Written by Tara Boustany on
September 17, 2021
Reading Time: 7 minutes

Medically Reviewed by our Medical Affairs Team

Written by Tara Boustany on:

Natural remedies against ADHD are all around us. Children and adults need to be able to attend, focus and control their impulses throughout the day to learn. One of the best general truths against any health difficulty is eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise.

Research shows that a diet rich in protein might help children maintain focus and concentration throughout the day.  So, it’s safe to say that ADHD protein can be one of the natural remedies against hyperactivity and inattention.  

However, several queries arise like, “is there something like protein against ADHD?” and “can my ADHD be caused by what I eat?” We will answer these questions and more, so keep on reading. 

What is an ADHD diet? 

ADHD does not have to be a limiting issue in your life. Having a healthy holistic lifestyle can prevent you from suffering extra from ADHD. Some claim that certain foods could aggravate your symptoms, while others could keep you in balance.

Nutritional deficiencies can also have a negative effect on your symptoms. An optimal ADHD should always include complete proteins while avoiding sugary foods.

A healthy and complete diet is the first step.

The ADHD brain is different from a neurotypical brain. The ADHD brain has lower levels of certain neurotransmitters, particularly dopamine and noradrenaline.

These neurotransmitters are responsible for concentration and attention as well as impulse control. Eat protein, enough fatty acids, and complex carbohydrates to provide your brain with all the needed nutrients.

Elimination Diets for ADHD

You can’t solve ADHD with food. Still, some symptoms of ADHD are easier to handle when you avoid certain types of foods or additives. That might be because food sensitivities, like gluten and lactose intolerance, are very common. 

Elimination diets aim at finding out whether certain food groups trigger attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. This is done by cutting out certain foods for a while and then adding them again to your diet one at a time.

This way, elimination diets allow you to pinpoint what exactly triggers ADHD symptoms so that they can be avoided next time around!

The Feingold Association takes the elimination diet a step further. This diet eliminates all artificial colors and flavors. It also cuts out natural salicylates such as those found in chocolate, citrus fruits, and tomatoes.

They also suggest avoiding certainly added preservatives to oils and fats. The Feingold Association claims that the diet can improve behavior in up to 80 percent of children with ADHD.

Supplementation Diet for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Elimination diets are not for everyone. Some ADHD children have difficulty following them or keeping track of what they can eat and when.

The elimination diet still has its uses though. Especially when it comes to those who might have underlying food sensitivities! Another option some people would want to try is to supplement. 

Supplementation diets could be interesting for those with certain food sensitivities as well. You could supplement with vitamin B complex, zinc, and magnesium.

Some claim that ADHD symptoms might also be reduced by supplementation with fatty acids, L-theanine, or Ginkgo Biloba.

What to Eat for Optimal Learning and Attention with ADHD

Following a Mediterranean diet is a great way to have ADHD symptoms under control. This includes plenty of protein, vegetables, and healthy fats such as those found in olive oil.

Children with ADHD were seven times less likely to not adhere to this diet, and eat more junk food and fast food.

Eat Protein

Your best bet is to eat complete proteins which come from animal or plant-based sources. Eating plenty of lean meat, fish and eggs will ensure you have enough tryptophan and tyrosine (amino acids) in your body! 

These amino acids produce essential neurotransmitters for your brain. Tryptophan is a known amino acid for the production of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine.

A depletion or abnormality of tryptophan or tyrosine would be logical to find with children who have ADHD. Researchers did focus on this and find mixed results.

There is clear scientific evidence that the norepinephrine and dopamine systems are involved in ADHD. ADHD medications (stimulant medication) focus on increasing dopamine in the synapse.

It also acts by blocking the reuptake. This way dopamine has more time to provide your brain with regulating your mental focus or attention. 

Eating protein throughout the day could help you keep ADHD symptoms under control. A balanced intake is important so that you don’t become deficient in any amino acids, not just the one above.

Another reason to consume enough protein (or amino acids) is that these foods usually are high in iron. 

A meta-analysis showed that iron deficiency has a statistically significant correlation with ADHD. The ADHD cases showed a big difference in the severity of their symptoms when they also suffer from an iron deficiency.

There is a significant increase in them. For that reason and the fact that a balanced diet is recommended for everyone, we can only cheer when we eat enough of these important nutrients. 

Complete proteins contain all of the essential amino acids, but not necessarily in equal amounts. Examples of complete protein are lean meats, poultry, fish, dairy, soy products, and eggs.

Incomplete proteins on the other hand do not contain all of these essential amino acids in equal amounts. Most nuts, seeds, whole grains, legumes, or vegetables are incomplete proteins.

People who have ADHD symptoms would benefit from eating more complete proteins throughout the day or week. 

Eat Fat(ty) Fish

ADHD symptoms can also be prevented by eating enough omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids are mostly found in fatty fish, like salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines, or tuna. 

Fish oil, olive oil, canola oils, and nuts are other foods, or better said, oils that contain omega 3 fatty acids. 

Adequate levels of omega 3 fatty acids are associated with lower ADHD symptom severity. The recommended amount is to eat fish twice a week. This is the easiest way to obtain enough omega 3 fatty acids. 

Omega 3 fatty acids can help your brain functions and brain health. Research shows that children who have lower levels of fatty acids might focus better by supplementing.

Children with ADHD that didn’t have this shortage, didn’t find this improvement in symptoms. Some might even show more impulsivity.

Control Your Blood Sugar Levels: Choose Complex Carbohydrates

Eating complex carbs and avoiding refined sugars is another ADHD reliever. 

Complex carbs are those with a lower glycemic index (GI). GI measures how fast blood glucose levels go up after eating.

Our body digests carbohydrates and turns them into simple sugars or glucose. Complex carbs are low on the index as they take a longer time to break down by your body.

Simple carbs have a high glycaemic index. That is because our glucose gets released much quicker and as such spiking the blood sugar.

The glycemic index of carbohydrates is affected by: 

  • the amount and type of fiber it contains; 
  • any added fat; 
  • any protein
  • sugar or lactose it contains.

Other factors such as size, texture, viscosity, or cooking process can also influence the lookout on the index. 

Low glycaemic index foods will keep you going for a while longer. High glycaemic foods, like cake, will rush your blood sugar and will make you crash after.

A sudden drop of sugar levels like that can make you feel hungry, irritable, and tired.

However, you can also feel rather restless and might find it more difficult to keep your focus. People with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder already have enough attention challenges as is.

The lesson here is, when you eat carbs try to choose complex ones.  You should eat carbs as they are the main form of energy for your brain to work properly. 

Complex carbs are also filled with other nutrients needed for a healthy ADHD brain! 

Some examples of complex carbs are:

  • Beans
  • oatmeal
  • whole-grain bread
  • brown rice or quinoa. 

The foods you might want to avoid that are high in refined sugars are:

  • candy, 
  • cookies, 
  • cakes 
  • and popsicles and so on.

They can make you feel more tired than before. Also, they lack other essential nutrients which makes them even more unhealthy.

Don’t Over-Consume Coffee

While some coffee can help you kickstart your day. It is recommended to drink no more than two cups of coffee a day.

Consuming too much caffeine can affect your sleep, making it hard to fall asleep and reduce the quality of rest you get during the night.

As mentioned above, lack of proper sleep will only make ADHD symptoms worse as you’ll be tired throughout the entire day. Consuming too much caffeine can also make you feel jittery and overstimulated.

However, there are some other ways to get a buzz that will help your ADHD symptoms rather than making them worse! 

Exercise is one of the best natural remedies you can find as it releases endorphins, which make us feel good. It also stimulates brain chemicals like dopamine and norepinephrine. These are involved in attention and concentration.

Should you take an extra supplement for ADHD?

We can’t guarantee that your symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder will disappear. Some people do claim they feel better and have an easier time concentrating on their tasks by taking extra vitamins.

If you want to take supplements, a doctor can provide medical advice.

Magnesium, zinc, and vitamins B-12 and E are thought to be helpful natural remedies. Some people with food sensitivities might be more sensitive to deficiencies, and might in turn respond better to supplements. 

Can attention deficit hyperactivity disorder be caused by eating too much sugar?

While too much sugar isn’t recommended to keep ADHD under control, it does not cause it. We are not 100% sure what causes ADHD.

Still, a very high percentage (39 to 91%) could be explained by heritability. This can be confirmed by many adoptions and twin studies.

As mentioned before, the dopamine system is highly involved in the onset of symptoms of ADHD. Researchers conclude that by: 

  1. the effectiveness of stimulant medications that mostly involve the dopamine system
  2. Brain imaging studies implicating this system
  3. Animal model studies showed a link between a lack of dopamine transporter and ADHD.

One of several genes that might be a candidate is the SNAP-25 gene (synaptosomal-associated protein 25). This gene supports the SNAP-25 protein, responsible for neurotransmitter release and vesicle fusion.

Animal studies found that the coloboma mouse mutant expresses a hyperactive phenotype like ADHD. 

This happens after removing their SNAP-25 gene. A study done on an Irish population seems to be more in line with these findings. Another study done on a Canadian ADHD sample doesn’t seem to confirm this.

More research is needed. If you would like to know more details on whether ADHD is hereditary, you can read more in this article

ADHD Protein: In Short

ADHD is a common neuropsychiatric disorder. ADHD children and adults can have trouble paying attention. They might find it difficult to control their behavior and activity level.

Staying still for long periods could also pose a problem. These symptoms get in the way of learning new things and cause problems at home, school, and later in life. 

To keep you in control and not aggravate any symptoms of ADHD, it is recommended to eat a healthy and balanced diet (for everyone).

It is important to eat enough complete protein and to choose complex carbs instead of simple carbs when you can.

Some might recommend scrapping certain products like artificial colors or other chemicals out of your diet to lower the risk for ADHD. The proof of this is rather controversial.

If you have any digestive issues or diabetes, it would be good to ask your doctor for medical advice. Doctors’ advice is also recommended if you take ADHD medication or if you want to supplement. Some supplements can interact with your medication.

ADHD research has been on the rise. We might not have a full understanding of how ADHD manifests itself entirely yet.

We do know that genetics plays an important role in this disorder’s development. Though environmental factors seem to also play a significant part in this.

That means you shouldn’t blame yourself for showing these symptoms. If your child is suffering from ADHD, then you can’t prevent it either. 

The ADHD remedies are there to help you keep your child in control. The sooner the diagnosis is made, the better it will be for them and their future.

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