Due to the large number of readers who have written to me regarding the issue of Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), I have decided to dedicate an entire column to this important disorder.
ADHD is usually diagnosed during childhood and is often characterized by over activity, inattention and poorly modulated behavior. Often a "misunderstood" disorder, these symptoms can affect a child's performance at school and an adult's success at work. Unless it can be controlled, ADHD affects not only the sufferer but his family and loved ones, too. Treatment today usually consists of one or more prescription drugs and sometimes behavior therapies. Recent scientific research has shown a link between diet and ADHD, which may lead to a possible treatment through dietary change among other natural treatments.
Q. Natalie, my husband and I would like some nutritional advice since two of our children suffer from ADHD. Are there foods we should avoid giving in their diets to help control their symptoms?
A. There was a report published known as the Annals of Allergy (May, 1994) proving that the symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder were significantly decreased in 19 out of 26 children with ADHD who were given diets without any food additives. Both food colorings, flavorings and preservatives such as BHT were taken out.
Removing these food additives from your children's diet may be difficult (and time consuming) to do because additives are present in so many packaged foods, but even if you begin to reduce the amount then you should begin to see an improvement.
Dr. Feingold believes that salicylates in the diet may worsen ADHD symptoms and that you should try to follow a low-salicylate or salicylate-free diet in order to decrease the symptoms. These plant chemicals are naturally found in some fruits and vegetables. Tomatoes, berries and apricots have high levels of salicylates.
Gluten is considered to be an allergen which may lead to difficulty concentrating. Gluten is used in many types of foods, such as different baked goods, cereals, crackers, pasta and soy sauce.
The November 2006 issue of the "Journal of Attention Disorders" examined 132 children and adults with celiac disease and ADHD-like symptoms, and all improved dramatically after six months on a gluten-free diet.
I have had several parents report to me that eating more protein, especially at breakfast and lunch, helps their children with ADHD to focus better. To support this scientifically, the August/September 2005 issue of "ADDitude" magazine reports that dietary protein may help trigger the release of brain chemical dopamine, that helps you feel more alert.
Q. Dear Natalie, Can you suggest any vitamin supplements for an adult suffering from ADHD?
A. There are indeed certain vitamin supplements which provide some benefit for symptom management. Once you have consulted your doctor before using any of the following supplements, I recommend that you take a daily fish-oil supplement containing both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
In the 2005 edition of "The Nutrition Practitioner" we learn that the decline of these nutrients correlates with the significant increase in the diagnosis of disorders such as ADHD.
Additionally, zinc is necessary for the body to regulate brain chemicals that affect behavior. Make sure not to take zinc in high dosages, since it can be toxic. I recommend taking 35 mg of zinc daily.
In 2002, The University of Maryland produced a study that found supplemental L-carnitine to be effective in decreasing symptoms of ADHD in boys. By taking an amino acid supplement that contains L-carnitine, it will help your body to manufacture and process the energy.
Finally, try taking 200 mg of magnesium every day. Research shows that a magnesium deficiency can cause impaired attention and cognitive problems. A study published in the "Journal of the American College of Nutrition" (2004) shows that hyperactive people who received a combination of supplemental magnesium and vitamin B6 all had significantly lower levels of hyperactive behavior.
Although not a vitamin supplement, Chamomile is widely known for its calming effects. Chamomile tea can be beneficial for people with ADHD since the calming effect on the brain allows for better control of attention.
Q. Natalie, I understand that amongst other things you are also a Yoga Instructor. Can you suggest any methods of yoga exercise that my husband can do in order to help treat his ADHD?
A. Almost any form of calming exercise is good for someone suffering from ADHD. The reason for this is due to the boost of brain chemicals that results from exercise which both increases alertness and focus even after stopping activity. Exercise often provides a disciplined environment where a person is required to pay attention to their body movements and what is going on around them. This helps to exercise and tone the attention center in the brain, the brain stem's arousal center. As a result, this makes a person less likely to become startled and react inappropriately.
Yoga exercises are a wonderful way for aligning the body, spirit and mind. Among the many benefits, increased focus and meditation offer particular relief for ADHD sufferers. Yoga practice can increase concentration and help promote mental and physical discipline. I recommend at least one yoga session per week for five months. Your husband should be encouraged to try different poses, however the forward bend, a pose that demands longer, deeper breaths, can be particularly helpful.
This column is
brought to you as general information only and unless stated otherwise
is not medical advice nor is it based on medical experiments.
column is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific
medical conditions. For more information about specific problems,
please contact a doctor.
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Someone Once Said:
‘The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don't want, drink what you don't like and do what you'd rather not.’
- Mark Twain