According to The National Institute of Mental Health, every classroom of 25 has at least 1 child with an Attention Deficit Disorder, specifically ADD, or ADHD.
A child that has been diagnosed with ADD, is often thought of, or labeled as, “learning disabled” when in fact they are generally of above average intelligence, and highly creative.
Taking a step back…
Symptoms of ADD, ADHD, are varied, but more commonly thought of as:
- Inability to pay close attention, easily distracted, and “forgetful” in daily activities
- Makes careless mistakes, and may have difficulty organizing tasks and activities, often failing to follow instructions or finish tasks
- Does not seem to listen when spoken to
- Avoids and dislikes tasks that require sustained mental effort
- Fidgets, squirms, leaves his or her seat often
- Feels restless, and runs about, climbing excessively
- Difficulty taking part in quiet time
- Blurts out answers, interrupting conversations, with some difficulty waiting his or her turn
These “symptoms” are taken from one of my favorite references, “Prescription for Nutritional Healing” by Phyllis A. Balch, CNC, whom further suggests that if these symptoms persist for more than 6 months, occur in at least two settings (home, school, work), than it is likely a child has an Attention Deficit Disorder.
While it can be “easy” to suggest medication to correct the symptoms of a seemingly hyperactive, or inattentive child, it is of my opinion that such disorders are over-diagnosed, and these medications over-prescribed. All too often “symptoms” of ADD are masked with medication, which not only can be cause for a number of side effects as a child ages, but also be more naturally corrected with dietary changes.
With the way we eat these days, I would assume that the number of kids that could be (or have been) diagnosed with an Attention Deficit Disorder is much more than 4%.
Of course, my belief is that while we cannot control what we were born with, and what we breath in, we can choose to provide our children (and ourselves) with the right nutrients that have the ability to alter the cards we have been dealt.
Yes. I whole-heartedly believe that with the right diet; allergies, anxiety, skin disorders, disease and “learning disabilities”, like ADD/ADHD, can virtually disappear. I have seen it happen.
While I may not have my own kids just yet, I grew up with a wild little “monkey” for a brother (that is putting it nicely). Thankfully, my mother refused to put him on anything, though at the time, I was hardly grateful. What happened to him? Low and behold, his behavior was altered significantly by a few changes in his diet (based on what I now know, I can only imagine how well-behaved he would have been given a few other changes in his diet, as well).
All too often we overlook the external causes for problems, sometimes “copping” out by popping a pill, or using the excuse that “kids will be kids, they are going to eat what they want when they are not at home anyways.” While we cannot control what kids eat outside of the house, and there will always be birthday parties, and the like, we are in charge of educating ourselves, and our children about the right way to eat. Allowing our children to eat “crap” inside the house, because they may to choose to eat it outside of the house, is no excuse. That’s like saying there are bad drugs out there that our kids may try, so we may as well keep them in the house too! (Okay… dramatization… but you catch my drift).
Side Note: By the way, when kids are raised on a more natural diet (one that tastes good– I am not talking about cardboard pasta, or “soy-furkey-lurkey” hot dogs), they will appreciate real tastes more, and will be less likely to look elsewhere for outside sugars, and other processed junk. They will love a baked sweet potato with organic butter, or coconut butter. Additionally, someone who is used to a natural diet, will feel sick after indulging in junk food, and be more likely to associate the bad feeling with the bad food (and thus be less likely to choose it later). Come on.. when was the last time your child’s behavior changed after enjoying something naturally sweet, like a banana, or apple. Now think back to how they respond after candy, cake, ice cream…
Diet contributes to Attention Deficit Disorders, like ADD and ADHD. While I believe that every diet should be focused on only on wholesome, and nutrient dense foods (check out my philosophy here), the following information is key to minimizing and squelching the negative side effects of ADD/ADHD:
- Dairy products have been shown to contribute to behavioral problems and hyperactivity in children. Avoid it. Opt for Almond milk, or coconut milk instead (or even rice milk). A little butter is o.k. here and there. Check out these articles written about dairy. I would highly suggest avoiding soy too. It is a very processed beverage. Check out these articles written about soy!
- Reduce and eliminate simple carbohydrates like glucose, fructose, and galactose. This includes processed sugars, and refined grains. Fruit snacks… are a no-go. Sorry!
- Enjoy an abundance of fruits and vegetables, and whole grain products like: spelt, quinoa, and kamut. There are some wonderful pastas available at Health Shoppes and specialty grocers like Whole Foods. It may be more pricey, but what is the real cost of you, and your child’s health? How much do those meds cost these days, anyways? How much extra time does it take out of your day to sit your child down and explain to them, for the 15th time, that they need to learn their multiplication tables… sit still… play nice…
- Remove simple carbohydrates (as mentioned above), junk food, foods with artificial colorings and flavorings, MSG, yeast, preservatives, processed and manufactured goods.**
- Avoid: apple cider vinegar, bacon, butter, candy, condiments (like ketchup and mustard), lunch meat, hot dogs, ham, corn, soy, tea and wheat.**
- AVOID THE HAPPY MEAL. Sodas contain a high amount of phosphorus, as do animal proteins (especially the processed meats). In this day in age, it is very easy to have an imbalance of phosphorus to calcium/magnesium levels. This imbalance is commonly linked to ADD/ADHD behavior, and a number of other disorders.
- NOTE: If your child already lives a very clean lifestyle, and still (very rare) shows signs of ADD/ADHD, temporarily eliminate “otherwise healthy” foods that contain salicytates (which have been linked to behavioral problems). These foods include: almonds, apples, apricots, all berries, cherries, cucumbers, currants, oranges, peaches, peppers, plums, prunes, and tomatoes. (Add them back in at a later date and monitor behavioral changes). However, in my opinion, this is a last resort. I would much rather see my children munching on an organic apple than a hotdog, or sugary bowl of cereal (even if it is “Whole Grain”).
Suggestions for a happier, healthier childhood!
Switch out dairy products for milk alternatives.
- Stop buying foods that are processed, and contain sugar. Period.
- Focus the diet around fruits and vegetables, whole grain pastas, sweet potatoes, winter squashes, quality fish and chicken, if necessary.
- Offer kids carrot sticks and hummus, or almond butter.
- Trade out fruit roll-ups for Fruit Leathers, or ideally, real fruit.
- Try cutting up ripe bananas and freezing them for a fun frozen treat, instead of ice cream. Sprinkle chocolate shavings overtop, or spread almond butter on a ripened banana.
- Avoid peanut butter. Opt for almond butter.
- Sweeten cookies, and breads with ripe bananas, agave, or stevia.
- Trade out chips for baked blue corn chips, with salsa or guacamole. How to pick out healthy chips! and Why to avoid White Potatoes!
- Serve hearty meals, like “Sprout tortillas” with beans, and guacamole, and grilled mushrooms.
- More tips here! For a Happy and Healthy Family!
- Check out these videos for tips on how to manage the grocery aisles. There is a great healthy pizza recipe there too!
- Want to laugh? Check out what my sister wrote about living with me… Be sure to check out her comments too!
Check out what I used to feed my sister 15 (now 16-year old sister) for lunch ideas!
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What is your experience with Attention Deficit Disorders? Have you noticed or experienced a correlation between diet and behavior? Are there any trigger foods? What do you think about this topic? How have you been affected by “disorders” like ADD and ADHD? I want your feedback!