ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, is a rapidly growing neurodevelopmental disorder that currently affects about 10% of all children ages 4-17. it also affects adults, though children and teens suffer more of an impact. The average American public school classroom has an average of 3 students with ADHD. Mine has more, given that this is the population I work with.
ADHD is much more likely to affect boys than girls. And the average age of diagnosis is 7. Children usually present with symptoms that lead to a diagnosis shortly after beginning grade school. ADHD affects regions in the brain that are involved in critical thinking, attention, focus and planning. Some of these kids will also be diagnosed with sensory processing disorder and dyslexia. Researchers have identified that ADHD is a dysfunction in the serotonin and GABA pathways, two hormones necessary for calming down the brain and reducing distractions. Genetics could make people more susceptible to having ADHD.
I love working with children with ADHD. They all have a uniqueness to them. It can often get on the nerves of their families and other teachers. But I feel like I understand these kids. Who knows. I may have had a mild from of ADHD all throughout grade school. It definitely felt like I was affected by it in my teens and early 20s as I went through college.
Mothers of children with ADHD sometimes want to try alternative therapies before subjecting their children to medications full of potential nasty side effects. Some being suicidal thoughts, insomnia, headaches, mood swings, and digestive upset. I don't blame them. I'd be looking for other options as well.
This is where I, a Functional Nutritional Therapist, can help. It can be challenging to tweak the diet of a child. Especially a picky one with a neurodevelopmental disorder. A lot of children with ADHD react negatively to additives and chemical preservatives. So at the very least, consider removing artificial colors, artificial flavors, preservatives and MSG from their diet. I also recommend removing gluten, since it has been shown to be a significant trigger in neurodevelopmental disorders. Especially ADHD. Every single child that I've worked with who has gone gluten free has improved their symptoms of ADHD. Every. Single. One. That should tell you something. Gluten is a no-no for kids with ADHD.
Aside from removing gluten, additives and chemicals, I also recommend an anti-inflammatory diet that is lower in carbohydrates and higher in a good source of healthy fats and protein. Low-fat diets often tend to make ADHD symptoms worse. The most difficult client I worked with who had ADHD was both vegan and low-fat. I get the reasons behind why his mom implemented this but it was doing her son no favors. Our brains are primarily water, fat and cholesterol, and they need these substances to thrive.
If you're a mom of a kiddo with ADHD and you're reading this, you may be scratching your head wondering how you're going to get your child to enjoy eating things like salmon and colorful, anti-oxidant rich vegetables. It's not easy at first. That's why I recommend working with someone who is trained in Nutritional Therapy and who has many years of experience working with children with ADHD both in and out of the classroom (ahem, me!).
We'll look at ways to clean up the diet and make it more optimal for cognitive function. We'll also address nutrient deficiencies. Children with ADHD are often found to be deficient in magnesium, important B vitamins, choline, zinc, vitamin D, carnitine, and glutamine. A lot of them also suffer from nature deficiency disorder. So even just sending them outside to play can improve symptoms of ADHD in some children.
If you're ready to help your child improve his or her ADHD symptoms and increase cognitive performance, I'm here for you. I've got 14 years of experience as an education specialist and interventionist where I work primarily with children and teens who have ADHD and mild autism. I'm also a trained Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner and Restorative Wellness Practitioner. I've seen miracles happen for these kids when we work together. It's not impossible to improve symptoms of ADHD. And in fact, when children cooperate, it's actually more simple than you'd think.