Your Diet Can Impact ADHD Symptoms

Posted on October 16, 2023 by Published by

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimates 3-5% of the population has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). ADHD is an ongoing pattern of attention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with function or development. Symptoms include inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity.

Since there is no cure for ADHD, typical treatments and therapies include medication, psychotherapy, education or training, or a combination of treatments. But there has been an increasing interest in how diet and supplements can play a part in treatment by reducing symptoms.

“Diets high in sugar may increase inattention and make ADHD symptoms worse,” says Amy Perdomo, nurse practitioner specializing in psychiatry at the Aurora Behavioral Health Center in Green Bay, Wis.

Certain foods can keep a person’s energy and blood sugar level stable and improve concentration:

  • Protein-rich foods – Protein prevents spikes in blood glucose levels, which can surge increases in hyperactivity. Food rich in protein includes meat, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts.
  • Complex carbohydrates – These help prevent blood sugar spikes, make you feel fuller longer and encourage better sleep. Foods that contain complex carbohydrates include fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain bread, pasta and brown rice.
  • Vitamins and minerals – Studies link ADHD with low levels of certain micronutrients. Though it is unclear if these can improve symptoms, they are still essential in your diet; iron, zinc, magnesium, vitamin B-6 and vitamin D.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids – These may improve attention, focus, motivation and working memory in children with ADHD. Some sources of omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, tuna, walnuts, chia seeds and flax seeds.

It is important to eat balanced meals!

  • Schedule regular meal and snack times, especially since routine is important for children with ADHD.
  • Do not skip meals as this could lead to blood sugar crashes and excessive junk food consumption.
  • Keep plenty of healthy foods on hand for a quick snack.
  • Speak to a doctor about taking a multivitamin and multimineral supplement, which may be especially helpful for picky eaters and people with nutrient deficiencies.

In general, the best diet for people with ADHD is the diet that doctors recommend for most other people — one that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthful fats and lean proteins. It should include limited amounts of saturated fats and junk foods.

For those with ADHD, diet is so important says Perdomo, “Two-thirds of children will have clinically significant symptoms into young adulthood, therefore education on diet from childhood through adulthood is very important.”

Article contributed by Amy Werdin

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