Our diets choices affect our health. The better your diet is, the better your health will be. A poor diet worsens the symptoms of most medical conditions and it is safe to say that the single most important component of an effective ADHD treatment plan is diet. Here is why.
Diets that are adequate in protein and low in complex carbohydrates have been consistently proven to improve the symptoms of ADHD. Children with ADHD often crave carbohydrates and shun protein. The carbohydrates provide them with a very temporary sense of well being but ultimately causes a neurotransmitter imbalance, which worsens their symptoms.
We have learned in the last few years quite a lot about the vitamins, nutrient, and dietary influences of ADHD. We know from numerous studies that food allergies and dyes can cause worsening of ADHD symptoms in anywhere from five to thirty percent of people diagnosed with ADHD.
We have learned that diets low in iron, zinc, magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acids can contribute to the presence and severity of ADHD symptoms and that various studies have indicated that people with ADHD symptoms are more likely to have measurable deficiencies of zinc, magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids.
We also know that protein intake is an essential component of a health ADHD diet.
Diets that are high in sugar and low in protein are detrimental to all children and adults but are a particular problem for people with ADHD.
Dopamine, nor-epinephrine, serotonin, glutamate and PEA are neurotransmitters in our brain that coordinate all our cognitive functioning. The cognitive issues that impair people with ADHD, including attention, impulse control, sluggish or hyperactive activity and organizational functions and memory functions are all controlled by neurotransmitters. Low protein diets cause the body to secrete excess insulin. The insulin circulates into our cells and acts in a way that serves to pull the amino acids necessary for neurotransmitter functioning, out of the blood stream and to put them in storage for later use. This in turn causes the brain to have an inadequate amount of these neurotransmitters.
Taking supplemental amino acids may help for a few days but they rarely helps with the symptoms of ADHD on any long term basis. The reason for this is that our bodies are programmed to use food, not supplements as neurotransmitter building blocks. The complex neurotransmitter building and functioning process is not completed with the use of supplements, which is why studies have shown no long term benefits for ADHD symptom control using tyrosine or other amino acid supplements.
The cells in the brain that use the neurotransmitters are easily damaged by oxidization and studies have shown that people with ADHD have higher brain oxidant levels than people without this diagnosis. It is thought that antioxidant vitamins such as vitamin C and E and the Omega-3 fatty acids not only help protect these neurons from free radical damage but also help with the transmission of amino acids across the blood brain barrier which allows us to fully utilize the amino acids that we consume in our food. Foods such as blueberries, red grapes and green tea that are known to be powerful antioxidants should be consumed by everyone but may be especially useful in the diet of people with the diagnosis of ADHD.
The dietary interventions helpful in treating ADHD rarely involve remedies such as those contained in expensive supplements. The most useful dietary interventions can usually be readily and inexpensively purchased at the grocery store. Because Sensory Integration issues can occur more commonly in these children with ADHD, these children can be pickier eaters than other children. Getting these children to eat a diet that is full of vitamins, proteins, antioxidants and is low in sugar can sometimes be difficult but insuring that adults and children with ADHD eat a complete and protein rich diet is essential if we are to avoid the symptoms of ADHD that are worsened by an unhealthy diet.