How do you put together an ADHD diet for yourself or your child? The first step is to be sure to talk with the doctor who is responsible for treating your ADHD. Why? Here are three good reasons:
Your doctor is the person best qualified to judge whether the changes you wish to make might be effective for you. Your doctor may request special tests that can help determine how the brain functions, so that together you can decide which diet changes might help the most.
Your doctor can help you monitor the changes to your diet to make sure they really help.
Some nutritional supplements are available only through a doctor's prescription. Dosages of all supplements should be carefully determined and monitored.
Once your doctor is on board, then you're ready to take your next step. Whether you are changing your food, adding supplements, or eliminating foods from your diet, here are some tips to help make your changes successful:
A girl with ADHD may be labeled Chatty Cathy -- the enthusiastic school-aged girl who is always telling stories to friends. Or she could be the daydreamer -- the smart, shy teenager with the disorganized locker.
But what happens when she grows up? Or when her ADHD isn't diagnosed until she's a woman? Is her experience different from what men with ADHD go through?
ADHD has not been widely researched in women. Much more is known about how it affects children. But there seem to be some patterns that...
Make changes slowly -- usually one at a time. That way you can test whether the change helped or not.
Make sure that you stick to the diet long enough to see changes. This may take a month or more. Don’t give up too soon, but also, don't stick to a plan that is not working.
Keep a diary of your changes and the effects, much like you would for taking ADHD medication. Include what you changed, when you did it, and the effects -- both positive and negative -- you noticed.
Show the diary to your doctor at each visit.
There is no one diet, food, or supplement that is proven to cure or treat ADHD. However, a healthy diet is a good idea for your whole body, including your brain.
Making an ADHD Diet Even More Effective
Don't forget about other steps to help with ADHD. These include the following:
Regularly take any medication that has been prescribed for ADHD.
Get enough sleep: at least seven to eight hours each night.
Get regular exercise: at least 20 to 30 minutes most days of the week.
Learn deep-breathing techniques to help with anxiety and anger.
Relaxation training and meditation can help increase focus and concentration, as well as reduce distractibility.
Most of all, the more you know about your own ADHD and your overall health, the better you can assess which treatments -- including dietary changes --might help. Over time, you can determine whether specific foods, additives, or supplements make your ADHD symptoms better or worse.
WebMD ADHD Guide: "Topic Overview."
Daniel G. Amen, MD: "A Summary of Ways to Optimize Brain Function and Break Bad Brain Habits: Supplements to Enhance the Brain" a National Resources Center on ADHD: "Complementary and Alternative Treatments."
WebMD ADHD Medications and Treatments Blog, Richard Sogn, MD: "ADHD Natural Supplements and Nutrition" and "Food Coloring and Additives."
WebMD Live Events, Daniel Amen, MD: "ADHD: Diagnosing a Disorder."
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. Archives of Disease in Childhood, June 2004.