Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a psychological disorder that affects an estimated 10% of all school age children. Ritalin and Adderall are stimulants commonly prescribed by doctors to treat ADHD symptoms. The side effects of these drugs include decreased appetite, insomnia, increased anxiety, irritability, mild stomach aches or headaches. As a result, many sufferers seek alternative treatments over drug medications for ADHD.
While the link between diet and ADHD is still inconclusive, making dietary changes alone can help ADHD patients improve as much as those who take medications. Dietary treatments for ADHD are based on eight known risk factors for ADHD. They are food allergies, metal and environmental toxins, low-protein/high carbohydrate diets, mineral imbalance, essential fatty acid deficiency, amino acid deficiency, thyroid disorders and B-vitamin deficiency.
Food additives in over-processed food are often at the root of ADHD problems. Remarkable improvement can often be seen when children with ADHD are placed on diets that eliminate dyes, preservatives and foods that commonly cause allergic reactions. It appears that many ADHD patients exhibit signs of borderline allergic reaction to foods or additives in their diet. Foods that were commonly found to cause reactions include cow’s milk, wheat, soy, eggs, chocolate, yeast, orange juice and apple juice. Additionally, many ADHD sufferers may be sensitive to artificial food colorings and flavorings, preservatives and salicylic compounds such as those found in aspirin or berry fruits.
Try removing common allergens from the diet separately and watch for improvement. Keep a diary or journal of foods consumed and the associated moods and behaviors afterward. This can help you identify allergens in your diet that you might not be aware of.
Hyperactivity may be blamed on how the body metabolizes glucose. Normally the body responds to sugar intake by releasing insulin or other hormones to prevent the blood sugar from becoming too high or to low. In ADHD patients, the body only produces about half the normal amount of hormones. When blood sugar drops significantly, it causes a decreased in brain activity. ADHD patients may be subconsciously becoming hyperactive to get the body to produce more hormones.
ADHD patients should avoid foods with high sugar content and high carbohydrate. They should be tested for thyroid disorder as it can cause ADHD.
Magnesium and essential fatty acid deficiencies
Most people do not get the recommended daily allowance of magnesium. This deficiency can lead to depression, anxiety, irritability and restlessness. Diets that consist of white sugar, white flour and dairy products can reduce the body’s absorption of magnesium. Whole wheat flour and natural sweetener such as molasses are healthier alternatives.
Taking a magnesium supplement along with other common minerals such as zinc and iron can greatly improve the symptoms of hyperactivity in ADHD patients. Avoid soft drinks as they can reduce the body’s ability to absorb magnesium.
Supplementing the diet with essential fatty acids can reduce hyperactivity in ADHD patients. Good sources of essential fatty acids (Omega 3) are flax seed oil, cod liver oil, fish oil and evening primrose oil.
Before making dietary changes for an ADHD patient, it is best to seek the advice of a qualified nutritionist first. He can help put together a balanced diet that will take into account all the special needs of the ADHD patient. Discuss the dietary changes with a doctor before stopping any ADHD prescription medication.