If you, personally, are dealing with ADHD, or you have a close friend or family member who is … and especially if you are raising a child with this diagnosis … then you should be aware of the impact food can have on symptoms of ADHD. In fact, the food you put into your mouth is probably responsible for about 75% of your overall health, and that includes your physical health, your mental health (thoughts and emotions), and your spiritual health. Think about it – when your body is healthy, you can think more clearly and engage more easily in practices and activities that mean a lot to you. It can help you raise your kids with more clarity and patience … and the list goes on.
So - What foods are helpful? For one, protein is vital to the health of your neurotransmitters, like serotonin, as protein rich foods like meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, nuts, dairy, etc. can help prevent surges in blood sugar. These surges are known to increase hyperactivity and impulsivity, to trademarks of ADHD.
Supplements can be helpful to people with ADHD. Zinc, iron and magnesium – minerals found in the proteins just listed – have an effect on dopamine, a neurotransmitter, because low levels of zinc are correlated with inattention, iron correlates with cognitive (thinking) deficits, and magnesium calms the brain.
Vitamin D is another supplement that is often found in low quantities, and one study showed that expectant mothers who had low vitamin D levels were more likely to have kids with ADHD. If you don’t get enough sunshine regularly, you can find Vitamin D in fatty fishes, beef liver, and egg yolks. B vitamins are also helpful.
Omega-3s are found in cold-water fatty fish (think sardines, tuna, and salmon as examples), and are correlated with lowering ADHD symptoms in a significant percentage of study subjects. People who have ADHD and who have low blood levels of omega-3s show a marked improvements in mental focus and thinking processes.
Complex carbohydrates are another good choice for those with ADHD. Low-sugar fruits such as berries are good, most non-starchy veggies (think salads and lightly steamed veggies), beans, lentils, etc. are good choices for complex carbohydrates. These food choices help keep people fuller for longer periods of time, and they help to prevent blood sugar spikes.
Some herbs are worth mentioning, like Ginkgo Biloba and Ginseng, which act like the stimulant medication we prescribe (usually without all the negative side effects), and kids who take these are less likely to be impulsive and easily distracted. Another herb, rhodiola rosea, can help improve alertness, attention, and accuracy.
We should be avoiding junk foods as if they were the plague. These of course are high- sugar foods (some studies show that they literally can turn on ADHD symptoms), sodas with sugar (not to mention chemicals), and fruit juices that seem to be healthy also contain higher amounts of sugar (naturally) so they’re on the avoid list. Consider avoiding white rice, white pasta, potatoes (for a while at least), chips, sports drinks, and potato french fries. Limit caffeine (coffee) intake, and certainly don’t put added sugar in it!
Anything with food additives are not good for kids (or adults) with ADHD. There have been several studies done on this topic. Artificial food coloring and flavors, plus the preservative sodium benzoate can induce hyperactivity in some people. Also, cereals with color (think Fruit Loops, Lucky Charms, etc.) have unhealthy additives. Read labels! If you can’t pronounce it (LOL), chances are good that it isn’t good for you.
Another problem for people with ADHD can be certain foods which are known to cause allergies in many. Products/foods that have gluten, wheat, corn, and soy can trigger hyperactivity.
Use common sense when choosing your diet! Lots of sugar, foods that are more than minimally processed, foods made with white flour, etc. are not healthy for us whether we have ADHD or not. It’s understood that it’s hard to give up many of the foods that don’t give us health but isn’t it worth the effort to try?! And if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
As always, have a happy, holistically healthy day!
Click to find out more information about ADHD in Children and Healing ADHD Naturally.
Dr. Donna Poppendieck (Dr. P) has over 30 years of experience in the mental health care field. She is a seasoned college professor and instructor for providers. She uses credible, proven holistic health strategies in instruction for parents of children with mental health challenges looking for another approach as well as healthcare providers seeking to implement or understand holistic strategies.