Children Nutrition and ADHD

CHILDREN NUTRITION – BODY BUILDING ARCHITECT

Think of your child’s body like a building and you or your child is the architect. Your goal is to build a strong and tall building. To accomplish that goal you will need excellent building materials. In your case, that means GOOD NUTRITION. When we talk about good nutrition, it is not just any foods. We need good NUTRITIOUS foods.

Why? Because nutritious food has many vitamins and minerals that your child’s growing body needs. Think of these vitamins and minerals as workers at the construction site. Without these workers, the building materials would just sit there.

Vitamins and minerals along with adequate calories and protein are an integral part of children nutrition. Vitamins and minerals play very important roles in the thousands of chemical reactions in our body. Without these vitamins and minerals, many of the chemical reactions would not take place, and that many body functions would be affected. Some of the vitamin and mineral deficiencies results in malfunctions that contribute to some of the ADHD behaviors.

Children nutrition is different from adult in that we have to account for additional calories to promote growth and development. In a fully grown adult, we need just enough calories to sustain basic body functions, such as breathing, heart pumping, blood circulation, and our daily physical demands.

In children nutrition, we have to account for all of the above, and at the end of the day, we need to be sure there is left over to promote growth. To put this idea into perspective: an average healthy adult needs between 20-30 calories per kg of body weight daily. On the other hand, a newborn baby needs 100 calories per kg of body weight per day to sustain and grow. You see the different between adult and children nutrition?

WHAT ABOUT SUPPLEMENTS? CAN I JUST TAKE A MULTIVITAMIN?

The answer is “yes” and “no”.

Certainly you can just take a multivitamin to make up for what you’re missing from your diet. However, you might still be missing out on many awesome antioxidants that scientists have yet to discover. The multivitamin pill only has the vitamins and minerals that scientists know of NOW. Bottom line is there are more benefits in eating the fruits and vegetables than to get those vitamins and minerals.

A diet consists mainly of processed foods not only robs you of the precious vitamins and minerals your body craves, it also fills you body with toxic chemicals, pesticides, hormones, preservatives - things that your body has to work hard to get rid of. In doing so, your body most likely will have used up most of the good stuff you get from your vitamin pill. So you’ll still end up behind.

There will always be room for supplementation since you’re looking for an alternative ADHD treatment. Many studies have shown that children with ADHD have a few nutrient deficiencies, such as iron, zinc, magnesium, etc. This is even more so in children who are on ADHD medications, which are notorious for suppressing appetite and causing stunt growth.

Children with ADHD tend to be somewhat underweight because many of them cannot even focus enough to finish a decent meal. And some are just so hyposensitive that the hunger sense does not even bother them. When you add the ADHD medication to these, you will have a child who is at risk for malnutrition.

CHILDREN NUTRITION – IS MY CHILD MALNOURISHED?

I’m pretty sure most parents are familiar with how the growth chart looks like. To determine your child nutrition status, you need to look at your child’s growth over a period of time. In normal growth, both height and weight, should follow or parallel one of the percentile lines. A child is considered “failure to thrive” when the weight drops more than 2 percentile lines, such as going from above 50th percentile to less than 10th percentile. Stunt growth is when a child stops growing in height.

In the early stage of malnutrition, we will see the weight to drop first. As the condition worsens, height is the next parameter being compromised. If the malnutrition is not corrected, eventually the head circumference will be affected too. And at this point development will be delayed since brain growth and development is being delayed due to lack of nutrition.

Growth charts are frequently used in children nutrition to determine growth rate. Use this interactive growth chart to determine your child’s growth percentile.

WHAT DO I DO WITH THE PERCENTILES NOW?

Frequently children with ADHD have a much higher percentile for height than weight. It basically means that the child is a bit too skinny for their height. The 50th percentile line is the median. Of course, we know every child is different.

HOW MUCH SHOULD MY CHILD WEIGHT THEN?

To answer this question, you need to know your child’s current height. You need to get to the correct growth chart for your child’s gender and age group. Find your child’s height on the chart. Then move along the line horizontally until you reach the 50th percentile line. From here you can determine your child’s “height age” by going up vertically up to the age legend.

For instance, your child’s height is 80cm. We’ll be using the Girls Birth to 36 months chart. Look for 80cm on the left hand side, then move horizontally across until you hit the darker 50th percentile line. So at 80cm, your child’s height age is 18 months. This means your child’s height is that of a 18 month old. If you look at the median weight at 18 months on the chart, you will find the weight that your child should be, which, in this case, 11kg.

Related article: How Much Calories Does My Child Need?

INCREASE CHILDREN NUTRITION INTAKE

If your children need to gain weight because he or she is too skinny, there are different ways to accomplish this. By forcing your child to eat more is not one of them. The simplest and easiest thing to do is just adding oil, butter, margarine and anything fattening to everything that your child eats.

If your child is on a dairy-free diet, you can use oil (any vegetable oil) and coconut cream to add extra calories. Don’t worry about the extra fat your child is getting. If he or she is underweight, you know your child hasn’t been getting enough calories. Plus the fat will be used by the body for energy, saving the protein in the body for more important task, such as growth.

The oil that I recommend the most is flaxseed oil. It is a very good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which is a major component of the brain tissue.

There are many children nutritional beverages available that you can add to your child's diet as a supplemental source of calories and protein. Some common ones are Pediasure and Carnation Instant Breakfast. They both contain milk, but Pediasure is lactose-free and also gluten-free. For children on dairy-free diet, you may create your own fruit smoothies with a plant-based protein powder, such as soy or sprout protein powder.

If your child is on a gluten-/casein-free diet, you may try Vega Smoothie, which is dairy- and soy-free. One nice thing about Vega Smoothie is that it’s not just a simple protein smoothie, it also contains a blend of antioxidants and probiotics. Another product you can try is EO28 Splash and Neocate Jr from Nutricia, and Elecare Jr from Abott Ross. These are all amino-acid based formula, which means the protein are broken down to their tiniest unrecognizable form. These formula are made specifically for children with multiple food allergies and severe gastrointestinal problems. They are the hypoallergenic version of Pediasure.

With improved nutritional status, you may see some improvement in your child’s ADHD behaviors. Just think of the many times that your brain feels foggy because you did not have breakfast in the morning. Our brain cannot function well on empty stomach, just as a car cannot operate with an empty gas tank. Make sure your child has a good breakfast daily to start the day.

Here is one of my recipe analysis tool that allows you to determine the nutrient content of your favorite homemade recipes.