A number of diets have been suggested for people with ADHD. Several well-conducted studies have failed to support dietary effects of sugar and food additives on behavior, except possibly in a very small percentage of children. Still various studies have reported behavioral improvement with diets that restrict possible allergens in the diet. Parents may want to discuss with their doctor implementing an elimination diet of certain foods that would not be harmful and that might help.
Among the suspected additives and foods that parents and studies report as inciting behavioral changes are:
Feingold Diet. The most well-known diet for ADHD is the Feingold diet, a salicylate- and additive-free diet, which requires rigorous vigilance over a child's eating habits. This diet also prohibits aspirin, which contains salicylates. Some parents report great success with this diet, although it may be difficult to impose. It is certainly wise, in any case, to avoid food with artificial colors and flavors and to provide a healthy balance of fresh, natural foods.
Essential Fatty Acids. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish and certain vegetable oils, are important for normal brain function and may have some benefits for people with ADHD. It is not clear if supplements of fatty acid compounds, such as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaneoic acid (EPA), provide any advantages.
Zinc. Zinc is important for the metabolism of certain neurotransmitters that play a role in ADHD, and deficiencies have been associated with some cases of ADHD. Long-term use of zinc, however, can cause anemia and other side effects in people without deficiencies and it has no effect on ADHD in these patients. In any case, testing for trace minerals, such as zinc, is not standard procedure when evaluating children suspected to have ADHD.
Sugar. Although parents often blame sugar for causing children to become impulsive or hyperactive, a number of studies strongly indicate that sugar plays no role in hyperactivity.
Techniques that use biologic or auditory feedback are proving to be effective tools for increasing children's attention -- a primary factor in low academic performance.
Neurofeedback. Neurofeedback is an approach that uses electronic devices to help the child control their own brain wave activity. Electrodes are pasted to the child's head and pick up signals from the brain. The child watches images, such as moving graphs, on a computer monitor that reflect the child's brain wave activity. Children are then taught certain high-level mental activities at the point when feedback information on the screen indicates that they are fully concentrating. Children usually attend forty 50-minute sessions, usually twice a week. Small studies have reported significant improvement in inattention, impulsivity, and response time.
Interactive Metronome and Musical Therapy. Interactive metronome uses feedback from sound to improve attention, motor control, and certain academic skills. In this technique study, children wear headphones and sensors on their hands and feet. They perform a number of exercises to a rhythmic computer-beat. Training sessions are completed in 3 - 5 weeks. Some small studies have reported improvement in attention, motor control, language processing, and behavior. (In support of this, some parents report that learning a musical instrument helped their children significantly.)
A number of alternative approaches are tried by children and adults with mild ADHD symptoms. For example, daily massage therapy may help some people with ADHD feel happier, fidget less, be less hyperactive, and focus on tasks. Other alternative approaches that may be helpful include relaxation training, meditation, and music therapy. Based on existing evidence, these treatments may be helpful for symptom management but are not proven to benefit the underlying disorder.
Herbs and Supplements. A number of parents resort to alternative remedies as an alternative to psychostimulants and other drugs. These products include- as St. Johnâ ' s wort, ginkgo biloba, panax ginseng, melatonin, and pine bark extract. Based on existing evidence, however, none can be recommended, particularly for children.
Generally, manufacturers of herbal remedies and dietary supplements do not need FDA approval to sell their products. Just like a drug, herbs and supplements can affect the body's chemistry, and therefore have the potential to produce side effects that may be harmful. There have been a number of reported cases of serious and even lethal side effects from herbal products. Always check with your doctor before using any herbal remedies or dietary supplements.
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