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  • Writer's picturePamela Weintraub

THE ADHD DIET, Experience Life 2014

Updated: Jul 9, 2018

For kids with focus and behavior challenges, nutritional shifts may work as well as, or better than, medication.

Anyone who’s raised a kid with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) knows the drill: You take your sweet child to nursery school, and he runs amuck during story time. He won’t follow instructions for using the glitter and glue during art. He tips over other kids’ block towers.

Your child might be bright, maybe even brilliant, but he’s on his own disruptive trajectory. He might be called out in class, disinvited from play dates, labeled a menace. He risks exclusion from his community of peers, all because he can’t pay attention, slow down, or fit in.

The teacher takes you aside and tells you that if you don’t get on top of this, your son or daughter won’t be accepted in any mainstream classroom. The teacher gives you the name of a clinic, and you’re on your way.

That’s often the start of the Ritalin years. And from the moment your child takes those stimulant drugs, he never seems quite himself.

On Ritalin, along with Dexedrine, Adderall, or any number of other drugs — eventually one medication stops working, and another must cycle in — he makes it through the day. He’s OK in the classroom, although his personality is eerily flat and contained. He has no appetite and can’t eat lunch.

Then he comes home and the meds wear off, leaving a hellion on the rebound, bouncing off the walls with an aching stomach and a spinning head. If he has a prayer of doing his homework, he’ll need more Ritalin.

Then the meds keep him awake at night, so you have to give him another drug to help him sleep.

It is better than the pre-Ritalin days: He’s not a pariah, shipped off to some gated school for the disruptive, or forced to pass his days shadowed by an aide. At least his grades are better.

Besides, what choice do you have? The school social worker has informed you that taking your kid off his meds now would constitute child abuse — she could report you to the state.

If this scenario sounds familiar, you aren’t alone. ADHD and its cousin, attention deficit disorder (ADD), are the most widely diagnosed neuropsychiatric diseases of childhood. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that 11 percent of children from age 4 to 17 have been diagnosed with ADHD — boys at more than double the rate of girls. And the majority of them take medicine to control the symptoms.

There is some recent good news: A raft of new, peer-reviewed studies reveals that simple changes in diet can dramatically help manage ADHD and ADD.

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