Has the Cause of ADHD Been Identified?

Parents of children with ADHD have a common objective. They strive to do whatever it takes assure their child will lead a satisfying and productive life. The exact cause of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is not known. In some cases, ADHD seems to run in families. Researchers are diligently working to identify a genetic link that may cause a person to be a likely victim of ADHD.

It has been speculated that the use of alcohol, drugs or cigarettes during pregnancy increases the risk of ADHD for the child. Although lead exposure is not as prevalent as it was in the past, it is also a suspected cause of the development of ADHD symptoms.

Can Diet Be a Factor?

Some parents believe sugar and food additives have a direct effect on their child’s behavior. Although scientific research has not revealed any solid evidence linking diet to ADHD, studies are being conducted to determine whether the side effects of these products lead to the development of ADHD symptoms. Some of these studies have indicated that the use of food additives and preservatives increase hyperactive behaviors in some children. Research is ongoing to determine whether reducing the use of food additives and artificial sweeteners can decrease hyperactivity and ADHD symptoms.


Are Additives and Artificial Food Coloring Exacerbating Symptoms?

A group of British researchers conducted the Southampton Study in 2007. The blind study involved a random sample of approximately 300 children. Some of the children involved in the study may have been diagnosed with ADHD, but the identity of those children was not revealed at the onset of the study. Children in the community were given either a placebo or an additive-laden drink. The additives consisted of bright food colorings and/or preservatives that are often found in food products that are marketed to, and enjoyed by kids.

At the conclusion of the study, educators, parents, and random observers were interviewed by the researchers to determine whether children in the study exhibited any ADHD symptoms. The results of the interviews were as expected. Reports given by observers confirmed a higher rate of hyperactive behavior in kids who were given the drink containing additives and food coloring. More research is needed to determine whether eliminating these culprit ingredients from the diets of kids with ADHD will help alleviate the symptoms of the disorder.


Dietary Methods for Improving ADHD Behaviors

PEDIATRICS (The Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics) published a thought provoking state-of-the-art review article in January of 2012. The article examines the role of dietary changes to aid in the control of ADHD symptoms. The children who were studied in the review had been treated with traditional pharmacotherapy methods with unsuccessful or unsatisfactory results.

The use of omega supplements, and the avoidance of the Western style diet, which contains excessive amounts of fat and refined sugars, proved to helpful in reducing the occurrence of ADHD behaviors in some of the children followed in the controlled study.


Dietary Triggers

Dietary modifications may be indicated if conventional methods for treating ADHD fail to control the symptoms and behaviors of the disorder. Think of the foods that contain artificial dyes and preservatives as offenders. Be cautious when offering your child with ADHD foods that may contain these offenders. Fruit flavored cereals, hard candies, sauces, sports drinks, fruit punch and drinks, cake mixes, and even vitamins and some toothpastes may contain additives and artificial food colorings. Artificial sweeteners and simple sugars may have an effect on ADHD behaviors. Limiting the use of sugar in your family’s diet is a sensible way to keep everyone in the family healthier. The addition of known allergens such as milk, wheat, peanuts, soy, eggs, shellfish and tree nuts should be carefully analyzed when designing a diet for children with ADHD. The elimination of some or all of these food items may help relieve the symptoms and troublesome behaviors.


What is a Healthy ADHD Diet?

Healthy eating is a good plan for the entire family. A balanced diet that includes protein, a variety of fruits and vegetables, complex carbohydrates, and plenty of fiber may help your child with ADHD with his symptoms while maintaining optimal overall good health. Proper diet and nutrition can make a significant difference in the lives of children diagnosed with ADHD.


How to Begin

Keep a variety of fruit on hand for snacks. Eliminate sodas and artificially sweetened drinks. Create your own flavored water by putting strawberries, lemon slices, orange slices and a few slices of cucumber in a chilled pitcher of water. Read labels and avoid serving foods containing preservatives and additives.

It is imperative to follow the advice of your pediatrician and nutritionist regarding dietary changes. Food elimination diets must be supervised to assure proper nutrition is maintained. Ongoing studies are the key to making life with ADHD easier to manage through diet. Try making subtle dietary changes in your child’s diet. You may discover food sensitivities that trigger his ADHD symptoms.


Keep Up With Ongoing Research

ADHD is a complex neurological disorder. Children with ADHD struggle with inattentiveness and hyperactive behaviors in the classroom. The symptoms of the disorder can result in frustration for both the student with ADHD and his teachers. In the attempt to identify possible causes or triggers of ADHD symptoms, we must keep an open mind and examine all possible contributors to the onset of symptoms. It is logical to investigate both environmental and dietary factors that may have an effect on ADHD behavior. The objective of any treatment is to reduce the symptoms of ADHD and help children with the disorder live healthy, well balanced lives. A healthy diet, free from suspected triggers for ADHD behaviors is one way to help achieve that objective for your child.