Dealing with…ADHD. A Nutritional Approach

Hyperactivity/Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity-Disorder (ADHD) is found in 3% - 5% of the adult population – occurring among males in over 75% of reported cases – and the incidence is growing. 

Adult symptoms are comparable to those of children – except more complex, since normal psycho-social behaviour was disrupted by ADHD as a child.  Adult ADHD sufferers frequently develop an advanced coping mechanism known as hyperfocus – which, while helping push aside distractions, creates a condition where the patient is oblivious to important activity they should otherwise be aware of. 

For an adult in a work environment or parenting situation where vigilance is important to maintaining safety, hyperfocus creates a physical risk to the patient and others.  Adult ADHD sufferers are frequently seen as accident-prone. An ADHD condition can lead to relationship conflicts, consequences of underperforming career pressures and substance abuse.

The causes of ADHD are complex and typically require a multi-faceted approach to treatment.  

While nutritional management has yet to be fully developed as a leading form of treatment, medical diagnosis of ADHD does recognize that the presence of sugar, food additives, synthetic colours, preservatives and artificial flavour enhancers in fact increases the symptoms of the disease. 

A carefully constructed diet intended to provide nutritional support to the brain can succeed in minimizing ADHD symptoms.  

Such a diet, when constructed with an understanding of the patient’s environmental allergies, heavy metal toxicities, mental stress, blood sugar fluctuations, nutritional deficiencies, emotional matters, any congenitally poor digestion, as well as vaccines history, can significantly lessen the acuity of the symptoms, and these unique characteristics for each patient should affect the eventual particulars of the diet.  

As well, an elimination diet that decreases those food items and other contributing factors linked to the disease will ameliorate the symptoms caused by ADHD. 

The strategy of this nutritional approach is to ensure optimal absorption of an increased nutritional plate, and efficient delivery of those nutrients that are targeted to support peak brain function.  

There is no other organ that demands such efficient whole-body processing of nutrients as the brain…ie. whereas the brain is less than 3% of total body weight, it requires 28% of the body’s blood supply and 38% of the body’s glucose supply – while engaged in active cerebral function.  

Such an approach concentrates on providing specific support via two steps – which we call “Lubrifaction”:  

  1. Absorption…The first priority is to nourish and protect the cell walls involved in digestion to ensure optimal absorption of the increased nutrient-load and thereby provide useable support to those disproportionate requirements involved in peak brain function. 
  2. Delivery…Ensuring the brain receives its increased nutrients requires corresponding increased delivery as well as continuing protection from contaminants and toxins.  

Each of these steps requires significant lubrication. Accordingly, the eventual diet would seek to achieve the following – in order:

  • Eliminate gluten, wheat, dairy, meat, corn, chocolate, peanuts, citrus fruits, soy, alcohol, carbonated beverages, processed foods – and other foods which, based on patient specifics may be causing a disruption of brain chemistry and contributing to ADHD symptoms
  • Improve overall digestive functioning with heavy amounts of oil to kickstart the process
  • Provide targeted brain-supportive nutrients, with a moderate amount of protein to start and to increase sensibly over time
  • Correct those nutritional deficiencies typical of adult ADHD sufferers which include essential fatty acids, B-complex vitamins, especially B6, magnesium, zinc and iron, with an increase of good fats, oils, fibre, appropriate low-carb fruits and antioxidants
  • Promote adherence to the regime by making the diet plan simple to understand, easy to prepare and satisfying to eat – with a renewed commitment to personal self-management and hydration

The presence and increasing incidence of ADHD seeks solutions for health and safety on behalf of individuals, families and coworkers. Nutrition provides a sensible and easy place to start.
This is one of our Dealing with… series and we encourage feedback and questions at any time.

Rosemary Whiteside, CNP