In the s, Dr. Feingold reported these dietary changes caused noticeable reduction in symptoms of asthma, hives, and even behavioral problems. The ADHD diet involves avoiding certain foods believed to contribute to hyperactivity.
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Though not a complete list, here are some of the foods that are recommended on the Feingold Diet:. Other examples of diets include:. This is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet that has been studied for its use in treating epilepsy.
7 Foods to Avoid If Your Child Has ADHD | Everyday Health
Children with epilepsy often display symptoms of ADHD, and the ketogenic diet has been shown in a study published in the journal Pediatrics to help control seizures and improve behavior. The Pediatrics journal study showed mixed results in proving this diet to be beneficial. Other diets you may utilize in an attempt to reduce ADHD symptoms include those that boost a particular nutrient, such as:. A study published in the Lancet Journal reported observing children with ADHD as they followed the restricted elimination diet for five weeks. The study found that ADHD symptoms improved during the elimination phase of the diet.
However, ADHD symptoms returned when foods were reintroduced into the diet.
7 Foods to Avoid If Your Child Has ADHD
There have been many studies on the affects of food color additives. However, the studies show mixed results. The investigators found a mild but significant increase in hyperactivity in both age groups of children — across the board, regardless of baseline hyperactivity levels — during the weeks when they consumed drinks containing artificial colors. This replicated findings of an earlier study they did in 3-year-old children. This was similar to the effect size reported in an earlier meta-analysis conducted by researchers at Columbia University and Harvard University.
Their analysis of 15 trials evaluating the impact of artificial food coloring suggests that removing these agents from the diets of children with ADHD would be about one-third to one-half as effective as treatment with methylphenidate Ritalin.
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But like the authors of the British study, the authors of the meta-analysis cautioned that only a minority of children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of artificial additives. They also pointed out that determining which children are susceptible is difficult, though not impossible.
Although some experts have recommended testing children with ADHD for food reactions, there is no test for additives. Parents could try eliminating the major sources of artificial colors and additives — candy, junk food, brightly-colored cereals, fruit drinks, and soda — from their child's diet for a few weeks, to see if symptoms improve. One practical challenge to keep in mind, however, is that studies of sugar elimination have shown that parents may wrongly assume that changes in their child's behavior reflect consumption of a "problem" food.
In one frequently cited study about sugar, researchers recruited 35 mother-and-son pairs. All the mothers believed their sons — then ages 5 to 7 — were sugar-sensitive. The researchers told the mothers their sons would be randomly assigned to an experimental group that received a high dose of sugar or to a control group that received aspartame.
In reality, all the boys received aspartame.
How Does One Follow the ADHD Diet?
The mothers who thought their sons ingested a large amount of sugar reported that their child's behavior was significantly more hyperactive afterward. The researchers concluded that parental expectation may color perception when it comes to food-related behaviors. Essential fatty acids fuel basic cell functioning, improve overall immunity, and enhance heart health. By definition, the body cannot make essential fatty acids, so these nutrients must be consumed in the diet. One group, the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid [EPA], docosahexaenoic acid [DHA], and alpha-linolenic acid [ALA] , is obtained from salmon, tuna, and other cold-water fish, as well as from some seeds and oils.
The other group, the omega-6 fatty acids especially linoleic acid , is obtained primarily from vegetable oils. While a balance of omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids is best for overall health, the typical American diet contains too few omega-3s, often in a one-to ratio or lower with omega-6 fats. Researchers have explored whether a deficiency of omega-3 fats might contribute to symptoms of ADHD because these fatty acids perform a number of functions in the brain, such as affecting transmission of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin and helping brain cells to communicate.
Eliminate processed food products, and instead provide a wholesome diet of fresh, healthy foods to optimize the health and well-being of your child. Again, aim for a balanced diet that includes a variety of fresh, whole foods. A diet that eliminates too many foods can be unhealthy because it may lack necessary vitamins and nutrients. Candy is loaded with sugar and artificial colors, a bad combination for children with ADHD.
These drinks often have many of the same sugars and sweeteners that make candy a bad idea for kids on the ADHD diet. And soda has other ingredients that worsen ADHD symptoms, such as high-fructose corn syrup and caffeine. One study found that 5-year-old children who drank sodas were more likely to show aggression and social withdrawal.