Make sure to conduct micronutrient deficiency testing, as previous periods of malnourishment or malnutrition have been associated with symptoms of ADHD. Many micronutrients (more on them later) directly impact symptoms and mechanisms involved with ADHD, such as zinc, iron, magnesium, and B vitamins. Screening for food allergies and sensitivities is also a very important step, as they will give you a baseline for what food your child shouldn’t be eating.
For children with ADHD, diets that seek to mitigate or minimize oxidative stress are key, as oxidative stress is significantly associated with ADHD. Increased consumption of Omega-3’s may inhibit oxidative stress and neuroinflammation, leading to improvements in hyperactivity, attention, short-term memory, and impulsivity. Some good sources of Omega-3s are flaxseeds, chia seeds, seafood (salmon, shrimp, herring, trout), walnuts, and edamame.
There is a growing body of evidence that ADHD symptom severity and low levels of zinc are linked. Zinc controls the synthesis of many neurotransmitters in the brain, including dopamine and serotonin, and zinc deficiency has been associated with anxiety and hyperactivity in children with ADHD. Many foods offer zinc, such as:
- Seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, etc.)
- Legumes (chickpeas, lentils, beans, peanuts),
- Nuts (cashews and almonds)
- Eggs and whole grains
- Potatoes (all kinds)
B vitamins are crucial for inflammatory response and strong immune function. B vitamin deficiencies can compromise brain development, nerve conductivity, and regulation of neurotransmitters, which can lead to severe symptom expression in those with ADHD. Some of the healthiest sources of B vitamins are:
- Whole grains (rice, oatmeal, bread)
- Vegetables (broccoli, spinach, asparagus)
- Fruits (citrus, avocados, bananas)
Fiber is crucial for children with ADHD due to studies indicating that high-sugar diets increase inattention in some kids. Fiber helps to keep blood sugar levels stable, giving children consistent energy and lowering inflammation body-wide. Some healthy sources of fiber are whole grains, nuts, legumes, and seeds.
ADHD is strongly associated with lower levels of folate, and hyperactivity in children is associated with lower maternal folate markers. Some good sources are leafy greens, legumes, fruits and whole grains.
If there’s one thing to take from the connection between ADHD and diet, it is that a healthy diet can have drastic effects on the severity and expression of your child’s ADHD symptoms, and is good for your child’s health in an innumerable amount of ways.