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HomepageInformation CentreMental Health Issues in Children › Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder - ADHD

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder - ADHD

             ADHD in children

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, ADHD, is a condition that is becoming more and more common among children today.  One in twenty children in the UK is now thought to suffer from this condition and there has been a 500% increase in the number of prescriptions written for ADHD since 1991.
While it’s not fully understood what causes ADHD, it is thought that delayed development of the prefrontal cortex of the brain and accelerated development of the motor cortex area is one of the factors.  Alongside this, it is thought that kids with ADHD have lower levels of a neurotransmitter called dopamine which is the chemical responsible for attention, motivation and reward seeking behaviour.
More and more studies are implicating diet and lack of certain nutrients as playing a key role in improving symptoms of ADHD. For example, a study on over 800 children with this condition found that supplementing with essential fats (omega3&6) as well as zinc and magnesium over a twelve week period decreased symptoms of ADHD in addition to decreasing emotional problems and sleeping disorders.

Causes and Treatment of ADHD in Children

1. Sugar.

Increased intake of sugar correlates directly with an increase in aggressive and restless behaviour.  Children with ADHD are thought to be more prone to hypoglycaemia which means that they don’t handle sugar as well as their peers. Other studies show that they may eat more sugar than average.  Remove high sugar foods like fizzy drinks, juices, chocolate, sweets, and low fibre foods to reduce sugar intake.

2. Food Additives. 

More and more research is showing that additives like tartrazine and sodium benzoate exacerbate the symptoms of ADHD.   The best   way to avoid these is to eat a diet that is as unprocessed as possible.

3. Avoid Allergens. 

It’s thought that intolerance or allergies to food play a key role in ADHD symptoms.  One study has shown that hyperactive kids are seven times more likely than other kids to have food allergies.  Getting an allergy test done is the best way to determine if this is an issue for your child.

4. Lack of essential fats especially omega 3. 

Sixty percent of the dry matter in the human brain is made up of fats.  Essential fats like omega 3 allow the membranes of the brain cells to remain flexible, allowing nutrients and chemical messages into the cell and toxins to exit.  A high omega 3 diet has been shown to reduce aggression and improve concentration in kids.  Symptoms of omega 3 deficiency are dry skin, thirst, asthma and eczema.  Foods that are rich in omega 3 are oily fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring and fresh tuna.  Plant foods like walnuts, pumpkin seeds and flaxseed are also high in omega 3, although this form of omega 3 is not absorbed as well as the fish form of omega 3.

5. Gut health.

A poorly functioning digestive system is a common factor in cases of ADHD.  If your child has symptoms such as constipation, diarrhoea, bloating, gas or tummy aches, it’s likely that all is not right in the gut.  Removing sugar from the diet, taking a probiotic supplement and eating a diet that is rich in fruit, vegetables and fibre from grains and legumes will help with this.

6. Heavy Metal Toxicity.

Residues of heavy metals like lead or copper can be a factor in ADHD.  Tests like Hair Mineral Analysis or a urine test can help to confirm this.

7. Nutrient Deficiency.

Lack of many nutrients including B vitamins, copper, iron, iodine, magnesium and potassium can contribute to this.  However, zinc and magnesium are the most common.  Foods that are rich in zinc are red meat, pumpkin seeds, mushrooms, wheat-germ and sesame seeds.  Magnesium rich foods are nuts, seeds, green leafy vegetables and wholegrains like oats and brown rice.

8. One final point

Although not food related, a factor in kids with ADD who are not hyperactive is that they often have recurring ear infections or otitis media.  This is believed to be a factor, possibly because of the number of antibiotics that they have to take.  Improving the diet to boost the immune system and testing for food intolerances may help this aspect.


Must Do’s for Children with Eczema

1.   Identify any food allergies either by testing or using the elimination diet
2.  Remove sugar from the diet and follow a blood sugar balancing diet (see Blood Sugar article)
3.  Include omega 3 rich foods daily or an omega 3 supplement
4.  Remove any foods that contain additives and replace with an unprocessed,wholefood diet
5.  Add zinc rich foods daily.  Pumpkin seeds with dried fruit or chopped brazil nuts in oatmeal are good ways to ensure this.

Recipes for Children  with ADHD.

1.  Summer Berry Smoothie

2.  Spicy Fish Balls

3.  Salmon and Mango Salsa

4.  Broccoli Soup

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Michelle R., Waterford


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