So far we’ve hit two big bumps along our junk free journey: school/sports and ADHD. To be honest we hit the bump of school and sports and fell right out of the apple cart into the junk river. Yep, just when we were hitting our stride on our journey life started to speed up and the junk started to creep back in. Not a good thing when you’re writing a blog about eating real food!
As our kids started getting into school it seemed that every other day they were being given candy and treats. You might expect this for birthdays – but for “learning” opportunities too, as in “here are some skittles to help you learn math”. They were also surrounded by junk food during sports from the snack shack to the well meaning parents who brought cookies and Gatorade as after game snacks. If you have kids, you know the drill. They started dipping their toes into the river of junk and before we knew it they were completely swimming in it. As they started eating more junk, I stopped blogging as much because all of a sudden we weren’t living what I was learning!
An ADHD SOS
About this time two of our boys were diagnosed with ADHD and all of a sudden it snapped things back into focus. Time to throw the life preserver into the junk river and fish our kids out! I researched and tried it all: medicine, therapy, acupuncture, Bowen work, neurofeedback, essential oils, etc. Some treatments work better than others for my kids. But, the NUMBER ONE thing that consistently affects both their behavior and their focus? Their diet.
I’m now obsessed with discovering the perfect “recipe” to get my boys the nutrition they need when they need it. The challenge, as all parents know, is it can be difficult to encourage picky kids to eat well. When those kids have ADHD it can seem almost impossible. I’ve had many many food failures, uneaten lunches and hungry cranky boy meltdowns. BUT, I’ve also started having more and more successes! I’m excited to share some of my strategies and recipes that are working not only with my ADHD kids but with my other two as well.
ADHD and food
While ADHD isn’t an “allergy” to food it does make me think of Robyn O’Brien‘s quote “Are we allergic to food or what’s been done to it?” Here are some interesting facts about ADHD and our diet.
- children with high levels of pesticides (organophosphates) in their urine are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD according to a study published in Pediatrics .
- kids eating a western diet (high sugar, fried, processed and refined foods) are more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with ADHD according to a study published in sciencedaily.com
- the number of kids diagnosed with ADHD continues to rise.
The latest research, published in August 2018, shows an increase of over 40% between 1997 and 2016. One in ten kids is now diagnosed with ADHD.
Of course, there are many reasons why diagnoses are climbing. As healthcare providers become more aware they may identify it more. Also, inaccurate diagnoses can result from food related symptoms. However, I don’t think we can overlook that our diet has also changed over the years of the study. I believe a great start towards addressing adhd symptoms is addressing the food we’re putting into our kids bodies.
The struggle is real, let’s make the food real too.
ADHD diet changes to make today
The good thing about an ADHD diet is that the real food rules basically remain the same. The difference is adjusting the real foods so there is a focus on eating nutrients that can alleviate ADHD symptoms. Here are the main things I try to get into my kids every day:
Protein– Starting with breakfast! This helps to prevent blood sugar surges (which can result in hyperactivity) and is used to make neurotransmitters (messengers between nerve cells – neurons- in the brain). ADHD is thought to be caused by an imbalance of two main neurotransmitters: Norepinephrine (focuses attention) and dopamine (needed to synthesize norepinephrine).
Iron – This is needed to make dopamine. One study showed that 84% of kids with ADHD had low ferritin levels (used as a measure of iron levels). Iron rich foods include red meat, spinach, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, turkey, broccoli, and more.
Zinc – regulates dopamine and a study shows low levels are associated with hyperactivity and impulsivity. Foods high in zinc include meat, legumes, nuts, dairy, eggs, etc.
Magnesium– Used by every cell in your body (!) and studies have shown up to 95% of kids with ADHD are deficient. It helps to calm the mind and body. Low levels are associated with hyperactivity, inattention and aggression. Magnesium rich food includes: pumpkin seeds, spinach, black beans, cashews, quinoa and more.
Omegas 3 and 6– These increase the synthesis of dopamine and studies have shown they can reduce hyperactivity, inattention and increase cognitive function. Studies have shown that kids with ADHD tend to have lower levels of DHA and EPA (the best sources of Omega 3s). Although fish, nuts and seeds are all high in omegas I also give my kids a fish oil supplement every morning.
It may seem like a lot, but fortunately there are power house foods that include a lot of these categories. Follow along for some great tips and recipes to help incorporate these items into your kids’ diets. Subscribe to our journey so you never miss my tips or a recipe that actually gets approved by my kids!
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, dietitian or nutritionist. Everything I write about is my opinion and is based on both a review of facts and also the results I’ve seen with my own kids. Before giving your kids any supplements you should discuss it with your doctor.