While my expertise is in ADD, not in the complexities of nutrition or the chemistry of food, I have learned a fair amount about the effects of eating specific types of food on ADD symptoms. So, over the next few post, I will share what I know. While it may appear that I am equivocating, it is important to note that, while supported by some research, most of what is known about ADD and diet is anecdotal.
Therefore, it is important that you practice due diligence in figuring out the right diet for yourself. You may need to experiment before finding the right balance. If you are unsure about the right diet, engage the support of a nutritionist. A nutritionist can help you distill the information so that you can make an informed decision.
Carbohydrates and ADD
Carbohydrates are sugars, glucose, that are needed by the body and brain to function properly. It is the main source of fuel for the cells of the brain, as well as the rest of your body. And eating complex carbohydrates can help you maintain focus throughout the day.
We know that eating too many carbohydrates can make you sleepy. But eating the right amount of complex carbohydrates can have a much needed calming effect in those with ADD by increasing the levels of the neurotransmitter, serotonin, found to be deficient in those with ADD.
Marc Caron, a researcher at Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) at Duke University, found, in his studies of the effect of stimulant medication, that “the stimulants create a calming effect by increase serotonin levels.”
And neuroscientist Richard Wurtman, Ph.D. of MIT, found that carbohydrates can serve to boost the neurotransmitter, serotonin.
Two Main Types of Carbohydrates
Before you start carbo loading, consider the type of carbs you are eating.
Simple carbohydrates are broken down quickly when your body may not need the energy and is often stored as fat. It can also cause your blood sugar to spike, which can cause your energy level to be more erratic. Examples of simple carbohydrates are white flour, and anything that contains a lot of sugar, such as candy, pastries and soda. (While fruits are also made up of simple carbohydrates, they are an important part of a healthy diet.)
Complex carbohydrates, starches, are broken down more slowly and provide a more steady supply of energy needed to help focus. Therefore, consuming more complex carbohydrates and fewer simple carbohydrates can help you with your ADD symptoms. Example of complex carbohydrates are whole wheat, brown rice, oat meal and all legumes, such as bean and lentils.
The bottom line is that eating the right amount of complex carbohydrates (you don’t want to fall asleep) may having a calming effect for those who seek this.
Last, moderation, a willingness to experiment and professional support are key in making an informed decision about your diet.
Stay tuned for my next post on protein…