Attention Deficit Disorder: Dietary and Lifestyle Recommendations to improve symptoms

The quality of your health depends upon many pieces that not only include the health of your bodily systems, but also include a healthy diet, exercise, and spirituality.

Diet. Treatment of your ADD/ADHD may center on developing general healthy diet guidelines, in addition to making some key adjustments in your relationship with food.

If you have ADD/ADHD, consider a modification elimination diet under the supervision of a healthcare professional. Foods are eliminated from the diet, and then reintroduced one at a time to see if an allergic reaction occurs. Close monitoring by a professional is essential since allergic reactions can be severe and may require medical attention.

Those who have ADD/ADHD should consider eliminating refined sugar, food colorings, preservatives, artificial sweeteners, flavor enhancers like monosodium glutamate (MSG), and suspected food intolerances (such as dairy and wheat) from their diet. The elimination of certain foods can have dramatic positive effects in alleviating the symptoms of ADD/ADHD.

Dietary recommendations for ADD/ADHD include:

  • Choose high-quality, organic, hormone- and antibiotic-free “grass-fed” meats.
  • Increase your omega-3 essential fatty acids by supplementing your diet with high-quality fish oil. A 1994 Purdue University study of boys with ADHD revealed that they had significantly lower levels of omega-3 essential fatty acids.3 Additionally, a recent study published in the Sept. 2005 issue of Reproduction, Nutrition, Development evaluated the effectiveness of high dose olive oil, fish oil, and flax oil in raising omega-3 fatty acid levels in patients with ADHD. It was determined that high dose fish oil was more effective than flax oil or olive oil in raising omega-3 fatty acid levels in patients with ADHD.
  • Eat foods that are rich in magnesium such as pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, spinach, and beans. Studies have shown that children with ADD/ADHD tend to be deficient in magnesium. In fact, the symptoms of magnesium deficiency are surprisingly similar to ADD/ADHD symptoms. Consider a high-quality magnesium supplement.
  • Eat foods rich in zinc. A study published in the August 2005 Journal of Child and Adolescent Pharmacology examined the effects of zinc supplementation in children with ADHD. Numerous studies had previously reported that children with ADHD tend to have lower levels of zinc. Two placebo-controlled trials revealed a significant benefit in treating ADHD with zinc supplementation. A second study appears to confirm the benefits of zinc supplementation in treating children with ADHD. More studies are needed to confirm this finding, but zinc supplementation may prove to be an effective treatment for children with ADHD in the future. The saying, “Use zinc to think” is not far from the truth. Zinc-rich foods include red meat, brewer’s yeast, milk, beans, and wheat germ. Additionally, since zinc is found mostly in animal products, vegetarians might want to consider a zinc supplement.
  • Eat raw, organic vegetables and fruits to benefit from healthy antioxidants.
  • Add high-quality fiber to your diet, such as organic flax meal, which is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Add healthy saturated fats to your diet, such as organic extra virgin coconut oil. Read more about good fats and bad fats.
  • Add sprouted nuts and seeds to your diet, since they are rich in protein and omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Increase the good bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract by choosing unpasteurized, raw dairy items that have live, active cultures (probiotics), such as yogurt and kefir, unless you are allergic to dairy.
  • Drink room-temperature purified water throughout the day.

Foods to AVOID when treating ADD/ADHD:

  • Food coloring and food preservatives. These are suspected in causing ADD/ADHD symptoms in people who have sensitivities to these artificial substances.
  • Dairy products, especially if you are allergic to dairy products.
  • Wheat products, especially if have gluten intolerance.
  • All simple or refined carbohydrates (white flour, white rice, white bread, pasta, cookies, cakes, crackers, processed snack foods, etc.).
  • All foods containing refined sugar or artificial sugar-substitutes such as Aspartame and Splenda®. It has been suggested that artificial sweeteners can trigger ADD/ADHD symptoms. Choose a natural sweetener like XyloSweet™ instead.
  • Fruit juices, especially those that contain refined sugar.
  • Carbonated soft drinks, especially those that have sugar or artificial sweeteners.
  • Bottom crawlers, such as oysters, clams, and lobster that may contain toxic levels of mercury
  • Deep-sea fish such as tuna, mackerel, and swordfish that may contain toxic levels of mercury. Choose minimal mercury tuna instead.
  • Farm-raised fish that contain PCBs and not enough omega-3 essential fatty acids, due to their land-based diets. Choose wild Alaskan salmon instead.
  • Nitrites found in processed foods such as hot dogs, lunch meats, and bacon
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG) found in many foods as a flavor enhancer
  • Hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils found in many processed foods, deep-fried foods, fast foods, and junk food. Read more about trans fats.
  • Limited caffeine intake. While moderate amounts of caffeine may be beneficial, excessive consumption of caffeine can disrupt the body’s systems.

Exercise. Exercise can help regulate mood and sleep patterns, which are often related problems for those who have ADD/ADHD. Also, choose an exercise program that makes you sweat, since sweat helps eliminate toxins from the body.

Other tips for treating ADD/ADHD:

  • Interesting research suggests that those with ADD/ADHD (and other types of developmental disorders such as autism) may have a dysfunctional immune system. A dysfunctional immune system may have a dramatic impact on the neurological system. Talk to your healthcare professional about neuro-immune dysfunction syndrome (NIDS).
  • Heavy Metal Toxicity can produce a variety of behavioral and psychiatric symptoms that often mimic behavioral disorders such as ADD/ADHD. Discuss Heavy Metal Toxicity with your healthcare professional. Read more about Heavy Metal Toxicity.
  • If you have dental amalgams, or “silver” fillings, get an evaluation from a mercury-free dentist who specializes in the safe removal of mercury amalgam fillings. Find a mercury-free dentist in your area now.

Additional Information about Attention Deficit Disorder

  1. Attention Deficit Disorder Overview
  2. Common symptoms of attention deficit disorder
  3. Common causes of attention deficit disorder
  4. Help me choose a natural and alternative treatment for attention deficit disorder
  5. Conventional or prescription medications used in the treatment of attention deficit disorder
  6. Additional Reading for attention deficit disorder

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