It is estimated that about 50% of childhood cases of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) continues into adulthood. Around 2% of American adults have ADHD but the figure may be much higher. While various drugs and counseling are used to treat adult ADHD, dietary an lifestyle modification may also be beneficial for managing adult ADHD. However, diet and lifestyle changes should not replace prescribed drugs and counseling.
Is there a diet for adult ADHD?
There is no specific diet that has shown to be effective for treating and managing adult ADHD. However, some of the dietary changes that may be beneficial for childhood ADHD could also have some benefits for adults as well. In addition, a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle can help improve overall health which may indirectly assist with adult ADHD symptoms. It is important to note that adult ADHD is impacted by various dietary and lifestyle factors that also affects adults without ADHD.
Read more on how to spot adult ADHD.
Adult ADHD Diet
The following dietary changes are advised partly based on the result of certain studies on childhood/adult ADHD. It may also include dietary modification based on risks that can affect any person, irrespective of the existence of ADHD. It is therefore advisable that dietary changes be undertaken after consulting with a medical professional who is well versed in treating and manage adult ADHD.
Control the Sugar and Additives
Contrary to previous beliefs, ADHD is not caused by too much sugar. However, high sugar intake may worsen ADHD symptoms. Although this appears to be more applicable to childhood ADHD, it should also be a dietary consideration for adults with ADHD. However, the response to sugar may vary among individuals. Therefore adults should try to reduce sugar to verify whether it does help with ADHD symptoms or not.
Preservatives and food colorants have also been implicated a possible exacerbating factors in ADHD. It seems that some people are more sensitive to these food additives than others. Avoiding foods laden with preservatives and artificial colorants may therefore be helfpul in managing ADHD symptoms. Junk foods should be minimized as these foods are usually high in sugar, preservatives and colorants.
Do Not Skip Meals
Regular meals ensures that the body has a constant supply of nutrition to maintain energy levels. This is not only about physical activity but also about mental activity. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It provides nutrition after a long period of not eating as a person was sleeping. It also provides nutrition that will be needed for the rest of the day, especially the most active part of the day for most people.
Various studies have show that concentration levels, learning ability and other mental functions are adversely affected by skipping meals like breakfast. These studies may have not been specific to children or adults with ADHD. However, the same principles apply to any person. It is important to adhere to a balanced diet. The body needs a diverse range of macro- and micro-nutrients for the maximum health benefit.
Caffeine is Not Bad
Small amounts of caffeine may help with controlling some of the symptoms of adult ADHD. Caffeine is a stimulant. It can help boost alertness, concentration and certain other brain functions. This may counteract the the ‘sluggish’ mental functions that may occur with ADHD in adults. However, caffeine intake should be moderate. Small amounts of tea or coffee throughout the day can be beneficial but large quantities of caffeine may worsen ADHD symptoms.
More Omega-3 Fatty Acids
There is some evidence to suggest that omega-3 fatty acids may help with ADHD symptoms. While this was more relevant for childhood ADHD, it could be beneficial in adult ADHD. Omega-3 fatty acids are abundant in oily fish and other seafood, certain nuts, vegetable oils and leafy vegetables. However, not all fats are equal. The intake of saturated and trans fats should be minimized or avoided as far possible.
Read more on childhood ADHD.
Adult ADHD Lifestyle
Lifestyle changes can be beneficial along with dietary modification. However, medication and counseling should not be abandoned. It is important to seek medical advice about these lifestyle measures. An exercise regimen for example should only be commenced after approval by a medical professional. It is important to slowly implement lifestyle changes in order to have a better a chance to adhere to it.
Get Enough Sleep
It is well known that insufficient sleep is associated with a number of negative health effects. Sufficient sleep is just as important in ADHD. At least 7 to 8 hours of sleep daily is necessary for adults. With a lack of sleep, a person tends to feel more tired, irritable and has difficulty performing mental tasks. Thefore it can impact negatively on ADHD symptoms. Just as important as quantity of sleep is the quality of sleep.
Minimize Screen Time
Whether it is a computer, mobile device (phone or tablet) or the television, reducing screen time may help with ADHD symptoms. It is also known that excessive screen time, especially screen time just before bedtime, can affect sleep. This not only applies to people with ADHD. Therefore screen time should be reduced, especially if it is excessive, disrupting daily work and impacting on sleep.
Exercise has a host of health benefits and it appears that it may also offer some benefit in adult ADHD. Regular exercise has been shown to improve both physical and mental functioning. It can also help with stress management which may be an added benefit for adults with ADHD. However, it is important to get sufficient exercise. Currently, medical authorities advise approximately 150 minutes of exercise in a week, divided over 5 days.
Arrange and Organize
Irrespective of ADHD, being organized and having surroundings properly arranged can improve efficiency. Many people with adult ADHD find efficiency to be a problem as they are easily distracted. Arranaging and organizing does not only apply to physical objects. Even structuring a daily timetable can be useful to stay on track with tasks and commitments, which may sometimes be more of a problem for people with adult ADHD.