Nutrition is essential to every child, not just those diagnosed with ADHD. As parents, we want to provide nutritionally healthy, balanced meals for our children. This is the best way to ensure overall health and wellness.
It is a popular opinion that sugar, food additives, or poor diet can cause ADHD. There has been limited research into these areas and all with inconclusive findings.
Some are certain that sugar or food additives increase symptoms of ADHD. Others are not so sure. Personally, I would question an ADHD diagnosis if a specific diet or omitting a particular food "cured" the ADHD. That is solely my opinion. There is such a cross over in symptoms from ADHD to even allergies or sensitivities to certain foods that I think it is hard to tell.
The idea that sugar or food additives cause ADHD is one that many medical doctors and researchers do not support. They do, however, support a balanced healthy diet to help control symptoms as well as maintain health.
When my daughter was diagnosed, one of the first things the ADHD specialist talked about was proper diet.
The specialist did not tell me to eliminate any foods or follow a specific diet. They simply said it was important for my daughter to eat regularly, and if medication affected her appetite, then let her make it up when she was hungry. For example, if she didn't eat lunch, not to worry if she ate more dinner. She said to balance every meal and snack with protein and carbohydrate.
I found it was helpful to keep snacks on hand if we were going to be out for a long time, and I made sure she ate breakfast, even though she resisted. I sent balanced lunches to school and mainly cooked healthy dinners as well. We all know that dinner was sometimes take- out or pizza, and I feel that's okay too.
This is one such area that can become a heated topic of conversation among parents. Maybe there is no right or wrong answer. There is what does or does not work for, or apply, to your child. Each child is unique, and there is no one universal way to treat ADHD.
As an adult with ADHD, I find that I feel better when I eat a healthy diet. Do I notice an increase or decrease in symptoms depending on what I eat? Not really. It stands to reason that I would feel fuzzy-headed and sluggish if I consumed a steady diet of junk food. Our brains and bodies function when we give them the proper fuel to do their jobs.
There is a reason that questions about a family's home life and possible stressors will be asked during the diagnosis of a child. Anxiety can produce symptoms similar to ADHD. While anxiety and ADHD can very often travel together, that doesn't mean that every child coming from a stressful environment is going to have ADHD.
While a chaotic household or certain parenting style can aggravate symptoms of ADHD, it is probably not the cause of the disorder.
Primarily symptomatic, however, are children from households that refuse to accept an ADHD diagnosis, or refuse to alter parenting styles to one more suited to their child's needs. This not only hurts the child but produces issues that are carried into adulthood.
Once ideas are implanted into a child's brain, it is tough to erase them as an adult. This is one reason why education about ADHD is so very important, not only to parents but to all teachers and caregivers.
Give children a chance to learn and grow in a supportive environment, and they can succeed.
This is only worth mentioning because it is such a hit with the general public. ADHD is not a result of bad parenting, lack of discipline, or soft parenting styles.
Children with ADHD do not "just" need more discipline, a good spanking, or whatever other extreme measures we see listed among the uninformed. They need understanding, compassion, and opportunities, just like any other child.
Too Much Television or Video Game Time
This is another area where limiting a child's screen time is healthy for them, but it is probably not the cause of ADHD.
Many children who do not play video games and watch very little television are diagnosed with ADHD. There is a link between general attention problems and watching too much TV, but that link is universal, among children with or without ADHD.
Today children and adults alike are immersed in technology. Immersion with technology may lead to decreased attention, as well as hyperactivity and impulsivity. Technology can cause us to seek that instant gratification that comes from everything being only a click away. It can also detach us from the world around us.
Limiting technology and taking breaks from it is a good idea for children and adults alike. We all do well to remember balance in things.
It is still possible that ADHD is misdiagnosed. There is much overlap in symptoms between ADHD and other disorders. It is still very important to take your time with diagnosis, do your research and search for other possible answers.
Is the Cause as Important as the Treatment?
There is still much to be discovered about what causes ADHD. Maybe learning the exact cause of a disorder can aid in treatment down the road, or even in preventing it altogether.
For me, however, living with ADHD in the here and now, it is of little importance what caused me to have the disorder. I think how I handle my symptoms and subsequently manage the disorder is far more important.
I choose to focus on my strengths and how those strengths can help me overcome my weaknesses. I choose to help my daughter know that having ADHD can be a benefit. To find ways to use creativity and the innate intelligence to problem solve are beneficial skills.
We may never know what exactly causes ADHD, or we may find that there is no one cause, but that there can be several. Whatever causes the genes to vary from what is normal and put those many slight differences that together makeup ADHD could remain a mystery, or science could solve that puzzle in time.
Opinions will probably always vary, and one study will always contradict another. Perhaps knowledge can help to decrease the number of people diagnosed, or maybe it can assist in developing better treatment plans and better ways to manage symptoms.