I am often asked by parents, “Can the Anti-Inflammatory Program be helpful for children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder?” Here is the answer I know my parents wish they heard decades ago…
I know how frustrating it can be to have a child with ADHD. I myself suffered from severe food allergies and was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 7 so this is topic is very near and dear to my heart. It is one of the primary reasons I became a Nutritionist.
The link between diet and ADHD is too strong to deny. Extensive work by doctors such as Ben Feingold MD has demonstrated that food additives, preservatives, food colouring, artificial sweeteners and BGH strongly affect the brain of a person with ADHD. My mother placed me on the Feingold diet when I was 7 and within days I could sleep through the night for the first time in my life. My sister, who shared a room with me, was thrilled with this side effect. I went from D's to A's in school and I became a calmer, happier person. It was hard growing up with dietary limits but there are so many products now available for specialized diets that children do not need to feel they have to be deprived of treats.
For more information about the Feingold Diet check out this website.
I do not agree with everything Dr. Feingold claims but I do feel his program is an excellent starting point for those looking for answers to ADD/ADHD. One area I do not agree with is his opinion about sugar consumption. Sugar blunts the brain's ability to respond to norepinephrine, thus impairing brain coordination and mental function. (1)
It is also my strongest allergen. When I eat cane sugar, even in tiny amounts, I can feel it almost immediately and within a short time my family can see the changes in my behaviour. As a child I would become hyper but as an adult I become very stressed and irritable. For years people have observed a link between dairy and gluten intolerance and hyperactivity (2), but keep in mind your child may be dealing with several allergies or intolerances (3) so they could be reacting to almost anything. (4)
For that reason I would suggest having intolerance blood testing. This can be done through Hemocode to determine which foods a person has built antibodies to. This is the same technology that they use to determine if a transplant recipient will accept or reject a donated organ or tissue. If you repeatedly consume foods that your body cannot break down, it will create antibodies to wage a war against the offending substance. The result is inflammation that leads to a host of symptoms. This testing will not determine what a person is allergic to, only intolerances. It can give you a very clear starting point and once you remove the intolerances it is easier to determine other possible allergies.
An allergy is a hypersensitivity disorder of the immune system that creates a rapid response to a substance that the body has come in contact with through ingestion, inhalation or topical exposure. Reactions occur within a short period of time and can include, but are not limited to, itchiness, hives, sneezing, runny nose, throat restriction, difficulty breathing, stomach pains, headaches, hyperactivity, moodiness or irritability. Some of these symptoms can also indicate an intolerance but usually take a bit longer to manifest (up to 72 hours.)
Note: It is also possible to be allergic and intolerant to the same substance.
Sticking to a diet primarily of fresh fruits and vegetables, raw nuts and seeds, small amounts of organic olive/coconut/flax/hemp oil, beans, legumes (if your child can digest them well) and whole non-glutinous grains such as rice, quinoa and amaranth is very important. Organically raised lean meat, poultry and fish (from the safe list from Sea Choice) are good choices for those who cannot digest grains and/or bean and legumes. My book Meals that Heal Inflammation gives a comprehensive meal plan that can help many medical conditions.
In regards to supplements I believe they work best when they are working with the food you are eating instead of battling against them. People with ADHD have a deficiency in essential fatty acids (5) but there are other nutrients such as zinc (6), magnesium (7), B-complex (8), vitamin D (9), Iron (10), GABA (11), probiotics (12) (13) that are also very important. A qualified practitioner would be able to recommend specific doses after doing a thorough history on a client.
Speak to a Holistic Medical Doctor or Naturopathic Doctor about giving these various supplementations to your child.
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1. Yaffe K., Blackwell T., Kanaya A.M., et al. (2004). "Diabetes, impaired fasting glucose and development of cognitive impairment in older women." Neurology. 63:658–663.
2. Tryphonas, H. and Trites, R. (1979) "Food allergy in children with hyperactivity, learning disabilities and/or minimal brain dysfunction." Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. 42(1): 22-7.
3. Boris, M. and Mandel, F.S. (1994). "Foods and additives are common causes of the attention deficit hyperactive disorder in children." Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. 72(5): 462-8.
4. Stevens, L.J., Kuczek, T., Burgess, J.R. et al. (2011). "Dietary sensitivities and ADHD symptoms: Thirty-five years of research." Clinical Pediatrics. 50(4): 279-93.
5. ADHD and Omega 3 Fatty Acids: Belanger, S.A., Vanasse, M., Spahis, S. et al. (2009). "Omega-3 fatty acid treatment of children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study." Journal of Peadiatrics and Child Health. 14(2): 89-98.
6. ADHD and Zinc Supplmentation: Dodig, Curkovic, K., Dovhanj, J., Curkovic, M. et al. (2009). "The role of zinc in the treatment of hyperactivity disorder in children." Acta Med Croatica. 63(4): 307-13.
7. ADHD and Magnesium Supplementation: Searight, H.R., Robertson, K., Smith, T. et al. (2012). "Complementary and alternative therapies for pediatric attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: A descriptive review." ISRN Psychiatry.
8. ADHD and vitamin B Supplementation: Moisain-Bosc, M., Roche, M., Rapin, J. et al. (2004). "Magnesium Vit B6 intake reduce central nervous system hyperexcitability in children." Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 23(5): 545S-548S.
9. ADHD and Vitamin D Supplementation: Bener, A. and Kamal, M. (2013). "Predict attention deficit hyperactivity disorder? Evidence-based medicine." Global Journal of Health Sciences. 6(2): 47-57.
10. ADHD and Mineral Supplementation such as Iron: Mahmoud, M.M., El-Mazary, A.A., Maher, R.M. et al. (2011) "Zinc, ferritin, magnesium, and copper in a group of Egyptian children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder." Italian Journal of Pediatrics. 30:60.
11. ADHD and GABA Supplementation: Edden, R.A., Crocetti, D., Zhu, H. et al. (2012). "Reduced GABA concentration in attention-defficit/hyperactivity disorder." Archives of General Psychiatry. 69(7): 750-3.
12. ADHD and Probiotic Supplementation: Montiel-Castro, A.J., Gonalez-Carvantes, R.M., Bravo-Ruiesco, G. et al. (2013). "The microbiota-gut-brain axis: Neurobehavioral correlates, health and sociality." Frontiers of Integrative Neuroscience. 7(70).
13. ADHD and Probiotic Supplementation: Heijtz R.D., Wang S., Anuar F. et al. (2011). "Normal gut microbiota modulates brain development and behavior. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science." 108:3047–3052.