Since the primary cause of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a disruption or imbalance in neurotransmitters in the brain, the goal with ADHD and diet is to restore balance to those neurotransmitters.
In my personal experience with my son, when he was a child, I found that diet was the primary root of his ADHD symptoms. He became a completely new person by following the diet on this page and this has been the experience of many other people as well. There are several goals with ADHD and diet which include:
- Remove substances that disrupt neurotransmitters in the brain
The first and most important step to restore brain balance is to eliminate all substances that disrupt neurotransmitters as well as neurons and receptors in the brain.
- Remove substances that lead to Candida overgrowth, a common underlying factor in ADHD.
- Eat a diet that balances blood sugar. When blood sugar drops out, so do neurotransmitters.
- Remove substances that overstimulate the stress response system, which results in too much norepinephrine and ultimately hyperactivity.
- Eat a diet that is rich in the nutrients needed for the synthesis and function of neurotransmitters.
Basic ADHD Diet Guidelines
With all that being said, here are the basic ADHD and diet guidelines that will address each of these issues:
- No white sugar, powdered sugar, brown sugar, high fructose corn syrup, organic sugar or anything with the word sugar. (In my experience, sugar was the primary root of my son’s ADHD. His symptoms could be turned off and on like a light bulb with the ingestion of sugar. You can see astounding improvement of symptoms with this step alone.)
- Restrict other sugars of all kind – organic cane juice, maple syrup, agave, brown rice syrup, honey, molasses, coconut sugar, etc.
- No white flour
- No sugar substitutes like splenda, aspartame, etc.
- No food additives and preservatives
- No artificial food colorings and flavorings
- No caffeine
- No chocolate
- No dairy (other than butter, ghee, and heavy cream) or minimize dairy
- Eat whole foods and avoid refined foods of all kinds
- Grains should be completely avoided, especially those with gluten
- Fruit intake should be limited. Stick to fruits that are low in sugar
- The diet should be rich in animal protein, moderate in fat consumption, and low in carb. Neurotransmitters are formed from amino acids, which are found in animal protein, and neurotransmission is dependent on fat.
- Eat organic – no pesticides and herbicides
The diet that is most effective for not only someone with ADHD but for anyone with depression, anxiety, autism, any mood disorder, addiction, compulsive overeating, OCD, Tourette’s, blood sugar problems, and pretty much everyone, is to try and stick to a low-carb Paleolithic diet as much as possible.
The Paleolithic diet encourages us to eat the foods that our bodies were genetically designed to eat and that includes nothing but whole foods like meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. Grains, beans or legumes and dairy are eliminated, because we don’t process these foods very effectively.
I encourage you to read the Paleolithic diet page to get an understanding of the science behind it, but keep in mind that those with ADHD must make additional modifications as directed on this page.
Individual Factors in ADHD and Diet
These factors are usually found in people with ADHD, however they vary from person to person in substance and degree of impact. Each one should be explored to determine if it’s a factor and if so, then address it as well.
Hidden food sensitivities or allergies are very common in our society and problems with brain function and behavior are two of the primary symptoms. The most common foods to result in a sensitivity or intolerance include dairy, cane sugar, wheat, corn, chocolate, potatoes, tomatoes, yeast, peanuts, soy and eggs, but any food can be a potential suspect. Even healthy foods like chicken, eggs and beef can cause symptoms of ADHD if there is a hidden sensitivity. I prefer to test with the ALCAT test.
Many people with ADHD have a problem processing salicylates, naturally occurring substances that are present in a variety of foods, which disrupts brain function and results in ADHD. Some foods contain high levels of salicylates, while others contain low levels. One person may not tolerate any salicylate, while another may do okay on the foods that have a lower level.
So you need to observe symptoms when these foods are eaten to identify which ones need to be removed and which ones can be allowed.
Some of the most common foods to be high in salicylates include almonds, apples, apricots, berries, cherries, tomatoes, oranges, raisins, tangerines and grapes, but this is only a small list. The foods that contain salicylates is too extensive to go into at this time, so you’ll need to do more specific research in this area.
Commitment to the ADHD Diet
Adopting the ADHD diet requires great change and commitment, which in turn requires arriving at an understanding that the standard American diet that most people eat is not healthy emotionally or physically. It, along with environmental toxins, is the primary root of most of the chronic health conditions, syndromes and disease we see in society today. You must make a commitment to permanent changes in lifestyle and diet to keep symptoms of ADHD at bay.
When my son was a child, he had a friend who had severe ADHD. One day the mother of his friend came to me and said that they saw a doctor that recommended they change her son’s diet and she asked me for guidance since she knew that we were already aware of ADHD and diet issues.
I was excited because my son could have a friend who ate as he did. However, it was only a few weeks later when I asked her how things were going with the diet and she responded by saying, “oh it was just too hard, so we’re not doing it anymore.” It was inconceivable to me how they could just disregard the valuable information they were given and walk away. Yes, making change is not easy, but the alternative is unacceptable. This is blatant irresponsible behavior. Frankly, this is failing your child in one of the worse ways possible.
The diet that causes ADHD, also cause type 2 diabetes, obesity, addiction, depression, anxiety, heart disease, alcoholism, high blood pressure, cancer, so you’re not doing your children or yourself any favors by eating it. Children with ADHD grow into adults who have difficulty maintaining gainful employment and meaningful long-lasting relationships, are chronic underachievers, become addicted to drugs and alcohol and often end up in prison or have a variety of run-ins with law enforcement. By eating the same diet I have recommended on this page for ADHD, I used it to overcome addiction, alcoholism, compulsive overeating, clinical depression, and anxiety attacks.
You are giving your children a gift by changing their diet, because it will ensure they will be more stable physically and emotionally throughout their life. It will help them make better choices when they become adults and live a longer and healthier life. Yes, change is difficult, but once you get through the process of adjustment, then you reap many benefits and you can’t imagine going back.
When the ADHD diet is combined with clean-up of environmental toxins, another major cause of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, with green living principles, the improvement in symptoms can be immediate, drastic, and profound, and it doesn’t require the use of any dangerous prescription drugs.
I encourage you to take a look at a book called Is This Your Child” and Our Toxic World by Dr. Doris Rapp to learn about ADHD and diet in more depth as well as chemicals and other major factors that contribute to attention deficit disorder or make an appointment with me for a phone consultation if you need more guidance.
On the other hand, although you want to be committed and disciplined, you also want to be flexible and forgiving. The diet on this page is an ideal and we don’t live in an ideal world. You may not always be able to adhere 100 percent, but if you adhere the majority of the time, you should see significant improvement in symptoms.