Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a common disease affecting more and more children every year. In the UK current estimates suggest that at least 1 in 10 boys and 1 in 30 girls are affected by the disease. Higher rates are seen in many other western countries.
For many years these children were simply labelled as problem children that were a result of bad parenting. We now know that many different factors feed into the development of ADHD. Poor nutrition, smoking and alcohol exposure during pregnancy, allergies and various other environmental pollutants.
Unfortunately, because of the standard medical approach, children are often prescribed medications such as Ritalin (which come with serious side effects). This is usually at the expense of looking at nutrition, testing for certain allergies or even looking at therapy. All of which will more often than not work far more effectively that medications.
While in most cases ADHD is not solely a nutritional deficiency disease, the vast majority of children afflicted with the disease will respond very well when dietary modifications are implemented. It is essential that there is a correct balance of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and healthy fats in the child’s diet.
First and foremost you need to get the child’s blood sugar levels in balance. Remove ALL refined sugars from their diet. Study after study has shown that children with ADHD are far more sensitive to sugar and will experience more pronounced hyperactivity symptoms when exposed to it.
You need to ensure that the child eats lots of plant based wholefoods and complex carbohydrates. Foods such as quinoa, brown rice, lentils, beans and oats. These foods will provide a slow release of energy and sugar and prevent erratic sugar swings. You can further aid this slow release by adding some protein with the complex carbs. Nuts and salmon are both good choices.
Omega-3’s are also imperative for improving ADHD symptoms. Aim for one or two portions a week of oily fish (salmon, sardines and mackerel are fine). Restrict the amount of tuna as this often contains higher amounts of mercury which can be counter-productive when treating the disorder. Healthy plant based sources of omega-3’s can be found in flax seeds, hemp seeds, sunflower seeds and also pumkin seeds. These can all be added to porridge or salads.
You also need to ensure that the child is getting enough vitamins and minerals. When the child eats foods that contain lots of B vitamins, magnesium, zinc and potassium it will help to control their levels of hyperactivity. If the child is eating lots of fruits and vegetables then they will have no problem in getting sufficient quantities of these essential nutrients.
A recommended strategy that many parents use is keeping a log of foods that trigger the hyperactivity symptoms. If these symptoms appear after consuming wheat or dairy products then the child could potentially have a gluten, wheat or lactose allergy and you should seek further advice from your doctor so that the child can be tested.
Lastly, remember there are no quick fixes. It may take 3-6 months to see dramatic improvements in the child’s symptoms, but it will certainly be worth it. It is a trial and error process that will eventually provide the child with a healthier and happier life.