ADHD

Updated 21 June 2017

ADHD: diet and supplements

What is the latest on diet and supplements for ADHD?

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Many parents hope their child will be able to stop taking his medicine if he eats the right food. Some believe attention deficit disorders are not related to the brain at all but linked to enzymes and the metabolism of omega-3 and -6 fatty acids.

Professor CF van der Merwe of the department of gastroenterology at Medunsa believes omega-3 and -6 supplements to be the solution for all children with ADD and ADHD as they helped his own child. New studies reveal these supplements could offer successful treatment for up to 40 per cent of children with ADD or ADHD.

You can give your child the right supplements and fish rich in omega- 3 fatty acids such as anchovies, sardines, mackerel, tuna, trout and salmon, as long as it doesn't come from a tin laden with preservatives. It may take four to six months before a difference is seen.

Studies also show that the elimination of foods containing tartrazine and other preservatives may help 20 to 30 per cent of children. This may yet prove to be a placebo effect and nobody is sure how long the effects last. Reduce preservatives by avoiding or limiting concentrated and fizzy cooldrinks, dessert (jelly in particular), smoked fish and canned vegetables, store-bought biscuits and confectionery, fish fingers, store-bought hamburger patties, margarine, tea and coffee, all food fried in oil, chocolates, sweets, chips, white bread, processed meat and polony.

Also limit your child's intake of sugar and sweets. Rather give him fresh meat, fish and chicken; fresh fruit (especially pears and pawpaw) and vegetables; unrefined carbohydrates such as wholewheat bread; and milk and other dairy products.

Don't be disappointed if this is a short-term solution only. "If this was the solution for all children with ADD or ADHD it would hardly be necessary to prescribe medicine," Dr Adri van der Walt explains.

This article was compiled with the assistance of Professor André Venter, Dr Adri van der Walt and many scientific papers. It is an edited version of an article that originally appeared in Pulse magazine in September 2007. Buy the latest copy, on newsstand now, for more fascinating stories in the world of health and wellness.

 

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Dr Renata Schoeman has been in full-time private practice as a general psychiatrist (child, adolescent and adult psychiatry) since 2008, currently based in Oude Westhof (Bellville). Renata also holds appointments as senior lecturer in Leadership (USB) and as a virtual faculty member of USB Executive Development’s Neuroleadership programme. She serves on the advisory boards of various pharmaceutical companies, as a director of the Psychiatric Management Group (PsychMG) and is the co-convenor of the South African Society of Psychiatrist (SASOP) special interest group for adult ADHD, and co-founder of the Goldilocks and The Bear Foundation (www.gb4adhd.co.za) She is passionate about corporate mental health awareness and uses her neuroscience background to assist leaders in equipping them to become balanced, healthy and dynamic leaders that take their own and their team’s emotional, intellectual, social health and physical needs into account. Renata is academically active and enjoys research and collaborative work, has published in many peer-reviewed journals, and has presented at local and international congresses. She is regularly invited to present at conferences and to engage with the media. During her post-graduate studies, she trained at Harvard, Boston in neurocognition and neuroimaging. Her awards include, amongst others, the Young Minds in Psychiatry award from the American Psychiatric Association, the Discovery Foundation Fellowship award, a Thuthuka award from the NRF, and a MRC Fellowship. She also received the Top MBA student award and the Director’s award from USB for 2015. She was a finalist for the Businesswomen’s Association of South Africa’s Businesswoman of the Year Award for 2016, and received the Excellence in Media Work award from SASOP during 2016.

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