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  • Writer's pictureBeth Bierlein

NUTRITION, LIFESTYLE, AND ADHD


I recently had the opportunity to attend a continuing education course called “Changing How We Feel by Changing How We Eat.” Nutrition and mental/physical health have always intrigued me and this 6-hour course really packed a punch. While there were many very interesting topics covered, one topic that stood out was about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Dr. Angelo Pezzote, Pharm D, MA, Board Certified Psychiatric Pharmacist (BCPP) and Board Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor (CCMHC) taught the class. He talked about the “Gut-Brain Axis” and if the “Gut is Right, Everything is Right.” He also mentioned that medication is his last course of action with his clients. First, he looks at diet, exercise, and recreational activities. That in and of itself I found very intriguing!

But, let’s get back to ADHD...

Dr. Pezzote mentioned that in Europe, before doctors prescribe medication if a child is diagnosed with ADHD, they take a look at a couple of other areas. The first area they check is chronic stress in the home. Of course chronic stress can be caused by an absolute plethora of different things, but I do remember reading an article a number of years ago about ADHD and how an unorganized home can create a chaotic and stressful environment contributing to ADHD symptoms in a child. If we think about it, school teachers usually have an organized classroom, (everything has a home) and in addition a daily and weekly routine. Thus, trying to create a calming environment. The same should be true for the home. Routine, routine, routine is always helpful in lowering the stress level. For example, the morning routine may look like; getting dressed in an outfit that was laid out the night before, eating a healthy breakfast and brushing one’s teeth and off to school with a backpack and lunch that has been packed the night before. The afternoon routine may look like a healthy snack right after school, a little time to run around in the backyard, or maybe a walk around the block with a parent to catch up on the day and de-stress (for both parent and child!) and then on to homework while a parent is fixing a healthy dinner. Then off to bathe, brush teeth and have quiet time before bed. There has been a lot of research on screen time before bed, and it is highly discouraged. A resource on the topic of ADHD that parents might find helpful is “What Your ADHD Child Wishes You Knew-Working Together to Empower Your Kids for Success in School and Life” by Dr. Sharon Saline.



As a person degreed in social work, a mother, and grandmother I personally believe there are some things that should be taken into consideration before labeling a child ADHD, a process of elimination so to speak: Is the child getting enough sleep? Is the child getting enough down time (without a screen)? Has there been a significant loss in the child’s life? (parent, grandparent, child care provider, a move to a different home and/or school, possibly a loss of a pet?) Does the child have enough face-to-face time with a parent/guardian where they can either talk about their stressors or just have fun without a parent interrupting by looking at their own screen? Is the child getting enough exercise? Is there routine and organization in the home? And of course, last but not least; what about nutrition? Are there whole foods in the diet meaning foods closest to their natural state—including fresh or frozen fruits and veggies, non-processed meats, and whole grains? These are just a few questions a parent might ask for the welfare of their child and their family.


Paul states in the first book of Corinthians 6:19-20, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own: you were bought with a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” Children do not innately know how to take care of their bodies, they need parents to help them learn how to do this. God gave your children to you, because he knew you could do this! And as a parent, if you feel you don’t have a good handle on nutrition, that is alright, not everyone does, but I would urge you then to seek a professional. Nutrition and physical and mental health do go hand in hand.



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