Understanding Attention Deficit Disorders and Nutrition's Role in Their Treatment

In the last decade, ADD and ADHD have become interchangeable terms that are used to describe above-normal levels of hyperactivity in children and extreme restlessness in adults. While both are brain-based disorders with strong cognitive connections and a shared history of symptoms, ADD and ADHD are in fact two different conditions. Understanding the subtle differences between them is the key to finding a treatment solution that works.

What are the Symptoms of ADHD?

ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is one of the most commonly diagnosed mental conditions in both children and adults. Symptoms of ADHD include impulsivity, inability to concentrate, lack of control and mental fog. Most new ADHD cases are diagnosed in early childhood. Kids who might have ADHD have a tough time sitting still, paying attention in school, following directions and thinking through their actions. Although all of these symptoms are normal in early childhood, they are severe in children with ADHD.

Adults with ADHD usually struggle with time management, maintaining healthy relationships, making decisions and performing well at work. Adults with undiagnosed or untreated ADHD often self-medicate with drugs and alcohol to control their symptoms.

How is ADD Different from ADHD?

While ADD (attention deficit disorder) and ADHD have many of the same characteristics, ADD is technically a subtype of ADHD. Hyperactivity, the main symptom of ADHD, is not present in ADD cases. The lack of hyperactivity makes ADD more difficult to diagnose. Its relatively mild symptoms can include general anxiety, difficulty processing information, low energy, procrastination, poor memory, social problems and loss of focus. Unlike people with ADHD, children and adults who have ADD are rarely impulsive. They tend to think their decisions through before acting but are usually distracted by racing thoughts, fear and confusion.

Nutritional Tips for Improving the Symptoms of ADD and ADHD Naturally

  • Eat foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Commonly found in nuts and fish, omega-3 fatty acids can improve brain function, reduce inflammation and promote normal growth and development.
  • Up your protein intake. Eating lean proteins can help you focus during the day and prevent insomnia at night. Beans, poultry, nuts, fish, eggs and cheese are all examples of high-protein foods that can help reduce your symptoms.
  • Cut out packaged foods. Processed foods are full of artificial additives and other ingredients that have no nutritional value and can be potentially dangerous to your health.
  • Avoid simple carbohydrates. Foods that are high in sugar and processed carbohydrates can make your symptoms worse by causing dramatic changes in your blood sugar levels.
  • Fill up on complex carbohydrates. Unlike processed carbohydrates, they can give you energy without causing restlessness. Eat several servings of fruits and vegetables a day to get the complex carbohydrates and natural sugars you need to stay healthy.

While the above nutritional guidelines can help you improve your symptoms, it is important to get a proper diagnosis and treatment plan from a doctor or a mental health professional in your area. If your symptoms are disrupting your life, you may need to take prescription medication in conjunction with living a healthier lifestyle.