Attention-Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is often described as a neurological disorder where the child has developmentally inappropriate symptoms of impulsive behaviour, hyperactivity, and finds it difficult to concentrate. In most children, the behavioural problems start before the age of 5 and the disorder persists into adolescence and adulthood.
Poor diets and eating habits have been shown to worsen the symptoms of ADHD. Medication and behavioural therapy are the most effective approaches for treatment. Still, there is a huge connection between the kinds and quality of food, and the severity of behaviour and symptoms. Nutrition affects ADHD by influencing the working of the brain cells, neurotransmitters (the body’s chemical messengers), and the myelin sheath which covers and insulates the axons of the brain cells.
What to feed a child with ADHD
- Vitamins B Complex
Kids with ADHD may need more Vitamins B complex to help them in optimal brain and neuronal functioning, especially Vitamin B6. Eating foods rich in Vitamin B6 enhances the neurotransmitter dopamine which helps in decreasing anxiety-like symptoms and increasing alertness in ADHD children. Feed your child with lots of green leafy vegetables, nut and oil seeds and fruits which are excellent sources of Vitamin B complex.
- Vitamin D3
Studies have shown that children with ADHD who are vitamin D deficient exhibit more emotional and behavioural changes. Vitamin D is important in neurological health. Eating foods rich in vitamin D such as fish, egg York and liver, and soaking up in the morning sun will boost your child’s vitamin D levels, reducing anxiety.
- Fish oil
60% of the human brain composition and nervous system is made of fat. Eating high quality fats will enhance a high-quality brain! Brain function needs two essential fats found in fish oil: EPA and DHA which stand for eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid. These are omega 3 fatty acids that form important structures in the brain cell membrane. They allow the transport of nutrients in and out of the cell for optimal brain functioning. Fish oil can be found in fatty fish such as salmon and tuna or can come in form of supplements prescribed by your medical doctor.
- Breakfast is a must!
Always give your child a nutrient dense breakfast to give them energy, stabilise their hormone fluctuation and regulate their blood sugar. A healthy breakfast must include unrefined carbohydrates, protein and vitamins.
Children with ADHD usually have high levels of oxidative stress in their brains. This causes a lot of damage to their brain cells and may increase anxiety and nervousness. Glutathione is an important antioxidant for reducing oxidative stress and improving the function of the brain in children with ADHD. Foods rich in glutathione include cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale and fruits like strawberries.
- Gut health
We all think that we are what we eat, but in reality, we are what we absorb. When a child with ADHD has a weak gut, this prevents absorption of a lot of essential vitamins, essential amino acids and fatty acids. This can cause several deficiencies which leads to poor brain functioning. Use strategies such as encouraging small bites and slow chewing of food to maximise digestion. Also, giving probiotics and prebiotics found in fermented products increases the good bacteria in the child’s gut for optimal health.