Your child’s diet is not only important to his or her general health but it is also important to how your child learns and acts. What your child eats and how often can have a profound negative effect on the body provoking symptoms that are misdiagnosed as ADHD. I have seen market improvement in children with ADHD symptoms who followed these dietary guidelines.
1. Remove Sugar from the Diet: Sugar does affect behavior. Sugar can cause a low blood sugar reaction called hypoglycemia. When the body becomes hypoglycemic, the chemical adrenaline is released and the child feels the “fight or flight” reaction. The child cannot sit still or concentrate and can become agitated. This is a physiological response and the child does not have control over these behaviors.
A Yale study showed that adrenaline levels in children were ten times higher than normal up to five hours after ingesting sugar. All of the children in the study had symptoms of increased adrenaline.
2. Provide Protein Meals and Snacks Every Two Hours: Children with low blood sugar can have symptoms if they do not eat often enough. Skipping a meal or not eating every 2-2 ½ hours can have the same disastrous results as eating sugar. Children with symptoms of hypoglycemia need to eat several small meals each day. These snacks must contain some form of protein (nuts, cheese and meat).
3. Water: Continual intake of water helps the body’s biochemical functions. Water helps flush out toxins and assists in digestion and nutrition. To simply grab a quick drink at the water fountain isn’t enough. Children should be allowed to keep water at their desks in order to continuously quench their thirst and obtain enough water to allow their young bodies to function properly.
4. Recognize Nutritional Deficiency Symptoms: Specific nutrients are needed in our body to make the biochemical processes work properly. The nutrients act as co-factors for all of our biochemical reactions. The following references document their importance:
A. Magnesium deficiency in children is characterized by excessive fidgeting, anxious restlessness, psychomotor instability and learning difficulties in the presence of normal IQ. (Magnesium in Health and Disease, Seelig, 1980)
B. Vitamin B6, in a double blind, cross-over study published in Biological Psychiatry (Vol. 14, no.5,1979), was found to be more effective than methylphenidate (Ritalin) in a group of hyperactive children.
C. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (33, 2,1980), when thiamine deficiency was corrected, behavior improved.
D. Niacin, was found to be helpful for the symptoms of hyperactivity, poor school performance, perceptual changes and inability to maintain social relationships (Schizophrenia, 3, 1971).
E. Zinc levels in children diagnosed with ADHD were found to be significantly lower than controls (Biol.Psychiatry, 1996).
F. DMAE, a neurotransmitter precursor, has been used for years to improve behaviors, mental concentration, puzzle solving ability and organization (J.Pediatrics,1958).
G. Lower levels of Omega-3 fatty acids were discovered in children who had more temper tantrums and sleep problems. (Stevens LJ, Zentall SS, Deck JL, Abate ML, Watkins BA, Lipp SR, Burgess JR.
H. Essential fatty acid metabolism in boys with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Am J Clin Nutr 1995;62 (4):761 8).