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Can Dietary Choices Reduce ADD/ADHD Symptoms?



When doctors diagnose a child with ADD/ADHD, their response is often to medicate the child. But while medicine has come a long way in recent years and has helped millions of people with serious illnesses, a simple change in diet may be enough for many parents to help relieve their children’s symptoms without resorting to chemicals and medication. And while diet has no confirmed causal link to the onset or cause of ADD/ADHD, many doctors agree that diet can affect the number and severity of ADD/ADHD symptoms that children experience.

Common Foods to Stay Away From

Though there’s no concrete evidence or scientific study regarding the effect of dairy products on ADD/ADHD, several testimonials from parents with ADD/ADHD children have commented that their doctors encouraged them to stay away from dairy products. In fact, in a recent study, one parent commented that her child would become irritable, easily distracted and hyperactive when he had dairy milk in his cereal. The next morning, she avoided dairy products for his breakfast and found that he seemed less mentally lethargic and more alert without hyperactive tendencies. Soy milk on wheat-based cereal is an excellent option for children, as wheat is thought to help mental processing and soy milk avoids the possible problem of a reaction to dairy.

Raw sugars and hard candies have also been demonstrated to cause heightened symptoms of ADD/ADHD. It’s widely accepted that sugar causes hyperactive tendencies in normal children, but these behaviors are further amplified in ADD/ADHD children. As much as possible, stay away from sugary treats! Instead, opt for fruit snacks, such as frozen grapes or apple slices with peanut butter and granola if your child has a sweet tooth.

Common Foods to Encourage

Though little is known about specific foods that causes positive effects for ADD/ADHD children, it’s widely accepted that mushrooms have positive effects on the mental state of children and adults alike. If you can get your child to eat mushrooms, it just may give you that extra ounce of stability your child needs.

Whole grains are another great option, as they produce desired effects on mental health. Studies on whole grains have shown a definite link between behavioral improvements in ADD/ADHD children and whole grains, so it’s worth switching from refined flour products to whole wheat alternatives.

And although children often hate the idea of fresh vegetables, these can help ADD/ADHD children immensely. Because of all their nutrients and the lack of sugar, vegetables are an excellent option. Unfortunately, this sounds great in theory, but actually getting a child to eat lots of veggies can be quite a task on its own.

Finally, regarding food additives, a study done in 1975 established a link between certain food additives and food colors and ADD/ADHD, as well as other childhood behavioral disturbances. Whenever possible, choose natural, organic foods that are produced without artificial additives.

Does Frequency of Eating Affect an ADD/ADHD child?

Yes – children with ADD/ADHD will benefit greatly from having six small meals throughout the day, instead of three major meals. A lack of “fuel” in a child’s system – not just ADD/ADHD children – causes irritability and lethargy, so if your child eats smaller portions more frequently, his or her brain and body will be able to function better. In fact, having a small snack before bedtime is the perfect way to avoid late nights with a hyperactive child.

Note: The article is not medical advice. Please consult a doctor about any dietary or other treatments for your child.