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How diet can create symptoms of ADHD

I spent the last few days researching the link between diet and ADD/ADHD and was surprised by how little American research showed a correlation- instead making blanket statements of “insufficient evidence”. There’s plenty of European Research linking them, so much so that in 2010 the European Union began labeling food products containing certain dyes and chemicals with a warning label that states the “food” may cause hyperactivity in children. I wonder why Americans aren’t given access to the same information to make an informed shopping decision. The answer to that question really is that chemicals and dyes make food cheap, and it’s all about the bottom line – the health of our nation, is not as important, nor is it important to give us the correct information to decide for ourselves. After all, the average American is much more likely to read a food label than to research food dyes and chemicals and the affect they have on the body. We tend to think that if something is being sold as “food” then it should be safe. But sadly, that’s not always the case as can be seen with GMO’s. 

When I was in college I was diagnosed as having ADHD. Why? Because I was failing math and I thought for sure there was something wrong with my concentration – so I went to the student health center and got tested. It was a process of coming back over and over for appointments, some of which I skipped or forgot about, which I’m sure made me look like that much more of a scatter brain, lots of tests, questions, sitting still for long periods of time. I was never once asked about my diet or my emotional health and it just so happens at the time I was diagnosed I was right in the thick of developing an eating disorder and my nutrition was horrendous.

I was given the diagnosis of ADHD, number dyslexia (which is the same thing as dyslexia but with numbers instead of letters), and handed a prescription for ritalin. I was given extra time, a private room and a calculator for all math related tests. It sure made my life easier as a college student that wasn’t too concerned with studying and it still helped when I transfered schools and picked up a love for learning but still had a very unhealthy diet.

Cleaning up my diet years ago made a drastic difference my concentration and I haven’t needed stimulants for years. I do sometimes see some ADHD tendencies in myself but nothing a swift kick in the butt couldn’t change. And now that I have a daughter the last thing I would ever do would be to give her medicine without getting her a full medical evaluation and taking a serious look at her diet and any deficiencies that she may have.

While researching my article I interviewed Dr. Randy Naidoo of Shine Pediatrics in Plano, Texas and he gave me some more great insight. We discussed processed food and how it  “will place a stress on the body either in the form of increased demands for digestion from the gastrointestinal system, imbalances in the endocrine system due to insulin increases that are unnecessary, or reactivity with the nervous system which research has proven to be the case whether our consumer agencies or legislators act on this research.  And while there are numerous factors that can affect behavior, large population studies looking at families that eat unprocessed foods and comparing the incidence of ADHD symptoms have not been done.  Even further, while the most recent research testifies to improvement in the symptoms of ADHD, it cautiously states that further research must be done before support can be given as core treatments for ADHD.  As an integrative and holistic pediatrician, we must give families this option, and if there is no improvement whatsoever or still some symptoms affecting performance, then look at pharmacological options as an added component to the treatment plan”.

So, what should you look for in terms of diet or vitamin/mineral deficiencies?

1. Go organic. A research study in the Journal of Pediatrics found that children that eat foods containing pesticides are more likely to have symptoms of ADHD. Pesticides kill insects by damaging their nervous system – it does the same to us, children are just more suseptible to neurological damage than adults, the younger they are the more damaging the result. Here is a an explanation of the study.

2. Be your childs advocate and help find the best course of action before giving your child a label. Here’s a great article on how to advocate for your child and look for other conditions that may be causing a problem.

3. Look at diet and mineral deficiencies and make the changes you need to make. Here’s another article from the Block Center on how to evaluate your child’s diet.

4. Remove food dyes from your childs diet. Here’s why and which ones are the worst. 

5. Read the book Crazy Makers. It is a must-read if you’re serious about learning about what’s in your food and how you can make your family healthier.


For more info on ADHD be sure to read my article on Fox News.

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