I have had ADHD my whole life and I never took medication. Some years ago, when I started to be in charge of the ADHD program as primary care doctor, I realized that medications weren’t the only way to treat ADHD. I have been changing in my diet and feel so much more focused and calmed. I proposed these changes to the families I was working with and all of them had better results than only with medication.
As you may know, ADHD is the most commonly studied and diagnosed psychiatric disorder in children and its manifestations are enhanced or diminished by many factors, and one of them is food.
The goal of the ADHD diets is to help the brain to function better and diminish the symptoms of the disorder such as restlessness or lack of attention. To combat high levels of anxiety we have to be sure the brain is well fed including food rich in carbohydrates, tryptophan, group B vitamins, iron and phospholipids. There are also some foods that enhance hyperactivity because they have exciting substances in them that we should avoid.
Include these foods in the diet:
- Proteins: as Legumes, cheese, eggs, meat, chicken, fish and nuts (especially walnuts, Cajun and macadamia for vitamin B). It is important to include them in every meal, especially breakfast, because they control anxiety and improve concentration.
- Complex Carbohydrates: as whole grain cereals, whole grains, vegetables (especially green ones because of the iron) and fruit (especially apple, melon, raspberries and avocado because of the vitamin B) . Their content of fiber is high, and that makes us take longer to digest them. They also avoid abrupt changes in blood sugar levels. Eating complex carbohydrates 3 hours before going to bed at night can help to sleep better.
- Fatty Acids Omega 3: as tuna fish, salmon, walnuts, linseed, soy and canola oil.
- Herbs: Some of them help to make the nervous function slower down, as orange blossoms, hawthorn, juniper, lemon balm, passionflower, valerian, and linden. You can add it to some food or desserts and also drink it as infusions.
It is recommended to take multivitamin supplements that will contribute with the 100% of minerals and vitamins that we need, only if the diet that we have is unbalanced.
Eliminate these foods in the diet:
- Additives: Since 1975 Benjamin Feingold proposed that artificial colorants and flavors could cause hyperactivity in children. Many studies performed the last years have proven that is a real fact, which is why the American Academy of Pediatrics agrees with the elimination of preservatives and colorants in the diet of ADHD patients. We should eliminate specially the red and yellow colorants and the food additives as Aspartame, MSG and nitrites.
- Sugar: It enhances hyperactivity. We should diminish table sugar, candy, chocolate, cookies, high sugar cereals, juices, soda. Sugar shouldn’t be more than 10% of your child’s daily calories.
- Caffeine: Studies show that a small amount of caffeine could help with some symptoms of ADHD in children. Although, the secondary effects of caffeine, after the blood levels drop, can be worst. ADHD people should avoid coffee, black tea, green tea, chocolate, ginseng,
How to start the plan:
Start to change food habits slowly
Write down the food and the times you take the medications.
Sleep enough time to rest.
Exercise regularly at least 20 to 30 minutes every day.
Learn how to breathe to help manage anxiety and anger.
Fallow a healthy diet.
Some examples of healthy snacks are:
String cheese with crackers and an apple in pieces.
Whole wheat toast with Mozzarella cheese and 1 slice of turkey ham
Chopped fruit with vanilla yogurt
Whole grain cereal with nonfat milk
Celery sticks with cream cheese
Sliced apple with peanut butter
Banana with ricotta cheese and honey
Whole wheat toasts with cottage cheese and raspberries
Guacamole with carrot sticks
Trail mix with raisins, blueberries and walnuts.
By Dr. Javiera Monárdez, Private Tutor