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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder-ADHD in children and adults. How Nutritional Therapy can help.


As with almost any disorder, so in ADHD the proper nutrition can contribute significantly to its management, functioning alongside any medication. A large number of scientific studies show the close relationship between food and brain functions, making obvious the need for deeper knowledge and application of proper nutrition in everyday life.

 Making a brief flashback to the factors that help onset the disorder, we will come to the significance of nutrition and you will see how it can affect the intensity of the symptoms. Among the factors that will be discussed immediately below, I briefly include, as it is not the purpose of this article, preterm birth, childbirth complications, neonatal hypoxia (lack of oxygen), abuse, family trauma such as porce and / or intense fighting at home.

Heredity. Environmental effects

Epidemiological studies suggest that heredity is an important factor of the disorder. If you have relatives with mental disorders, diagnosed or not, the chances of similar disorders that might belong to the same spectrum increase. Also, if the mother is exposed to various neurotoxins, such as heavy metals, solvents, pesticides, chemicals, food additives, alcohol, smoking, medical or other drugs and abuse, it is more likely for the child to develop ADHD among other behavioral disorders.

Children remain very sensitive to neurotoxins after birth. Clinical studies have shown that lead, mercury, cadmium, aluminum, PCBs (dioxin type), pesticides are all toxins found in abundance around us, like in dental fillings (mercury), in vaccines (mercury), in food and cigarette smoke (cadmium, PCBs, pesticides, aluminum), in the air (cadmium), in the water (almost all of the above toxins) and can cause the onset of neurological disorders such as ADHD in susceptible children like the ones with low detoxifying capacity (gastrointestinal dysfunction).

You’ve probably heard that the environment, i.e. air pollution, pesticides, electromagnetic radiation from electronics we use in our everyday life, chemical additives in the water and in our food may affect our health and contribute to the manifestation of hereditary diseases.

Essential Omega 3 fatty acids

Repeated studies have shown that children with ADHD have serious deficiencies in nutrients such as fatty acids and particularly omega 3, compared to their peers. These fats are critical for the function of the brain neurons and possibly for the onset of ADHD and are found in fewer foods than omega 6. In particular, dopamine production nerves in the brain consist of 80% DHA (a substance found in Omega 3). The deficient production of dopamine is one of the main problems in ADHD. Moreover, DHA is responsible for our good eyesight but it also protects the brain from toxins that circulate in our blood. Clinical data also showed deficiencies in precursors of Omega 3 in cases of food allergies or intolerances, which are often found in ADHD as you will read below. Also, many times, although we consume fish or seeds and other foods with the desired fat precursors, the body cannot get from the precursor to the final stage of assimilation and metabolism of Omega 3, Omega-6, because of deficiencies such as in vitamins C, B3 and minerals such as zinc which are involved in this process. Recent research has attributed potential problems in children’s brain development to detected Trans fatty acids because of frequent consumption of hydrogenated vegetable oils like margarines. 

A new clinical research from Berkley University showed that Omega-3 DHA / EPA work together with structural components of our cell membranes to protect our nervous system and benefit perception, behavior and mood, like in cases of people with depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, autism, dyspraxia, dyslexia, aggressiveness and other issues. Also, when they combined EPA / DHA with the phospholipid Phosphatidylserine, they noticed great improvement in ADHD symptoms.

Other nutritional factors

Researchers discovered that other nutrients were also low during fetal development and childhood and they may play an important role in the onset of ADHD. If, for example, children with low levels of magnesium in their blood took magnesium supplements, their behavior significantly improved. It is also often found that children with this disorder have low levels of zinc, iron, vitamin B1, B3, B12, folic acid, iodine, selenium, copper, choline, and when these nutrients are added to their diet there is improvement in their behavior and their basic symptoms like impulsivity, hyperactivity and lack of concentration. See Table 1.

Science confirms the wise folk saying “not all that glitters is gold”

Foods with high sugars, dyes, flavor enhancers, chemical additives (referred to in the packaging as “E”) that may be present in some cereal, ready cakes and snacks, chewing gum, candies, wafers, juices, chocolate beverages, sauces, generally foods with white flour and other favorites of children, seem to be associated with primary symptoms of the disorder such as learning disabilities and behavioral disorders.

Do not give up, do not despair, take action for the good of your children!

You should get used to reading about the nutrients and ingredients on the labels of the products you buy, so that you stop feeling ignorant, a fully understandable feeling considering the oversupply of goods which is a phenomenon of our times... By the way, take a look at the labels of the yogurt desserts, ice cream, cream cheeses and ham that children love. Can freshly squeezed orange juice really keep for more than 2-3 hours without alterations in taste, density, color? We should make sure that children’s diet is rich in nutrients like vitamins-minerals-trace elements and balanced between key groups, that is 45% carbohydrates, 35% protein, 20% fat. You can largely accomplish this with the simple and traditional method of freshly cooked food, within the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in fish, fruits, vegetables, natural nuts and legumes, avoiding prepared foods and snacks.

A special nutritional scientist can add appropriate supplements and provide guidance on the type, quality and quantity of food consumption. Such cases are, for example, deficiencies of trace elements like selenium because of intensive farming and the depletion of the soil, or even cases where the body can metabolize the active form and not the actual vitamin from food!

Metabolic Type Laboratory Tests (Functional tests) are of significant assistance

There are a number of metabolic, hematological and other very useful tests that you can request from the specialist who is to prepare your children’s meal plan. Do not hesitate to ask for information on the effectiveness, validity, the way they are conducted, the cost and anything else that concerns you regarding the supplied tests.

You can have the laboratory test for Organic Acids and Amino Acids (in the urine) at home, by following the simple instructions on the package. It detects any deficiencies of vitamins, minerals, problems in detoxifying, in our ability to produce energy and it reveals organic disorders in our hormonal, gastrointestinal, immune and nervous systems leading the specialist to recommend a more targeted nutritional strategy.

What can trigger the onset of the disorder?

Increased consumption of antibiotics, painkillers, steroids etc. often from a very young age, such as in otitis (common in children with ADHD) that persists may result in the loss of friendly intestinal flora. This “friendly” bacteria or probiotics reside in the gut and protect us against “invaders” like various pathogenic parasites, while promoting the assimilation process that occurs in the intestinal walls and allows our body to get all of the nutrients it needs to function, like vitamins, minerals and trace elements. Sometimes “enemy” bacteria and other pathogens take the position of the friendly ones and may cause rupture, otherwise called Gut Leakage. Possible results of the intestinal wall dysfunction: a) unwanted gut leakage of harmful toxins and other substances, and b) lack of essential nutrients due to poor processing of food by the gut. Related research has revealed the presence of gut pathogens and increased gut leakage in a large number of children with ADHD and in adults with neuropsychological disorders.

Other factors that can destroy the friendly flora are stress, pesticides, high consumption of sweets, low protein intake and increased consumption of coffee, alcohol and drugs later in life.

Food allergies or intolerances can lead to Leaky Gut

So, if the intestinal walls rupture, then large pieces of food which are not degraded as they should, for example the proteins gluten from wheat / barley / rye / oat and casein from milk, may pass into the bloodstream in the form of opioid peptides. The result can be very unpleasant because the body does not recognize these peptides and rightly so, because they are not supposed to be circulating in all our organs and even in the brain. Our body responds the way it knows best in order to protect us... it activates the immune system and fights the enemy! But since there is actually no enemy, it attacks our own tissues with antibodies causing a food allergy (antibodies IgE) or intolerance (antibodies IgG). Clinical research and ongoing studies link food allergies with a high risk for ADHD.

Also, if you remember I mentioned above opioid peptids that “pop” out of the intestinal walls and are called casomorphines when derived from casein and gliadorphins when derived from gluten; these are elements that can penetrate with ease even our very secure blood-brain barrier with effects similar to those of morphine!

Several mechanisms have been described by researchers of autism and behavioral disorders to interpret, on the one hand the effects of an allergenic food or of food ingredients (chemical additives, colorings) and on the other the effects of substances that are released by our own body in the phase of an allergic reaction, such as histamine (migraine, headaches), to the nervous system and the brain. Researchers also concluded that the establishment of a nutritional plan consisting of foods with low allergen load (oligoantigenic load) may reduce the occurrence of migraines, headaches and even convulsive disorders present in some children.

Useful laboratory tests (Functional Tests) for detecting food allergies & intolerances. These tests come in a handy kit that includes all the materials needed to perform the test at home with ease:

- Intestinal Permeability Test (urine sample)

- Food Allergies & hidden intolerances (drops of blood by simple finger prick using the specific mechanism included)

- Detailed stool panel & microbiological test. Ask the nutrition scientist about test packs that you can do in your home by following the simple instructions included.

The 4 R program for the restoration of gastrointestinal health


Depending on the results of the parasitological tests, you can use a number of pharmaceutical or herbal preparations for the removal of intestinal parasites. Regarding herbal preparations think garlic, oregano, curcumin, rosemary, cinnamon, cloves, wormwood and tea tree oil, among others. If you think it is difficult for children to be infected with parasites, here is one random example: remember when they roll in the sand of the playground where our animal friends may have already “done their business”. In this phase of removing pathogens focus on reducing unhealthy foods and snacks as much as possible, while you apply the new balanced eating plan. A quality nutritional supplement with fiber and proteins at a high assimilation form may also be added. 


In this phase, important factors of the digestive and intestinal function can be in shortage, as is the case of hypochlorhydria, where stomach acids can be reinforced or partly replaced with a dietary supplement of natural origin. The same may happen with other digestive factors like bile, which may be deficient, in order to support digestion in the best way. Fiber is almost nonexistent in the diet of many children but it can play an important role in maintaining the friendly flora “residing” in our gut and in the process of eliminating toxins from the body. Fruits, vegetables, legumes, brown rice, whole grain foods are very good sources of fiber.


In this phase, friendly intestinal flora is resettled. Studies literally suggest the vaccination of the gut with suitable probiotic supplements which may contain Bifidobacteria, Lactobacillus, Saccharomyces, among others. Specific factors, called prebiotics, that act as food for the probiotics and enhance their settlement can also be added. An example of prebiotics is inulin, which is found in cichory intibus, asparagus, onion, garlic, artichoke, leeks.


In this last stage, you may use nutritional factors which help the regeneration and repair of the intestinal walls. For example, studies have shown that L-glutamine can have a significant effect on the restoration of increased intestinal permeability, among others. The protein of rice is an excellent source of L-glutamine. Vitamins C, B5, E, A and essential fatty acids Omega 3 also contribute to the repair of the intestinal wall.

A few words on the application of phytochemistry in ADHD

Related research and studies suggest a protocol for preparing and using specific herbal preparations mixtures such as that of Ginkgo biloba, always combined with a special diet and any medication prescribed by a doctor with specific instructions and taking into account any adverse reactions from their combination.




Vitamin Α

Liver, oily fish, eggs, red / yellow / orange fruits and vegetables, dark leafy greens



Vitamin Β1

Whole grains, brown rice, unsalted and uncooked nuts, eggs, liver



Vitamin Β3

whole grains, poultry, dry beans, peas



Vitamin Β5

Liver, yeast, eggs, mushrooms, nuts, peas, fish, beef, pork, legumes, whole grains



Vitamin Β12

Meat, fish, dairy, shellfish, eggs



Vitamin C 

Vegetables, fresh fruits, leafy greens



Vitamin Ε

Wheat bran, almonds, seeds and nuts, corn, spinach, broccoli, kiwi




Asparagus, garlic, beans, mushrooms, seafood, sea salt, sesame seeds, spinach, pumpkin




nuts, mainly oily fish, whole grains, shellfish, meat, shrimp, brown rice




Shellfish, liver, meat, tuna, salmon, whole grains, spinach, legumes, eggs, nuts, plum, apricot




Pumpkin, almonds, john dory, quinoa and buckwheat (alternative foods), spinach, pine nuts, nuts, beans, artichoke, okra, brown rice, leafy vegetables



Folic acid

Green leafy vegetables, liver, peas, asparagus, potatoes, beans, broccoli, avocado, whole grains, eggs, banana, orange, peach, tomato




Whole grains, legumes, shellfish, liver, nuts, leafy greens, nuts, plum, poultry, dark chocolate




Liver, eggs, beef, cauliflower, almonds, dried beans




Fish, shellfish, meat, nuts and seeds, brown rice, dairy



Omega 3

Oily fish such as salmon, trout, sardines, herring, mackerel, tuna, flaxseed, kiwi, walnuts, hazelnuts, eggs

SOURCES: Μurray  Μ., 2001 & Hoffer A., Saul A., 2008 & Braverman E., 2003 & Clayton P., 2004  

Concerning Table 1


◎ Check for food allergens with a specific laboratory Functional test.

◎ All the nutrients listed in Table 1 are also available in the form of dietary supplements. Surveys suggest supplements should be of natural origin, without additives or yeast. Another important success factor is the determination of the specific daily dosage by a practitioner.

◎ Any unwanted interactions with the medication are studied in order to select the appropriate combination of nutrients; dosage is adjusted according to inpidual needs.


• Make sure as much as possible that you are getting the optimum amount of nutrients in your daily diet; you can add a good quality natural multivitamin supplement with specific metals and minerals such as vitamins A, C, B3, B12, Folic Acid, Magnesium, Choline, Iron, Iodine, Selenium, Zinc, Copper, with the contribution of the nutritional therapy practitioner.

• Prefer freshly cooked food without preservatives and additives. Avoid fried foods, very fat meats and dairy products like cream.

• Minimize sweets and sugar consumption as they give a feeling of satiety but without our body or our brain getting the nutrients needed to perform their daily functions.

• Make sure you are getting adequate amounts of omega-3 fatty acids from uncooked and unsalted nuts, seeds, oily fish such as sardines, cod, salmon, and of vitamin E among other antioxidants, mainly by consuming fruits and whole grains. If necessary a supplement of high purity with the appropriate content in EPA / DHA can be added.

• Find out about food intolerances, gut leakage and potential toxicities of heavy metals. Surveys have shown the relationship between high levels of lead, copper, aluminum, cadmium and mercury in the blood of people with ADHD, dyslexia, problems in brain function, behavioral disorders and anemia among others.

• Obtain information on the laboratory tests available for the detection of potential nutrient deficiencies, gut leakage, etc. that can be delivered at your home in a package with easy instructions.


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