ADHD and Nutrition
    ADHD and Nutrition

    Does your child find it difficult to sit still, stop talking, or focus for long – does he literally sometimes seem to be bouncing off the walls?

    Does his teacher suggest that he may have a learning disorder, and is he willful, temperamental, and often (let’s face it) really difficult to manage? Children who are extremely over-active may be diagnosed as having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) – but how do you know whether this isn’t just normal childhood behaviour, or even due to a physical problem or a food allergy? And if he does have ADHD, are drugs the answer, or are there other ways in which you can help?

    My deep concern with a diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is that you make sure your child is in fact suffering from this condition and is not merely being a child, enjoying an active lifestyle as children should. I think sometimes that medicine – for all its wonderful breakthroughs – can fail us by categorising normal, healthy behaviour or conditions into disease states requiring medication. A bouncy child, a pregnant woman, a woman going through menopause, are often just experiencing normal stages of life that may be classified as diseases needing pharmaceutical treatment.


    ‘All children exhibit ADHD-like behavior. Observe children right before recess, or riding on a bus heading to an exciting field trip, or anticipating a birthday party. Nothing short of strapping them down can keep them still. Healthy children have verve – a zest for life that is exhibited in curiosity, excitement, enthusiasm, animation, vigor, and imagination.’ ~ Dr. Ty C Colbert, PhD, clinical psychologist, author of Rape of the Soul

    ‘If there is no valid test for ADHD, no data proving ADHD is a brain dysfunction, no long term studies of the drugs’ effects, and if the drugs do not improve academic performance or social skills and the drugs can cause compulsive and mood disorders and can lead to illicit drug use, why in the world are millions of children, teenagers and adults… being labeled with ADHD and prescribed these drugs?’ ~ Dr Mary Ann Block, author of No More ADHD

    However, for the sake of this article, let’s say there is such a thing as ADHD. Are drugs the answer? They may not be the only answer (if they are any answer at all). There is another option, and that’s what we will explore here.

    ADHD and Nutrition

    • No valid, independent, consistent test for ADHD is available.
    • There are no data indicating that it is a brain dysfunction.
    • Drugs don’t normalise all behaviours.
    • Children on drugs still have higher level of behavioural problems.
    • Children on drugs show little improvement in academic and social skills.
    • High doses of drugs cause hypertension and damage the nervous and cardiovascular systems.


    Children with ADHD often have a number of the following symptoms:

    • Dark circles under the eyes
    • Bright red ears
    • Bad breath
    • Seizures
    • Funny/strange behaviour, mood swings
    • Allergies/eczema/food intolerances
    • Stuffy nose/respiratory infections
    • Ear infections/colic as a small child
    • Headaches, abdominal pain, muscle aches
    • Diarrhoea or constipation
    • Often a history of exposure to many courses of antibiotics
    • Difficult to get the child up in the morning
    • Excessively ticklish – more so than other children
    • Hypersensitivity to sound and light
    • Irritable, unhappy, hard to please
    • Poor concentration, short attention span, easily distracted
    • Compulsiveness
    • Extremely fussy about food, taste, texture
    • Cravings for sugar, soft drinks, junk food
    • Overweight/underweight
    • Bedwetting.
    • Associated conditions may include hypoglycaemia, yeast infections, digestive problems, sleeping problems, and intolerances to wheat, dairy and sugar, chocolates and some antibiotics. Amazingly, all the above are due most often to food sensitivities or allergies and nutrient deficiencies.



    ADHD-like behaviour can often be rectified with nutrient supplements, minerals such as magnesium, zinc, calcium and selenium, vitamin B6, oils and a really good diet. A major cause is toxins, the worst of which is sugar. Other causes can include:

    • Nutrient deficiencies
    • Severe lack of antioxidants
    • Food additives, food dyes and preservatives
    • Vaccinations are blamed for some cases.
    • Very importantly, too much sugar plus an essential fatty acid deficiency appears to be the most common cause of this type of behaviour – a simple thing to remedy, if this is the case.
    • Heavy-metal poisoning, i.e. borehole water contamination, mercury (in dental fillings), lead
    • Sometimes a low-grade viral infection can lead to this sort of problem.

    Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are just that – essential – and particularly so in these children. EFAs are found in fish, seeds, vegetables and whole grains. More often than not, children are not consuming these in their natural form, and they’ve been heated or adulterated, so the child is extremely deficient. This often goes unnoticed, but a child with this particular problem has a very marked need for this set of nutrients. Especially important are the anti- inflammatory omega-3 fish oils EPA and DHA.

    Fish oil shown to be beneficial

    A pilot study on ADHD in the Nutrition Journal  suggests that children with ADHD can benefit from daily supplementation with high levels of purified fish oils. The 8-week study demonstrated that children who consumed between 8 and 16 grams per day of EPA and DHA (the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil) demonstrated significant improvements in their behaviour. This was true for children taking an optimal dosage of drugs to manage their ADHD, as well as for those who stopped taking drugs during the study.

    Inflammatory high-omega-6 fats like margarine – a very dangerous chemical substance – can sabotage the uptake of EFAs. The bad fats and oils prevent the good ones from attaching to their receptor sites, and so can actually scramble the brain’s chemistry. Chips, fried foods, margarine and cooking oil, and processed, refined and fast foods therefore all predispose to even more of a deficiency. Good fats like fish oil give back to the body, and nourish. Dangerous fats can cause behavioural problems.


    Let’s assume your child is in fact found to be suffering from ADHD (and I suggest you get several opinions first), and needs help.

    It takes courage to change your lifestyle, but a few tweaks to the diet and a couple of supplements should make a marked difference. The obvious place to start is removing sugar – in every form. Even fruit should be limited, with just a few pieces of fresh fruit offered to the child a day. Certain fruits that contain salicylates, like apples, can be a problem for some children – experiment with your child’s diet to find out what works best. Pawpaw and pears are good choices. Very important: no fructose. World bodies now consider fructose (i.e. high-fructose corn syrup – not fruit sugar) to be a major cause of ADHD. Because the body is unable to metabolise the sugar, the concentration of sugar in the blood rises.

    ADHD is a sugar problem – affected children have marked blood sugar swings – and hypoglycaemia has now been recognised as a major factor contributing to the behavioural problems.

    Any number of foods today have two very offensive substances in them: fructose and aspartame (a brain toxin with dangers of its own). Children with ADHD are extremely sensitive to these brain-scrambling substances, so read labels!

    Remove all margarine and refined cooking oil from your child’s diet, and use butter and olive oil instead. Cut out all white bread and refined food, go easy on dairy products, and feed a wholesome, whole-food diet consisting mainly of high-quality animal protein, vegetables, whole grains and some fresh fruit.

    In many experts’ opinion children should not be vegetarian, as they have a very high requirement for protein. Protein helps growth and development, so depriving children of adequate animal protein leads to blood sugar problems (protein stabilises blood sugar and calms the mind), growth and learning problems, and nutrient deficiencies. Animal protein (clean, healthy animal protein, not polony!) should be consumed with every meal. The child should also have snacks between meals (not sugary ones).

    ADHD and Nutrition

    The elephant in the room

    This would have to be the drugs used to ‘treat’ ADHD! I won’t go into details, but I urge you to Google the name of the drug and put the word ‘dangers’ after it – and take a look at what these drugs do. But please note that it’s dangerous to simply stop drugs without consulting your doctor first.

    Other measures

    Too much TV and mental stimulation (cell phones, computer games, etc.) can be an enormous problem for the child with ADHD, over-stimulating an already stimulated brain. Get your child out into the sunshine with stimulation from nature, and encourage natural exercise like riding a bike, jumping on a trampoline or swimming.


    Things you can do to check whether your child in fact has a physical problem include:

    • Food intolerance testing
    • Sensory motor, auditory and visual testing
    • Comprehensive digestive stool analysis (providing information about digestion, absorption, bacterial balance, yeast overgrowth, parasites, inflammation, metabolic activity and immune function). Normalisation of the gastro-intestinal tract is essential for health and wellbeing.
    • Thyroid function
    • Liver and kidney function, blood glucose and insulin fasting levels, lipid profile. Liver and kidney problems may interfere with the ability to detoxify heavy metals. Blood glucose abnormalities may affect behaviour, and the lipid profile may indicate a need for dietary changes.
    • A full blood count and check for anaemia
    • Testing for magnesium deficiency: symptoms include excessive fidgeting, anxious restlessness, psychomotor instability and learning difficulties.

    Could it just be a food allergy?

    Try this elimination plan for two weeks and see if there’s an improvement:

    • No dairy products, especially cow’s milk. Use almond or rice milk instead (never soy milk).
    • No yellow foods, especially corn or squash. These can cause problems in some children.
    • No junk food – only home-cooked, fresh whole food.
    • No fruit juice of any kind – there’s too much sugar even in ‘no sugar added’ ones. Drink water instead.
    • No sugar – use stevia or xylitol instead. NEVER use artificial sweeteners, which are the worst possible thing for a child’s (or anyone else’s) brain.
    • Reduce chocolate to one square a week (80% dark only).
    • No fried food.
    • No MSG. It can cause depression, panic attacks, hyperactivity and hypoglycaemia. It is part of a group of dangerous, toxic chemicals called excitotoxins. These wear out the nerves, which deteriorate from excessive stimulation. Your brain cells literally excite themselves to death.
    • No processed, ‘fake’ meat, only real meat.
    • Avoid food colourings – only natural food!

    After two weeks, start adding back ONE food at a time, and eat a LOT of that food for four days. Journal your child’s reaction. If there’s no reaction (from red splotches on the body to temper tantrums), it’s fine to leave that food in the diet. Go on to the next food – don’t do more than one food at a time. Just keep in mind, however, that all the foods you re-introduce should be healthy, nourishing ones. Fresh, whole foods, organic where possible, are always best. Permanently ban junk foods and those containing artificial sweeteners, MSG and aspartame, processed meats, sweets, etc. These have no place in anyone’s body, healthy or otherwise.

    ADHD and Nutrition


    • Feed high-protein (animal protein) meals, especially breakfast, and wave goodbye to cereals and milk. Carbs and sugar are going to lead to poor concentration even in a normal person. Instead, for breakfast serve 60 to 70% protein and 25 to 30% carbs (not refined), and some healthy fat (e.g. macadamia oil, coconut oil). Always mix carbs with protein to avoid a sugar rush, which may lead to bad behaviour and poor focus.
    • Drink plenty of water – hydration is key.
    • Give the mineral supplements mentioned above.
    • Fish oil is especially important, and borage oil is also good.
    • Eat plenty of vegetables, and only two fruits a day.
    • Avoid heavy metal exposure, and don’t cook in non-stick cookware.

    Here’s hoping you have a favourable result with the very precious member of your family who is struggling in this area.

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