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Understanding the Role of Nutrition in ADHD & Brain Health

ADHD or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a neurodevelopmental condition that affects the central nervous system and involves symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. Managing thoughts, tasks, time and decisions can be challenging for someone with ADHD (otherwise called executive functioning) and can affect their ability to plan and prepare healthy meals. ADHD affects approximately 5% of children and 4% of adults (although levels in both adults and children are on the rise) in Canada.


As an educator and holistic nutritionist, the most helpful tool I offer families who struggle with this condition is education around the role that nutrition plays in behaviour and symptom relief for the whole family. ADHD is not caused by nutrition-related challenges, nor can nutrition cure this condition; however, research shows that nutrition is a major player in the intensity of ADHD symptoms in children and adults.


A few simple swaps coupled with what I call ‘nutrition packing’ can make a big difference in the everyday lives of adults and children.


Here are 4 health tips that can positively impact your family’s well-being and reduce symptoms of ADHD:

  1. Tip # 1: Balance That Pesky Blood Sugar

  2. Tip # 2: Omega-3 Magic

  3. Tip # 3: Pump the ADHD Micronutrient Powerhouses

  4. Tip # 4: Probiotics: The REAL Superheroes who do ALL THE WORK

 

Tip #1: Balance That Pesky Blood Sugar


The amount of sugar in our blood can directly impact our mental and emotional state, especially for those struggling with ADHD.


When blood sugar levels rise as a result of eating high simple carbohydrate foods (refined and processed foods), the body converts these into glucose that floods the bloodstream. Blood sugar levels rise and initiate insulin production (a hormone secreted from the pancreas to counter the situation) resulting in an inevitable blood-sugar level plunge. This drop manifests as fatigue, brain fog, disorientation, and even depressive symptoms. It also initiates the release of cortisol, leading to that shaky or sometimes ‘hangry’ feeling and the sugar cravings begin again, leading to the perpetuation of the processed and high-sugar food cycle.


Avoiding the peaks and valleys associated with poor blood sugar balance can help manage certain ADHD symptoms like hyperactivity, impulsivity and concentration.


Ensuring that meals are consistent and placed every few hours can support this. The key here is to ensure that a meal or snack contains a healthy protein option that is paired with a complex carbohydrate. Sounds simple, right?


That unassuming and seemingly healthy granola bar your child eats may have oats, a complex carbohydrate that breaks down slowly, supplying steady energy for a longer period of time; however, these highly processed snacks are often filled with sugar, counteracting the balance the oats provide.


Pairing this bar with a small handful of raw pumpkin or sunflower seeds, or a few cubes of organic cooked chicken breast will keep blood sugar levels steady and avoid mood imbalances leading to poor concentration.


Complex carbohydrates contain starch and fibre which can slow down blood sugar, helping you feel full longer (think whole food options like beans/legumes, oatmeal, quinoa, sweet potatoes, & brown rice).


Simple carbohydrates, on the other hand, are usually made up of more simple or refined sugars (think anything in a package). If eaten on their own, simple carbohydrates are more likely to lead to imbalances in blood sugar, resulting in the blood sugar ‘crash’ synonymous with tantrums in children and mood imbalances in adults.


Maintaining balanced blood sugar levels throughout the day can greatly impact ADHD symptoms in a positive way!


Click here for my blood sugar balancing Goji & Cacao Chip Granola Bar Recipe



For the next tips and recipes, stay tuned to my blog and the Soma & Soul Newsletter for our weekly Food Friday recipes.


If you’re looking for support with your family’s health goals or need support with mental health, ADHD, Autism or other neurodiverse conditions, click here to book in a FREE discovery call at Soma & Soul Wellness so we can chat to see if Holistic Nutrition is a good fit!

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