ADHD is being diagnosed more and more every day. It is a real medical condition that can make family life challenging, cause learning and socialization difficulties for the child diagnosed and leave parents wondering what to do about it. What causes it? So far, there are no definitive answers. If you have a diagnosed child who is struggling with ADHD symptoms and are looking for relief, one idea that has proven to work for some is changing the diet. While it may not be the cure or the end all, many families have found diet changes to make a big difference.

How to Get Started

For many, getting started can be a challenge. Additionally, finding the foods that may be playing a part in triggering behaviors could take some time and dedication on the part of the entire family. However, those that find it makes a difference will tell you it was well worth it.

Some of the foods that may play a role in triggering ADHD behaviors include:


Many parents have found it very beneficial to remove gluten from the diet of their children who have ADHD. For some, gluten is hard to digest and causes a wealth of problems including celiac disease as well as problems with bowels, abdominal pain, and more. Some parents may choose to have gluten sensitivity or celiac testing done on their child before putting their child on a gluten free diet. Still others decide to remove gluten on their own, to see what the results will be.

Dairy Products

Allergies to dairy products, especially cow's milk, seem to be on the rise and if your child has ADHD, removing dairy products from his/her diet just may help. Luckily, there are plenty of options on the market that you can use as a substitute, including almond, rice, and coconut milk. Different products have different flavors and you may have to try a few before you find one your child will like. You may want to stay away from soy milk products as soy is another top high-allergen food.

Processed Foods and Meats

Buying processed foods may be a quick dinner fix but at the same time are contributing to the obesity epidemic in America. Processed foods contain preservative and additives that could contribute to ADHD behaviors. You should especially avoid any products containing MSG.

Food Coloring

Food dyes have been linked in some studies to cause hyperactivity in kids, especially when combined with the preservative sodium benzoate. Food dyes are in everything from cereals, to yogurts and juice beverages, to candy, cake mixes, and more. Read labels carefully to eliminate dyes in your child's diet. There are plenty of products on the market that are dye free.

Sugar and Sugar Substitutes

Yes, sugar can play a role in hyperactivity. While it may be nearly impossible to eliminate sugar from your child's diet, cutting down can make a difference. In place of sugar, try using small amounts of other sweeteners like honey and real maple syrup. Encourage your child to eat healthier snacks like fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, etc.

Sugar substitutes are not a good option, either. Studies have shown that sugar substitutes can cause a huge realm of health problems that could possibly increase ADHD behaviors.

Candy and Other Junk Foods

This should come as no surprise, as most candy and junk foods are processed and filled with sugar — two things that are already listed. While your child may resist, eliminating these foods and replacing them with healthier ones has made a huge difference in many children's lives.

If you feel overwhelmed after reading all of this, you are not alone. Every parent who struggles with how they can best help their ADHD child is offered advice from teachers, doctors, family, friends, and more. At times, it can be so overwhelming you don't know who to listen to or what advice to follow. Every parent has to find what works for their family. If you do decide to try diet changes, take it slow. Don't try to do so much that you feel defeated before you have even started. Start by eliminating one item and go from there. You may find some food items make no difference for your child, where another may make a huge difference.

Helping ADHD kids is certainly a long and dedicated journey.

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