Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a behavioral disorder that affects children, teens, and adults. It is most commonly found in children, however, and boys are three times more likely to be diagnosed than girls. Kids with ADHD are usually hyperactive, have difficulty focusing, are disruptive in classrooms, and find it difficult to sit still and follow rules. This can impair academic performance and make it difficult for the child to function appropriately in social situations. There is no known cause of ADHD and no specific test to diagnose it, but treatment has usually involved a combination of medication and behavior therapy, and more recently, a diet for ADHD.
The idea behind a diet for ADHD is that the brain will function better when nutritionally satiated, thus reducing symptoms of ADHD such as the inability to focus and the restlessness that accompanies it. Also, some of the symptoms of ADHD are the same as the symptoms thought to be caused by food allergies, so the diet can also be used as a means of diagnosis. The approach to a diet for ADHD involves elimination, supplementation, and an overall nutrition plan.
The first step to the ADHD diet is elimination. Proponents suggest eliminating the following for two weeks: dairy, junk food, fruit juice, sugar substitutes, processed meats, MSG, food coloring, and fish. Sugar, chocolate, and fried foods should be reduced by at least 90%. After two weeks, add each food back one at a time. Eat each food for several days and look for symptoms before adding an additional food. If symptoms are found, the trigger food should be eliminated in the future.
Once the elimination portion is completed, supplementation should be explored. Supplementation is used in conjunction with a diet for ADHD to ensure the needed vitamins, minerals, and nutrients are ingested. This is thought to reduce symptoms that may be triggered by a lack of nutrients.
The first key to a diet for ADHD is protein. Add protein in the form of beans, meat, eggs, nuts, and cheese to breakfast and after-school snacks to improve concentration during school and homework. Cut down on simple carbohydrates such as sugar, white flour, and white rice. Increase complex carbohydrates such as vegetables, especially at night, to improve sleep. Eat foods containing omega-3 fatty acids such as tuna, salmon, and olive oil. Basically, a balanced diet high in protein, with complex carbohydrates is ideal.
When it's not possible to get the protein and nutrients needed, supplements can be used. Water is also very important and swapping a glass of water for soda or juice to ensure at least eight glasses a day are consumed is a great first step. Omega-3 fatty acids can be supplemented as well, and many natural remedies for ADHD can be found in local drugstores.