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ADHD may be affected by diet

Researchers from the University of Copenhagen recently released results of their comprehensive overview of the research covering ADHD and diet. What did they find?

“There is a lot to suggest that by changing their diet, it is possible to improve the condition for some ADHD children,” says the head of the study, professor in paediatric nutrition Kim Fleischer Michaelsen from the Department of Human Nutrition at the Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Copenhagen. “Our conclusion is that more research is required in the area.”

I know from watching my own son react to things in his food that food sensitivities can cause very real mood and social eruptions. Just yesterday, in fact, my son burst into tears and stormed away from the dinner table. When I questioned what he had eaten that day, he confessed there had been a birthday in his third grade classroom and the mother had distributed cupcakes with blue frosting. He felt safe eating his cupcake because it was blue and not red or yellow, the common food dyes (FD&C) that cause him to become violent, anti-social, brooding and dark, and physically aggressive around 7 hours after he ingests them. When this happens, it’s like he is uncomfortable inside his own skin and has a hard time sitting still, focusing, or respecting others. I suspect there must have been some red mixed in with the blue color in the frosting (perhaps it was more toward purple?), which would time perfectly from his 11 am cupcake to our 6 pm dinner meltdown.

It took a long time for us to connect the dots between what he was eating and how he was acting so many hours later, and there were many difficult, hair-tearing-out years before we were able to pinpoint the elements in his diet that were causing the behavior problems.

I would assert that much of the ADHD we see these days could be helped significantly by implementing customized dietary changes. As the Danish researchers noted, “Several of the studies show, for example, that fatty acids from fatty fish moderate the symptoms. Other studies detect no effect. Elimination diets are also promising. These look at whether there is anything in the diet which the children cannot consume without adverse side effects.”

The hard part is the guesswork in figuring out the best treatment plan for your ADHD sufferer. You could follow general dietary guidelines in a one-size-fits-all approach, or use random guesses to determine what foods to eliminate, but if you want a scientific guide based on laboratory analysis, you might consider food sensitivity testing.

I’ll confess that life at my house is much happier for all family members now that my son is not suffering most of the time. Of course, he, too, is significantly happier because he feels better!

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