Add a Little Oomph to Symptom Management
As you work with your doctor, you can give a little boost to traditional approaches to symptom management by avoiding certain foods. Scientists may not have a cure yet, but they have found some interesting connections between ADHD behaviors and certain foods. Eating a healthy, balanced diet is important and by avoiding certain foods, you may notice a decrease in ADHD symptoms.
Some researchers have found that there may be a link between food dyes and hyperactivity. They continue to study this connection, but in the meantime, check ingredient lists for artificial coloring. The FDA requires these chemicals to be listed on food packages:
- FD&C Blue No. 1 and No. 2
- FD&C Yellow No. 5 (tartrazine) and No. 6
- FD&C Green No. 3
- Orange B
- Citrus Red No. 2
- FD&C Red No. 3 and No. 40 (allura)
Other dyes may or may not be listed, but be cautious with anything colored that you put in your mouth. Think:
- fruit and sports drinks
- hard candy
- fruit-flavored cereals
- barbecue sauce
- canned fruit
- fruit snacks
- gelatin powders
- cake mixes
Dyes and Preservatives
When an influential study combined synthetic food dyes with the preservative sodium benzoate, it found increased hyperactivity. You might find sodium benzoate in carbonated drinks, salad dressings, and condiments. Other chemical preservatives to look for are:
- butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA)
- butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT)
- sodium nitrate
- tert-Butylhydroquinone (TBHQ)
You can experiment by avoiding these additives one at a time and seeing if behaviors improve.
Dyes and preservatives may be worth taking a look at, but it should be noted that the FDA reports that studies have not yet proven a connection between synthetic additives and hyperactivity in 2011.
Simple Sugars and Artificial Sweeteners
The jury’s still out on sugar’s effect on hyperactivity. Even so, limiting sugar in your family’s diet makes sense. Look out for any kind of sugar or syrup on food labels to eat fewer simple sugars.
Like salicylates, allergens can be found in healthy foods. But they might affect brain functions, triggering hyperactivity or inattentiveness, if your body is sensitive to them. You might find it helpful to stop eating — one at a time — the top eight food allergens:
- tree nuts
Tracking food-behavior connections makes your elimination experiment more effective. A doctor or dietitian can help you with this process.
Get in the Game Early
ADHD can pose serious obstacles to a satisfying life. Proper medical diagnosis and management is critical. Only 40 percent of children with ADHD leave the disorder behind as they mature. Adults with ADHD have higher odds of also having depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. The sooner you control your symptoms, the better your quality of life. So work with your doctor and behavioral coach, and cut chemicals, curb your sweet tooth, and take special precautions with food allergies.