Chances are, you or someone you know are dealing with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). While ADHD can affect adults, much of the research and mainstream interest surrounds it in children. This is partly due to its effects on focus and behavior, which often manifest themselves in the school environment.
CDC data shows that 11% of children between ages 4 and 17 years of age had been diagnosed with ADHD by 2011 — and many continue to struggle with it into adulthood.
Unfortunately, we still haven’t narrowed down what causes ADHD. A range of studied factors, include:
- environmental toxins,
- and central nervous issues in development.
The neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine are also suspected to be key players, due to their control of stimulation in brain cells.
With such an array of influencing factors, there is an equally diverse range of opinions on how to manage ADHD symptoms. In an effort to help children’s struggles with ADHD, many families have turned to pharmaceutical drugs and behavioral therapy to try to alleviate symptoms.
Though conventional methods tend to focus on pharmaceuticals and behavioral therapy, one area remains a bright spot for those looking for more natural and balanced solutions: diet. A few dietary changes can make a positive difference for ADHD sufferers of ALL ages.
The ADHD Diet: To Eat & What Not To Eat
During the first studies of ADHD and food, “elimination diets” quickly became all the rage. Initial studies suggested that food additives may be linked to ADHD symptoms like hyperactivity. In response, these new food regimens cut many items out of children’s diets. Unfortunately, scientific reviews suggest that elimination diets are only effective in a minority of cases.
Dietary changes in general are far from useless! As a complement to other treatments, diets are still popular and viable. In many cases, this is due to the fact that many ADHD symptoms, like poor focus or hyperactivity, can actually be aggravated by nutritional deficiencies.
So let’s take a look at some foods that can help fill these nutritional gaps and reduce symptoms, as well as, foods to avoid.
The Good: Organic Foods. While scientific and popular support varies on how much pesticides and food additives directly affect ADHD symptoms, making the switch to an organic diet is a good choice. Many organic items are of a higher quality than non-organic foods, thus providing more nutrients. Eating organic gives you more control over what goes into your body. In some cases, it can actually lower exposure to pesticides by up to 90%. More and more, studies are beginning to show that exposure to pesticides may lead to ADHD.
The Bad: Processed Foods. Again, there’s no direct link between preservatives and ADHD symptoms. However, a variety of evidence suggests that certain ingredients of these processed, refined, or manufactured foods may be linked to other health issues. For example, an Australian study showed that diets rich in processed foods, sugar, red meat, and high-fat dairy can be correlated to higher levels of ADHD. So it’s probably a good idea to try to cut down on those foods, for both your brain health and overall health.
The Good: Healthy Fats. Healthy fatty acids like omega-3s have become increasingly popular for support of a variety of functions, including brain and heart health. Power your brain and fight ADHD symptoms with foods that have these important nutrients. Healthy fats can come from foods like:
and dark green leafy vegetables.
The Bad: Sugary Snacks. Moderation is always key, but the way sugar interacts with the body can often make things difficult for people with ADHD. When you eat a sugary snack, your blood sugar rises quickly, causing the body to produce hormones like insulin in order to lower it. This can result in irritability, stress, and poor concentration. Try snacking on foods that are rich in fiber and protein — not only will they help you avoid the sugar rush and mood swings, but they’ll also keep you full longer.
The Good: Protein-Rich Foods. Protein is important for brain health. It is one of the building blocks of the body. Focus on eating lean proteins like chicken, fish, eggs, nuts, and beans in an ADHD diet. Limit consumption of more fat-rich sources of protein, like red meat.
The Bad: Energy Drinks. Many kids, especially teens, love energy drinks for their taste, effects, and entertaining marketing campaigns. Unfortunately, these drinks are made up almostly of processed sugar and stimulants. This can even cause children without ADHD to display similar behaviors, like irritability and hyperactivity.
The Good: Herbs and Spices. They are for more than just adding flavor to your food. Many common spices can actually be helpful for brain health and ADHD symptoms, including ginger, nutmeg, ginseng, ginkgo biloba, and more.
The Bad: Gluten. Certainly not everyone with ADHD suddenly has to go gluten-free. However, studies have shown that many people with ADHD may also have gluten sensitivity. A simple blood test will determine if one falls into this category.
The Good: Water. It may seem obvious, but it’s worth mentioning that appropriate water levels help keep your body and brain functioning optimally for all activities.
The Bad: Alcohol, Soda, Caffeine. Heavy consumption of alcohol and caffeine can contribute to dehydration. Even subtle levels of dehydration will severely inhibit your ability to focus. Just like with energy drinks, many sodas are made up mostly of processed sugar and stimulants. This can even cause children without ADHD to display similar behaviors, like irritability and hyperactivity.
Other ADHD Coping Options
ADHD is different for everyone. So there’s no single best way to relieve its symptoms. A personalized ADHD diet is a popular and easy tactic, due to its:
potential for customization,
and general improvements to overall nutrition and health.
However, there are other lifestyle changes that can have great benefit for some ADHD sufferers. Examples include, improving one’s sleep schedule to getting more exercise. Mental health professionals can also suggest options for both children and adults.
Along with lifestyle improvements, one may want to also consider using supplements to help fill some of the nutritional gaps. Because for some people, it can still be difficult to obtain the best levels of certain nutrients strictly from food — especially if you are already deficient.
If that’s the case, a good place to start can be natural nootropics. Nootropics are supplements that enhance cognitive functions by filling nutritional gaps. Tranquility Labs’ own, Focusene, is one great all natural example! Focusene uses natural ingredients: dandelion extract, grape seed extract, ginseng, and ginkgo biloba to provide the brain with critical neurotransmitters it needs for focus, short-term memory, and brain signal processing. These improved abilities can be a big relief for many frustrated ADHD sufferers.
An ADHD Diet: What to Eat, What to Avoid, Lifestyle Additions
Here are major points to keep in mind when it comes to implementing a healthy ADHD diet and relieving ADHD symptoms:
- Scientific data suggests that the traditional “elimination diets” only work for a minority of users with ADHD. However, dietary changes are highly valuable, even for those not diagnosed with ADHD. Changes instead of eliminating allows one to have different options that in turn, correlate to one’s current diet, lifestyle, and needs.
- Rather than focusing solely on striking certain items from the diet, try to focus on attending to certain areas of nutrition. Brain health is a good starting point.
- There is no “magic bullet” for ADHD. As a result, dietary choices may work best in conjunction with other lifestyle changes.
Are you looking for more stories about people’s experiences with a tailored ADHD diet? Do you have stories of your own to share? Questions or want to learn more? Join the conversation by leaving a comment in the field below!