Triggers for ADD

Behaviours linked to food sensitivities & allergies.

If you have a child with attention deficit disorder (ADD), you may be at your wit’s end about what’s causing it, and what to do about it, other than turning to drugs like Ritalin.

While there may be a genetic component to ADD, new research is showing that food sensitivities and allergies are significant triggers for this disorder. And that there are many natural approaches you can take to decrease symptoms.

Kids with attention deficit disorder (ADD) have poor attention, poor focus and concentration, impulsiveness, and often hyperactive behaviour (ADHD). In more severe cases, the child may also display emotional instability, poor memory, speech and hearing difficulties, and problems with co-ordination in general. Boys are far more likely to be labelled as having ADHD than girls.

Needless to say, kids diagnosed with ADD/ADHD can have significant learning difficulties, as well as behaviour issues that not only can affect the child, but also everyone in their lives and all their social interactions, including those at school. So it’s important to understand what’s going on, and how to improve their responses.

Response to irritants

It’s clear that kids with ADD/ADHD are responding to some inner irritant(s) that prevents them from sitting still, concentrating on class work and learning. Researchers are increasingly finding that food allergies and sensitivities play a significant role in these behaviours. The big culprits seem to be dairy (milk, cheese, ice creams, etc.) and wheat or gluten (a protein that is found in high quantities in wheat and less so in some other grains).

More recently, it has been discovered that food dyes can impact the ability of children to focus and concentrate. And what parent hasn’t noticed the effect of excess sugar on their child’s behaviour?

It has also been speculated that kids with ADD/ADHD have a reduced ability to eliminate toxins from the body. Exposure to environmental pesticides, heavy metals, drugs, alcohol and tobacco particularly during pregnancy may be the cause.

Remedies to help

Fortunately, there are many things you can do to help your child:

▶ Try to pinpoint food sensitivities and allergies, and eliminate these foods from your child’s diet. It may be difficult to identify which one is the culprit, so a short trial of avoiding dairy, wheat and other gluten containing grains (such as barley and rye) is a good test. If your child’s behaviour im-

proves while off these foods, bring them back into his diet one at a time to see how he responds. If his behaviours increase after reintroducing a food, eliminate that food completely.

▶ Avoid giving your child processed foods that contains food dyes – such as pre-packaged breakfast cereals, candy and pop.

▶ Limit your child’s sugar intake, especially on an empty stomach. Add fresh fruit, veggie pieces and raw sunflower or pumpkin seeds to lunch boxes as a snack.

▶ Try natural remedies.

  • Fish oils, which contain important nutrients for proper brain functioning, have been found to have a very positive effect on children with ADD/ADHD. They also help to reduce allergic responses and are anti-inflammatory in nature. Adding a fish oil supplement to your child’s diet will promote calmness and increase your child’s ability to focus.
  • Magnesium is important for its calming effect on the body and its ability to help improve sleep. Children diagnosed with ADD/ADHD are often found to be deficient in magnesium and may not be getting enough restful sleep. Magnesium is found in whole grains (such as oats and rice), nuts, seeds and legumes, and can also be taken as a supplement.
  • Iron is another mineral that may be deficient in your child. This can result in anaemia, making your child lethargic and reducing her ability to focus. In cases where iron deficiency is a problem, supplementation has been shown to improve ADD/ADHD symptoms within 30 days.
  • B vitamins and folic acid boost activity in many areas of the brain. These vitamins are abundant in green leafy vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, fish and beans. B12 is found primarily in animal products such as meat, fish and eggs or in a supplement.
  • Make sure your child gets plenty of exercise. Regular exercise is important for the well being of all children, but especially for a child with ADD/ADHD. Studies have shown that children with severe learning disorders and attention difficulties who run on a treadmill for 40 minutes before class improve significantly. By encouraging your child to take up exercise, you are providing him with a tool he can use to improve his ability to achieve in school and boost his overall level of health and happiness.

Author: Dr. Mary Welch

Dr. Mary Welch is a naturopath and chirporactor at Circle of Life Wellness Centre in Peterborough.

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