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Exploring Diet & ADHD

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, commonly known as ADHD, is a familiar disorder that is seen by our Naturopathic Doctor Meghan Haggarty. Dr. Haggarty has furthered her training in paediatric disorders and holds a fellowship in the Medical Academy of Children’s Special Needs (MAPS). ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is characterized by prolonged inattentive, hyperactivity and impulsivity behaviours. A child is often assessed by a behavioural psychologist and diagnosed according to the DSM-5 criteria. ADHD can be a devastating diagnosis for the child and the family. ADHD can lead to academic concerns, social issues as well as an increased risk of substance abuse. Studies in Canada suggest an incidence rate of 2-6% of children are diagnosed with ADHD with many children left without a diagnosis leading to further negative impacts for those children.

Many theories have been suggested from researchers over the years as to the etiology of the disorder. Some studies suggest a genetic link that affects the neurotransmitter pathways. Brain injuries in utero or from birth, or as a child may also play a role. Other theories suggest exposures to neurotoxins such as lead, and pesticides can affect a child’s neurodevelopment. There has also been an association with the onset of ADHD from prenatal risk factors such as smoking, high stress environments, and preterm labours. 

“Eating a healthy diet, including fruits and vegetables, may be one way to reduce some of the symptoms of ADHD”

Dr. Irene Hatsu, Ohio State University

As a Naturopathic Doctors we take a multifactorial approach to the treatment of a child with ADHD. A healthy diet is key to obtaining the nutrients we need to feed our bodies and our brain. A recent study by associate professor of human nutrition, Dr. Irene Hatsu, at Ohio State University has suggested that there is a link between a child’s intake of fruits and vegetables with their inattentive behaviours. “Eating a healthy diet, including fruits and vegetables, may be one way to reduce some of the symptoms of ADHD,” Hatsu said. A second study by, the same author, revealed that a micronutrient supplement containing 36 vitamin and minerals given to the children for 8 weeks was, “three times as likely to show significant improvement in their ADHD and emotional dysregulation symptoms than those who took a placebo.” 

Dr. Haggarty routinely tests for nutrient deficiencies in children with ADHD with blood and/or urine testing. Depending on the child’s risk factors other testing may be suggested, such as heavy metal analysis, pesticide exposure, mold exposure, neurotransmitter levels, and food sensitivity testing.

These results are key findings to show how important a healthy diet is to all children, diagnosed with a neurodevelopmental disorder or not. Our gut-brain interaction has proven essential in recent years through many well-respected studies from the scientific community. Naturopathic Doctors have for many decades stressed the importance and necessity of a healthy diet to achieve optimal health.

Questions about diet and ADHD?

We’re here to help.

Schedule a consult with the naturopathic doctors at the Nardella Clinic today to talk about how we might be able to help with lead and heavy metal exposure, or anything else at all. We’re here to help.

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