Some experts linked diet and nutrition to ADHD. Certain food items like chocolate, coffee, sugar, soda, and pastries have been associated with the hyperactivity and lack of focus in children. Do they really prove to aggravate the symptoms of the condition or it’s just all another urban myth?
Apparently, there is a trace of truth to this claim. Frank Barnhill, MD, an expert on ADHD and the author of Mistaken for ADHD, says “Excessive sugar and caffeine intake both cause symptoms of hyperactivity and easy distractibility. In 2011, a study to determine whether there is a connection between the food intake and the appearance of detectable ADHD behavior in an unselected group of children was conducted. In this research investigation, children with ADHD between the ages of 4 and eight were randomly selected and assigned to a five-week restricted elimination diet. This control group received rice, meat, vegetables, pears, and water. The other half received a regular meal during the study. After five weeks, those who were in the control group showed some changes, a significant improvement in their ADHD symptoms. The other group remained the same, or no significant results were observed.
What is restriction diet?
From the word itself, this practice utilizes the trial-and-error method in detecting whether certain types of foods affect the child’s behavior. According to Naheed Ali, MD, PhD, an expert on ADHD and the author of Diabetes and You: A Comprehensive, Holistic Approach, “When frosting and cake mix contain artificial sweeteners, they increase the risk of ADHD symptoms more than natural sweeteners would.” When this happens, the child has food sensitivity and should refrain from eating this kind of meal. Take note – food sensitivity is different from food allergy. Apparent reactions like rash or hive and difficulty of breathing are examples of responses that one can get form having a food allergy. A health care provider can rule out food allergy through a blood test; but not on a food sensitivity.
The process can be started by eliminating specific food items in the child’s meal for at least three weeks then slowly introduce the food again into the meal and observe the child’s behavior. If you notice certain changes like decrease in hyperactivity or enhanced focus, being calm for longer periods, getting enough sleep, then you are on the right track.
Some important considerations
Getting into the restriction diet can have its ups-and-downs. This is normal especially if you are just starting. Patience and consistency are major requirements, as we should say. Make sure that you have consulted the child’s doctor and a dietician for proper food elimination process. In our attempt to help manage the ADHD, we might be helping a new medical problem secondary to restricting the child from eating. It is also a good strategy to involve your children in this endeavor. Help them understand the process and be aware that their ADHD can be linked to the food they eat. Once they know this, they can take care of themselves and get hold of the situation.
So, what foods are not allowed?
Genetic plays a major role in the development of a medical or mental condition. In ADHD, the knowledge that food can be a link to its symptoms, more studies are still needed to ensure that all individuals with ADHD are presented with the variety of food items or type of diet that they should continue or stop. The reason for this is that a certain food may prove to be sensitive to one person but not to another. Therefore, there should be proper identification of all the food items.
To date, experts recommend that these food substances are linked to ADHD symptoms: wheat, dairy, nuts, soy, or artificial food dyes.
Ned Hallowell, M.D., founder of the Hallowell Center for Cognitive and Emotional Health, in Sudbury, Massachusetts, and New York City, advises all of his patients with ADHD to think about their plates when preparing a meal. Half of the plate, he recommends, should be filled with fruits or vegetables, one-fourth with a protein, and one-fourth with carbohydrates.