Natural Strategies for Managing ADHD Symptoms: The Role of Diet and Nutrition

As the founder and CEO of the ADHD Thrive Institute and the creator of the “ADHD Thrive Method 4 Kids” program, Dana Kay, Board Certified Holistic Health and Nutrition Practitioner, has dedicated her career to helping children with ADHD succeed. Through her work with families, she has seen firsthand the powerful impact that diet and nutrition can have on managing ADHD symptoms and promoting overall well-being.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 6.1 million children in the United States have been diagnosed with ADHD. While medication is often a part of treatment, research has also shown that natural approaches, such as diet and nutrition, can be highly effective in managing symptoms and improving overall well-being.

Here are Kay’s top four recommendations for using diet to support children with ADHD:

  1. Limit processed and sugary foods. These types of foods can worsen ADHD symptoms, so it’s important to limit their intake and focus on whole, nutrient-dense foods instead. A study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that a diet high in processed and sugary foods was associated with increased hyperactivity and inattention in children with ADHD. On the other hand, a diet rich in whole, nutrient-dense foods was associated with improved behavior and cognition.
  2. Avoid food additives and dyes, as well as highly inflammatory foods such as gluten, dairy, and soy. Some studies have found a link between certain food additives and dyes and behavioral issues in children. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has identified several food additives that may have an adverse effect on children’s behavior, including some artificial colors and preservatives. To be safe, Kay recommends avoiding these ingredients whenever possible.
  3. Incorporate protein and healthy fats. Protein and healthy fats have been shown to improve focus and concentration, making them important for children with ADHD. A study published in the Journal of Lipid Research found that children with ADHD who followed a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet showed significant improvements in attention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity compared to those who followed a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet. Kay recommends including sources of protein and healthy fats, such as nuts, seeds, and avocado, in the child’s diet.
  4. Don’t forget about fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are packed with nutrients that are essential for overall health and well-being. They are also high in fiber, which can help improve digestion and regulate blood sugar levels. A study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that children with ADHD who consumed more fruits and vegetables had fewer behavioral problems compared to those who consumed fewer of these foods. Kay recommends making sure to include a variety of these in the child’s diet.

Through her work with families, Kay has seen the positive impact that a healthy diet can have on children with ADHD. She believes that by focusing on whole, nutrient-dense foods and limiting processed and sugary foods, parents can support their child’s well-being and success. She also recommends working with a professional, such as a holistic health practitioner, registered dietitian, or physician, to develop a customized plan that meets the child’s individual needs.

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