"It's a scenario I see in my office regularly. A parent brings their child in for an evaluation for attention deficit disorder (ADD) because they or the child's teacher have noticed that the child is distracted, has trouble concentrating and is having behavioral issues", says Dr. Bill Sears. Dr Sears is a practicing pediatrician for over 40 years, he is an Associate Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the University of California, Irvine School of Medicine. Dr. Sears is affiliated with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and a fellow of the Royal College of Pediatricians (RCP).
Dr. Sears ask questions about symptoms and behavior, and sure enough, the reports of inattentiveness, fidgeting and moodiness are suggestive of ADD. However, when he digs deeper and start inquiring into the child's diet, a different picture begins to emerge.
"What does Johnny normally have for breakfast?" Dr. Sears will ask mom or dad.
"Well, usually some sugary cereal or a pastry..." they reply.
What this means is that mid-morning, Johnny gets hungry because his breakfast wasn't filling. His blood sugar drops because the junk carbs that rushed into his blood at breakfast are now all used up and he has "brain fog" and a hard time concentrating. Meanwhile, his brain tells his body,
I need more fuel. So it sends a signal to his adrenal glands to pump out stress hormones, which squeeze some of the stored fuel out of the liver to feed his hungry brain.
But these stress hormones get Johnny hyped up, so he starts to fidget. He looks out the window because he's bored and his stress hormone filled body tells him
Gotta move! But the teacher says
Gotta sit! While his body sits in the classroom, his mind is already at recess. Because his brain is out of biochemical balance so is his behavior, and he pokes the kid sitting next to him.
Even worse, many times it turns out that Johnny goes from his sugary breakfast to a junk food snack to lunch full of fake fats, white flour and refined carbs and this cycle repeats itself all day long. No wonder he can't concentrate.
All too often, Dr. Sears finds that his small, distracted patients are suffering not for ADD but instead from NDD - Nutrition Deficit Disorder. Many parents underestimate the degree to which food can affect how their child learns, behaves and feels. The brain, more than any other organ, is affected, for better or worse, by what we eat. If you put mostly junk food into a child's brain, the result is going to be junk behavior, junk learning and a junk mood.
Of course, not all cases of ADD can be managed with diet alone, and sometimes medication is warranted. It's important to work closely with you pediatrician to determine if your child is suffering from ADD or NDD.
By: Dr. Bill Sears, HLMS, 03042018