The Impact of Nutrition on ADHD

Proper nutrition is important to the proper function of the brain; this is a no truer statement when it comes to managing ADHD.  ADHD is a neuro-biochemical imbalance in the brain characterized by either hyperactivity, inattentiveness or a combination of both.  As with most chemical imbalances in the brain, diet and exercise can vastly improve the symptoms and let those with ADHD harness the massive energy and creativity that comes with it.

The ADHD brain learns differently, thinks differently, and is often highly creative.  Some of the best inventors, musicians, entrepreneurs and comedians are ADHD, Einstein, Edison, Robin Williams, and Richard Branson to name a few.

From reading up on the disorder, I’ve discovered a few things.  People with a neuro-typical brain think linearly. They can logically put together a project, with a beginning, middle and an end. The ADHD brain on the other hand thinks tangentially.  A person with ADHD is more likely to ignore the directions for that flat packed Ikea cabinet and opt to examine the pieces and then put it together.  They see connections to things others may miss and it’s this out of the box way of looking at the world that for some makes ADHD a blessing most of the time.

ADHD is not new, although we are seeing an increase in the number of children diagnosed with it and an increase in the number of Ritalin prescriptions. It’s just been with in the last twenty years or so that more and more is being discovered about ADHD, it’s comorbid combinations and connections to learning disabilities.  If ADHD has been around for generations, why does it now seem to be an epidemic, wreaking havoc in our schools, places of employment and in our relationships?

Let’s consider for a minute the changes to our food supply over the last forty years.  The food our grandparents grew up eating was fresh, locally grown and free of unnecessary additives.  Today our food is shipped to the local big box corporate grocery from anywhere in the country. It’s laced with artificial colors, flavors and other chemical additives designed to make the food taste better. We eat more processed foods than necessary, and even our fresh foods lack some of the nutrients they once had.  Most researchers suggest that diet, especially a large consumption of sugar and artificial colorings, high fructose corn syrup and artificial flavors are detrimental to the ADHD brain.  Is it possible that the diet we feed our children is the cause of the increased issues in schools with ADHD?

When I was in Great Britain last year, I noticed not one child anywhere we went had issues with attention or behavior.  There were no outbursts or temper tantrums.  Unlike in the US, their food supply is local, and a bit less commercial. They don’t fill their foods with chemicals, or an abundance of sugar. Eating clean is a way of life for them.  Could the lack of chemicals in their diet be the reason they have fewer cases of diagnosed ADHD? In fact, French children diagnosis rate is only .5%.   That is not to say it doesn’t exist, but perhaps, it’s more controlled with the unique characteristics of an ADHD brain working in the person favor rather than against them.

If you or your children have been diagnosed with ADHD, the best treatment is to change your diet, first. Eliminating sugar, soda, artificial colors and processed junk will help minimize your symptoms, it won’t cure your ADHD brain, but it will help with the ability to focus and concentrate.  Eat a balanced diet with an emphasis on lean protein, fresh fruits and veggies and healthy fats.  One problem with the ADHD brain is it craves carbs, and not the good kind. It wants the sugar to satisfy the need for that “feel good” chemical dopamine.  Getting plenty of exercise will help satisfy that craving rather than giving into the desire for the empty calorie of high sugar foods.