Medically Reviewed by Dr. K on 17 May 2022
Table of Contents:
- Can You Treat ADHD Without Drugs?
- What Is an ADHD diet?
- Eat Nutritious Food
- Foods to Avoid With ADHD
- Nutritional Supplements for ADHD
- Elimination Diets for ADHD
Can You Treat ADHD Without Drugs?
Is it possible that what you eat will help you with attention, concentration, or hyperactivity? There is no conclusive proof that a poor diet or dietary deficiencies cause ADHD. However, evidence indicates that certain foods may play at least some role in causing symptoms in a small group of people.
But, if you have the disease, are there any foods you shouldn't eat? Should you change your child's diet if they have it?
Here are answers to frequently asked questions about elimination diets, supplements, and foods that may help with the disorder's symptoms.
What Is an ADHD diet?
It may include the foods you consume as well as any dietary supplements you use. In an ideal world, the eating habits will improve brain function and reduce symptoms like restlessness and loss of concentration. You may have heard about the following options that you should concentrate on:
- Overall nutrition: It's assumed that some foods will improve your symptoms, others may worsen your symptoms. You may also be missing out on foods that might help alleviate symptoms.
- Supplementation diet: You could replace your diet with vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients if you follow this plan. It's hoped that by doing so, you'll be able to compensate for the fact that you're not getting enough of these nutrients through your diet. Supporters of these diets believe that not getting enough of some nutrients will exacerbate your symptoms.
- Elimination diets: These include avoiding foods or ingredients that you believe might be causing or exacerbating such habits or symptoms.
Eat Nutritious Food
There hasn't been a lot of research done on ADHD diets. There is a scarcity of data, and the results are mixed. However, several health professionals believe that what you eat and drink will help alleviate symptoms.
According to experts, whatever is beneficial to the brain is likely to be beneficial to ADHD. You may want to try:
- A high-protein diet. Protein-rich foods include beans, cheese, eggs, beef, and nuts. Consume these foods in the morning and as an after-school snack. It can help with focus and possibly extend the effectiveness of ADHD medications.
- More complex carbohydrates. Increase the intake of vegetables and some fruits, such as bananas, tangerines, pears, grapefruit, apples, and kiwi. Consume this sort of food in the evening to aid in sleep.
- More omega-3 fatty acids. These are found in tuna, salmon, and other white cold-water fish. Other foods that contain these include walnuts, Brazil nuts, and olive and canola oils. Additionally, you may take an omega-3 fatty acid supplement. The FDA approved Vayarin, an omega-3 fatty acid, as part of an ADHD treatment plan.
Foods to Avoid With ADHD
Simple carbohydrates. Reduce how much you consume these:
- Sweets and candy
- Corn syrup
- Products made from white flour
- White rice
- Sweet drinks
Nutritional Supplements for ADHD
Some experts advise that people with ADHD should take a daily 100% vitamin and mineral supplement. Others, however, believe that people who consume a healthy, balanced diet do not require vitamin or micronutrient supplements. There is no empirical evidence that vitamin or mineral supplements benefit all children with the condition.
When children, teenagers, and adults do not eat a healthy diet, multivitamins can be beneficial, but megadoses of vitamins may be harmful. They should be avoided.
The signs and symptoms of ADHD differ from person to person. If you're thinking of taking a supplement, talk to your doctor first.
Elimination Diets for ADHD
To pursue one of these, you choose a specific food or ingredient that you believe is exacerbating your symptoms. You don't eat something like that in it after that. If the symptoms improve or disappear, you can continue to avoid that food.
Is it possible to boost your symptoms by eliminating foods from your diet? All of these areas are still being researched, and the findings aren't yet clear. However, most scientists do not recommend this method for treating ADHD. Nonetheless, here are some common sources of concern and expert advice:
Food additives: Artificial colours, additives, and preservatives were first linked to hyperactivity in certain children by an allergist in 1975. This topic has been hotly discussed by researchers and child behaviour experts since then.
Some argue that eliminating any of those foods from one's diet is baseless and unsupported by evidence. That being said, one study found that some food colouring and one preservative caused hyperactivity in some children. However, the results differed by age and additive.
The American Academy of Paediatrics now believes that removing preservatives and food colourings from the diet is a safe choice for children with ADHD, based on this and other recent research. Some experts advise people with ADHD to avoid the following substances:
- Artificial colours, especially red and yellow.
- Aspartame, MSG (monosodium glutamate), and nitrites are examples of food additives. The preservative sodium benzoate has been linked to hyperactivity in some studies.
Sugar: After consuming sweets or other sugary treats, some children become hyperactive. However, there is no proof that this is the cause of ADHD. Sugary foods can only be a small part of anyone's diet for the best overall nutrition. However, you should cut them to see if the symptoms change.
Caffeine: Studies have shown that small quantities of it can benefit children with certain ADHD symptoms. Caffeine's side effects, on the other hand, can outweigh any possible benefit. Most experts advise people to consume less caffeine or stop it altogether. Caffeine may exacerbate any side effects if you're taking ADHD medicine.
Referenced on 27/4/2021
- WebMD ADHD Guide: “Topic Overview."
- WebMD ADHD Medications and Treatments Blog, Richard Sogn, MD: “ADHD Natural Supplements and Nutrition" and “Food Coloring and Additives."
- Feingold Association of the United States: “Many learning and behavior problems begin in your grocery cart!"
- McCann, D. Lancet, Nov. 3, 2007.
- Schonwald, A. AAP Grand Rounds, February 2008.
- USDA MyPyramid.gov: “What are discretionary calories?"
- Bateman, B. Arch Dis Child, June 2004.