ADD and ADHD are neurological disorders that make it difficult for both children and adults to engage in education, relationships, and society as a whole. There are many contributing factors in the development of ADD/ADHD and its symptoms. One that many may not immediately consider is poor diet.
Supporting the body and mind by providing the nutrients it needs can significantly improve ADD/ADHD symptoms. Furthermore, eliminating harmful substances and toxins can also improve brain activity and protect against neurological disruption.
Implementing an effective ADD/ADHD diet requires understanding what foods to include, which to avoid, and the specific effect these substances have on the body.
What is an ADD/ADHD Diet Plan
The goal of an ADD/ADHD diet plan is to provide the body with the various nutrients it needs to support proper neurological function while also reducing exposure to harmful substances that contribute to disruption. Doing so limits the impact and occurrence of ADD/ADHD symptoms.
What to Include in an ADD/ADHD Diet
Many ADD/ADHD patients suffer from deficiencies of various nutrients. This contributes to neurological disruption and worsening of symptoms. Protein, omega-3s, and essential nutrients such as iron, zinc, and magnesium, are often found at reduced levels among those with ADHD. Each of these substances play an important role in normalizing neurological activity. Therefore, maintaining a healthy balance can help reduce ADD/ADHD symptoms.
Protein is critical for the production of neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are produced in the brain and facilitate communication between all neurological regions. Many experts believe that neurotransmitter deficiency or disruption is a critical component of ADD/ADHD development. Therefore, by keeping the body supplied with essential neurotransmitter components in the form of protein, one can better support brain activity.
There are many animal sources of protein including lean beef, pork, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products. For those who are vegetarian or vegan, non-animal-based sources of protein include beans, nuts, and soy.
Essential Nutrients (Iron, Magnesium, and Zinc)
Nutrients that must be acquired from external sources are known as essential nutrients. Studies suggest that those with ADD/ADHD are frequently deficient in important neurological regulators like iron, magnesium, and zinc.
Iron is an important building block for dopamine, a neurotransmitter involved in ADD/ADHD development, and is often found lacking among ADHD patients. One study found that 84 percent of children with ADHD had reduced ferritin levels, which is a marker for iron stored in the body, as opposed to only 18 percent who were deficient in the control group.
Magnesium is also used in the production of neurotransmitters, specifically those that influence concentration and attentiveness. Maintaining appropriate levels of magnesium may also calm the brain, thereby reducing hyperactive states and excitability.
Zinc regulates dopamine activity and supports its function in the brain. Reduced levels of zinc, and by extension dopamine, is associated with reduced attentiveness and significant worsening of ADD/ADHD symptoms.
Fortunately, supplemental forms of iron, magnesium, and zinc are easily acquired. However, it is important to supplement at a safe dosage as elevated levels of iron may result in toxicity. We recommend taking a high-quality supplement like HoltraCeuticals.
Omega-3 fatty acids are considered by many experts to be an important component of neurological health. These essential fats are found in abundance in fish and can help support healthy brain function. Research is now finding that supplementing with omega-3s may provide significant benefits in treating ADHD specifically. One study conducted in Göteborg University, Sweden, found that omega-3s taken daily reduced ADHD symptoms by up to 50 percent.
Ideally, you would acquire your necessary allotment of omega-3 from your diet in the form of fish, nuts, or fish oil. However, many people effectively utilize omega-3 supplements to get the requisite supply their body needs.
What to Eliminate When Following an ADD/ADHD Diet
In addition to providing the body with the nutrients it needs to support healthy brain function, there are various substances that should be avoided when attempting to optimize neurological wellness and alleviate ADD/ADHD symptoms. Sugary foods, artificial products, and allergens can contribute to worsening of symptoms and should be avoided.
Multiple studies indicate that excessive sugar intake may be a catalyst for ADD/ADHD symptoms in children. A Yale University study showed that high-sugar diets are correlated to greater inattentiveness in children. Other studies have found that destructive and restless tendencies were elevated in children who consumed greater amounts of sugar. To counteract increased sugar intake and subsequent arousal of ADD/ADHD symptoms it is best to avoid high-sugar foods and simple carbohydrates. Products containing high amounts of high-fructose corn syrup, dehydrated cane juice, dextrose, maltodextrin, sucrose, molasses, and malt syrup should also be limited as these are other concentrated forms of sugar.
Food Additives and Dyes
Multiple studies suggest that children with ADHD may be negatively impacted by foods containing various additives. Research shows that artificial flavors and colors in foods may trigger hyperactivity in those with ADHD and even those without a diagnosed attention disorder. Avoid brightly colored cereals, deserts, and drinks. These are likely to contain a high volume of artificial sweeteners and colorants.
Connections have been made between greater consumption of various allergens such as gluten, wheat, corn, and soy, and the occurrence of ADD/ADHD. Specifically, studies have found that children who consume foods containing these substances may be more prone to experiencing hyperactivity and loss of focus.
Ideally, you should be tested for food allergies and eliminate allergens and sensitivities from your diet. Such substances can cause unwanted intestinal stress resulting in inflammation throughout the body including the brain. Such disruption can inhibit neurological function and neurotransmitter activity thereby increasing ADD/ADHD symptom severity.
The Influence of Diet
Many recognize that diet plays in important role in various aspects of wellness. However, the significant influence it has over neurological function and the occurrence of ADD/ADHD and its associated symptoms is often overlooked. Adopting an ADD/ADHD diet that contains a high volume of proteins and an appropriate balance of other essential nutrients such as omega-3s, iron, magnesium, and zinc can provide notable support for ADD/ADHD patients. Furthermore, eliminating and avoiding the consumption of other substances such as high-sugar foods, artificially colored and processed products, and allergens, can further alleviate ADD/ADHD symptoms. Take charge of your neurological wellness by following a balanced ADD/ADHD diet.
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2. The ADHD Food Fix. ADDitude. https://www.additudemag.com/adhd-diet-for-kids-food-fix/
3. 7 Foods to Avoid If Your Child Has ADHD. Everyday Health. https://www.everydayhealth.com/adhd-pictures/how-food-can-affect-your-childs-adhd-symptoms.aspx
4. ADHD Diet: the Recommended Foods, Supplements & Essential Oils. Dr. Axe. https://draxe.com/adhd-diet/