How important is a good diet for children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD? According to numerous researchers, the proper diet is extremely important, and by simply making a few changes in an ADHD child’s diet, parents can often significantly improve their child’s symptoms, including hyperactivity, inattention and the tendency to act impulsively.
ADHD is a very real medical condition that can substantially impact children and their families. It causes learning and socialization problems, as well as negative behavior patterns that can produce disciplinary problems at school and at home. But what causes ADHD? Sadly, the answer to that question is still a bit of a mystery, but recent research does seem to suggest that dietary changes—limiting or eliminating certain food products and substances from an ADHD child’s diet—can make a world of difference in curtailing certain symptoms.
Small Dietary Changes with Big Benefits for ADHD Children
Currently there is no known cure for ADHD, but the proper diet is definitely important, specifically the avoidance of certain foods that are notorious for causing problems. Getting started with these changes is never easy, but by gradually limiting the following food products, the likelihood of symptom improvement is very high. ADHD children should try to avoid:
- Dairy Products. Dairy products in the diet of an ADHD child are a no-no, as they may trigger harmful food allergies. Especially bad, according to studies, are cow’s milk and the many products made from cow’s milk, including ice cream. While completely eliminating milk from your child’s diet may seem like an impossible dietary task, there are many substitutes for cow’s milk, including almond milk, rice milk and coconut milk that taste very good and can make this transition much easier.
- Gluten Products. Gluten-free products may have been difficult to find 5 years ago, but as more and more information has been learned about gluten and some of the potential problems associated with it, including the tendency to worsen some of the most common ADHD symptoms, there are now many tasty gluten-free alternatives that are also very affordable.
- Food Coloring. Food dyes are used to make certain food products more attractive and appealing, but they have also been linked to hyperactivity and impulsive behavior in ADHD children, especially when the artificial dyes are combined with the food preservative sodium benzoate. These dyes are commonly found in a number of everyday products, including breakfast cereal, soda, juice drinks and packaged snacks, but don’t let that discourage you. There are still plenty of foods on your grocer’s shelves that are free of these artificial colors and flavoring.
- Sugar. Sugar is famous for making almost every “do not eat” list, regardless of the condition being treated. In ADHD children, sugar has been linked to hyperactivity, followed by a loss of focus and attention as the sugar wears off. Naturally sweet substances such as honey and maple syrup tend to cause fewer problems in ADHD children and should be used in place of these simple and processed sugars whenever possible.
- Caffeine. Caffeine can rob children of essential vitamins and minerals that are needed for proper nerve function. And because caffeine is most often present in acidic food products, such as coffee and carbonated beverages, it reduces the pH levels in the body and disturbs the natural balance.
As you can see from these examples, making just a few changes in your child’s diet can make a big difference in managing the frequency and severity of ADHD symptoms. Even if you implement these changes gradually, over time, you will invariably notice improvement in your child’s school performance, social adeptness and self-esteem.