Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity-Disorder (ADHD) involve a set of behavioral characteristics that impair a child’s ability to function in his or her environment. Though biologically based, these characteristics are influenced by psychological and social factors. None of the characteristics taken alone would constitute an abnormality but taken in combination, or because of their intensity or persuasiveness, or the nature of the child’s environment, they can create serious problems. The child may be unable to function in the home, classroom, or any social situation. This then begins a downward spiral of additional and compounding problems including poor self-esteem, anger, anxiety, depression, and other destructive behaviors.
Although controversial in medical circles, there is evidence that certain types of foods stimulate and sustain the behaviors associated with ADHD. In 1974, Benjamin Feingold identified sugar, food additives, colorants, and naturally occurring salycilates as foods producing hyperactivity states. There is probably a susceptibility factor involved such that some individuals are profoundly affected by certain foods while other children are not affected adversely.
The goals of nutritional therapy are the removal of foods which stimulate hyperactive behavior, imitate the nervous system and create allergic reactions in the child. There is substantial literature showing the relationship of diet to behavior.
One advantage of eating whole, fresh, unadulterated foods that are in season is their link with the rhythms of nature. Consider the comparison of instant oatmeal and whole. The rhythm cycle is slowed down, centered, un-rushed. Eventually, eating of whole foods has an emotional and energetic effect on the individual. The digestion is slower, the energy release more metered.
- Utilize fresh unprocessed, whole foods. Locally available foods that are in season are most preferable.
- Decrease the intake of processed, adulterated or “fast foods”. Avoid foods with additives, and food dyes or colorants, especially avoid yellow dyes (tartrazine).
- Remove allergens-most frequently seen are dairy, gluten, or wheat.
- Limit refined carbohydrates and sugars.
- Increase of lean proteins particularly those rich in Omega 3 fatty acids and DHA such as salmon, trout, tuna. Protein contains the amino acids which are the precursors to many neuro-transmittors.
This can be a significant underlying problem in children with ADD and ADHD. It is easily identified in children who exhibit irritable or agitated behavior on waking or before meals which is much improved by eating. The physiology of this phenomenon is interesting.