Is There a Diet That Can Help My Child with ADHD?

September 10, 2011

When you are struggling with ways to treat your child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), you may hear about different ADHD treatments advocated by a friend or an ADD specialist. The bottom line is that no one treatment has been proven to cure the disorder. However, in addition to behavior plans and medication, some people have found that certain dietary changes or additions have helped their child.

A good first step is to find out if your child with ADD is allergic or sensitive to any foods. While you can use blood tests and skin testing to determine this, you can also use an elimination diet to pinpoint trouble spots in the diet. There are a number of ways to do an elimination diet. One simple one is to begin by eliminating all foods with additives, dairy products, fruit juice, artificial sweeteners, processed meat, wheat, chocolate, and sugar. For two weeks, your child’s diet should consist of vegetables, fruit, and meat. After two weeks, try adding back one food at a time. If there is a reaction that you notice in terms of behavior, rashes, runny nose, it may indicate a problem with this food. Stop the food immediately, wait a couple of days, and add another food.

Once you find out what not to eat, you can look at what to eat. Researchers have found that diets high in protein are excellent for children with ADD. A general rule is to serve 70 percent protein and 30 percent carbohydrates for breakfast. Stick to about 50 percent protein and 50 percent carbohydrates for the other meals.

Omega-3 fatty acids are dietary essentials for everyone, but are especially important for children with ADD, as they are critical in brain function and development. Dr. Alexandra J. Richardson, in an article in Psychiatry says, “Increasing evidence suggests that a relative lack of omega-3 may -contribute to many psychiatric and neuro-developmental disorders.” Eating more flaxseed, sardines, and walnuts can help increase Omega-3 in the diet. You might also want to consider supplements of Omega-3.

Other tips for using an ADHD diet include things that are good advice for anyone’s diet. Drinking lots of water is important, as water acts as a purifier in the body. Additionally, eating lots of vegetables and fruit provides necessary vitamins and minerals.

To end with another substance to avoid, many doctors agree that it is best to avoid food additives. Children with ADHD often are very sensitive, and these chemical substances may contribute to distractibility and activity.

Mom’s Take:

Until I kept a food diary and wrote down what my daughter with ADD was actually eating, I didn’t realize how little protein she was getting. She disliked many foods, and she was filling up on a lot of carbohydrates. Since she doesn’t like meat or cheese very much, we decided to use a protein supplement. I make her a milk shake with protein powder every morning. She drinks that along with her scrambled eggs. I’ve noticed an improvement in her ability to get ready and get out to the bus in the morning.