Now that the kids are back to their daily routine with school, it’s time to reel our kids back into a normal eating, sleeping and activity pattern. For children who suffer from ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), this can be a challenging time.
Symptoms of ADHD include hyperactivity and inability to maintain focus and attention even for short periods of time. While there is no current definitive evidence of a diet that will cure ADHD, there is some encouraging research that points to improvements in ADHD symptoms with nutrition intervention. What’s even more encouraging is that the children and parents that I’ve worked with have seen some improvements in both focus and behavior by following some simple nutritional guidelines.
Ritalin (methylphenidate) is the most commonly prescribed medication to treat ADHD. It’s a stimulant that has an opposite effect for individuals with ADHD. It enables them to stay calm, centered and focused. Since caffeine is also a stimulant, it can be used in the same way, calming individuals with ADHD. It’s naturally found in coffee, tea, chocolate and raw cacao. While there are very few human studies on it effectiveness, it’s being studied more intensely as a natural treatment for symptoms of ADHD. A current study is testing dosing at 300-660 mg of caffeine, which is equivalent to approximately 3-6 cups of coffee. There is not enough scientific evidence to begin to prescribe caffeine as a treatment option, but the results will be interesting to keep an eye on in the near future!
Choline is a type of B-vitamin that’s also an essential nutrient. It’s necessary for proper brain activity. A diet rich in choline has been hypothesized to improve a child’s brain activity due to an increased availability of acetylcholine, though no clinical trials have proven this theory yet. Good food sources of choline include: eggs (egg yolks are nature’s richest source of choline), soybeans, liver (and other meats), whey, tofu, beets, cauliflower, wheat germ, whole grains (oats, barley, corn), flax seed, salmon, nuts (cashews, pistachios, almonds, peanut butter), lentils, bananas and oranges.
Sugar has long been thought of as the culprit that causes hyperactivity, though most studies fail to show a strong connection. Since there are tons of other healthful reasons to cut out refined sugar consumption, I still make this recommendation, whether you suffer from ADHD of not. It also helps make room for other, more healthy brain -boosting nutrients!
The Feingold Diet
Feingold, a pediatrician and allergist, introduced the hypothesis that some growing brains are sensitive to certain synthetic chemicals in food. His theory was that food additives (especially artificial food colorings) negatively affect how the brain of a child responds to stimulus. He suggests eliminating artificial food colorings, artificial flavorings, artificial preservatives (e.g. BHT, BHA, TBHQ) and aspartame-based artificial sweeteners (e.g. Nutrasweet). Physicians remain divided about the effectiveness of this theory, but some improvements in behavior and focus have lead parents to be believers, despite validated research.
In the end, it’s best as a parent to try small nutritional changes and take note of any behavioral changes. Healthy dietary changes can have many other positive health effects, so there are no negative consequences in trying a few discussed here. If your child enjoys NutriBullet smoothies, I suggest having them create their own Blasts with whole food ingredients and having fun with it!