Managing ADHD – Can food really help?

Your child has been diagnosed with ADHD or you suspect that he or she may have ADHD. You learn that it is a behavioural condition that is not completely understood. What is clear though, is that the brain of an ADHD child is hardwired differently to his or her peers. Perhaps it is even hereditary. You can manage the symptoms of irritability, inattentiveness and hyperactivity with medication, but you cannot cure your childs ADHD, it is a part of who they are. 

At least that is what you are told. What if you could manage your child’s symptoms without medication, but with food? Is that possible? If you call bulls*%t, they you may as well stop reading right now. I am serious. If you do not believe that there is even the slightest chance that dietary changes may improve your child’s ability to function optimally, then I have already wasted a minute of your time. Goodbye. Have a lovely day.

You are still with me? Thank you for sticking around. I am sure you will agree that good nutrition is the foundation to good health; physically and mentally. If you have a poor diet, your body may not get the nutrients that it requires in order to perform the thousands of biological tasks it performs each second. Here are just a few examples of how physical and emotional health issues are linked to poor nutrition.

  • Deficiencies in folate during pregnancy can cause neural tube defects such as spina bifida which is why our foods are fortified with folic acid.
  • Inadequate intake of calcium can lead to osteoporosis.
  • Poor nutrition can lead to mental health problems such as depression.

But wait a minute… you want to know how food can cause ADHD. How can changing your child’s diet make their brain function better? Food can not undo genetics… can it?

Food and ADHD

There is no one-size fits all approach to managing ADHD. For best results, you need to identify what causes the behaviour in the first place. Masking symptoms may help, but it makes more sense to address the root cause. Perhaps your child’s diet does not deliver what his or her body needs?

“Nutrients are required by the brain, as they are by every other organ, so virtually any nutrient deficiency can impair brain function. Assessment of ADHD children often reveals nutrient deficiencies or imbalances which, when corrected, result in considerable behavioral and academic improvement. Little controlled research has been conducted into dietary supplementation effects on ADHD, but the sparse data available do indicate significant potential for benefit in this realm.”

Kidd, PM 2000, ‘Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children: rationale for its integrative management’, Alternative medicine review : a journal of clinical therapeutic, vol. 5, no. 5, p. 416.

Eating a healthy diet, rich in an array of various nutrients, is likely to deliver an adequate supply. However, if you are concerned that your child may have nutrient deficiencies, please contact your medical practitioner to discuss this.

“Regardless of the various biological, psychological, or psychosocial factors that are ultimately found to cause AD/HD, this study found that synergistic combinations of dietary supplements directed at the more probable underlying etiologies of AD/HD, as determined by previous studies, were equivalent to Ritalin treatment as measured by improvements of attention and self control using IVA/CPT testing.”

Harding, KL, Judah, RD & Gant, C 2003, ‘Outcome-based comparison of Ritalin versus food-supplement treated children with AD/HD’, Alternative Medicine Review, vol. 8, no. 3, pp. 327.

Dietary supplements were equivalent to Ritalin treatments. Wow! That is a powerful statement. Whilst it may not be true for every child, there certainly is great potential.

My child’s ADHD is genetic, food will not help

Then let me introduce you to nutrigenomics – the study of how food can influence your DNA.

 

Nutrigenomics “offers a unique and precise way to determine a person’s nutritional requirements for optimal health based on their biological blueprint. Put simply, we test a variety of genes which we then, using food and food based interventions, ‘turn up or down’ to change the way the gene is affecting the body… Looking at the body holistically in this way, we can determine which diet or combination of diet/lifestyle choices is the most suitable to facilitate healing and wellbeing…”

The Autism and Gut Centre (TAGC), Brisbane, Qld.

There are no promises here. Every child is unique and may require different management strategies. But having a healthy diet never killed anyone. Do you think it is worth a try?

Until next time,

Rebecca.

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