Attention Deficit Disorder: Is sugar the culprit?

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD) with or without hyperactivity affects 3 to 5% of children. The exact cause of these disorders is still unknown but we know that genetics and environment play a role.

Many therapists have looked into this growing phenomenon and, although there is no scientific evidence, some believe that sugar consumption plays a role in ADD.  

Treatments for Attention Deficit Disorder

Children with attention deficit disorder typically have a pharmaceutical treatment that has many side effects such as loss of appetite, weight loss, slowed growth, abdominal pain, sleep disturbances, headaches, and high blood pressure. 

In addition to their treatment, they are advised to undergo behavioral and physical therapy, which is very time consuming. 

Naturopathic approach: sugar, a real poison

Naturopaths have studied the issue and have made the following observation.

Modern food is full of sweetened products, such as sodas, cookies, candies, cereals, fruit juices, ... All of these represent huge temptations for children. But be careful, because behind these sweet treats that please the palate, are hidden a great danger. The consumption of sugary products tends to replace more nutritious foods, and the lack of essential micro-nutrients can disrupt proper brain function. In addition, the symptoms of attention disorders are amplified following the ingestion of sugar. 

Another impact of sugar on our body, is that it stimulates the production of the feel-good hormone dopamine, which makes it totally addictive and adored by children. When you stop using it, a state of withdrawal sets in, causing aggressiveness, hyper nervousness and agitation. A "dose" resumed and it is the return to calm. 

Sugar also plays a role in academic deficiencies because carbohydrate consumption impacts brain function. When they are ingested too often, the child experiences frequent insulin spikes and this results in mood swings, fatigue, migraines, sleep disorders and great difficulty in managing emotions. All of this has an impact on attention in the classroom. 

Although there is no scientific evidence of a link between sugar and hyperactivity in children, it is clear from observation that it plays a role in attention, concentration, agitation and fatigue. So why not test a low-sugar diet in children with ADHD and see if it helps? 

The role of food on concentration

Yale University has conducted a study that shows that the level of adrenaline in subjects who have ingested refined sugar is ten times the normal level.

This leads to irritability, restlessness, anxiety and lack of concentration.

In addition, the consumption of refined sugar causes, as you knowreactive hypoglycemia and the accompanying discomfort. But how can we reduce the sugar ingested by our children and, more importantly, what to feed them to enable them to aincrease their concentration and stimulate their memory?

How can your children eat less sugar?

First of all, you have to get them unaccustomed to sugar and to do this, you will have to identify it in foods and replace those that contain too much of it with others, less rich in sugar.

Choose natural, whole, organic and seasonal foods. Offer your child protein at every meal, as well as vegetables, fruit, healthy fats and whole grains - in short, anything that has a low glycemic.

To ensure that your child's diet is healthy and balanced, always choose homemade food. Keep in mind that it is better to limit than to suppress because children will only go for what is forbidden!

Beware, however, that sugar is not the only culprit in attention disorders.

  • In addition to this one, many industrial products contain colors and preservatives and these have also been shown to play a role in attention disorders. Moreover, these industrial products take the place of other more nutritious and healthier foods. 
  • Gluten, eggs, and milk are highly allergenic foods, and in people with intolerances or allergies, their consumption leads to the production of IgG antibodies, which disrupts the functioning of chemical neurotransmitters, such as dopamine. The role of the latter is to stimulate the brain functions of attention and control of movement.  
  • Iron deficiency may also exacerbate ADD symptoms by disrupting dopamine synthesis. To avoid this, it is important to eat legumes or red meat regularly. 

In conclusion, there is no specific link scientifically demonstrated between sugar consumption and attention disorders, but in practice, it is clear that refined sugar has an impact on the attention, concentration and energy level of children.

Naturopathy links ADHD to sugar imbalance. In any case, limiting the amount of sugar consumed by our children can only have a positive impact on them. 

Sarah Garny 16 October, 2019
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