Nutritional Strategy for Treating ADHD

Happy children

Can a change in diet affect ADHD? Is hyperactivity sometimes misdiagnosed? Some feel that too often a quick assessment, diagnosis and prescription is given to children or adults with stress, anxiety, shakiness, and poor attention span, when maybe a change in nutrition can make a difference. Lisa Ow, Nutritionist shares her views on this controversial subject.

What is ADHD?
ADHD is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.  In ADD, the symptom of hyperactivity is not included. People with ADD are generally more calm and serene, yet still have the symptom of attention deficit disorder.  Children who are fidgety and restless and sometimes difficult to control in a classroom setting are often diagnosed with ADHD.  The common treatment for ADHD or ADD is prescription drugs.Prescription Drugs
How Diet Affects ADHD 
Many families and teachers are presented with the challenge of how to handle children with ADHD.  Natural medicine can be effective for treating ADHD and many benefits come from making changes in the diet.


boy smilingThere are a few different theories involving the relationship between ADHD and diet; including food additives.  When we eat a meal high in carbohydrates, the sugars are quickly released, and we get a spike in blood sugar along with a spike in energy.  As that sugar is metabolized, our blood sugar drops, resulting in a drop in energy.bread
What Happens When Blood Sugar Drops?
The body’s response to a drop in blood sugar is to release stress chemicals.  Low blood sugar is a physical stress on the body, to which your body responds.  When the body is under stress, common symMan stressedptoms are:

  • agitation
  • anxiety
  • forgetfulness
  • confusion
  • decreased coordination
  • shakiness, irritability
  • lack of concentration

These are some of the same symptoms as ADHD.  The brain’s primary fuel is glucose, and the brain is the first to be affected when blood glucose (sugar) drops.


stressed womanThe good news is that hypoglycemia is easy to control with some planning.

What is the Goal?
The goal is to stabilize blood sugar, to keep it from spiking up and crashing down.  In order to accomplish this, it is best to combine
complex carbohydrates
with a protein or fat.

SugarAll three of these macro-nutrients slow down the digestive process, allowing sugars to be released into the blood stream more slowly.  Eating small, frequent meals and snacks will also help to balance blood sugar.
Sugar Cakes

Some Healthy Diet Options
All kids (and adults too!) can benefit from balancing their blood sugar, especially at school, where they are expected to stay focused for long periods of time.  Some healthy snack and meal suggestions are:

High fiber foods

  • Meat or cheese sandwich on whole wheat bread
  • Lowfat yogurt and fruit
  • Lowfat cottage cheese and whole grain crackers
  • Turkey, cheese slices, and veggies
  • Salad with beans or nuts added
  • Peanut butter and whole grain crackers
  • Cheese and whole grain crackers
  • Bean soup with whole grain bread
  • Cheese on baked potato with skin
  • Whole grain bagel and cream cheese



Lisa OwDr. Lisa Ow, a licensed Naturopathic Doctor,  provides natural medical care for the whole family.  Primarily using nutrition, herbs, homeopathy, hormones, and detoxification, she treats a wide variety of health concerns throughout all stages of life.  Her areas of interest include:  hormone balancing, weight loss, nutrition, and detoxification. Graphic arts are copyright free from


Disclaimer:  The Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance is a charitable, independent registered nonprofit 501(c)3 organization and does not endorse any particular products or practices. We exist as an educational organization dedicated to providing free access to health education resources, products and services. Claims and statements herein are for informational purposes only and have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The statements about organizations, practitioners, methods of treatment, and products listed on this website are not meant to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. This information is intended for educational purposes only. The MBHA strongly recommends that you seek out your trusted medical doctor or practitioner for diagnosis and treatment of any existing health condition.

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