I’m often asked by moms how to begin to improve their families’ diets. Just the other day, the question came up again. This time it was from a mom with a six-and-a-half year old daughter with ADHD.
Having a child with ADD/ADHD, who is a picky eater, initially takes more work. You may have a child self-limiting the kinds of whole foods eaten, but the child with ADD/ADHD most likely prefers the very foods causing their problem. Because each child is unique, the chemicals and additives triggering symptoms can vary.
For kids who can’t tolerate food colorings, the tinest smidgen could produce ADD/ADHD symptoms for several days. A small drop of something they cannot tolerate may prompt symptoms of hyperactivity, sleeplessness (sometimes nightmares), and irritability.
Joshy shows us that his tongue is colored red, after eating a piece of birthday cake.
A parent needs to be vigilant, especially in the beginning. You’ll find, as I did, “accidental double-blind studies” will pop up. You’ll become a master sleuth, ferreting out unwanted food additives.
Cleaning out the pantry is vital. With over 3,000 additives in our food supply it can seem like a gargantuan task. You’ll be glad to know that it’s not impossible, but it will take some determination on your part. I wouldn’t even want to try to put a child on a different diet than the rest of the family. When you’re talking about whole foods, why not improve the entire family’s diet? Take time to read the labels of the foods you usually purchase. See where you can change to a more healthy brand. Reading labels is vital. You might be surprised at what you find.
When my daughter, Jenny, was a child, she could not tolerate most of the additives in our food supply. Nitrates would always trigger ADHD symptoms. They’re in all packaged lunch-meats, and most pork products like ham, bacon and sausage. She’s grown and married now, but, today, nitrates still give her headaches. Red and yellow food colorings were the worst additives for Jenny and would immediately trigger symptoms of hyperactivity. MSG is another additive that can cause problems. It often produces headaches (MSG actually kills brain cells), not just in people with ADD/ADHD, either. MSG can be hard to identify on products, as it hides in a multitude of names. (CLICK HERE for more MSG info.) MSG can be found in almost ALL fast food.
Sugar, especially High Fructose Corn Syrup, is in just about all processed foods. All these years later, sugar still makes Jenny irritable. Still, once you get in the habit of avoiding sugar, it’s not too hard to eliminate. For sure, you’ll want to avoid High Fructose Corn Sugar which is found in most bakery goods, soda pop, and in packaged foods!
It’s not as difficult as you might think to eat whole foods. Of course many foods available in the grocery store are processed, but you’ll want to purchase products with the least amount of additives and chemicals. I still don’t purchase products with artificial colorings, flavorings, nitrates, or MSG.
I’m not a nutritionist or a dietitian, but I’ve found a few dietary supplements are extremely helpful for kids with ADD/ADHD, even Sensory Processing Disorder and Autism. In fact, many times with dietary changes and the addition of these supplements, positive changes are often seen in a couple of weeks:
1) The first is cod liver oil. I purchase Carlson Norwegian Cod Liver Oil and I take it myself. The lemon flavored one is tasty. Cod liver oil is high in vitamins A and D.
2) The other is a good kids’ probiotic, purchased in the refrigerator section of a whole foods store. Without fail, kids with ADD and ADHD need to have their gut function improved. The gut feeds the brain. When a child has good gut function, their brain functions better as well.
3) The third is that almost ALL people in the U.S. are vitamin D deficient, even kids. A simple test that your pediatrician can do will tell you what your child’s vitamin D level is. In fact, everyone should have their vitamin D level checked. My husband, Dick, and I found we had low levels ourselves. The optimum levels are around 50, but most people are way under that. (Cod liver oil is high in vitamin D, but if your child is extremely low you may want to add this supplement. If you can’t convince your child to take the lemon-flavored cod liver oil, then vitamin D3 supplement is an alternative.)
You, will of course, need to take allergies into account. If your child is allergic to wheat, dairy, or nuts, these foods will need to be eliminated as well. Today, I won’t go into GMO foods (genetically modified organism). This is another issue. My eldest daughter, Julie-ann, thought she was allergic to corn. Then found out it was GMO corn that she couldn’t tolerate. If a product says it’s certified organic, then it’s by default, GMO free.
You can save on organics at big box stores like Sam’s Club and Costco. Since there’s not a Sam’s Club near me, I have a Costco membership. “Costco Organic Products” is a list I just put together for my son-in-law. He has a Costco membership, but lives a distance from a store. Because he will be the one driving to the store and shopping, he wanted to know what organic food products I found at Costco (Sam’s has similar products) and purchase from the store. I’ve put an unofficial list together for him. I’m sure there’s more, but at least it’s a start. CLICK HERE to see it.
If you liked this article, then you’ll want to read: “A S.A.D. Diet”: CLICK HERE