A growing number of children worldwide are being diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD. In this condition, a child develops the main symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity and impulsive behavior before reaching the age of 7. Many of these children go on to adulthood with this condition. That is why it is important that a very early age, they can already learn to control their impulses.
Research has yet to discover the exact causes of ADHD, although a number of factors have been implicated including the environment or genetics. Environmental factors that purportedly cause the brain imbalances that are characteristic of ADHD include exposure to toxins during pregnancy, sugar, caffeine, food allergies, and food additives, coloring and preservatives. Diet especially has been implicated in the development of ADHD symptoms, so that it is often recommended to eliminate certain foods that cause the symptoms to appear or to worsen. Let us take a look at some specific foods…
There have been inconclusive and contradicting findings on the effects of refined sugar on a child’s behavior. Majority of studies have failed to demonstrate a link between hyperactivity and refined sugar intake. Others, however, claimed that high sugar intake, such as during a kiddie birthday party, causes hyperactivity (although some psychologists say that this could be simply due to the excitement of the party itself).
Food Additives, Preservatives, Coloring, and Allergies
During the 1970s, the Feingold Diet was introduced to parents who have children whose behavior is affected by the foods they eat. However, like sugar, majority of studies have failed to show a conclusive connection between food additives and allergies to ADHD.
Although caffeine is widely known as a stimulant, it produces different effects in different people. A small population of individuals will have a greater tolerance to caffeine compared with others. The rule of thumb is that you should not let any child take caffeinated drinks, and these would include Coca-Cola, Pepsi, or sports and energy drinks. Caffeinated drinks are specifically to be eliminated from the diet if the child is allergic to caffeine.
While not demonstrated in scientific research, there have been anecdotal claims that intake of processed foods can cause hyperactivity. It is important to reduce from the child’s diet foods that are high in refined sugar content, like candy, cookies and sodas, as well as colored foods. Fruit juices should also be diluted.
ADHD and Omega-3
You have probably been hearing about Omega-3 from various food ads. While primarily being advertised as an essential fatty acid (specifically a type of polyunsaturated fat) that would help prevent heart disease, Omega-3 has been found to be of great benefit in brain development and function. Scientific studies have shown that a deficiency of Omega-3 during pregnancy has a direct impact on the unborn child’s brain development specifically during the 3rd trimester.
Omega-3 is found primarily in fish. Here are some good sources…
• 100 grams of Salmon contains 230 mg of Omega-3
• 100 grams of Sardines contains 220 mg of Omega-3
• 100 grams of Herring contains 160 mg of Omega-3
• 100 grams of Tuna (preferably fresh or frozen) contains 160 mg of Omega-3
Canned tuna is not advisable because much of the oil has been drained and replaced with Omega-6 oils.
For children who don’t like to eat fish, you can try vegetable sources like hemp and walnuts. You can add also mix flaxseed oil into your child’s meals. Check out Omega-3 enriched-products in your local grocery, like milk or certain breads.
Although majority of scientific studies claim that only a small percent of children will benefit from an additive-free diet, you should still carefully observe the foods that your child eats and if any impulsive behaviors result. Eliminate foods that cause ADHD symptoms to appear or worsen. Make it a point to have your ADHD child eat 2 meals with fish every week.