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ADHD traits and nutrition – the facts


									  ADHD traits and nutrition – the facts
  Food for the Brain

                                             any gifted children show    What causes ADHD/Hyperactivity?
Food for the Brain                           traits of ADHD, and         Doctors aren’t sure exactly what goes
                                             whether or not your child   wrong in ADHD. But they think that the
charity has kindly                           has been diagnosed you      behaviour problems are linked to the way
                                             may be able to relate to    that the front part of the brain works.
allowed NAGC to             some of the following characteristics:       Studies suggest that this part of the
                                                                         brain works more slowly in children with
reproduce some of their                                                  ADHD than in other children. Children
                            Hyperactivity Check                          with ADHD may have an imbalance in
interesting literature on   Is your child…                               the neurotransmitters in the front part
                                                                         of the brain. Some doctors believe they
nutrition and ADHD          • overactive                                 don’t have enough of a neurotransmitter
                            • prone to leave projects unfinished         called dopamine, and may also lack the
traits in children          • fidgety                                    neurotransmitter noradrenaline. Without
                            • wearing out toys, furniture, etc           enough dopamine or noradrenaline, the
                            • unable to sit still at meals               front part of the brain can’t deal with and
                            • uninterested in staying with games         react to information in the way that it
                            • too talkative                              should.
                            • failing to follow directions                   Unfortunately, there are no tests that
                            • clumsy                                     show whether the front part of a child’s
                            • fighting with other children               brain is working normally, so doctors have
                            • unpredictable                              to rely on what children, parents and
                            • teasing                                    teachers say in order to diagnose ADHD.
                            • unable to respond to discipline            This means it can often be misdiagnosed
                            • ‘getting into things’                      in place of giftedness, or the giftedness
                            • displaying speech problems                 could be overlooked because of the ADHD
                                • having temper tantrums                 condition in the child.
                                   • unable to listen to a story         Conventional treatment options typically
                                     to the end                          involve behaviour therapy and/or
                                    • defiant                            medication. The best results that Food
                                    • hard to get to bed                 For The Brain have seen in helping those
                                    • irritable                          with ADHD/hyperactivity are achieved
                                     • reckless                          by investigating a number of possible
                                      • unpopular with peers             avenues. These include:
                                       • impatient                       • Blood sugar problems
                                       • lying                           • Essential fat deficiencies
                                      • accident-prone                   • Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
                                     • wetting the bed                   • Pyroluria and the need for vitamin B6
                                  • destructive                             and zinc
                                                                         • Food allergies

                                                                         Quite apart from these nutritional factors
                                                                         having good psychological support and
                                                                         a stable home environment are also
                                                                         essential for affected children.

                                                                                                                          F E AT U R E S

 A study of 265 hyperactive children found that
 more than three-quarters of them displayed
 abnormal glucose tolerance, – that is, their bodies
 were less able to handle sugar intake and maintain
 balanced blood sugar levels

Nutrition & ADHD/                                                                               INCREASE
                                                 requirement for essential fats is much
hyperactivity – what works                       higher than girls’, are also much more
                                                                                                AND MINERALS
                                                 likely to have ADHD.
BALANCE BLOOD SUGAR                                   Researchers have theorised that ADHD      Although it is unlikely, on
Dietary studies consistently reveal that         children may be deficient in essential         the basis of the studies to date,
hyperactive children eat more sugar than         fats not just because their dietary intake     that ADHD is purely a deficiency disease,
other children, and reducing sugar has           from foods such as seeds and nuts is           most children with this diagnosis are
been found to halve disciplinary actions         inadequate (though this is not uncommon),      deficient in certain key nutrients, and do
in young offenders. Other research has           but also because their need is higher, their   respond very well. Zinc and magnesium
confirmed that the problem is not sugar          absorption is poor, or they are unable to      are the most commonly deficient nutrients
itself but the forms it comes in, the            convert these fats well into EPA and DHA,      in people with ADHD. In fact, symptoms
absence of a well-balanced diet overall,         and from DHA into prostaglandins, which        of deficiency in these minerals are
and abnormal glucose metabolism. A               are important for brain function. So it’s of   very similar to the symptoms of ADHD.
study of 265 hyperactive children found          interest that the conversion of essential      Low levels of magnesium, for instance,
that more than three-quarters of them            fats can be inhibited by most of the foods     can cause excessive fidgeting, anxious
displayed abnormal glucose tolerance,            that cause symptoms in children with           restlessness, insomnia, coordination
– that is, their bodies were less able           ADHD such as wheat, dairy and foods            problems and learning difficulties (if
to handle sugar intake and maintain              containing salicylates.                        accompanied by a normal IQ).
balanced blood sugar levels.                          Research at Oxford University                 Polish researchers studying 116
     When a child is regularly snacking on       using the omega 3 and omega 6 fish             children with ADHD for their levels of
refined carbohydrates, sweets, chocolate,        oil supplement Eye Q has proven the            magnesium found that 95 per cent of
fizzy drinks, juices and little or no fibre to   value of these essential fats in a double-     them were deficient in it. Supplementing
slow the glucose absorption, the levels          blind trial involving 41 children aged 8       200mg of magnesium for six months
of glucose in their blood will seesaw            to 12 years who had ADHD symptoms              significantly reduced hyperactivity in
continually and trigger wild fluctuations in     and specific learning difficulties. Those      the children with ADHD, but behaviour
their levels of activity, concentration, focus   children receiving extra essential fats in     in the control group, who received no
and behaviour. These of course are also          supplements were both behaving and             magnesium, worsened.
the symptoms of ADHD.                            learning better within 12 weeks.

                                                                                                AVOID ALLERGY FOODS
                                                                                                Of all the avenues so far explored, the link
                                                                                                between hyperactivity and food sensitivity
                                                                                                is the most established and worthy of
                                                                                                pursuit in any child showing signs of
                                                                                                ADHD. Food allergies can be of two types:

                                                                                                Type 1 - The classical, severe and
                                                                                                immediate allergy most commonly
                                                                                                associated with peanuts and shellfish. This
                                                                                                allergy involves an antibody called IgE and
                                                                                                most people discover if they have this type
                                                                                                of allergy early in life since the reaction is
                                                                                                so immediate and severe.
Omega-3s have a clearly calming effect on                                                       Type 2 - Involves the IgG antibody which
many children with hyperactivity and ADHD                                                       works in quite a different way. Symptoms
who may also have visible symptoms of                                                           of these allergies can be many and varied
essential fat deficiency such as excessive                                                      and may take many hours to appear.
thirst, dry skin, eczema and asthma. It is                                                      These allergies often go undetected for
also interesting that boys, whose                                                               this reason

                                                                                                                     NAGC MAGAZINE 19

     A study by Dr Joseph Bellanti of          Action Plan –
Georgetown University in Washington            Practical Changes To Diet
DC found that hyperactive children are
seven times more likely to have food           Balance blood sugar levels
allergies than other children. According to    This means cutting out sugar and all
his research, 56 per cent of hyperactive       sources of sugar. Eat only unrefined
children aged 7 to 10 tested positive for      carbohydrates and ensure these are
food allergies, compared to less than 8        combined with protein and plenty of
per cent of ‘normal’ children. Children        fibre to further slow the sugar release.
with ADHD/hyperactivity may also have a        Avoid stimulants, even apparently
sensitivity to additives and preservatives.    ‘natural’ ones. If sugar consumption
A separate investigation by the Hyperactive    is high and it is withdrawn suddenly,
Children’s Support Group found that 89         withdrawal symptoms such as headaches
per cent of children with ADHD reacted to      and irritability may ensue. It is better to
food colourings, 72 per cent to flavourings,   make gradual reductions to avoid this,           Up your intake of essential omega 3 fats
                                               without losing sight of the eventual goal
60 per cent to MSG, 45 per cent to all                                                          This means eating fish at least twice
                                               of a no sugar diet.
synthetic additives, 50 per cent to cow’s                                                       a week, seeds on most days and
milk, 60 per cent to chocolate and 40 per                                                       supplementing omega 3 fish oils.
cent to oranges.                                                                                The best fish for EPA, the type of omega
     Other substances often found to                                                            3 fat that’s been most thoroughly
induce behavioural changes are wheat,                                                           researched are: mackerel (1,400mg per
corn, yeast, soya, peanuts and eggs.                                                            100g/3oz), herring/kipper (1,000mg),
Symptoms strongly linked to allergy                                                             sardines (1,000mg), fresh (not tinned)
include nasal problems and excessive                                                            tuna (900mg), anchovy (900mg),
mucus, ear infections, facial swelling and                                                      salmon(800mg), trout (500mg). Tuna,
discolouration around the eyes, tonsillitis,                                                    being high in mercury is best eaten not
digestive problems, bad breath, eczema,                                                         more than twice a month. The best seeds
asthma, headaches and bedwetting.                                                               are flax seeds and pumpkin seeds.
     A considerable number of hyperactive                                                       Flax seeds are so small they are
children may benefit from eliminating                                                           best ground and sprinkled on cereal.
foods that contain artificial colours,                                                          Alternatively, use flax seed oil, for example
flavours and preservatives; processed                                                           in salad dressings.
and manufactured foods; and ‘culprit’
foods identified by either an exclusion diet                                                    Up vitamins and minerals
or blood test. Some parents have also                                                           A diet rich in whole foods such as fresh
reported success with the Feingold diet,                                                        fruit and vegetables, seeds, nuts and
removing not only all artificial additives                                                      whole grains is naturally higher in vitamins
but also foods that naturally contain                                                           and minerals. Avoid processed foods that
                                                 LUNCH BOX IDEAS
compounds called salicylates- a salt found       Cherry tomatoes                                have had many nutrients removed.
in certain foods.                                Tins of salmon and sardines
     A sudden and complete removal of a          Smoked salmon or mackerel                      Avoid allergy foods
food from the diet may lead to an initial        Brown basmati rice                             Get your child tested for IgG food allergies
worsening of symptoms and cravings               Vegetables cut into strips such as carrots     and avoid these foods. Alternatively, avoid
                                                 and cucumber
for that food. This does not happen with                                                        or remove the likely culprit foods such as
                                                 Wholemeal pitta pocket or corn
gradual elimination. Any major changes           tortilla wraps                                 wheat and dairy from the diet. In any case,
in diet should be supervised by a suitably                                                      avoid additives and preservatives.
qualified nutritional therapist or doctor.

                                                Further Help
About the author
                                                                                                Optimum Nutrition for your Child’s Mind –
Food for the Brain                              If you would like help overcoming ADHD/
                                                                                                P Holford and D Colson
                                                hyperactivity with a nutritional approach,
Food for the Brain is a non-profit              there are a number of clinics and nutritional
                                                                                                The Bipolar Child
educational charity, created by                 therapists who can help you, for example:
                                                                                                Dr D Papolos and J Papolos
a group of nutritionists, doctors,
psychiatrists, psychologists,         
                                                                                                Smart Food Smart Kids Shopping Guide
teachers and scientists to                      Centre which offers assessment and advice
                                                                                                downloadable leaflet on
promote the link between nutrition and          on biochemical imbalances
mental health. The charity promotes
awareness of the link between learning,
behaviour, mental health and nutrition,         Charity raising awareness between nutrition
                                                and health, with lots of useful information     Further support for teachers
and aims to create a future where the
awareness of the importance of optimum          and advice online
nutrition for mental health is understood by
                                                Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: A     Behaviour UK is the site for teachers dealing
all, and implemented by many.
                                                Natural Way to Treat ADHD - B K Puri            with pupil behaviour


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