ADHD Treatment Bethesda MD

Foods contain active ingredients that essentially work like opiate-like peptides that can change mood and behavior. Managing symptoms of ADHD requires stabilizing blood sugar levels and feeding the brain the right foods (complex carbohydrates and protein) at the right times (every three to five hours).

Sharon Anne Murphy, MD
(301) 827-7777
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Robert Martin Cohen, MD
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Kathleen J Cantwell Ackerman, MD
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Harold Vincent Kelly, MD
(301) 657-3992
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Attentive Eating

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By Amy Paturel

From the time he was 15 months old, Shaun Barton exhibited behaviors that went far beyond standard attention deficit–hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). He banged his head against the wall, he hit, he kicked, he screamed. By age 2, he became so violent he couldn’t be in the same room with other kids, claims Shaun’s mother Lisa Barton. “He would attack anyone—bigger, smaller, it didn’t matter.” The culprit? His diet.

Foods contain active ingredients that essentially work like opiate-like peptides that can change mood and behavior, says Dana Laake, MS, RD, co-author of The Kid-Friendly ADHD & Autism Cookbook (Fair Winds Press, 2006). Take the obvious a.m. sugar and java jolt, for example. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone, ADHD or not, who doesn’t lack focus a few hours after a Krispy Kreme and coffee breakfast. For the 3 to 5 percent of children who have ADHD, however, the repercussions of a poor diet are much more severe than in children without attention difficulties. The trick, claim experts, is to learn which foods impact your child positively and which send him into a hyperactive tailspin.

A solid base
Managing symptoms of ADHD requires stabilizing blood sugar levels and feeding the brain the right foods (complex carbohydrates and protein) at the right times (every three to five hours). Unfortunately, the typical American child eats nothing but deep-fried foods, mac ’n’ cheese, and bread, claims Laake—all of which send blood sugar levels soaring and give their little brains too much glucose to chew on at once. In a child with ADHD, whose brain is less efficient at sending and receiving messages, that becomes a recipe for disaster.

A child uses more than half of the dietary glucose she breaks down to process information in the brain. To keep blood sugar levels in check, and attention focused, children with ADHD need a steady supply of energy from a balanced diet of protein, carbohydrates, and fat.

“Every meal should have protein—fish, poultry, meat, eggs, beans, nuts, or seeds—even dairy products, if they’re tolerated,” says Laake. So instead of loading your child with carbohydrates for breakfast (think waffles drowned in syrup), spread peanut butter on toast, or add ground flaxseeds to quick breads. Better yet, send him to school with a couple of hard-boiled eggs and a banana or give him granola with plain yogurt for breakfast on the go. The combination of protein and fiber-rich carbohydrates will maintain steady blood sugar levels and keep your child alert.

Magnesium matters

In addition to sugar overload, many children lack vital nutrients like magnesium, vitamin B6, and essential fatty acids. Of particular concern is magnesium, since studies show that when a child’s brain doesn’t get enough of the mineral, neural transmissions suffer, causing ADHD-like symptoms such as hyperactivity, restlessness, and irritability.

And their beloved snacks—processed treats and sodas—get part of the blame. Food-manufacturing t...

Author: Amy Paturel

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