ADHD and Diet – the Nutrition Connection

The issue of the nutrition connection with ADHD has been subjected to multiple studies, and generally, those studies have pointed to strong connections between this disorder and nutrition. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies, food allergies, pesticide exposure from non-organic produce, etc. all have implications in the symptoms of ADHD.

Here are some of the ways that nutrition is connected to ADHD, and the dietary considerations involved.

Artificial Colors and Preservatives

Sources say that artificial colors and preservatives are not necessarily instrumental in exacerbating ADHD symptoms; but for those who do have sensitivities to these substances, removing them from the diet has been known to produce dramatic results. Cutting out artificial colors and preservatives does not cause harm, so eliminating these things from the child’s diet and watching for symptom improvement is a viable course of action.

Gluten Sensitivity

The possible connection between gluten sensitivity and ADHD is interesting. Many children with ADHD also have celiac disease, or gluten intolerance. In this disorder, gluten (a protein found in wheat and other grains) inflames the intestinal lining and can eventually permeate the intestinal walls, creating leaky gut syndrome. This causes proteins and other undigested food particles to enter the bloodstream, where they can cause a host of problems.

Many parents of children with ADHD have found success in eliminating gluten from their child’s diet, allowing the gut to heal and stopping the cycle of inflammation.

Iron Deficiency

Symptoms of iron deficiency (poor attention span, behavioral problems) can mimic those of ADHD. Some doctors recommend an iron supplement for all children regardless of ADHD diagnosis. So it’s a good idea to test for iron deficiency if your child is exhibiting symptoms reminiscent of ADHD.

Low Blood Sugar

Another problem that can mimic ADHD symptoms is low blood sugar. The inability to concentrate, “the shakes” and jitters, and hyperactivity are all symptoms of low blood sugar. Not all kids react to low blood sugar with these symptoms, and not all kids suffer visibly from long periods of not eating (or eating the wrong kinds of foods). But in some children, low blood sugar can present dramatic symptoms.

The best way to alleviate these symptoms is with a healthy, whole foods diet that is low in sugar and includes healthy snacks. Children should always have an adequate breakfast, too.

Organic Foods

Because of recent studies linking ADHD and pesticide exposure, many parents choose to have their families eat only organic produce. This minimizes pesticide exposure by ingestion.


Did you know? Fidget toys can help kids with ADHD focus better. And there are different types of fidget toys that can meet different sensory needs. For some kids, a little noise, color or light can actually help with focus, while some kids find touching different textures helpful, and others may need fidgets to help build biting and chewing skills.

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