Find Ways to Manage Your Blood Sugar
Some studies suggest that increased levels of blood sugar may be linked to increased hyperactivity.
You or your child’s diet have obvious implications on blood sugar. Start by reducing or even eliminating dietary sugar, which can help not just with ADHD symptoms, but also your risks of diabetes, heart disease, and many other chronic illnesses.
Watch out for sneaky ways that sugar masquerades as something else on ingredient labels, such as “evaporated cane juice.” Consider cutting sugar entirely and seeing if that improves how you or your family feels.
It’s also important to eat fiber with every meal. Fiber helps moderate your blood sugar levels, and unfortunately, most people do not get enough fiber on a daily basis.
The average child gets less than 50 percent of the fiber they should be getting. The amount of fiber your child with ADHD needs varies by age and gender:
- Children 1-3 years: 19 grams of fiber per day
- Children 4-8 years: 25 grams/day
- Boys 9-13 years: 31 grams/day
- Girls 9-13 years: 26 grams/day
- Boys 14-19: 38 grams/day
- Girls 14-19: 26 grams/day
When it comes to adults with ADHD, you should be getting 38 grams/day if you're a man and 25 grams daily if you're a woman. Alas, the average person only eats 15 grams a day.
Not only will boosting your fiber intake positively impact your blood sugar, and thus potentially your ADHD symptoms, but it can also improve your digestion and overall health.
Enjoy Healthy Fats
In one study, eating omega-3 fatty acids reduced ADHD symptoms by a whopping 50 percent. The study took six months and followed a group of children and teenagers who took fish oil every day.
Other studies have linked omega-3 fatty acids with improved mental health, happier moods, more regulated emotions and enhanced general well-being and brain functioning.
Some of the best foods to increase your omega-3 intake include salmon, tuna, and other fatty fish. If you eat a plant-based diet, vegan-friendly sources include ground flaxseed, tofu, walnuts, chia seeds and flaxseed oil.
Don’t Forget Essential Minerals
Zinc, iron, and magnesium are critical when it comes to mood disorders and brain health. Each mineral plays a role in how your brain functions and more than a hundred studies have looked at how these minerals affect people with ADHD.
For example, researchers have found that zinc deficiency is linked to hyperactivity and that children with ADHD tend to have lower levels of both iron and magnesium. This is important because the minerals affect the production of various neurotransmitters that your brain needs to communicate properly.
For children, some of the best ways to increase their intake of these minerals are through fortified cereals. For yourself, you can find all three essential minerals in foods like nuts and seafood.
Foods and Ingredients to Avoid if You Have ADHD
Besides many of the food groups and ingredients listed above (i.e., processed foods, sugar and refined grains), there are also additional specific ingredients you may wish to skip if you’re worried about the link between ADHD and diet choices.
The first is food additives, such as preservatives and artificial dyes. Numerous studies suggest these ingredients can trigger stronger ADHD symptoms in you or your child. If you want to skip these synthetic ingredients, try:
- Going organic. If it bears the green-and-white certified organic sticker, it can't contain artificial dyes.
- Avoiding numbered names. Names like "Red 40" or "Blue 2" on an ingredients label means it's dyed.
- Looking for natural, food-based alternatives. For example, some manufacturers use natural ingredients like paprika or beets to naturally give color to food.
The next food group to skip if you don’t want your diet to trigger ADHD symptoms is any foods or ingredients to which you or your family are sensitive or allergic to. For some, food allergies or sensitivities can provoke symptoms that make your ADHD worse, such as hyperactivity or inability to focus.
Some of the most common food allergies include:
- Dairy (milk and eggs)
- Tree nuts
- Wheat and other gluten-rich grains
Is Diet the Answer to ADHD?
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food,” said Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine.
Because nutrition has such a profound effect on brain function, cognition and mood, researchers don’t doubt that there’s a link between what you eat and how you think. This includes the risk factors and symptoms of ADHD!
However, as with any neurological disorder, every single situation and circumstance is complex and different. Before you try to self-treat your ADHD with Hippocrates’ famous advice, talk to a medical professional, such as your doctor and a registered dietitian.
Your medical professional can look at your specific circumstances, help you analyze your diet, and give you personalized ADHD diet tips and food suggestion to help you feel healthier, think clearer and with more focus, and feel less enslaved to the confusion and fogginess that comes with ADHD.