I recently had the opportunity to work with a family whose son was diagnosed with ADHD and I started doing some more in depth research on nutritional intake. Just like with anyone, what you eat can have an impact on how you feel and how your body works. As the years have gone by there has gotten to be more research on the topic of nutritional intake and ADHD.
Sometimes children with ADHD are not always interested in eating enough food and sometimes medications they are put on cause a decrease in appetite. Making sure that children with ADHD are eating three meals a day with two snacks is important. So working to optimize the nutritional intake of the meals and snacks will help give you the biggest nutrition bang for your buck. Noting the timing of the medication and then when your child is the least hungry compared with being the most hungry. Trying to time nutrient dense meals/snacks around those optimal eating times can be helpful as well.
There are some key nutrients that have been shown to be low in children with ADHD. It is true that for all of us our food intake plays a big role on our behavior. Often children with ADHD had sub-optimal eating habits and parents tend to feed these children whatever foods they will accept and eat, because meal times are stressful. Learning more about what nutrients can be focused on and then working to offer these children well balanced meals and snacks can have a big impact on how that child feels, how they grow and how well their brain functions. The following is a list of nutrients that have been researched and shown to have some positive impact and correlations with improved ADHD symptoms.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder and the thought is if we provide a fat supplement this will help with brain neurotransmission and help treat any behavioural dysfunction disorders. Your brain uses fat as fuel and making sure that you are choosing anti-inflammatory unsaturated fats and consuming enough of those has been shown to have a positive impact on behavior outcomes.
Food sources that contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids include: flaxseed, walnuts, chia seeds, cold water fish (salmon, mackerel and trout). Limit consumption of fish in young children to 2-3 servings per week.
What about a supplement? There is a product that has been researched and has a blend of Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), Docosahexaenoic acids (DHA) and Gamma linolenic acid (GLA) and children in this study took this supplement over 12 months and didn’t need to increase their medicine dose and reduced their ADHD symptoms. Equazen is available in pill or gummy form through Amazon.
The idea behind making sure your child is consuming enough iron is to help make sure that your child isn’t anemic. If your child doesn’t consume a lot of red meat or protein sources it is easy for your child to be development anemia. In a study of 23 children, those taking an iron supplement showed progressive improvements in ADHD symptoms over the placebo group.
Food sources for high amounts of iron include: meat/protein (beef, pork, chicken, eggs and beans), dark leafy greens and fruits fruits (raisins and apricots). Pair these foods with a Vitamin C rich food to help optimize the absorption of the iron (orange juice, strawberries, tomatoes).
Zinc is an important factor in the metabolism of neurotransmitters, prostaglandins, and for maintaining brain structure and function. Dopamine is an important factor in the pathophysiology of hyperactivity disorder, and the hormone melatonin has an important role in the regulation of dopamine. Because zinc is necessary in the metabolism of melatonin, it can be assumed that zinc is a very important factor in the treatment of attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
When looking to supplement zinc those in studies taking 150mg/day experiences improvements in hyperactivity and impulsivity compared with the placebo group.
Foods that are zinc rich include: meat (beef, pork, chicken and lamb), wheat germ, yogurt and nuts (cashews and almonds).
Magnesium is a mineral required for hundreds of the body's biochemical reactions including protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control, bone development, DNA synthesis, and glutathione synthesis. Magnesium is essential for brain function. The bioavailability of magnesium affects the function and binding of neurotransmitters to their receptors, such as serotonin and dopamine.
Foods rich in magnesium include: dark leafy greens, nuts/seedy, bananas and avocados.