One of the most overlooked factors in managing the symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) is that of dietary intervention. The ‘food piece’ can play a significant role in the manifestation of symptoms for this commonly diagnosed disorder in both children and adults. Addressing the foods in the diet that may be contributing to symptoms can be very beneficial in managing inattention. Knowing which foods to minimize and which foods to include in the diet can be very helpful for those who suffer from ADD. Here are some key dietary practices to consider for optimizing attention:
Eliminate artificial colors and flavors
Today’s food supply is filled with fake colors and flavors. Products are specifically marketed to appeal to our children, and as parents we often fall victim to these marketing tactics. Our bodies simply were not designed to break down these artificial ingredients and in the world of ADD, these chemical additives can contribute to learning and behavior problems, including inattentiveness. Opting for products that are free of artificial colors and flavors is an important part of managing ADD symptoms.
Other food additives include preservatives that serve the purpose of increasing the shelf life of food products. Unfortunately, many of these preservatives have been linked to various health conditions including that of ADD. Refraining from unnatural ingredients used to preserve food products is another healthy practice for everyone, especially those with ADD.
Include healthy fats
Contrary to what some people believe, we need fats in our diet. However, getting the right kind of fats is crucial. Processed foods often contain unhealthy fats or trans fats, scientifically linked to disease states and certainly not helpful in promoting brain function. Including healthy fats like fish oils, flax seed, avocado and olive oil in the diet is an important way to support the brain and optimize attention.
Watch refined sugar intake
Often those with ADD tend to gravitate towards carbohydrates and sugary foods. These food choices are definitely not ‘thinker helpers’ but quite the opposite. Sugar, and particularly refined sugars, should be minimized in the diet to promote optimal health, learning, and behavior.
Eat more whole foods
It is a good idea to focus on eating foods in their natural state as much as possible. These whole foods provide optimal amounts of nutrients necessary for optimal brain and body function. Eating lean protein from quality sources along with a variety of fruits and vegetables promotes overall health and wellness, including attention.
Food allergies are common among those with ADD. It is important to identify any food allergies or intolerances and omit problem foods from the diet. Daily exercise is also an important component of managing ADD symptoms as physical movement helps to promote concentration and regulate activity level.
In addition to diet, there are nutritional supplements that target brain function and attention. Commonly used supplements include B vitamins, zinc, fish oil, digestive enzymes, probiotics, amino acids and various herbs. Be sure to check with your qualified health care practitioner about any medications and supplements taken to manage ADD symptoms.