Lots of talk about how dietary changes can help a child with ADHD. Before we look at that, let us look briefly at why normal medications are only a partial answer and what the problems with these are. We are thinking here specifically of Ritalin and Adderall which are enormously popular. But is their popularity really deserved?
Ritalin is a Schedule II drug
These are Schedule II drugs. That is a fact. Schedule II drugs are those with a high risk of abuse and they can also lead to a certain dependency which is not only psychological but also physical. There are other side effects as well such as stunted growth and sleep problems. In addition, research shows that after only three years, the effects of these drugs seem to wear off and dosages have to be increased. But generally, these drugs are safe although they do not really solve the problem. They cannot help with learning life skills and social interaction or with major behavioural issues.
What has DHA and Omega 3 got to do with ADHD?
Let me tell you about a very interesting experiment carried out at AdelaideUniversity in Australia.
It was, admittedly, a small study in that there were only 130 children involved. They had ADHD and were aged between 7 and 12. They were given a daily dose of Omega 3 fish capsules of 500 mg. The results were noticeable in that after only three months the following improvements in behavior and academic performance were being noted :-
- Less hyperactivity and fidgeting
- Better performance at school especially regarding memory
- Improved attention spans and levels of concentration
Similar results were seen in experiments which are reported in the UK Daily Mail newspaper about an analogous experiment in Durham. These children were given the Omega 3 and they were able to improve their reading ability among other notable improvements. About a third of the parents noted that their children were less restless, more confident and more mature for their age than before the treatment.
What is this DHA?
DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is one of the Omega 3 fatty acids. There are now several studies which indicate that all the Omega 3 acids may help with various ailments and disorders. One of these is ADHD. As the developing brain needs more fats (it is 60% fat), it makes sense to supplement children’s diet with them although the confirmed results of tests are not yet conclusive.
However, there is plenty of evidence to show (as I have done above) that they are useful in helping to manage ADHD symptoms.
What are the foods which contain Omega 3?
So, we need to ramp up on all the Omega 3 foods when possible. The list usually consists of:-
- Fish (sardines, salmon, anchovies, trout, herring and mackerel)
- Nuts (walnuts)
- Flaxseed oil (not for cooking)
- Canola oil (recommended for cooking)
It is important to ramp up on Vitamins C and E too as these protect the Omega 3s from being destroyed by the free radicals.
This is a good start
It does not end there as an ADHD diet is ideally poor in artificial preservatives and other chemicals so the less processed the food the better.
We also need to reduce dairy and gluten foods because many ADHD kids are actually allergic to these. We can try eliminating these on a systematic basis if we suspect that they are the culprits.
Making changes like these are going to be essential not only for managing ADHD symptoms but also for the child’s health as a whole. The advantages are just too numerous to mention here.
Author: Robert Locke MBE is an award winning author and has written extensively on ADHD, child health problems and mental disorders.