For kids who suffer from ADHD, ADD, or any other label that involves any of these issues:
- short attention span
- problems focusing
- aggressive behaviour
- frantic, scatty energy
- really annoying behaviours, often repetitive
- difficulty learning in an academic setting
a marked change in behaviour is usually seen from simultaneously changing the diet, supplementing with missing nutrients and balancing the gut microbiota (getting mostly good bacteria in the gut).
Diet Guidelines for ADD and ADHD
The first aspect to test is to take your child off all processed foods (with artificial colors, flavors, additives, preservatives, flow agents, etc.) and all sugar (except whole fruits).
YES, this is extremely difficult, especially in our culture. And your child will go through bonafide ‘withdrawal’ – same as if they had been on a drug.
But if you remove these substances for 3 weeks, you will have a chance to see your REAL child. Likely, neither you, nor your child, know who that person is. So although the withdrawal is nasty, if your child never gets to experience their true self, they will not have the motivation to sustain healthy habits for the long-term.
Then test adding back in the occasional sugar items – but still no processed foods – and see what happens. Depending on your child’s reaction, adjust their diet accordingly. Be sure to watch for tolerance thresholds; sometimes one cookie per day is okay, sometimes only one cookie per week is okay.
Then feed your child a bag of artificially flavored potato chips (for example), but no sugar that day. And see what happens.
Then feed them a chocolate bar AND a bag of MSG, artificial flavor chips. And see what happens over the next 4 hours.
This kind of testing will help you determine what affects your child the most; sugar, or chemicals, or is the combination the killer?
For my eldest, he is fine with sugar on its own. And he is fine with the occasional bag of chips or Doritos. BUT, combine sugar WITH the artificial, chemical crap and yowsers, none of us want to know him. My mum once said to me, “You know, if he didn’t have you for his parents, he’d probably be on drugs to control his behaviour.”
Top Food Allergies and Intolerances for ADHD and ADD
The other aspect of diet you need to test, is your child’s sensitivity (or allergy) to the top irritant foods:
- Pasteurized dairy products (RAW dairy is usually okay)
- Wheat (and then also test for gluten)
- Corn (especially GMO corn)
- Sugar (which we already talked about above)
- Grains and/or Potatoes (because these digest quickly into sugars)
For sure, test your child’s reaction to at least wheat and pasteurized dairy (these are the most common intolerances) by following the same guidelines given above for sugar and chemicals. And then also test for tolerance thresholds.
Key Nutrients and Probiotics for ADHD and ADD
Simultaneously, with these dietary adjustments, you need to calm the nervous system and normalize the gut flora. Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride really nailed this component in her GAPS book (for autistic kids).
So at the same time as you remove the sugar and additives from your child’s diet, you need to supplement with:
Omega-3 oil – give Udo’s oil and a clean, high quality cod liver oil, or krill oil. For kids it’s easiest to give them Udo’s in a shake or smoothie, or give them the lemon-flavored cod liver oil to chew. I like the cod liver oil as it also naturally contains Vitamin A, if you use the brand I recommend, there is no issue of mercury, or any other contamination as it is micro-filtered and then tested.
Good fats – make sure your child gets plenty of organic, or even better, grass-fed butter, coconut oil, and whole eggs. If your child won’t eat eggs, the yolk is the important part, so you can stir egg yolk – not the white – into hot cooked pasta and sauce (just makes the sauce more creamy), or add them to smoothies or shakes. Butter and egg yolks also contain Vitamin A and another crucial nutrient that most are deficient in: Vitamin K2.
Magnesium – the form depends on whether your child tends to loose stool or constipation. See my blog post on magnesium for complete guidelines. My kids take both the nano-sized magnesium (also contained in Bone Matrix) and Natural Calm drinkable magnesium (raspberry lemon flavor) when they feel their bowels getting sluggish (usually when they eat too much carbs!).
Probiotics – Natren is the only brand I recommend at this current time, see my blog post on probiotic selection criteria for why. If your child can swallow large capsules, the Healthy Trinity are the easiest way to take them (1 per day). Otherwise, my kids will happily take the powders mixed in yoghurt or raw chocolate milk.
These are the basic guidelines and then individual adjustments may be necessary.
For my kids, I see a marked difference in their behaviour and attention span from just spending ONE day at a friend’s house and eating “normal” foods there. People always comment on what amazing kids we have, but I wonder how much other children are being handicapped just by what’s going, and not going, into their bodies.
If you’ve found anything else that really makes a difference with your child, please post it below.
NOTE: Here is the original email I received from my reader, with his full question:
“I have/had UC and am doing very well on your advice in the “Listen To Your Gut” book. Thank you.
My son is nearly 4 and is very hyperactive, stubborn and can get very stressed about things, for example refusing to go to the toilet for a number 2. He is a very bright boy and his language skills are very advanced. The problem is he struggles to sit down for 10 minutes to do say a puzzle and gets very frustrated if he can’t do it first time. He can however watch a 2 hour movie no problem.
I was hoping you would be able to suggest some natural supplements that would improve his concentration and calm him down a bit. There is no way he going on Ritalin. I have heard omega 3 and 6 helps as well as Pycnogenol/pine bark extract.
I was wondering if it would be better to give him flax seed oil rather than fish oils due to the high mercury found in fish these days.
Your suggestions would be appreciated.”