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Dietary Factors in ADHD

Diet or the food one eats or neglects to eat, can often influence a person's behaviors. The enactment of the ACA (or Affordable Healthcare Act) has created an affordable, convenient portal for people to seek out help for ADHD. That includes information on dietary limitations. The effect of diet (whether good or bad), food sensitivities and allergies can be more pronounced in a younger child than an adult. Eliminating or minimizing the use of:

  1. Sugar

  2. White Flour

  3. Simple carbohydrates (highly processed or refined foods)

  4. Dairy Products

can be helpful.  Why is this true?

  1. Sugar frequently comes in the form of empty calories.  The food may be tasty and filling for a short while, but it doesn’t take long for the body to burn it up.  The rebound affects afterwards can be irritability and distractibility as the child moves into a hypoglycemic state.  Eliminating soft drinks is a good start (this can minimize or eliminate calcium leaching and discourage cavity formation as well).  Substitute filtered water, which can taste much better than tap water (the best are the Brita System [low volume] or the Amway Water Treatment System [high volume]).  Do not switch to "Diet" drinks containing NutriSweet® (Aspartame) or Equal® as chronic high usage may lead to Multiple-Sclerosis like symptoms or Lupus (an autoimmune disease).  When Aspartame enters the blood stream, and warms up, it breaks down into several components which include methanol which cannot be made nonpoisonous.  Some people cannot secrete this methanol effectively (especially in volume), with the resultant poisoning effects.

  2. White flour, mixed with moisture, as any school age child will know, turns into glue.  Ingested, white flour turns into glue in the stomach.  (Compare this result vs. mixing water with whole wheat flour.  Glue is NOT formed.)  The intestinal glue can clog up food absorption for a short while, until it is broken down.  And then it breaks down into sugar which gives energy for a short time, but then disappears, giving the eater a hypoglycemic “let-down”.

  3. Simple carbohydrates, frequently the main component of highly processed foods such as donuts, “kids” cold cereals, PopTarts and common jams, again break down very quickly into sugar in the body.   Hypoglycemia happens too soon and restlessness and distractibility take over. 

  4. Allergic reactions and sensitivities to dairy products are very common especially among the African-American, Oriental and Hispanic populations.  These sensitivities can often lead to the distractible symptoms that people call A.D.D./A.D.H.D.  Totally remove dairy products from a child for 6-8 weeks and then slowly re-introduce products such as milk to see if you get an adverse or behavioral reaction.  A milk sensitivity has been implicated in a high number of childhood diabetes cases.  The body forms antibodies against the bovine albumin (milk protein) which has a very similar structure to the cells composing the Islets of Langerhans which produce insulin.  These antibodies then wipe out the insulin producing cells.  Calcium can be obtained elsewhere such as through green leafy vegetables, calcium enriched orange juice, TUMS® or many soy based drinks/milks.  In fact, studies have shown that the protein in milk causes a greater loss of calcium than is gained and can play a role in osteoporosis.

Recommended foods:

  • Especially for breakfast, we recommend a good whole grain food such as hot cereals (steel-cut Oats, corn-meal, brown rice, etc.), whole wheat bread with peanut butter and a low sugar jam, substantial low-sugar cold cereals such as a granola, brans, or Cheerios™, and orange juice (with the pulp).  Whole wheat pancakes and waffles with fruit are a tasty alternative.  If you’re trying to minimize milk usage, use a rice or soy-milk product such as Rice Dream™, It’s Soy Good™, or Better than Milk?™

  • For lunch, avoid the use of white or mostly white flour sandwich bread.  Use whole grain breads as a base.

  • For supper, potatoes, vegetables, salad, a meat or protein dish can be good.  Pastas are also a good source of complex carbohydrates.  Minimize desserts during your discovery phase.  Have dinner earlier in the evening so that the child’s stomach is empty by the time he/she goes to bed.  This will also make them hungrier for break-fast the next morning, so hopefully they will eat more and be less picky breakfast eaters.

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Last modified: January 08, 2020