ADHD, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, is a troubling developmental disorder for many reasons; one reason is that diagnosed cases of it seem to be on the rise. Nearly 5 percent of American children have been diagnosed with ADHD, making it the most commonly diagnosed disorder in kids across the country. Another troubling aspect is simply the disorder itself; children with ADHD struggle to focus and pay attention. They are impulsive. They act out in school and are often hyper. Naturally, all of these symptoms can wreak havoc on academic and social success for a youngster. Finally, ADHD is troubling because most of the kids who have it take powerful prescription medications.
ADHD Causes And Treatments
No one knows exactly what causes ADHD to develop in some children but not others, but there are known risk factors. Genes seem to play a role, but there isn’t a single gene, or even a group of genes, that definitively cause ADHD. Other, external factors also increase the risk that a child will develop ADHD. If a mother smokes or drinks during pregnancy, for example, or if a child is exposed to lead, he may be more likely to have ADHD.
There is no real cure for the disorder and some children will live with the symptoms of ADHD into adulthood. However, there are treatments that help many. The most common way to treat ADHD is with prescription medications. Stimulants have a calming effect on children with ADHD. There are problems with these drugs, though. Some children experience side effects or lose personality. Children can be treated with behavioral therapy or psychotherapy as well, but this is less common. Prescribing a drug is often seen as a quicker and more convenient fix.
Diet And Relief From ADHD
An idea that is not new but is gaining ground is that ADHD can be treated with dietary changes. So far, no diet, and no other treatment plan for that matter, has been able to cure ADHD. There is promising evidence, though, that diet can help some children to find relief from the symptoms of the disorder. Anyone thinking of taking the treatment of their child into their own hands with diet should, of course, consult with a doctor or dietician first.
One diet for ADHD that has been around for some time is the Feingold diet. Dr. Feingold, an allergist, developed his ideas about ADHD and food in the 1970s. The idea is that ADHD is, at least in part, triggered by sensitivities to certain food additives. The diet suggests eliminating foods that contain petroleum-based dyes. These are the numbered red, yellow, and blue dyes found in numerous processed foods. The diet also recommends cutting out the preservatives BHA, BHT and TBHQ. While studies have not been able to prove that these synthetic food additives cause or worsen ADHD, it has been shown that some children experience a reduction in symptoms when they stop eating them.
Preservatives and colorings are not the only culprits. A new study from the Netherlands shows that a majority of cases of ADHD are related to a hypersensitivity to one or more types of food. The sensitivity could be to additives or, in many cases, to natural compounds found in many foods. Gluten is a major culprit, and is found in wheat, barley and other grains. Sensitivity to gluten is called celiac disease and it is known to cause physical symptoms. Casein is another natural substance, found in milk, which may trigger ADHD symptoms.
How Much Of A Role Does Diet Really Play In Childhood ADHD?
Proponents of using diet to cure ADHD, or at least to relieve symptoms, suggest starting with a diet rich in many different substances. The idea is to remove one potential trigger at a time and look for symptoms. In this way, the food, or foods, that cause the symptoms can be targeted and identified. Those who conducted the recent research on ADHD and food do impress on the public that food is not the main cause of symptoms for all children with the disorder. For some, drugs and therapy are better options for treatment.
The idea that dietary changes could bring relief to a child with the disruptive symptoms of ADHD is very exciting, especially for the parents of these kids. Opting for a healthier and more natural diet is a good idea anyway, but if it can help treat ADHD, even better.