Dealing with ADHD in Children: Part 1 – Issues & Foods to Avoid
I was completely distraught after the Parent Teacher Meeting for my 5 year old. The Class Teacher informed me that my son was always inattentive in the class and had to be always pulled into the class conversations and that most of time he seemed distracted. She suggested that I should get him checked for ADHD issues. My child affected by ‘ADHD’? Just couldn’t believe it! That got me researching frantically on ADHD so as to fully understand the issue.
As per National Institute of Mental Health, ADHD stands for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and is marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development. Individuals with ADHD experience an ongoing pattern of the following types of symptoms:
- Inattention means a person may have difficulty staying on task, sustaining focus, and staying organised, and these problems are not due to defiance or lack of comprehension.
- Hyperactivity means a person may seem to move about constantly, including in situations when it is not appropriate, or excessively fidgets, taps, or talks. In adults, hyperactivity may mean extreme restlessness or talking too much.
- Impulsivity means a person may act without thinking or have difficulty with self-control. Impulsivity could also include a desire for immediate rewards or the inability to delay gratification. An impulsive person may interrupt others or make important decisions without considering long-term consequences
Some of the most common behaviour symptoms of ADHD affected children include :
- Find it hard to follow through on instructions or finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace, or may start tasks but lose focus and get easily sidetracked
- Have difficulty organising tasks and activities, doing tasks in sequence, keeping materials and belongings in order, managing time, and meeting deadlines
- Avoid tasks that require sustained mental effort, such as homework, or for teens and older adults, preparing reports, completing forms, or reviewing lengthy papers
- Lose things necessary for tasks or activities, such as school supplies, pencils, books, tools, wallets, keys, paperwork, eyeglasses, and cell phones
- Be easily distracted by unrelated thoughts or stimuli
- Be forgetful in daily activities, such as chores, errands, returning calls, and keeping appointments
I was advised to always consult a healthcare professional, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist, who should conduct a thorough evaluation and assessment of a child's symptoms and history for diagnosing ADHD. In terms of the treatment, they may prescribe medication, therapy, and lifestyle changes for the treatment of ADHD.
Foods to Avoid :
While there is no specific diet that can cure ADHD, some studies suggest that certain foods may exacerbate symptoms. Here are some foods that I came across, that should be best avoided or be limited in the diet of children affected with ADHD:
Sugar: Avoid high amounts of sugars intakes, as it can lead to a quick spike in blood sugar levels, which can cause hyperactivity and restlessness. Sugary foods such as candy, colas and processed snacks should be avoided or limited.
Artificial food additives: As per a study1, some food additives, specifically artificial colours and the preservative sodium benzoate, were associated with increased hyperactivity and inattention in children. The study also found that avoiding foods containing these additives resulted in significant reductions in hyperactive behaviour. This research suggests that for some children, avoiding foods with artificial additives may be beneficial for managing symptoms of ADHD.
Processed and fried foods: As per another Study2, Processed and fried foods are typically high in unhealthy fats and added sugars. These foods can affect mood and energy levels and should be avoided or limited.
Gluten and dairy: Another Research3 suggest that some children with ADHD may be sensitive to gluten or dairy. It is best to talk to a healthcare professional before eliminating/ limiting these foods from their diet.
It is important to note that each child is different and may have different dietary triggers for his/her symptoms. If you suspect that certain foods may be affecting your child's ADHD symptoms, it is best to consult a healthcare professional before making any dietary changes.
Please also read:
1 McCann, D., Barrett, A., Cooper, A., Crumpler, D., Dalen, L., Grimshaw & Stevenson (2007),
2 Gómez-Pinilla, F. (2008). Brain foods: the effects of nutrients on brain function. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 9(7), 568-578. doi: 10.1038/nrn2421
3 Nigg, J. T., Holton, K., & M. R. Nikolas. (2014). "Oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder: A review of the past 10 years, part II." Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 53(8), 852-863. doi: 10.1016/j.jaac.2014.05.006