Here, Director and Principal Dietitian, Gillian Killiner discusses why children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are at risk of being deficient of multiple nutrients and why the link between hyperactivity and food sensitivity is strong.
Overall nutritional status in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) shows that this patient population is at risk of multiple nutrients deficiency. Why is this? There are many hypothesis from insufficient chemical balancing to early exposure to antibiotics and gut flora and fauna being disrupted negatively affecting nutrient absorption.
One area that has been studied is low trace mineral status. Most notably, minerals that may play a crucial role in the production of dopamine, norepinephrine, and melatonin, which regulates sleep.
Nutrient deficiency in ADHD
Investigators at the University of British Columbia and the Children’s and Women’s Health Centre in Vancouver, Canada, 2010 showed among 44 children aged 6 to 12 years with ADHD. Nutrient deficiencies were averaging around 40%. The data suggested children with ADHD are nutritionally different from the rest of the population in that they eat less meat, fish, and poultry and have low levels of related micronutrients that are essential cofactors for the body’s manufacture of dopamine norephinephrine, and melatonin.
Researchers have also theorised that ADHD children may be deficient in essential fats. Not just because their dietary intake from foods such as seeds and nuts is inadequate (though this is not uncommon). But also because their need is higher, their absorption is poor, or they are unable to convert these fats well into EPA and DHA, and from DHA into prostaglandins. All which are important for brain function.
Hyperactivity and food sensitivity
Of all the avenues so far explored, the link between hyperactivity and food sensitivity is the most established. Food allergies can be of two types: Type 1 in the classical, severe and immediate allergy most commonly associated with peanuts and shellfish. This allergy involves an antibody called IgE and most people discover if they have this type of allergy early in life since the reaction is so immediate and severe. The second type, Type 2 involves the IgG antibody which works in quite a different way. Symptoms of these allergies can be many and varied and may take many hours to appear. These allergies often go undetected for this reason.
A study by Dr Joseph Bellanti of Georgetown University in Washington DC found that hyperactive children are seven times more likely to have food allergies than other children.
Creating a dietary programme for ADHD sufferers
As a Dietitian for over 25 years, I have treated hundreds of children with health issues including ADHD. I find that there are often not one but multiple issues that need to be addressed when creating a programme of care for optimising health in the ADHD individual.
The focus in practice requires the following approach:
- A full dietary and fluid assessment
- A lifestyle assessment
- GI and bowel assessment
No one size fits all when it comes to making changes. Each programme has to be personal and specific to each child based on:
- Their age
- Their understanding
- Their weight
- If they are growing
- Their taste – are they fussy/faddy eaters?
- Their behaviour around food
- Allergy potential
- Sleep patterns
- Resistance to change
- School involvement
- Their family’s ability to facilitate and provide all of the changes
- Activity levels
- Fluid intake
I have excellent success with children as when they are switched on they are keen to please and try. Once you get the correct balance of all the above and focus on the positive things the family can relax and enjoy their lives together again. The programmes created at 121 Dietitian are enjoyable, achievable and fun, which they have to be as they are for life.
The results are rewarding.
If you wish to book for a dietary ADHD assessment, get in touch today!
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