Quantcast
Food

How to Treat ADHD Naturally

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is not caused by diet alone.

However, research shows that reactions to food may worsen many people's ADHD symptoms.

Cerrtain dietary changes may help you manage ADHD symptoms.

For this reason, certain dietary changes may help you manage symptoms.

In fact, one diet has been shown to improve symptoms in up to 50–82 percent of children with ADHD.

This article explains what this diet is and how to follow it.

What is ADHD and Does Diet Play a Role?

ADHD is characterized by inattention, impulsiveness and hyperactivity.

Many factors may affect its development. While the exact cause is unclear, research shows a large genetic component (1, 2).

ADHD can greatly affect people's lives, especially in terms of academic and career outcomes (3, 4, 5, 6, 7).

As there is no cure for ADHD, most treatments aim to manage symptoms. The most popular treatments involve behavioral therapy and medication, but research has also been done on dietary interventions (8, 9).

Two main types of studies have looked into the effects of diet on ADHD symptoms:

  • Supplement studies: These studies look into the effects of dietary supplements like omega-3 fatty acids, amino acids, vitamins or minerals.
  • Elimination studies: These studies look into the effects of eliminating certain foods, additives or ingredients from the diet.

For a detailed review of these studies, check out this article: Does Nutrition Play a Role in ADHD?

However, it should be noted that dietary modification as a treatment for ADHD is still viewed as controversial.

Nonetheless, consistent evidence from strong studies shows that elimination diets can greatly decrease ADHD symptoms for some children (8, 10, 11, 12, 13).

Bottom Line: ADHD is a common behavioral disorder. While therapy and medication remain the most common treatments, research shows that an elimination diet can help some people manage symptoms.

The Few Foods Elimination Diet for ADHD

The main elimination diet used in ADHD research is the Few Foods Diet.

It follows the same principles as other elimination diets, but is generally less restrictive.

Here's how the Few Foods Diet works:

  • Elimination: For 1-5 weeks, follow a diet consisting only of foods that are not likely to trigger adverse reactions. If symptoms improve, enter the second phase.
  • Reintroduction: Every 3-7 days, reintroduce foods that may cause symptoms. If adverse effects occur, the food is considered to be “sensitizing."
  • Treatment: Develop a personal diet plan that avoids sensitizing foods as much as possible, to help minimize your child's symptoms.

Bottom Line: The Few Foods Diet is a three-phase approach to identifying and eliminating foods that may worsen ADHD symptoms.

Health Benefits of the Few Foods Diet

Twelve studies have examined the effects of the Few Foods Diet on symptoms of ADHD.

Five of these were uncontrolled trials, while seven were randomized, controlled trials.

Eleven studies found a decrease in symptoms for 50–82 percent of children, while one study reported improvements for 24 percent of children (14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22,23, 24, 25).

Additionally, some of the children showed more than a 50 percent improvement in behavior after the elimination phase of the diet (19, 21, 22, 24).

Many of the children also reported fewer headaches, stomach aches, fits, muscle pains and nasal symptoms. Parents reported fewer problems with sleeping and fewer nighttime awakenings in their children (16, 17, 18, 19).

In one of the studies, these effects were even noticeable on a brain scan when the children ate a sensitizing food (21).

A 2012 review, using eight of these studies, reported an overall effect size very similar to the average effect size of common ADHD medications like Ritalin or Concerta (1, 26, 27).

Several experts agree that the evidence supporting the Few Food Diet is convincing and it is effective for many children with ADHD (8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 28).

Bottom Line: The Few Foods Diet has been shown to decrease ADHD symptoms for some children—often more than half. Less headaches, fits and sleeping problems have also been reported.

What to Eat on the Few Foods Diet

For 1–4 weeks, only eat the foods listed below. If you don't notice improvements to symptoms after 1–2 weeks, you may want to discontinue the diet.

However, the length of this period differs.

Some people see symptoms improve greatly in the first three days, while others don't experience improvements until the second week.

The Few Foods Diet typically consists of 2–5 protein sources, 2–3 carb sources, 1–2 fat sources, 2 types of fruit, a range of vegetables and drinks.

Which Foods Should You Eat?

  • Protein: Beef, lamb, wild game, chicken and turkey.
  • Fat: Sunflower and rapeseed oil.
  • Green vegetables: Brussels sprouts, spinach, artichokes, cabbage, bamboo shoots, broccoli, bok choy, asparagus and cucumbers.
  • Other vegetables: Mushrooms, cauliflower, onions, leeks, garlic, radishes, squash, pumpkin, zucchini, beets and root vegetables.
  • Spices: Rice vinegar, balsamic vinegar, iodized salt, turmeric, curry powder, basil, dill, oregano, parsley, rosemary, thyme, tarragon and coriander.
  • Drinks: Enriched rice milk, carbonated water, tea (except for vanilla, peppermint, cinnamon, fruit or licorice tea), pear juice, homemade juices and smoothies.
  • Other foods: Tapioca, rice bran, rice flour, potato flour, baking soda, xanthan gum, baking powder, arrowroot and ginger.

Read page 1

Which Foods Should You Avoid?

If you find the Few Foods Diet too hard to follow, eliminating the top eight allergens may also give you results. Here are the top 8 allergenic foods (14, 18, 19):

  • Peanuts.
  • Tree nuts.
  • Shellfish.
  • Soybeans.

Overall, milk and wheat are the most common offenders. For this reason, sometimes people also start by just eliminating dairy and wheat (4, 15, 23).

Other foods that often affect behavior include oats, oranges, corn, chocolate, cinnamon, licorice, tomatoes and pork.

Which Food Additives Should You Avoid?

It may also be a good idea to avoid artificial food colorants and preservatives, which have been shown to affect hyperactivity in children (29, 30, 31, 32).

Bottom Line: Stick to the foods on this list as much as possible. However, more moderate restriction may also help improve symptoms.

Sample Menu on the Few Foods Diet

Many people find it easier to stick to this diet when they have a meal plan to follow.

You can make many delicious meals on the Few Foods Diet.

Here are some menu ideas for the Few Foods Diet:

  • Breakfast: Rice flake porridge and a piece of fruit, juice or a smoothie.
  • Lunch: Rice noodles, rice pasta, risotto or chicken salad.
  • Dinner: Soup with rice or potato flour bread / meat, potatoes and vegetables.
  • Snacks: Rice cakes and tea / fresh cut veggies with balsamic dip.
  • Treats: Dried pears and bananas / potato chips made with sunflower or rapeseed oil.

Bottom Line: Having a meal pattern to follow can help you stick to the Few Foods Diet. You may even want to plan out your meals for the week.

How to Reintroduce Foods

The chart below shows how to reintroduce foods into your diet.

However, it's only one sample and this can be done in many ways. It may also be helpful to keep a diary.

Reintroduce foods every 3–7 days and try to eat the new food twice during the day.

Bottom Line: Introduce a new food every 3–7 days and try to eat it twice in a day. It may be helpful to reintroduce foods on Tuesdays and Fridays, but this is just one reintroduction method.

Read page 1

Advice for Implementing the Few Foods Diet

Following a restricted diet is hard. It may be especially challenging to get your child to stick to a limited diet.

Here is some advice on how to implement the Few Foods Diet:

  • Stock up on food: Always keep healthy food in the pantry and with you on the go. A banana or a few rice cakes can be life savers on a diet like this.
  • Plan ahead: Keep an emergency meal in the freezer, such as chicken, rice and vegetables. Having banana muffins on hand is also a good idea.
  • Make and store broth: Make your own broth and store it in ice cube trays in the freezer. You will use it a lot for making sauces and adding flavor to dishes.
  • Freeze spices: Freeze fresh spices, like basil or coriander, in ice cube trays along with rapeseed or sunflower oil. This keeps spices fresh and makes it easy for you to add them to meals.
  • Rinse your rice: Try to rinse your rice before you use it and choose Indian rice over American rice to avoid arsenic contamination.

Bottom Line: Meal prepping, keeping snacks with you on the go and making broth are all things that have helped people stick to this diet.

Who Is More Likely to Respond to the Diet?

Research has shown that younger children and children with the following problems are more likely to respond to the Few Foods Diet (15, 24):

  • Allergies.
  • Atopy or an atopic condition.
  • Irritability.
  • Sleep problems.
  • Frequent food cravings.
  • Family history of migraines.

Bottom Line: Younger children and children with problems such as allergies, sleep issues and food cravings are more likely to respond to the Few Foods Diet.

The Few Foods Diet is Not for Everyone

The Few Foods Diet may not work for all people, for several reasons.

First, it's hard to follow. It also requires a lot of planning and a strong will. The first three days are usually the hardest and are when most people give up.

Additionally, the Few Foods Diet is a tool to rule out foods that may affect ADHD symptoms. It is not intended to be followed for longer than 4 weeks.

Restricting foods for too long can lead to nutrient deficiencies and other issues. If possible, it's best to have a health professional supervise the diet.

Lastly, not everyone sees improvements on the Few Foods Diet. Research shows that while it does work for more than 50 percent of people, some people simply don't respond.

Bottom Line: The Few Foods Diet is only intended to be used temporarily and may not work for everyone. If possible, have a health professional supervise the diet.

Take Home Message

Studies have shown that the Few Foods Diet can improve ADHD symptoms for more than 50 percent of children.

Exactly how this works is unknown, but it may be due to allergies or food sensitivities.

The Few Foods Diet can help you identify and remove these problematic foods, leading to improved symptoms and a better quality of life.

This article was reposted from our media associate Authority Nutrition.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

6 Foods That Cause Inflammation

Why Omega-3s Are Essential to Good Health

10 Misconceptions on the Link Between Environmental Factors and Cancer

Fat Is Not the Enemy

Show Comments ()
Sponsored
Rice University marine biologist Adrienne Correa takes samples at a reef in Flower Garden Banks. Jesse Cancelmo / Rice University

Hurricane Harvey Runoff Threatens Coral Reefs

Hurricane Harvey's record rains didn't just unleash a torrent of floodwaters into the Gulf of Mexico—this freshwater could be harming coral reefs which require saltwater to live, according to new research.

After Harvey dumped more than 13 trillion gallons of rain over southeast Texas, researchers detected a 10 percent drop in salinity at the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, located 100 miles off the coast of Galveston, Texas.

Keep reading... Show less

Pruitt Wants to Make the EPA Less Accountable to the Public

When the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) breaks the law by missing deadlines, allowing polluters to violate regulations that protect our health and environment, one way the public holds it accountable is by taking the agency to court. Scott Pruitt and his corporate polluter allies see this as a problem, so Monday, the administrator moved to curtail the agency's practice of settling lawsuits with outside groups, making it easier to skirt the law.

"Pruitt's doing nothing more than posturing about a nonexistent problem and political fiction," John Walke, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's Climate and Clean Air program said in reaction. "His targeting of legal settlements, especially where EPA has no defense to breaking the law, will just allow violations to persist, along with harms to Americans."

Keep reading... Show less
Oil on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. Julie Dermansky

Nearly 400,000 Gallons of Oil Spews Into Gulf of Mexico, Could Be Largest Spill Since Deepwater Horizon

Last week, a pipe owned by offshore oil and gas operator LLOG Exploration Company, LLC spilled up to 393,000 gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, reminding many observers of the Deepwater Horizon explosion seven years ago that spewed approximately 210 million gallons of crude into familiar territory.

Now, a report from Bloomberg suggests that the LLOG spill could be the largest in the U.S. since the 2010 BP blowout, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE).

Keep reading... Show less
Shutterstock

Big Food Is Worried About Millennials Avoiding Animal Products

By Nathan Runkle

Hundreds of leaders from fast-food chains, marketing agencies and poultry production companies recently gathered in North Carolina for the 2017 Chicken Marketing Summit to play golf and figure out how to make you eat more animals.

One session focused on marketing chicken to millennials. Richard Kottmeyer, a senior managing partner at Fork to Farm Advisory Services, explained to the crowd that millennials are "lost" and need to be "inspired and coached." His reasoning? Because there are now "58 ways to gender identify on Facebook." Also, because most millennial women take nude selfies, the chicken industry needs to be just as "naked" and transparent.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

Strange Days: Ex-Hurricane Ophelia Batters Ireland Under Orange Skies

By Dr. Jeff Masters and Bob Henson

Ex-Hurricane Ophelia hit Ireland hard with full hurricane-like fury on Monday, bringing powerful winds that caused widespread damage and power outages. At least two deaths have been reported from trees falling on cars, and The Irish Times said at least 360,000 ESB Networks customers lost power in Ireland because of the storm.

Keep reading... Show less
GMO
PBouman / Shutterstock

EPA Limits Use of Problematic Herbicide Dicamba—But Is That Enough?

By Dan Nosowitz

Dicamba has been in use as a local pesticide for decades, but it's only recently that Monsanto has taken to using it in big, new ways. The past two years have seen the rollout of dicamba-resistant seed for soybean and cotton, as well as a new way to apply it: broad spraying.

But dicamba, it turns out, has a tendency to vaporize and drift with the wind, and it if lands on a farm that hasn't planted Monsanto's dicamba-resistant seed, the pesticide will stunt and kill crops in a very distinctive way, with a telltale cupping and curling of leaves, as seen above. Drift from dicamba has affected millions of acres of crops, prompting multiple states to issue temporary bans on the pesticide. Farmers have been taking sides, either pro-dicamba or anti, and at least one farmer has been killed in a dispute over its use.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Runoff from a farm field in Iowa during a rain storm. Lynn Betts / U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service

Drinking Water for Millions in Rural America Contaminated With Suspected Carcinogen

Drinking water supplies for millions of Americans in farm country are contaminated with a suspected cancer-causing chemical from fertilizer, according to a new report by the Environmental Working Group.

The contaminant is nitrate, which gets into drinking water sources when chemical fertilizer or manure runs off poorly protected farm fields. Nitrate contaminates drinking water for more than 15 million people in 49 states, but the highest levels are found in small towns surrounded by row-crop agriculture. Major farm states where the most people are at risk include California, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin and Kansas.

Keep reading... Show less
www.youtube.com

Trump's Approval Rating on Hurricane Response Sinks 20 Points After Puerto Rico

President Trump's approval rating for overseeing the federal government's response to hurricanes fell by 20 points after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, a CNN poll conducted by SSRS revealed.

Trump's approval rating for responding to hurricanes Harvey and Irma stood at 64 percent in mid-September. Just a month later, the rating dropped to 44 percent.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

Get EcoWatch in your inbox