I think we all know that what you put into your body can affect your physical and mental performance and health levels. Right?
That direct correlation has definitely been established between what we eat and how our brain functions. Diet and nutrition can definitely affect different areas of cognition, sleep, mood, attention span, and the accompanying effects those produce physically.
So what we’re going to talk about here is why protein is important for a child with ADHD, and in fact for anyone with ADHD. But more than that, I’m going to talk about eating habits, and to what degree eating the right things can actually help to combat the key symptoms of ADHD.
Food Can Have A Large Impact On Mental Health Generally
Although poor eating habits do not create ADHD, they do cause mental health problems in life more generally, some of which can impact on the severity of ADHD.
Let me be clear here, you are not going to get rid of the key symptoms of ADHD (lack of attention, impulsive behavior) just by eating certain foods. But you can slightly dampen down those core behaviors to a manageable level.
But it’s been generally proven that food impacts on our mental health. The more junk you eat, the more refined carbohydrates, the more sugary and fat laden your diet, the worse your health is generally physically and mentally. So it stands to reason that it can impact on conditions like ADHD as well.
Can Clean Eating Really Help You To Defeat Some Of The Symptoms Of ADHD?
There have been several studies that have found a relationship between ADHD symptom severity and what those people were consuming.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, one study found that people who ate unwashed fruit and vegetables, that contain higher levels of pesticides called organophosphates, were at higher risk ADHD, and more severe ADHD.
Another study found that the classic modern Western diet of fast foods, refined food, minimal fresh fruit and vegetables, alongside irregular eating patterns, almost double the risk of being diagnosed with ADHD, and of having more severe symptoms.
I’m a complete advocate of clean eating, especially now that I am a gym disciple as well. For me, superb diet, backed up with natural health and bodybuilding supplements can really help the brain, and develop strength and endurance as well.
What Does The Science Say About ADHD & Food?
It’s clinically proven that nutritional levels affect our brains. We need the correct nutrition to carry out those functions, and to allow neurotransmitters in the body to fire off correctly.
That’s why diet can affect things like depression and anxiety. If the electrical signals between neurotransmitters are incorrect, or if key hormonal production messages aren’t correct, then things like serotonin and dopamine production can be altered.
What’s been found is that some of these neurotransmitters are key to regulating wakefulness and sleep patterns. It’s been proven that protein tends to trigger the production of more alertness related neurotransmitters, while carbohydrates trigger ones more related to calmness and sleep.
The better you feed the right neurotransmitter production in the body, the more chances it has of regulating the signals and controlling the ADHD symptoms.
High levels of protein have been found to affect brain performance positively. It helps to provide more of the amino acids which create the neurotransmitters needed. Tryptophan and tyrosine are two of the crucial ones, which affect the four main neurotransmitters (serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine).
The bottom line here is that it seems one of the reasons ADHD has become more prevalent is due to poor Western diet that focuses on carbohydrates to the exclusion of the key things which make up natural good performance:
- High-protein diet that helps with blood sugar, mental performance, and physical performance
- Good digestive foods
- Fish oil and fats essential for brain power
With those things missing, is it any wonder ADHD is more prevalent?
The Three Ways The Nutrition Can Affect The ADHD Brain
So how does protein and nutrients generally affect the ADHD brain?
1. Brain cells require the correct nutrition in balance to correctly carry out their functions.
2. The myelin sheath, which insulates brain cells, need the right nutrients to operate correctly, so that transmission of electrical signals between brain cells is regulated.
3. The key neurotransmitters that keep us in balance need the correct fuel to operate correctly.
Put together, if these things aren’t in balance, your brain signals misfired, and produce an out of balance mental response.
What To Eat To Help Defeat ADHD
Hopefully you now understand how crucial eating correctly is to ADHD management.
It’s little wonder that Western children suffer with ADHD more than anywhere else in the world, when you look at our diets and the impact that has a normal mental performance.
Let’s look at the three macronutrients:
1. Good levels of key fats intake is crucial. Things like fish oil (Omega 3) are absolutely crucial for brain power. 60% of every system in the body is managed by fats. The better the fact quality, the better the brain functions. Studies have shown that raising levels of key fatty acids lowers ADHD symptoms.
2. Carbohydrates need to be unrefined and in the correct proportion. Carbs alter mood and brain performance levels. You’re looking for carbohydrates with a low glycemic index (GI), meaning that they don’t spike insulin and cause rollercoaster rides in terms of behavior. You’re looking for low glycemic carbohydrates.
3. Third we have proteins. Proteins are crucial to the chemical messages (neurotransmitters) that regulate our thinking and mood. Wakefulness and sleep are also regulated by proteins primarily. Some psychologists have found a strong correlation between children struggling with ADHD and children with low protein diets.
So it’s not just about proteins, it’s about having a balanced diet. But good protein intake, especially at the start the day does seem to be the key building block for starting to change a child’s behavior through diet.
To finish, even if you do just one thing here, then it should be this. It’s been found that protein helps with the brain awakening and functioning properly. If your child has a protein rich breakfast, and is topped up with lean proteins through the day, then the more regulated their behavior will be during those crucial school hours.