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Reducing Symptoms of ADD/ADHD Through Dietary Changes


Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder are on the rise. The more we learn about these disorders, the more apparent it is becoming that they affect many aspects of health.

As of 2007, approximately 9.5% or 5.4 million children 4-17 years of age have ever been diagnosed with ADHD, according to the CDC.  And those are just the reported cases.

ADD, ADHD, and the wide spectrum of related impairments and learning disorders that children deal with in modern society are widespread and disruptive to a child’s ability to learn and grow normally.

From a variety of research sources, this condition is observed to occur because of an imbalance in two or more chemical messengers of the brain – dopamine and norepinephrine. Dopamine regulates memory formation and the onset of addictive behaviors, and norepinephrine is connected to arousal and attentiveness. The main symptoms of this imbalance are lack of attention, tendency to become distracted, and exhibition of impulsive, restless, and hyperactive behavior.

According to research from Dr. Russell Barkley:

  • A classroom with 30 students will have between 1 and 3 children with ADHD
  • Boys are three times as likely as girls to develop ADD/ADHD,  and 75% of boys diagnosed with ADD/ADHD have hyperactivity
  • Emotional development can be reduced greatly in children by 30 percent
  • 1/4 of children with ADHD have serious learning disabilities including: listening skills, oral expression, reading comprehension and/or math

Cases of diagnosed  attention deficit hyperactivity disorder have increased almost 4 percent each year from 2000 to 2010 – making it the number one mental health issue for children.

Does your child fit more than one of these descriptions?

Younger children:

  • Crying inconsolably
  • Screaming
  • Poor feeding habits
  • Head banging
  • Poor or little sleep

Older children:

  • Easily distracted
  • Has trouble focusing or concentrating
  • Withdrawn behavior
  • Has difficulty with follow-through or organization
  • Poor appetite and erratic eating habits
  • Talks excessively
  • Poor motor skills/coordination
  • Dark circles or puffiness under eyes
  • Red earlobes or cheeks
  • Swollen glands
  • Uncooperative, irritable, disobedient, self-injuring, nervous
  • Negative, moody, or depressed
  • Tends to be rude or interruptive toward others
  • Is unable to finish tasks
  • Restless or in constant motion
  • Doesn’t seem to listen or pay attention when addressed

If so, you may be dealing with ADD or ADHD. These and other learning or behavior disorders all stem from the presence of unhealthy flora or bacteria in the digestive tract and immune system. Simply by making changes to your child’s diet and adding nutritional supplements as needed, you can begin to eliminate the causes of behavioral and learning disorders and notice dramatic changes in a fairly short amount of time.

What are the causes of ADD/ADHD?

Although there are certainly some genetic and environmental factors involved,  one of the main culprits of ADD, ADHD, and related disorders are food allergens such as gluten (found in wheat, rye, and barley). Other sources of allergens include casein (from dairy – cow, goat, sheep, and human milk), corn, soy, sugar and artificial sweeteners, excitotoxins (from MSG, artificial colors/chemicals, and other related substances), yeast, and nuts. Continued exposure to the protein found in wheat irritates the digestive tract and penetrates the intestinal lining, allowing toxins to enter the bloodstream and create symptoms.

According to Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride, children with disorders such as ADD and ADHD lack an important enzyme, dipeptidyl peptidase IV,  which makes it possible to digest the proteins gluten and casein.  When undigested food penetrates the lining of the small intestine, these substances are allowed to freely enter the bloodstream. Proteins from these foods become substances with structures resembling opiates. These opiates penetrate the blood-brain barrier, causing a block to receptor sites in the brain, and have a similar effect on the body as drugs such as heroin and morphine. The body reacts to these as foreign invaders with an immune response, creating allergic-like symptoms such as irritability, lack of focus, hyperactivity, fatigue, aggression, impaired speech/motor coordination, and learning disorders.

Many allergic reactions come from highly-processed forms of food, so eliminating these from your child’s diet is important. Expensive testing to determine whether your child has allergies is one possibility, but according to Dr. McBride, most allergy testing is not worth the time or money spent. Elimination of suspect foods and then waiting to observe results is therefore the best way to determine what the problem is.

When your child experiences health issues as a result of food, mal-absorption and nutritional deficiencies are likely to occur. Dietary changes and nutritional supplementation can help children recover from deficiencies and heal.

Some processed foods and ingredients which contribute to ADD/ADHD symptoms include (but are not limited to):

  • breads and grains
  • crackers
  • chips
  • desserts
  • candy
  • sugar
  • artificial sweeteners
  • food dyes
  • preservatives
  • MSG – including hydrolyzed vegetable and soy proteins
  • packaged or bottled gravies, salad dressings, dips, mayonnaise, marinades
  • soy Worcestershire sauces
  • processed meats such as ham, turkey, bacon, roast beef, chicken, salami, sausage, etc.
  • “seasonings”
  • canned soups, sauces,
  • dry milk and whey powder
  • carageenan
  • malted barely and barley flour
  • fish sauce
  • hydrogenated and artificial oils – including vegetable oils like canola, soy, and cottonseed
  • caffeine

See MSG Truth for a list of foods to avoid.

Additional reading about food additives and other chemicals in our food supply: The Unhealthy Truth, Robyn O’Brien

For more information about food additives/preservatives, see the Truth in Labeling web site.

Because many children experience health issues as a result of food intolerances and allergic reactions, nutritional deficiencies are likely to occur.  Once the cause of the problem is removed through elimination of allergens, food additives, and chemicals, the body can begin to heal the damage.  Dietary changes and the right kinds of nutritional supplementation can help children recover from deficiencies and heal.

Foods and nutritional supplements which can dramatically affect ADD/ADHD disorders:

  • Grass-fed meats and poultry (without hormones or antibiotics, or fed from GMO sources) -  higher in Omega 3s, CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), minerals, and Vitamins A, D, E, and K2
  • Bone broths - these home-made stocks contain a number of important minerals, gelatin, and other vital elements to heal the body and digestive  tract, and are easy to absorb
  • Eggs from pasture-raised chickens, ducks, etc. - higher in Omega 3s, CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), minerals, and Vitamins A, D, E, and K2
  • Safe-sourced seafood - high in minerals such as zinc, iron, selenium, phosphorus, and Vitamins A and D
  • Organ meats - from pasture raised animals and birds, great sources of zinc, iron, and B Vitamins, which many children who have behavior issues are greatly deficient in.  One way to get your child to eat liver is to cut up into very small pieces and freeze them. You can hide these “liver pills” in other foods or give in pieces, one at a time if your child is old enough to swallow, with water. If your child won’t eat liver in any preparation, I recommend dessicated liver tablets. See sources.
  • Raw dairy products (for those children who are not sensitive to dairy) – milk, butter, cheese, sour cream, yogurt, kefir, buttermilk. Those who are sensitive to dairy can usually consume home-made yogurt and kefir from healthy cows on pasture – preferably raw. Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride recommends holding off on dairy if there is a sensitivity while consuming bone broths and cultured vegetable juices. Over time, cultured dairy foods can gradually be added into the diet, and later on, raw milk.
  • Healthy saturated and mono-unsaturated fats like butter, extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil, lard, & tallow, chicken and duck fat from healthy animals and fowl or other birds who have access to sunshine and free movement on pasture
  • Fermented cod liver oil and skate oil (for those who don’t test well for fermented cod liver oil) – see sources
  • Home-made cultured and fermented foods – for severe symptoms, it may be best to stay away from fermented dairy and grains at first. Stick to cultured vegetables and fresh-pressed juices made at home. Gradually add back in real, raw cultured dairy foods as the body heals.
  • Fulvic acid – which is a liquid and contains trace minerals we may be lacking, and has a high absorption rate and chelating of heavy metals from the body. Fulvic acid is a product of bacteria in soil. Recommended by Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride from Gut and Psychology Syndrome.
  • Magnesium oil – applied topically, this oil is a highly-absorbable way to provide magnesium to the body through the skin
  • Epsom salt baths – soaking in a bath of epsom salts is another great way to confer mineral benefits to your body through the skin. I recommend Remarkable Redwood Remedies.

Foods to eliminate to avoid ADD/ADHD symptoms:

  • Foods containing gluten (including wheat, rye, barley)
  • Foods containing casein
  • Other grains
  • Processed and packaged foods which may contain dyes, preservatives, excitotoxins (MSG and other related substances)
  • Commercially-raised meats, poultry, eggs, and dairy which come from animals fed corn, grain, soy and other toxic substances, and are likely to contain antibiotics, hormones, and pesticide or other undesirable residues
  • Dairy products if your child is sensitive to casein.  After the gut has healed, try raw dairy products from cows on pasture.

When the digestive tract has been healed, some children can  begin to add certain foods back into their diets such as raw dairy products and properly prepared grains – soaked, sprouted, soured, or fermented.  Returning to grains and especially gluten should be done on an individual basis, as not all children’s bodies can tolerate them. But remember that returning to processed foods, grains and pasteurized dairy products can cause a recurrence of symptoms.  Some ADD/ADHD children who are in the process of healing their digestive tracts can consume dairy as long as it is unprocessed and un-heat treated (pasteurized), but each child is different and may require some experimentation.

Remember that nutrients from real foods from healthy sources and quality supplements (when needed and in an absorbable format) support your child’s physical and mental state for optimal health. They support your child’s body in all the activities they do each and every day, and help the body to be able to detox from other sources of toxins you may not have control over. 

Processed foods with additives, chemicals, sugar and that lack real nutrients. They deplete your child’s store of nutrients and prevent the body from functioning normally and being able to handle activity, stress, and daily tasks. Artificial ingredients increase levels of hyperactivity because the depletion of nutrients sends children’s bodies into overdrive, as they try to compensate for the loss of important building and foundation blocks they need to be healthy.

If you are looking for a great way to incorporate multiple, nutrient-dense foods in a great-tasting, easy-to-make meal for your child - make a smoothie!  Use whole, raw milk, yogurt, or kefir with fruit, and other ingredients such as gently melted coconut oil, raw honey, raw egg yolks, cod liver oil, etc. Experiment with different combinations and find out what your family prefers.

Some people may not tolerate egg yolks at first if their digestive tracts are compromised, so try the smoothie without the egg yolks if any issue arises with nausea or digestion. Try again in a few weeks as the digestive tract heals by adding the yolk back in.

For more information on healing your child’s digestive tract, ADD, ADHD, and other learning and behavior disorders, read Dr. Nastasha Campbell McBride’s Gut and Psychology Syndrome.

The Feingold Association has a wealth of references and information about how dietary changes dramatically affect behavior and related health issues.

Go grain-free and still eat delicious, healthy meals – why going grain-free can be a delicious and healthy choice for those with health issues and allergies

9 reasons to make bone broth - an easy-to-make, nourishing food for your child or anyone else in your family who may be dealing with gut and digestive issues

Dental crowding, cavities, and health problems – what’s the connection? Find out why many tooth decay and dental issues can be related to your diet much more than you think

This post is part of Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesdays carnival. Please visit her site and see the other posts linked there.

Green Living Healthy Living Healthy Meat Kids & Family Real Food

How Digestion Affects Health


How much does digestion affect health? The truth is, it has a profound impact on how well you feel and how everything in your body functions. Everything you consume will ultimately have an effect on your well-being. Throughout the history of time, sage practitioners and health professional have understood that a healthy gut supports our entire foundation of wellness.

If we can’t digest our food, and if our food isn’t real or recognizable by the body, the digestive tract function will become impaired. As a result, all organ systems in our bodies will begin to malfunction.

Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride, a pediatric neurosurgeon, has done an extensive amount of research on this system in the body and how it affects all the other organ systems. I was fortunate enough to hear her speak at the Weston A. Price Conference last week in Philadelphia. Although I already knew about many of the things she has been sharing with the health and medical world in her research, I learned some other things which were truly astounding.

From personal experience in finding treatment for her own son who was diagnosed with autism many years ago, she made the connection that no body system functions in isolation and that everything is connected. “Most psychiatric patients suffer from digestive problems. They have unhealthy inner ecosystems where there is an overgrowth of bad bacteria, yeast and fungus; they cannot digest food properly. This creates a large number of neurotoxins that can move from their intestines through the damaged intestinal lining into the blood stream where the toxins are carried to the brain.” In her research, she discovered that most modern illnesses can be linked back to the state of health in the digestive tract.

From the Weston A. Price Foundation web site review of Dr. McBride’s book:

“When a baby is born, it acquires the flora of the mother during its passage through the birth canal. If the mother has a history of antibiotic or contraceptive use and poor digestive health, her flora will likely be unhealthy. If she does not breast-feed her baby, the gut flora of the child will be further compromised. The infant will often develop digestive problems such as colic, bloating, flatulence, diarrhea, constipation, feeding difficulties, intestinal damage and malnourishment very early in life and is typically afflicted by a host of allergies. The child usually has frequent ear infections treated with many rounds of antibiotics, which only make the situation worse.”

Genetic history, gender,  the state of nutrition prior to conception in the parents, medication and drugs, and environmental factors certainly also play a significant role in the development of disease. But without a doubt the digestive tract one of the primary mechanisms through which these factors can allow such developments to manifest themselves in noticeable symptoms and illness.

With high disease and illness levels present in the world, we are now understanding the connection to digestive health to many disorders – even though on the surface they may seem unrelated.

Here are some tips for successful digestive function and health:

  • Limit beverage intake while eating. Most overeating occurs because of dehydration, so hydrate before and after you eat – 1/2 hour before and 1 to 2 hours after eating. If you do drink with meals, try something warm that will aid digestion such as peppermint or ginger tea. Keep liquid intake to about 4 ounces during meal. Kombucha and bone broths are excellent foods to consume that will help keep your mineral levels optimal and reduce dehydration and other health issues. Too much liquid dilutes hydrochloric acid production in the stomach and can diminish the digestive tract’s ability to properly digest food you eat. If your hydrochloric acid production is low due to poor dietary habits, consider taking a hydrochloric acid supplement such as Betaine HCL 750 mg tabs by Designs For Health or Betaine HCL by Pharmax.
  • Avoid processed, packaged, and prepared foods, including refined foods with sugar. Sugar weakens the digestive tract and lowers immune system function. If you don’t do a lot of food preparation or cooking at home, consider doing this more in the future. Prepared and processed foods usually contain preservatives, chemicals, toxins, and have been altered in some way as to make nutrients dead and unavailable to the body. Real food prepared from scratch at home will support your digestive tract and health optimally.
  • Eliminate trans fats and hydrogenated oils. Replace with butter, lard, and tallow from healthy animals on pasture, coconut oil (for high heat cooking), and raw oils like pumpkin seed olive oil for raw consumption (great for salads).
  • Replace conventional and industrial sources of protein and meat with grass-fed meat and meat products. Instead of conventional eggs and poultry, switch to pasture-raised poultry and eggs. Meats, poultry, and eggs from healthy animals and birds on pasture are not treated with hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, and other chemicals. They are also from environments using organic and sustainable practices, and by their very growing methods contain more essential nutrients for health.
  • Take an Omega 3 supplement daily – cod liver oil is best in winter. Try Green Pasture Products fermented cod liver oil. Fermented cod liver oil is also the most potent source of natural Vitamins A and D – critical nutrients in maintaining general health.
  • If you eat grains, give yourself a break from wheat, which is normally the most processed and causes the most allergies/health problems. Try whole, soaked and/or sprouted grains including amaranth, quinoa, millet, kamut, buckwheat, and occasionally spelt. Try to keep to no more than 2 servings per week, and consider eliminating grains altogether if you have a chronic problem. This measure will help eliminate issues such as bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, indigestion, candida syndrome, and other more serious problems like IBS or Crohn’s Disease.
  • Eat more fermented foods – kefir and real yogurt made from raw milk, cultured vegetables, and sauerkraut.
  • Eat bone broths made from home-made stock from healthy birds and animals on pasture. Bone broths are easily digestible and are an excellent source of nutrients and minerals that will heal your body.
  • Eat vegetables cooked and with healthy fats like butter, ghee, lard, tallow, or bacon drippings. The fat-soluble vitamins present in healthy fats help to digest and assimilate vegetables into your body more efficiently.
  • Raw juicing with plenty of greens is a good way to get your daily intake. When juicing, avoid high glycemic choices such as carrots and beets. For a good guide to juicing, read Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride’s book The Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS).
  • Avoid soy unless fermented such as miso or tempeh. Do not eat soy cheese, milk, or soy proteins. These foods are all processed and soy contains phytic acid which inhibits the absorption of minerals and nutrients into the body. Soy also contains estrogen which can be harmful in excess and especially for men and boy’s reproductive systems.
  • Drink filtered water regularly. Another good way to stay hydrated is to add unsweetened, not-from-concentrate organic cranberry juice (and lemon juice) to your water. These are excellent detoxifiers and promote healing.
  • Mealtime should be relaxed and stress-free. If you are anxious or upset, avoid eating.

If you have had a compromised immune system and digestion due to poor diet and other factors, here are some recommendations to help heal your gut:

  • One of the best ways to heal your gut from the effects of a lifetime of poor dietary habits is the GAPS diet as recommended by Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride. For more information, visit the GAPS web site.
  • You may want to consider taking a digestive enzyme for additional support for digestion. Some brands available from the health food store which are good include Digest Gold and Garden of Life. For more potent support, ask a qualified health professional who has access to professional line of digestive enzymes. Some practitioners can recommend very powerful enzymes which are not available on the mainstream market, and depending on your individual need, this type of product may be appropriate.
  • You may need additional fiber in your diet for a period of time to help overcome issues you are experiencing as a result of poor dietary habits. Good products to take include Colon Plus by Biotics Research or Gastro-Fiber by Standard Process. Or, consult a knowledgeable practitioner who can recommend a good product.
  • Use aloe vera daily. Drinking liquid aloe vera is very soothing and helps heal the digestive tract of a variety of disorders. Aloe vera encourages the bowels to move more efficiently and effectively, and is a great detoxifying agent. Good brands to use are George’s and Country Life. Drink several ounces of aloe vera in the morning at least a half an hour before breakfast and between meals (two hours after eating) for maximum benefit.
  • Foods that do not digest properly such as processed foods or because of stress result in overgrowth of harmful bacteria and digestive disorders as well as lethargy, mood disorders, and other issues. You may want to consider a detoxification protocol to help heal your gut. Talk with a qualified practitioner who has experience in this area to find out which protocol is best for you. For more information about basic detoxification, read How Cleansing Positively Affects Your Health about the different types of detoxification, or It’s Time for A Fall Detox!

For more information about the digestive organs and how they affect health, read Gallbladder Disease and The Standard American Diet – My Personal Account

For more information about gallbladder/liver detoxification, read My Liver and Gallbladder Miracle Cleanse Experience