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How can your diet contribute to ADD/ADHD symptoms?

Although there is no evidence that ADHD is caused by diet or nutritional problems, research suggests that certain foods may play a vital role in affecting ADHD symptoms in some people. Diet can especially worsen ADHD symptoms or affect behavior that mimics the signs of ADHD in children.

The concept of elimination diets to improve health was a very old idea which has regained prominance for treating ADHD as well.

The focus of elimination diets is to remove specific foods from the diet in an effort to eliminate potential allergens that occur naturally in food (eg, eggs, wheat, dairy, soy) or artificial ingredients that may have allergenic or even toxicant effects (eg, synthetic food additives: artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, as well as flavor enhancers [like monosodium glutamate (MSG)] and preservatives). Diet changes should attempt to diagnose and treat food allergies and intolerances. Luncheon meats, most hot dogs, margarine, ketchup, instant noodles, popsicles etc should also be avoided

So it is better to avoid or eliminate certain foods if you have ADD/ADHD and check for improvements. Let us look at some of the famous elimination diets suggested for ADHD, Autism or learning disorders.

What are the different forms of elimination diets used for ADHD treatment?

Food elimination diets vary in their specific content, but take 3 main forms.

* A single food exclusion diet excludes one suspected food, such as eggs.

* A multifood exclusion diet, such as the 6-food elimination diet, eliminates the most common food allergens: cow-milk protein, soy, wheat, eggs, peanuts, and seafood.

* A “few foods diet” (also called an oligoantigenic diet) restricts a person’s diet to only a few less commonly consumed foods eg, lamb/venison, quinoa/rice, pear, and others with low allergenic potential). The “few foods diet” must be overseen by a properly qualified professional (eg, dietitian) to avoid nutritional deficiency, but is effective at identifying multiple food allergies in an individual.

Gluten Free Diet and ADHD/ADD

Research suggests a possible link between Celiac disease and a number of neuropsychiatric disorders, including ADHD, Autism.

Studies show that many people with undiagnosed Celiac disease also exhibit symptoms of ADHD. Furthermore, the symptoms of ADHD fade when these individuals begin a gluten-free diet.

Gluten Free Diet is also being used to treat nonceliac gluten sensitivity as well.

Autism & ADHD Diet - ebook is a Step-by-Step guide to Hope and Healing for ADHD by Living Gluten Free and Casein Free (GFCF) and Other Interventions.

For Hard Copy please click The Autism & ADHD Diet - Paperback

Artificial preservatives and ADHD/ADD

Studies have concluded that artificial colorings, flavorings, and preservatives present in food can cause ADHD symptoms or in some cases they can increase the symptoms.

Feingold Diet Program is a food elimination program for managing ADHD symptoms by eliminating foods containing artificial colorings, flavorings, and preservatives completely in order to decrease hyperactivity. Food containing Sodium Benzoate, BHA, and BHT should be avoided completely.

Feingold Diet Program or Feingold therapy is an effective mechanism of managing ADHD/ADD symptoms.

Why Your Child Is Hyperactive is the best resource on Feingold Diet which details how artificial food flavors and colors are responsible for ADHD.

Sugar and ADHD

Some children become hyperactive after eating candy or other sugary foods. No evidence suggests that this is a cause of ADHD, though. For the best overall nutrition, sugary foods should be a small part of anyone's diet. But you can try cutting them to see if symptoms improve.

Sugar carries loads of calories and has no real nutritional value. People who eat lots of sweets may be missing out on essential nutrients that might keep them calm and focused.

Candy is loaded with sugar and artificial colors, which is a bad combination when it comes to children with ADHD who often need to follow an ADHD diet. Some children are belived to be allergic to aspartame, which is an artificial sweetner. Honey should also be avoided.


Monosodium glutamate(MSG) and hydrolyzed vegetable protein(HVP) – These two additives are believed to decrease dopamine levels in both children and adults. Dopamine is associated with the brain’s pleasure and reward systems. For individuals suffering with ADD/ADHD, balanced levels of dopamine are essential.

Aspartame-Free Diet

Aspartame, an artificial sweetener that became available in the early 1980s, consists of amino acids that cross from the bloodstream into the brain to affect brain function. (Interestingly, it was used as the placebo in some of the studies of sugar’s effects on behavior.) It was believed that among individuals susceptible to this substance, aspartame might lead to seizures or ADHD-type behaviors. No such effects have been demonstrated, however, and elimination of aspartame for children with ADHD is not considered an effective treatment except for children with phenylketonuria, a chemical disorder that prevents some people from being able to break down or metabolize aspartame.

Caffeine and ADHD

Small amounts of caffeine may help with some ADHD symptoms in children, studies have shown. But the side effects of caffeine may outweigh any potential benefit. Most experts recommend that people eat or drink less caffeine or avoid it altogether.

Chocolate, like coffee, contains a significant amount of caffeine. Caffeine has been known to trigger ADHD symptoms and can make symptoms worse if you choose not to eliminate it from your diet. If you notice your symptoms become worse after eating chocolate or drinking hot chocolate, you may want to opt for white chocolate products instead.

Excessive fast food and ADHD

Excessive use of fast foods and other foods of poor nutritional value can cause kids to display behavior that might be confused with ADHD. Processed, fried fast foods should be avoided.

Eliminate eating at fast food restaurants as most of these use MSG and preservatives, plus the food in many restaurants often contains less nutrition, but many harmful chemicals.

Soda and ADHD

If you have ADHD, consider eliminating soda. (And even if you don't have ADHD, saying no to soda is a good idea anyway.) These sweet drinks often have many of the same sugars and sweeteners that are used for candy.

Soda also has other ingredients that worsen ADHD symptoms, such as high-fructose corn syrup and caffeine. One 2013 study also found that 5-year-old children who drank sodas were more likely to show aggression and social withdrawal.

Frozen Fruits and Vegetables

Although fruits and vegetables are healthy choices for an ADHD diet, some frozen varieties can contain artificial colors, so check all labels carefully. Frozen foods can exacerbate ADHD symptoms for another reason, as well: Foods treated with organophosphates for insect control have been shown to cause neurologic-based behavioral problems that mimic ADHD and many other behavior problems.

Frozen Food

Frozen pizzas are packed full of artificial colors and flavorings. The ingredients used to help enhance these types of products can increase hyperactivity and decrease concentration in individuals with this disorder. If you like eating pizza, consider making one from scratch on your own. This way, you’ll know all of the ingredients used are healthy and natural.

Red Meat and ADHD

Red meat has been known to cause an increase of symptoms for ADHD sufferers, experts say. Cutting back on your red meat intake (not necessarily eliminating it completely) may prove great benefits when it comes to controlling your ADHD.

As mentioned earlier, opting for healthier alternatives like salmon or shrimp will help to keep your symptoms controlled so you can maintain a healthier, happier life.

Energy Drinks

Energy drinks are becoming increasingly popular among kids, especially teens. Unfortunately, they also have a veritable treasure trove of ingredients that can worsen ADHD symptoms: sugar, artificial sweeteners, artificial colors, caffeine, and other stimulants.

Energy drinks are high on the list of things that cause teens to display behaviors mimicking ADHD. They have no place in a healthy ADHD diet.

Seafood and ADHD

Eating fish and other seafood with trace amounts of mercury can exacerbate ADHD symptoms in the long term. Some of the worst culprits are shark, king mackerel, swordfish, and tilefish. Mercury, like cellulose, is extremely hard to digest and can accumulate in the brain over time which can lead to hyperactivity.

Talk to your nutritionist about the best types of fish to include in your ADHD diet.

Dye-containing Food and ADHD

Eliminating dye-containing foods from a child's diet can help children with ADHD. Experts say there's not enough evidence to recommend this action, although a small subset of children may benefit.

Blue No. 1 (also known as: Brilliant blue), Blue No. 2 (also known as: Indigotine), Green No. 3, Orange B, Red No. 3, Sodium benzoate, Red No. 40, Yellow No. 5 (also known as: Tartrazine), Yellow No. 6 (also known as: Sunset yellow) should be avoided.

Read more @ health

Yeast Free Diet and ADHD

In the mid-1980s, Dr William Crook, a practicing pediatrician and allergist, popularized the theory that hyperactivity, irritability, and learning disorders in children could be caused by chronic candida (yeast) infection. The theory behind this is that when the immune system is weakened, or when antibiotics are being taken, “friendly” bacteria in the gastrointestinal system are eliminated and yeast can take over. Those who feel that this process has a deleterious role in children with ADHD believe that toxins produced by a yeast overgrowth weaken the immune system and make an individual susceptible to ADHD.

Because of this they support the use of antifungal agents and sugar restriction. There are no sound studies that support this hypothesis or this treatment.

Dairy Products and ADHD

Dairy products, such as ice cream, can trigger ADHD in Individuals who are hypersensitive to milk products. Someone who is sensitive to dairy products may feel tired both physically and mentally after consuming foods such as ice cream.

For this reason, it’s best to avoid this cold treat – even though it may seem like a good idea at the time.

Much like ice cream, yogurt is a dairy product that has been known to spark flare ups in individuals with ADHD. Removing these types of products (dairy products) completely from your diet for a few weeks will help to see whether they are a cause for ADHD. If dairy products trigger your ADHD, consider changing them for foods made with soy instead.

Another dairy food to avoid when trying to avoid sparking ADHD symptoms is cheese (specifically cow’s cheese). Much like yogurt and ice cream, eliminating cheese from your diet for six to eight weeks will help determine whether it’s the cause for your flare-ups. If you notice your symptoms are more controllable when you’re not eating cheese (or other cow dairy products), consider switching to a lactose-free or cow dairy free diet (i.e., eat goat’s cheese instead).

Foods That Cause Allergies

According to studies, gluten, wheat, corn, and soy cause some children to lose focus and become more hyperactive. While any food can be problematic, the ones that have been shown by researchers to be the most commonly associated with ADHD symptoms are:

* Gluten (from wheat and related grains)

* Soy

* Corn

* Peanuts

* Eggs

* Nuts

* Citrus

* Chocolate

* Tomato

* Yeast

* Legumes

* Oats

All children need to be screened for food allergies before being prescribed medication for ADHD.

White bread

Eating simple processed carbohydrates, like white bread or waffles, is almost the same as eating sugar. Your body digests these processed carbs into glucose (sugar) so quickly that the effect is virtually the same as eating sugar from a spoon.

Only whole grain bread, either home baked or from a health food store.

White rice

Simple Carbohydrates like white pasta and rice should be avoided and only whole grain brown rice and other whole grains should be consumed. All white flours should also be avoided.

Peanut butter

Some children are allergic to peanut butter and peanut butter contains aflatoxin, a fungus that also causes cancer. Instead use Almond butter which spreads like peanut butter and tastes just as good. Also you can make home-made cashew nut butter.

Cake Mixes And Frostings

Cake mix and frosting contain the high amounts of sugar and artificial colours that can lead to hyperactivity and other ADHD symptoms. When frosting and cake mix contain artificial sweeteners, they increase the risk of ADHD symptoms more than natural sweeteners would.

Foods containing trans-fatty acids

Foods listed with the ingredients as “partially hydrogenated oils”, trans-fats are dietary bad-guys that play havoc with your cholesterol. Read the label and avoid them. Some foods say, ‘0 grams of trans fats’ but still list it in the ingredients.


Nitrites – Commonly found in lunchmeat, canned foods and many processed foods, nitrites are linked to an increase of childhood Type 1 Diabetes, certain types of cancer, and IBS. In addition, it can cause rapid heart rate, difficulty breathing, and restlessness which worsen ADHD symptoms.

Frozen Blueberries

Large amount of Organophosphate are found in frozen blueberries. A recent study in the journal Pediatrics found that children with higher residue levels of organophosphates were about twice as likely to have ADHD.


Unless it’s organic, celery may not be the healthiest snack for children with ADHD. About 20% of celery contains an organophosphate called malathion, according to testing done by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Pesticide Data Program.


Like blueberries, conventionally-grown strawberries are high in pesticide residue. The U.S. Pesticide Data Program’s 2008 Annual Summary reported that 25% of conventionally-grown strawberries contained traces of organophosphates and 46 different types of pesticides were detected in the total sample of strawberries they tested.

Green Beans

Green beans are also high in pesticides. In testing done by the USDA’s Pesticide Data Program, 27% of non-organic green beans contain pesticides.

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