Dietary Modification And ADHD

Dietary Modification and ADHD

ADHD and Diet
This July/August 2000 article form Mothering Magazine was written by Michael Jacobson. This article discusses the benefits of having a conscientious diet concerning ADHD.

The Diet Ghuru
Dr. Benjamin Feingold was chief emeritus of the Department of Allergy at the Kaiser Permanente Hospital in San Francisco in the early 1970’s. He reported that there was a link between diet and several physical and allergic conditions. He composed a diet that was free of artificial colorings and flavorings and certain other foods and experienced results in some of his hyperactive patients. Many parents of children with hyperactivity embraced the Feingold diet and also experienced results. Many were skeptical in the medical field but by 1982, the National Institutes of Health had to concede that with a controlled diet, hyperactive patients can experience results in the reduction of hyperactivity. The NIH panel did recommend that further research should be conducted into the diet-behavior connection. Since it has not, “little is known about the percentages of children who respond to the dietary therapy, to what degree they respond, which children are most likely to be affected, the additives and foods that cause problems, and the best ways to use diet therapy”(Jacobson, 2000).

Prescription vs. Diet
Ritalin is a common prescription that is prescribed to control symptoms of ADHD. I have seen the results myself. Three years ago when I was substitute teaching at an elementary school in Maryland, there was a boy who absolutely had no control of himself. He was always all over the classroom, out of the desk, running, etc. I did not have experience with a child like this but you could tell that he was not doing it to misbehave, he could not help it. The teacher and the administration recommended for him to seek medical help and he was prescribed Ritalin. He really was calm and able to focus in class. Ritalin today is being prescribed to students on a large scale. The problem that we face with prescriptions is that there have not be studies done yet to see the long term effects. “it will not be known whether years long treatment in childhood with stimulant drugs has an effect on the nervous system or other parts of the body later in life”(Jacobson, 2000).

Trying the dietary modification approach can be difficult in a school setting. Foods that contain dyes and other ingredients are advertised aggressively and therefore are available. Children who already are hooked on foods that contain the ‘bad ingredients’ might have a hard time trying to get rid of them from their diet. Also it might be hard for them to see something their friends can eat and they cannot. Parents are forced to be aggressive in developing a diet that is advantageous as well as desirable. Some parents have said that their children are willing to cooperate with the dietary changes because they feel the positive effects of the diet.

What this means to us
While I was writing the description of this article, I really started to think about the student that was recommended for Ritalin and the positive effects that he experienced. I wonder what would have happen if the teacher and the administration recommended a dietary modification approach first. Since we do not know the long term effects of certain medications, would it not be better for us to recommend something that was not possibly harmful first and then recommend medical attention if we along with others did not notice a change. Either way with a prescription or dietary modification it would help the student suffering from ADHD with gaining the ability to focus. Once that student is able to focus, they can succeed in experiencing their highest level of academic ability.

Jacobson, Michael. (2000) ADHD and Diet: How Food Affects Mood. Mothering Magazine, July/August 2000.
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