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What are the affects of nutrition, supplements and food additives on ADHD?

Sometimes people may have food intolerances or food sensitivities that affect attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms. Avoiding these foods may help them get a better handle on their ADHD. Ask your doctor about allergy testing if you suspect that food intolerances may be contributing to your symptoms. Citrus, corn, eggs, wheat, soy, nuts and dairy products are just a handful of food items to which some people with ADHD are sensitive. If you have any food sensitivities, an elimination diet may help you feel better.

ADHD is the most commonly diagnosed behavioral disorder of childhood, affecting about 3 - 5% of school-aged children. ADHD is diagnosed much more often in boys than in girls. The symptoms of ADHD fall into three groups:

  • Lack of attention (inattentiveness)
  • Hyperactivity
  • Impulsive behavior (impulsivity)

In some instances, dietary alterations may improve symptoms of ADHD. It is believed, in some children, ADHD is a form of “allergic reaction”. The use of Elimination Diets (specific foods or additives are removed from the diet to gauge response) or strict diets may lessen the severity of ADHD symptoms. More emphasis on protein foods and whole grains/fiber and reduced sugar diets may also improve symptoms in those with ADHD. As for specific nutrients, there is some evidence to show that zinc and Omega-3 fatty acids and fish oil may improve symptoms. Dietary sources of zinc include oysters and other seafood, red meat, poultry, dairy products, beans, nuts, whole grains, and fortified cereals. Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, albacore tuna, herring, mackerel, trout, and sardines. It is worth investigating dietary interventions. Before making such changes though, consult with your doctor to gauge the impact of any dietary modifications.

Evening primrose oil in general can benefit the brain because it contains an omega-6 fatty acid important for maintaining brain chemistry. Specific studies involving children with ADHD have produced mixed results.

Some research reports that getting plenty of omega-3 fats in your diet could improve symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). People in Western societies tend to consume super-high amounts of omega-6 fats but precious little of omega-3 fats like docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). And some early research suggests that this imbalance of super-high omega-6s and super-low omega-3s could make symptoms of ADHD worse. Still other research suggests that getting more omega-3s may benefit mood, behavior, and overall brain function. For more omega-3s, eat fish, walnuts, avocados, and olive and canola oils.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.