Skip to main content
Pediatric Health

Foods that Can Worsen ADHD Symptoms

By March 12, 2012November 14th, 2023One Comment

Since 2003, the rate of children diagnosed with ADHD has increased by 22%.  As of 2007, over 5.4 million children between the ages of 4-17 had a diagnosis of ADHD.  Many parents feel helpless after their child receives a diagnosis of ADHD and feel that there is nothing else to be done beside prescription medication.  There are many things that you can to do improve your child’s focus and attention, diet being the most important.  Over the past decade there has been a growing amount of research showing that diet has a huge impact on the severity of attention and focus issues.  Here are a few foods that have been shown to increase hyperactivity and lack of focus:

  1. Food Dyes: FD & C red, blue, yellow, green.
  2. Food preservatives: BHA, BHT, TBHQ, sodium nitrite, sulfites, disodium EDTA, propyl gallate and benzoic acid.

The newest research is looking at food allergies as possible triggers for hyperactivity and inattentiveness.  There are two more common types of allergic reactions, Type I and Type II.  The Type I reaction or IgE are of quick onset occurring within seconds to minutes of consuming a food, and usually cause hives, swelling of the throat and intense itching.  The Type II reaction or IgG are a slower onset reaction, and occur within a few hours up to 72 hours after consuming a food.  These reactions tend to cause more chronic health issues; eczema, hyperactivity, lack of focus, irritable bowel syndrome, and chronic ear infections.  The most common food allergies in my practice are dairy, wheat, soy, corn, eggs and yeast.

There are some dietary changes that can help increase focus and attention:

  1. Breakfast is the most important meal!  Be sure to include some protein in your child’s breakfast.  Gluten free oatmeal with some fruit and nuts mixed in, or a berry smoothie with almond milk and rice protein powder, or a gluten free or whole grain waffle with some peanut or almond butter.
  2. Skip the school lunches, they generally contain a lot of processed foods and contain numerous food dyes and preservatives.
  3. Offer healthy, but tasty snacks when they get home.  Try an organic apple or celery with peanut or almond butter.  Organic popcorn topped with olive oil and salt.  Gluten free crackers and veggies dipped in hummus.
  4. Choose their beverages wisely. 100% fruit juice or water.  No soda, or sugary juices as these usually contain food dyes, preservatives and lots of sugar.

One Comment

  • Debbie says:

    I found another great breakfast recipe: quinoa “cereal.” I cook the quinoa with raisins or dried cranberries (today it was both), then add a bit of brown sugar or honey, cinnamon, and nutmeg. It’s really yummy! Now if I could only convince the kids – the adults love it! The kids don’t know what they’re missing!