Foods that cause ADHD Behavior


Foods that cause ADHD Behavior

A child’s diet often determines whether or not they show signs and symptoms of ADHD.

Many parents have noticed their child’s behavior to be more impulsive or more hyperactive after eating certain foods. This increase in ADHD behavior is particularly more common during times of the year when children and teens tend to eat or drink more foods that contain sugar, dyes, caffeine, and preservatives.

Christmas is one such time of the year, as it’s not uncommon for children to be bombarded by offers of candy, cookies, cakes, sweetened flavored drinks and other high calorie foods. It just seems we all tend to err on the side of over-eating for the holidays. This habit probably comes from the common misbelief that in order to have a great Christmas or holiday season and be happy-during a time of the year we want everyone to be happy-that we must be well-fed, over-stuffed and jolly like Santa.

Unfortunately, overfeeding children with ADHD or feeding them the wrong foods can make their ADHD behavior much worse. This is especially true of ADHD hyperactivity and impulsivity. To further confuse things, as many as 25% of children and teens who do not have ADHD, will show signs and symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder when eating the above mentioned foods.

Suggestions for avoiding or improving ADHD behavior during the holidays include limiting or eliminating certain foods from an ADHD child’s diet.

I suggest limiting these things in any child with a behavior problem-ADHD-like behavior:

  1. Fast foods-these tend to be high in calorie loaded carbohydrates and preservatives-our brains need protein and simple glucose to help us concentrate.
  2. Highly caffeinated drinks and foods-this includes power and high energy drinks; excessive coffee, tea, and sodas; as well as some chocolate containing drinks and candies.
  3. Candy and foods that are high in red, yellow, and purple dyes-many parents continue to tell me their children display ADHD behaviors after eating large amounts of these dyes. I must point out that there has never been a study that conclusively has shown that these dyes cause ADHD behavior. However, it’s hard for me to believe all of the parents who report these things could be wrong.
  4. Alcohol or alcohol containing foods and drinks-Remember that special Christmas cake Aunt Em always made for Sunday’s reunion? You know, the one saturated with wine or bourbon? Well, don’t be surprised if little Jonny’s ADHD behavior worsens about an hour after eating just a small slice. In fact, it would surprise most parents to learn of just how many foods and drinks do contain small amounts of alcohol.
  5. Any food or drink you have noticed caused worsening of your child’s impulsivity, distractibility, hyperactivity, or mouthiness in the past.  Once again, I realize every parent feels guilty when they restrict their child’s diet. But, look at the this way-you’re actually helping your child learn to control his or her ADHD symptoms which helps them build social skills and self-esteem-and after all; would it be worth putting up with terrible behavior for 4 to 12 hours just so your child can eat what he or she should not?

It’s important to remind each of you that every child’s metabolism is different. For example, I’ve known a few kids that could eat bags of candy and drink gallons of caffeine containing beverages, yet show no signs of ADHD.  However, it’s the many others who may only ingest very small amounts of red candies, sugary drinks, or caffeinated beverages and literally be “bouncing off-the-walls” within an hour that we all think of when the hyperactive-misbehaving child comes to mind.

Think about what your child is eating and drinking over this holiday season and you just might save yourself a few gray hairs and it may please you more than any Christmas present when his or her ADHD behavior improves…

Parents can often control an ADHD child’s bad behavior during the holidays by reducing or eliminating excessive dietary caffeine, sugar, dyes, alcohol and preservatives

Frank Barnhill, MD


Here are a few previous articles and news briefs you might enjoy reading-watching:

‘Healthy’ Diet Best for ADHD Kids-abc News

ADHD Diets/WebMD

Energy and Sports Drinks may cause ADHD Symptoms

Elimination Diets and ADHD Behavior

Energy Drinks may make ADHD Worse

Restricting Certain Foods May Help ADHD Behavior

Study: Diet May Help ADHD Kids More Than Drugs 

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter
Visit Us On TwitterVisit Us On FacebookVisit Us On YoutubeCheck Our Feed