symptoms as these foods are decreased. You will be able to detect food sensitivities when your child exhibits symptoms of ADHD and accordingly learn how to deal with them.
For breakfast, make sure to feed your child foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, magnesium, iron, B vitamins and antioxidants for a healthy and active brain. Foods like chia seeds, flax seeds, avocados, kale, spinach, nuts and beans, whole grains, veggies and fruits will boost your child’s brain activity. Also, make sure your child drinks sufficient amounts of water and keeps his body hydrated all throughout the day.
Generally avoid all processed sugar, refined carbohydrates and foods loaded with trans fats and saturated fats to help rebalance your child’s gut flora as well as make a big difference in your child’s quality of sleep, mood, behavior and the ability to focus and process information at school.
Stay healthy and happy.