It would seem reasonable to conclude that an appropriate ADD/ADHD diet to treat the symptoms of ADD/ADHD, and possibly cure it, is a common treatment method. Unfortunately, an ADHD diet is not a standard prescription and ensues with much controversy and skepticism.
What is ADD/ADHD?
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) manifests itself as a chronic, developmental condition involving the neurological activity in the brain. After conducting brain scans of children with ADHD, researchers concluded that there was a 3-4% smaller volume of matter in chief areas of the brain on a consistent basis. These areas included the frontal lobes of the cerebrum responsible for impulse control, problem solving, and planning, the cerebellum that regulates motor coordination, and the caudate nucleus that helps the process of organizing information.
ADD/ADHD affects nearly 3 - 7% of school-aged children and approximately 60% of these sufferers grow up with ADD/ADHD in adulthood. The condition is more prevalent in boys than girls. Common symptoms are:
- inability to sit still
- unaware of surroundings
- unable to organize and plan
- inability to complete a task
- constant verbal interrupting
Medications are the usual route of treatment for ADD/ADHD. Ritalin, Concerti, and Adderall are the most commonly prescribed drugs. There are newer medications being developed on a constant basis, with the Daytrana patch recently introduced. However, there are many serious side effects known with these stimulants, including psychotic behavior, manic-like behaviors, and depression. Other side effects reported include insomnia, loss of appetite, weepiness, sadness, nausea, vomiting, and weight loss. While symptoms range from mild to severe, one or more are usually present and often are treated with additional medications.
Diet for ADD/ADHD
While science has yet to fully embrace the diet-behavior connection, there is sound evidence from physicians, parents, and researchers that diet does play a role in the condition. In 1975, Dr. Feingold published his diet as a direct link to the minimization of ADD/ADHD symptoms. His #1 culprit: Food additives in the form of artificial preservatives and colorings. Other leaders in diet therapy have similar theories. Common dietary guidelines for people suffering with ADD/ADHD include:
- Avoidance of food colorings and dyes listed as FD&C Yellow #5, Red #40, Blue #1
- Avoidance of three main food preservatives BHA, BHT and TBHQ. These are not often listed on food labels, but check for the term "antioxidants" or call the food manufacturer directly. These are made from petroleum.
- Avoidance of additional preservatives, such as monosodium glutamate, nitrates, sodium benzoate, and sulfites.
- Avoidance of aspirin-like chemicals and salicylates. (70 % of people showed improved learning and behavior)
- Elimination of dairy products
- Avoidance of yellow foods
- Decreased amount of sugar in diet with no more than 10%, if any.
- Elimination of fruit juice (mostly sugar or high fructose corn syrup)
- Avoidance of processed meats
- Avoidance of all junk food (packaged foods)
Meal Planning For ADHD
The best approach for ADHD meal planning is to include whole, unprocessed foods at each and every meal and snack. Specifically, the inclusion of omega-3 fatty acids appears to offer significant benefit in controlling behaviors of ADD/ADHD. This is most likely due to the fact that the brain utilizes fatty acid for neurotransmission and nerve function. In addition, there are some dietary herbal formulas available that have been reported as having a positive effect on ADD/ADHD sufferers. Beneficial components to an ADD/ADHD Diet include:
- Tuna (choose light meat over albacore due to lower mercury amounts in former)
- Flaxseed oil
- Borage oil
- Primrose oil
- Organic fruits and vegetables
- Lean proteins without purines or nitrites added
- Ginkgo biloba
- German chamomile
- St. John's Wort
Without doubt, getting a balanced diet with sufficient vitamins and minerals is critical, not just for the average person without ADD, but perhaps more importantly for persons with ADD. Deficiencies of any type can exacerbate or even cause inappropriate behavior, social interaction, mood swings, and perhaps learning problems. There are several companies offering supplement formulas appropriate for ADD diet. It is important that you discuss all treatment options with your physician. Seeking support from others you have experienced improvements and management of their ADD/ADHD with diet changes is a great place to get help as well. Be sure to share your story here too.