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Can Food Improve ADHD Symptoms? Yes, Here’s What the Studies Say.


The word ADHD written on paper

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder - known simply as ADHD - is a neurodevelopmental condition that affects millions of children and adults across the world.


Although a combination of medications and therapy is most commonly used to manage the symptoms of ADHD, recent studies have highlighted the impact nutrition has on the mind, demonstrating how a balanced diet can serve to improve ADHD symptoms and enrich the overall well-being of those living with this condition.


In this blog, we will explore the link between nutrition and ADHD and discuss the benefits of a balanced diet.


What is ADHD?


First things first, let’s talk about what ADHD is.


Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is characterised by difficulties in attention levels and impulsive or hyperactive behaviour. Symptoms such as these, when unmanaged, can significantly impact an individual's overall quality of life, presenting challenges to academic performance, relationships, and work. While the exact cause of ADHD remains unclear, research suggests that both genetic and environmental factors play a role.


It is also worth noting that many individuals who suffer from ADHD-type symptoms may wait years before finally receiving an official diagnosis due to issues around mental health diagnosis and misdiagnosis. These problems can cause people to miss out on necessary support, particularly in school environments, which can then increase difficulties in later life.


I am pleased to say that in recent years, we are gaining a better understanding of conditions such as ADHD, and neurodivergence in general. Science recognises the role of nutrition in influencing brain function, leading to investigations into how dietary interventions can alleviate and greatly improve the well-being of those who are affected by ADHD.


The crucial link between nutrition and ADHD


In recent years, multiple studies have highlighted the link between certain dietary factors and symptomatic ADHD, these dietary factors include additives, sugar and artificial sweeteners, and nutrient deficiencies which can exacerbate ADHD symptoms like inability to focus or restlessness.


We are beginning to understand how a balanced diet - one that is rich in essential nutrients - can have a significantly positive impact on brain health and cognitive function. In particular, nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, iron, zinc, magnesium, and B vitamins have all been found to play a crucial role in brain development and neurotransmitter regulation, influencing attention, mood, and behaviour.


Food that can improve ADHD, lean meats, avocado, and nuts

How can food improve ADHD symptoms?


A balanced diet is designed to provide the body with a wide range of nutrients to support overall health and well-being, both physically and mentally.


When it comes to ADHD, a well-rounded diet offers several fantastic benefits. Firstly, it promotes stable blood sugar levels, preventing energy crashes and enhancing focus.


Secondly, a balanced diet provides essential nutrients that support neurotransmitter function and brain health, with Omega-3 fatty acids (found in foods such as fatty fish, walnuts, and flaxseeds, for example) having shown their capacity to reduce ADHD symptoms.


Additionally, incorporating foods rich in iron, zinc, and magnesium, such as lean meats, legumes, whole grains, and dark leafy greens, can greatly support cognitive function and mood regulation.


Often there are other health issues at play, such as compromised digestive or immune function, imbalanced hormones, and stress from dealing with a diagnosis (or waiting for one); all of these and more impact our brain and behaviour.


Practical tips for a balanced diet


Eating a balanced diet certainly does not need to be complicated or overwhelming. In fact, with the right approach, embracing a balanced diet can be sustainable and incredibly empowering. I would recommend incorporating vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins (especially fish and seafood) into your meals. As you do so, you can reduce your reliance on processed foods, sugary snacks, and soft drinks.


It’s worth noting that you may find it easier to steadily decrease these types of food from your diet, rather than quitting all at once! It can be a challenge at the best of times to change habits around food, and medications can also play havoc with appetite regulation. Working slowly to incorporate change has been shown to be most successful long term.


How can Vagus Wellbeing help?


If you’re looking to transition to a healthier, more balanced diet to manage ADHD symptoms, you may be feeling a little overwhelmed as to where to begin.


Seeking help from a professional nutritional therapist can be incredibly beneficial, providing powerful guidance and support as you strive to holistically manage your mental health and cognitive function.


As a registered nutritional therapist (CNHC, BANT), I can help you to make informed choices around your health and well-being, working with you to better understand your unique needs and how you can support yourself through simple, sustainable changes to your lifestyle.


A range of tests are also available to help determine if any imbalances in the body are contributing to symptoms.


Are you curious about how you can improve your ADHD symptoms through a holistic, diet-focused approach? Vagus Wellbeing can help. Take a look at the services that I offer here.


For a free, thirty-minute consultation call, book here.


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