There are a few conditions out there that require prescription medication and are thought of as impossible to treat with alternative medicine. ADHD is thought of as being one of those conditions. However, even though there is no proof that your diet can facilitate the development of ADHD, there has been some research which suggests that our nutrition can help improve the symptoms associated with ADHD.
There have been hundreds of different studies associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder but the studies related to dietary alterations and supplementation in attempts to treat ADHD has been very limited. Currently, more research is being done to discover how our diet can affect ADHD.
ADHD Symptoms & Diagnosis
Anyone can be affected by ADHD. The cause of this disorder is closely linked to genetics. There have also been some speculations that severe malnutrition during early stages of life is a likely accomplice for ADHD development. Furthermore, toxic substances which can be located in various environments have also been speculated to have a huge effect on ADHD formation.
Dopamine and norepinephrine are heavily associated with ADHD. These hormones are responsible for self-regulation and when their levels get low, some of the symptoms which are connected to ADHD often surface.
These reduced levels can lead to the following behavioral problems:
- Inability To Perceive Time Properly
- Difficulty Staying Focused
- Difficulty With Task Completion
- Inappropriate Behaviors
The result of these behavioral problems often extends to complications at work and school as well as an inability to maintain relationships.
Since medically ADHD is considered to be completely incurable, the only solution that a doctor can offer is treatment. Medications and behavior therapy are the standard go-to when AHDH is diagnosed.
The problem is that even though there hasn’t been any clear evidence of food positively effecting ADHD, there is a very clear connection between certain foods and behavior. If you think about it, it’s actually pretty easy to link some food to behavioral conditions. Coffee is able to improve your alertness, alcohol consumption can alter the way you conduct yourself, and functions in the brain can be heavily influenced by chocolate. This leads us to believe that there is a way to combat ADHD associated symptoms.
Additionally, there have been some studies which point to certain nutrient deficiencies as a possible culprit of negative social behavior. This was verified through test subjects who displayed lowered anti-social behavior when they were given certain supplements that contain essential fatty acids, vitamins, and important minerals.
Another study has shown that violent behavior was drastically reduced amongst school children who started taking supplements. These supplements were designed to increase the intake of minerals, fatty acids and vitamins. It is often discovered that children who have ADHD are suffering from nutritional deficiencies and generally have developed negative eating habits.
As you can see nutrition has a clear connection with some of the symptoms associated with ADHD. Perhaps altering your diet can change these symptoms and possibly eliminate the development of ADHD.
The studies that are currently underway to determine the effects that nutrition has on ADHD have been focusing on two primary methods of possible treatment. The first one is supplementation with specific nutrients and vitamins in an attempt to reduce factors which fuel ADHD. The second one is elimination compounds which we consume through our diet that add to symptoms that cause ADHD.
Let’s see what possible actions can be taken to try and treat ADHD and maybe even possibly prevent its development completely.
1. Supplementing With Vitamins And Minerals
One possible discovery that might have an influence on ADHD is that children’s development of their cognitive functions is often impacted in a negative way if there is iron or zinc deficiency in their body. This can be verified through research that was done on ADHD diagnosed children and concluded that levels of iron, phosphorus, magnesium, and calcium were all well below normal.
As anticipated, supplementation with iron and zinc has led to vast improvements in behavior and symptoms associated with ADHD amongst children.
On the other side, supplementation with high amounts of vitamins B5, B6 and C did not show the same results in children, but supplementation with multivitamins and minerals amongst adults has shown enormous improvement in behavior over an 8 week time period.
2. Omega-3 Fatty Acids Supplementation
On average, children who aren’t suffering from ADHD, usually have drastically increased levels of omega-3 when compared to children who have ADHD. Furthermore, studies have been concluded and determined that when children who have been diagnosed with ADHD and are deficient in omega-3 fatty acids also have much more trouble with learning and issues with behavior.
When children with ADHD were given supplements of omega-3, positive differences were observed in their behavior. Restlessness, impulsiveness, hyperactivity, and aggression were all drastically reduced when intake of omega-3 is increased.
3. Supplementing With Amino Acids
There are many different functions in our cells which can only be completed with the help of amino acids. One of these functions is the process of creating neurotransmitters which are capable of sending signals to the brain.
Many different hormones, like the above-mentioned dopamine and norepinephrine, are known for lowering the amino acids like phenylalanine, tyrosine, and tryptophan. Studies have proven that patients who suffer from ADHD often have low levels of these amino acids in their urine and blood.
There have been some studies which attempted to improve the symptoms of ADHD by supplementing with L-tyrosine and s-adenosylmethionine but the results were somewhat mixed. Some patients showed great improvement while other displayed absolutely no change. The good news is that these supplements didn’t seem to increase the symptoms.
4. Salicylates And Food Additives
Research showed that some adverse reactions to certain foods were observed amongst those who have been diagnosed with ADHD. This leads us into believing that reducing consumption or even elimination some foods might improve behavior.
This was also proven by Ben F. Feingold who conducted research in the 70s accidentally discovered that removal of salicylate-containing foods from your diet can actually affect your behavior.
Once Dr. Feingold made this discovery, he believed that removing salicylates, compounds found in many medications, additives, and foods, could improve hyperactivity in children. His past work led to many more studies being done on food and its effects on attention disorders, however, the meta-analysis showed very mixed results on salicylates and their ability to affect behavior.
Hopefully, there will be more research done in an attempt to discover more specific evidence and possible food-related treatments to help with ADHD.
5. Artificial Sweeteners And Sugars
Sweet and soft drinks have always been thought to have a negative influence on children’s behavior. Children who have been diagnosed with ADHD usually have low blood sugar, which can be related to severe behavior changes when these drinks are consumed. In fact, studies have shown that consuming large amounts of sugar has an adverse effect on ADHD-related symptoms in both adolescents and children.
There haven’t been any trials or studies which clearly show a link between behavior and sugar intake, there are speculations that sugar is more influential on your overall attention span rather than hyperactivity.
Sweeteners shouldn’t be as detrimental as sugar. Two different trials showed that aspartame, an often used sweetener amongst many diet drinks and products, doesn’t really affect ADHD and its symptoms.
6. Artificial Food Colorings And Preservatives
It doesn’t matter if you have ADHD or not, both of these substances are able to affect your behavior, according to various studies.
One such study was done on 800 participants, all of whom were children. Their diet was altered to remove artificial food colorings and the results were absolutely amazing, there was a 75% improvement in hyperactivity reduction. Once their diet was no longer controlled and changed back to the children’s prior diet, the positive results relapsed.
Same results were witnessed in another study which was done on 1.800 children. Sodium benzoate, a very well-known and frequently used preservative, and food colorings were introduced into their diets. As expected, their hyperactivity skyrocketed.
While some people think that this evidence is inconclusive, at the same time FDA is requiring all manufacturers to list these substances in the food labels of their products. So obviously there is some sort of an effect that these substances cause, many speculate it’s the changes in hyperactivity.
7. Food Eliminations
The way that the effects of eliminating certain foods are tracked is by measuring the reaction that ADHD patients have to certain foods. The first step is to introduce patients to a diet which is free of foods speculated to cause adverse reactions. Any improvements in behavior and ADHD-related symptoms are noted and patients are moved to the next phase.
After a few days, the foods that had a negative influence are reintroduced into the diet, if the negative reactions resurfaced then this food is dubbed as sensitizing. Once the trials are over, a diet which reduces as many sensitizing foods as possible is reintroduced to the patients.
There have been nearly a dozen studies done on how effective food elimination is when it comes to ADHD. The conclusions show that symptoms are improved by 50% to 80% in children who were diagnosed with ADHD. Similar studies also showed an overall symptom improvement of 25%.
It should be noted that the most reacted to food were cow’s milk and wheat. These were the two sensitizing components that often seemed to cause the most drastic negative change in symptoms associated with ADHD.
ADHD Symptoms & Diagnosis Summary
As more and more research is being done in the field of ADHD treatments and prevention, we feel that the link between your diet and ADHD is slowly becoming clearer. You don’t have to wait for 100% definite verification from research that food influences ADHD. Some of these supplementations and food eliminations have many other benefits that anyone could take advantage of, so there is nothing wrong with trying these possible treatments.
Furthermore, the thus far collected data clearly indicated that your behavior can be altered by the nutrients that you introduce into your body. So it is completely possible that ADHD is greatly influenced by the food you eat.
In the end, while we can’t promise 100 percent that you will see any difference from specific supplementation and/or food eliminations when it comes to ADHD symptoms, we know for a fact that at least half of children who are affected by ADHD have experienced drastic improvement when dietary improvements were made.
Finally, as with any self-medication type decisions or supplementation, we strongly urge that you talk to your doctor. They might suggest specific medications that are common for ADHD, ensure that you let your doctor know if you are intending to use alternative methods of treatment, your intentions will help them make other alternative suggestions.