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The Connection Between ADHD and Diet

The connection between your brain and your gut (your small and large intestines) is incredibly strong. More and more research comes out every year demonstrating just how strong that connection is, especially regarding attention.

Your Second Brain

Many researchers call the gut the second brain, and for good reason. Embedded in the wall of your gut is your enteric nervous system. This system contains hundreds of millions of neurons and is part of a two-way communication pathway where (1) your brain’s activity influences the microbes in your gut and (2) the microbes in your gut make neurotransmitters and metabolites that act on your brain. Although that might not be the most comforting piece of information that you learn today, it’s nevertheless true. The trillions of microbes in your gut are influencing your brain.

So, taking steps to care for those gut microbes – and the environment they live in – is very smart and vital to maintaining your mental health and indeed overall health.

ADHD and Diet

One of the most common diagnoses given to a situation where a person has trouble focusing, or has difficulty with attention, is ADHD. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It is the most commonly diagnosed mental disorder in children, although people of ages can be labeled with this condition.

The symptoms that typically lead to this diagnosis are related to mood and/or behavior. For instance, problems with focus, impulse control, or agitation and anxiety. 

While there are likely many contributing factors, one thing is clear to any doctor who uses nutrition to help patients… such symptoms can be caused by what you eat or by problems in your gut. 

If you’ve been labeled with ADHD, or you have mental or emotional problems, you will likely feel a lot better when you improve your diet and the health of your gut. Maybe your symptoms will even abate completely.

Cut Down on These Things

  • Sugar. Get off all sugar. High sugar foods and starchy carbohydrates wreak havoc on your gut and cause excessive insulin release. This results in inflammation, which leads to poor nutrient absorption. It’s this lack of proper vitamins, minerals, and enzymes that can lead to mental and emotional problems.
  • Mercury. Mercury in food, particularly seafood, is a major dietary factor in mental health issues. Heavy metals in general have been found to trigger symptoms in people with ADD or ADHD. When you eat seafood, choose the kinds that have low amounts of mercury, or none at all. Opt for salmon and shrimp instead of the larger fish, such as swordfish and tuna, that are known to contain heavy metals.
  • Gluten. Avoid it. The gluten-free diet is not a fad. It’s something you should consider as a lifetime habit. Most people have some degree of sensitivity to gluten. It’s not good for anyone, whether they’re sensitive or not, because it affects the lining of the gut and has been linked to numerous neurological conditions, including ADHD.
  • Dyes. Make sure your food does not contain dyes. Read labels, because food coloring and chemical additives tend to worsen ADHD symptoms.

Eat More of These Things

  • Omega-3 fats. Eat plenty of healthy fat. Omega-3 fats fuel the brain and most people don’t get enough. Increase your intake by eating more salmon, snacking on walnuts (you can even throw walnuts and salmon on your salad), and including flax and chia seeds in your smoothies.
  • Organic foods. Choose organic food whenever possible, because pesticides are directly related to brain disorders that affect behavior. Organic food will be free of those pesticides or at least contain much less of them.
  • High quality dietary supplements. Add these five to your diet to nutritionally support brain function and mental or emotional issues:

  • fish oil
  • vitamin D (be sure it includes K2)
  • magnesium
  • all B vitamins, particularly B12
  • probiotics

The Big Takeaway

An unhealthy gut leads to poor brain function and negatively influences behavior. Anyone who is experiencing symptoms of ADHD should be extra diligent in maintaining a healthy diet and healthy gut. 

Take high-quality vitamins to help fill the gaps left by an imperfect perfect diet. After all, none of us are perfect. But even if you’re close to perfect, you have to take into consideration the fact that the food reading isn’t perfect, so dietary supplements will help fill in those gaps. 

If you have friends or family, particularly children, who are struggling with mental or emotional problems, please share this blog because it might unlock some mysteries for them.

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