For years, doctors have speculated that certain foods may have something to do with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. Much research has been done on the subject of a helpful diet for ADHD, but according to the Mayo Clinic, experts don’t believe that foods actually cause ADHD. What some foods seem to do, however, is worsen ADHD symptoms or cause behavior that mimics the signs of ADHD in children.
Some evidence suggests that children with ADHD may have low levels of essential fatty acids. However, early studies have not consistently concluded that supplementation of omega-3 fatty acids in the diets of children with ADHD will improve behavior. Omega-3 fatty acids affect the transmissions of some neurotransmitters (brain chemicals). While a balance of omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids is best for overall health, the typical American diet contains too few omega-3s. Some research shows that ADHD and omega-3 deficiency share two symptoms:
- Excessive thirst
- Increased need to urinate
More research is needed in this area. The general dietary recommendations for children are to include fruits and vegetables, whole grains, bean, lean meat, and fish. Ask your ADHD dietitian about the best type of fish for ADHD.
Many parents wonder if artificial food additives and colorings contribute to ADHD. Though the causes of ADHD are still unknown, you can try removing the sources of artificial colorings and food additives, including sugar-sweetened drinks, candy, and colorful cereals, and determine if your child’s behavior improves. Eliminate processed food products, and instead provide a wholesome diet of fresh, healthy foods to optimize the health and well-being of your child.
Be aware that megadoses of vitamins and minerals can be toxic to a child and can interact with ADHD pills. To date, there is little consistent evidence that ADHD can be treated with nutritional supplements. Again, aim for a balanced diet that includes a variety of fresh, whole foods.
What about caffeine and ADHD? Excessive caffeine and excessive consumption of fast foods and other foods of poor nutritional value can cause kids to display behavior that might be confused with ADHD, according to Frank Barnhill, MD, an expert on ADHD and the author of Mistaken for ADHD.
To learn more about a diet for ADHD, talk with your child’s doctor about the pros and cons of trying a diet that eliminates food additives to see if it makes a difference in your child’s behavior. Make sure your doctor or an ADHD dietitian helps supervise the diet plan. A diet that eliminates too many foods can be unhealthy because it may lack necessary vitamins and nutrients.
Read on for a list of foods that may be linked with ADHD symptoms.