Some children with Attention Deficit Disorder, or ADD, will feel and behave better with some dietary changes. No one diet is right for every child with ADD. Experimentation can help you learn which foods are a problem for your child, but there are some diets that are commonly suggested to help children with ADD. Dietary changes will not cure ADD, but may reduce symptoms and for some children, allow you to reduce or eliminate medication with your doctor’s supervision and approval.
The Feingold Diet is the option chosen by many families trying to improve ADD through diet. The Feingold Diet eliminates artificial colors, flavors, salicylates, additives and preservatives. Most of the problem foods on the Feingold Diet are easily avoided if you select whole, unprocessed foods and prepare them yourself. A diet journal is recommended, along with a gradual reintroduction of foods to determine which foods are specifically problematic.
Gluten-free and Casein-free Diet
While often advocated for children on the autism spectrum, some parents may find that a gluten-free and casein-free diet, also called the GFCF Diet helps their children with ADD. A GFCF Diet eliminates all products containing wheat gluten as well as all products with dairy proteins. Many specialty products are available to allow a child on a GFCF Diet to enjoy cookies, bread and pasta.
Specific Carbohydrate Diet
The Specific Carbohydrate Diet, or SCD, was designed for individuals managing intestinal tract issues, including Celiac and Crohn’s Disease. The Specific Carbohydrate Diet eliminates grains, but does allow nuts, meats, fermented dairy products, fruits and vegetables. The diet is severely restricted in the early stages, with foods added over time, assuming they are well tolerated. This diet may be especially appropriate if your child with ADD has shown signs of bowel issues, gut discomfort or constipation and diarrhea.
Food allergies can exacerbate symptoms of ADD in some children. An elimination diet that removes common allergens may bring this to light for your child. If you believe that an allergy is contributing to symptoms or behavioral issues, try eliminating the most common allergens, including wheat, dairy, soy, corn, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish and egg. Gradually reintroduce allergenic foods over time. Today, allergy testing can be done via a simple blood draw and a RAST test if you would like a definitive answer.
Vitamins and Supplements
Your child with ADD will certainly benefit from a good quality children’s multivitamin. Look for one without artificial colors or flavors. While many natural products are sold that claim to help ADD, the only one medically shown to benefit children with ADD is Omega-3 fatty acids. Encourage your child to eat fish regularly or offer an Omega-3 supplement daily.