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Child and adolescent psychiatrists recommend special diets to alleviate ADHD
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorders, or ADHD for short, are found in a relatively large number of children and adolescents, and it is not uncommon for those affected to receive medication. Scientists at Freiburg University Hospital have now determined that certain diets can also help alleviate ADHD.
The Freiburg researchers are investigating to what extent avoiding individual foods in children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can alleviate the symptoms. The first promising results of her research work are now available. Special diets can therefore actually influence the symptoms. However, it is an individually very different diet.
Avoid certain foods to help alleviate ADHD
Children with ADHD find it difficult to concentrate on one thing, they are usually very impulsive, hyperactive and restless, the experts explain. The children often have increased conflicts and problems as a result of their everyday behavior. The research team led by Professor Dr. Christian Fleischhaker, senior consultant in the clinic for psychiatry, psychotherapy and psychosomatic medicine in childhood and adolescence at the University Medical Center Freiburg, is currently investigating in a study that is unique in Germany whether avoiding individual foods can reduce symptoms in ADHD.
Substances in food intensify the symptoms
ADHD is triggered by a neurobiological dysfunction in the brain, whereby various substances in food can increase symptoms, the researchers explain. A special diagnostic diet can be used to find out "whether and which foods in children between seven and eighteen years of age with ADHD" contribute to an increase in symptoms. This so-called oligoantigenic diet could contribute to a considerable relief of the symptoms.
Diet in two phases
For the special diet, all foods that can promote ADHD in principle are avoided for four weeks, report Prof. Fleischhaker and colleagues. In the next step (reintroduction phase), the foods are individually reintroduced into the diet. In this way, it is possible to determine exactly what food the children are reacting to. The second phase usually lasts three to four months. “The oligoantigenic diet is specially tailored to each patient. The goal is to identify individual incompatible foods, ”says Fleischhaker. Often, several foods can be identified that trigger symptoms in the children. These foods should then be consistently removed from the menu.
Identify incompatible foods
"In the phase of the oligoantigenic diet, we find out whether food intolerance contributes to the symptoms of ADHD at all," explains Professor Fleischhaker. The subsequent reintroduction phase shows which foods are ultimately responsible for it. "In this phase, individual foods or food groups are gradually examined for their tolerability," continued the study director. For every child there is a very individual food tolerance.
Significant relief of the symptoms can be achieved
The researchers report that the diet significantly improved the symptoms of ADHD in the 24 children who had previously participated in the study. Symptoms decreased by more than 40 percent in around 60 percent of the children. "The list of observed intolerances was long and each child has its own intolerance profile," said Prof. Fleischhaker. The spectrum of the affected food ranges from milk to cereals, some vegetables or fruits to artificial colors. With a very individual oligoantigenic diet, for example, selected types of fruit and vegetables, some cereals, rice and potatoes, but also two types of poultry or lamb are allowed, while cow's milk, eggs, fish, soy and nuts remain taboo.
No inevitable renunciation of enjoyment
The experts state that the special advantage of the special diet is that children do not have to do without valuable foods that are generally suspected of promoting ADHD, but may not have any negative impact on the individual child. Nor does the diet mean giving up pleasure. "We provide numerous recipes that can be used as really great alternatives," emphasizes the study director. How strictly the children avoid the incompatible food is also their own responsibility. If an incompatible food is consumed, however, the symptoms usually re-emerge in a timely manner. "After the recommendation has been followed again, the symptoms improve again after a short time," Professor Fleischhaker continued. (fp)