ADD & ADHD – Dietary & Lifestyle Considerations

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)



It is prudent to try some of these treatments first, before resorting to any drug therapy. You may find that they have an allergy, intolerance or sensitivity to sugar or a food additive and this may be all you need to eliminate, for marked improvement. Many “true” ADD / ADHD patients find a complementary approach works best for them – ie: combination of nutritional therapy and drug therapy

These are some of the nutritional steps I feel may improve behaviour, concentration and mood:

  1. Start by removing refined sugar and food additives from your diet. Read the labels of products carefully and eliminate processed foods containing artificial colours, flavours, sweeteners and preservatives. Common food additives that may cause problems are: calcium silicate, BHT, BHA, MSG (monosodium glutamate), benzoyl peroxide, emulsifiers, thickeners, stabilisers, vegetable gums and food starch. Also remove caffeine(chocolate, coffee, colas) as this has also been shown to aggravate hyperactive behaviour.
  2. Increase water intake (filtered) and eliminate carbonated fizzy cooldrinks as these contain phosphate additives linked to increased hyperkinesis (exaggerated muscle activity) as well as lowering the bodies calcium and magnesium levels.
  3. Salicylates are naturally occurring chemicals found in certain plant foods, and have been implicated in many cases of ADD / ADHD. These are a bit trickier to eliminate from the diet. Avoid aspirin (acetyl salicylate) and medication with artificial colours + flavours, toothpastes, perfumes + perfumed creams. A low-salycilate diet is recommended rather than a no-salycilate diet, as this could make you more prone to a reaction if small amounts are ingested accidentally.
  4. Elimination of gluten (gliadin) – the protein found in wheat products predominantly (breads, biscuits, pastas etc.) but also found in barley, rye and oats. These other 3 may be tolerated, but check by elimination.
  5. Elimination of casein – the protein found in dairy products: milk, cheese, yoghurt – known to have an opiate effect.
  6. Include cold water fish which contain Omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids are essential to the body and cannot be manufactured internally, so they have to be eaten. The DHA component is essential to neurological development. Tinned fish has very limited quantities (if any), so rather buy fresh fish – tuna (may contain mercury, so smaller fish are better) salmon, mackerel, snoek, herring, pilchards / sardines.  A supplement may be a better option if liver function is poor or heavy metal toxicity is already a problem.
  7. If none of the above steps influence your behaviour positively, then considertesting for allergies or intolerances, as these may be contributing to their behaviour. When allergy is contributing to ADHD symptoms, there are often associated issues such as nasal problems, excessive mucus, ear infections, tonsillitis, digestive problems, bad breath, eczema, asthma & headaches.



Supplementary nutrients that can benefit people with ADD / ADHD


Taken daily with water and eat plenty of the food sources listed below:


A personalised consultation is essential when it comes to nutrient and supplement recommendations for an individual. Please do not self prescribe and administer as this can lead to additional health problems. Dosages are dependent on individual needs.






  •  Restrict TV, Video and DVD watching as well as computer games, as these all cause neuro-sensory overload. A maximum of 1 hour per day, preferably less and never at bedtime. 

  • Make sure you are getting enough exercise. Choose a sport or exercise programme that suits your lifestyle or you will “give-up” quickly. Important to expel excess energy and get a good release of carbon dioxide and a good intake of oxygen. Outside in some sunshine is best. (Vitamin D & Calcium conversion)
  • WATER! Drink clean filtered water. Tap water can contain various chemicals that can aggravate your symptoms.
  • Make sure you are getting enough good quality sleep. Sleep is the time our bodies need to: digest, nourish, repair and eliminate.
  • Avoid (as much as possible) exposure to any obvious chemical stimuli in the environment, such as perfumes, heavy metals and cigarette smoke.
  • Keep a strict schedule – waking-time, work, exercise, meals, bed-time etc.




Chelation Therapy:



Heavy metal toxicity is often the problem with a lot of  people with ADD / ADHD. Isuggest having a hair tissue mineral analysis (HTMA) check. Once confirmed I would recommend liver cleansing followed by Chelation Therapy or Heavy Metal Detoxification, to help remove these from the body. Treatment can take 3-6 months, and should be performed under professional supervision.


Natural Treatments for ADD and Hyperactivity (Woodland Publishing, 1997) by S.Weintrub

  •  No More ADHD (Block Books, 2001) by M.Block 
  •  No More Ritalin, Treating ADHD Without Drugs (Kensington Books) by Dr Mary Ann Block
  •  Everything You Need You Know About Food Additives (Rosen) by Chris Hayhurst
  •  Food Additives and Hyperactive Children by Keith C Conners
  • Food Chemical Sensitivity (Avery) by Dr Robert Buist (PhD)
  • Healthy Kids – The Natural Way (Ibis Books) by Mary-Ann Shearer and Charlotte Meschede
  • How To Raise A Healthy Child In Spite Of Your Doctor (Ballentine Books) by Dr Robert Mendelsohn
  • Immunity Foods for Healthy Kids (Duncan Baird) by Lucy Burney
  • Let Food Be Your Medicine (Anderson) by Sally-Ann Creed
  •  Let’s Have Healthy Children (Unwin Paperbacks) by Adelle Davis
  • In the UK, the Hyperactive Children’s Support Group strongly supports dietary management for children’s behaviour, using the old Feingold diet.
  • Unlike the majority of institutions giving health advice, the Centre for Science in the Public Interest is a non-profit health advocacy organisation. One highlight of their website is an unbiased scientific assessment of 23 controlled diet-behaviour studies. “Diet, ADHD and Behaviour, a quarter-century review” charges that federal agencies, professional organisations and the food industry have ignored the growing evidence that diet affects behaviour. It recommends that unnecessary additives should be banned, and points the finger, with quotes, at organisations and individual researchers who ignore or deny the evidence. The 2 page press release is a good one to give to doubting health professionals: .
  • Tartrazine: the real yellow menace, . An entertaining site about one of the most toxic and totally unnecessary of all food additives, including its effect on skin rashes. There is currently a petition to the FDA to have tartrazine banned in the USA, you can sign up through this site.
  • A ‘Failsafe’ recipe website run by members:  
  • In the USA, excellent diet support for behaviour is provided by the Feingold Association, using the old Feingold diet (not as effective as ‘Failsafe’, but works well for some people),  
  • provides a wide range of information based in part on Royal Prince Alfred Hospital’s work.
  • Why Can’t My Child Behave by Jane Hersey
  • 12 Effective Ways to Help Your ADD/ADHD Child (Penguin Putnam) by Laura J Stevens



References and Sources:


The Optimum Nutrition Bible, Optimum Nutrition for the Mind, Natural Highs – Patrick Holford


Ultimate Health - Dr John Briffa


The Natural Way  - Mary-Ann Shearer


Nutritional Influences on Illness, 2nd Edition – Melvyn R Werbach, M.D.


Prescription for Nutritional Healing, 3rd Edition – Phyllis A Balch, CNC and James F Balch, M.D.


Encyclopedia of Nutritional Supplements – Michael T Murray, N.D.


Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine – Michael T Murray, N.D. and Joseph Pizzorno, N.D


Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary, 19th Edition – F.A.Davis Co.


The Merck Manual of Medical information – 2nd Home Edition


Smart Medicine for a Healthier Child, 2nd Edition – Janet Zand, N.D., L.Ac., Robert Rountree, M.D., Rachel Watson, MSN, CRNP


Food Chemical Sensitivities – Robert Buist PhD. 


Hidden Dangers in What We Eat and Drink – Jan de Vries


Safe Food, Eating Wisely in a Risky World – Michael F. Jacobson, Ph. D., Lisa Y. Lefferts M.S., Anne Witte Garland


ADD, ADHD and Ritalin – New Health Revelations Vol. 3, No. 5, April 04, Page 1-2


Alternative Medicine – The Definitive Guide, 2nd Edition – Burton Goldberg and Editors Larry Trivieri Jr , John W. Anderson

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