Due to concern about the side effects and the long-term use of medications typically prescribed to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), there is an increasing demand for alternative forms of treatment for patients with the condition, with dietary medications and supplementation showing promise.
Research has shown that deficiencies in zinc, iron, calcium, magnesium, selenium, glutathione, and/or omega-3 fatty acids can contribute to oxidative stress and altered neural plasticity needed for brain development and healing. For children with ADHD, this can manifest as poor concentration and memory and learning challenges.
Hypersensitivity to foods and/or additives can increase inflammation in the blood, which presents in children as atopy (hereditary allergy like asthma, hay fever, or hives), irritability, sleep issues, and prominent hyperactive-impulsive symptoms. Studies have demonstrated that taking a probiotic can help manage inflammation, which may benefit children with ADHD as well.
The link between ADHD and food additives including (but not limited to) preservatives, artificial flavorings, and colorings has been debated for decades. A 2007 Lancet publication reported that sodium benzoate and commonly used food colorings may exacerbate hyperactive behavior in children under the age of nine. A 2010 follow-up study concluded that children affected by these types of additives may share common genetic factors.
Essential fatty acids (EFAs) and phospholipids are both essential for normal neuronal structure and function, of which diet is the only source of these important nutrients, especially during critical periods of development (childhood). Dietary deficiency early in life has been reported to increase the risk of developing ADHD signs and symptoms.
Past studies have established the importance of maintaining a healthy balance between the omega-3 vs. omega-6 fatty acids in one’s diet to reduce systemic inflammation. When the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 becomes too high (3:1 is favorable), it’s considered a risk factor for ADHD.
Diets low in protein and high in carbohydrates (refined carbs/sugar) are also a well-known risk factor for developing ADHD because the amino acids that make up proteins are essential for our body to manufacture neurotransmitters.
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