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How Diet Affects ADD Symptoms - Pacific Quest: Wilderness Therapy for Teens & Young Adults

How Diet Affects ADD Symptoms – Pacific Quest: Wilderness Therapy for Teens & Young Adults

Transitioning into the teen years is a challenge for both teens and their adult caretakers. Pressures that teens face as they age combined with questions parents have about their teen’s behavior can be daunting.  If your teen has received a diagnosis of ADD/ADHD there are a lot of questions and uncertainties. Behavioral Therapy and Medication are proven to be the most viable treatments available, and yet symptoms can persist. What more can be done to aide in behavior and help your teen prosper? Specifically, how does diet affect ADD?

According to Chris A. Ziegler Dendy, M.D., ADD and ADHD are neurobiological disorders in which there are deficiencies in important brain chemicals and the neurotransmitters that carry the messages to the brain from the chemicals are dysfunctional. Because the symptoms are extensive, it is first important to work with your pediatrician to make certain ADD/ADHD is the specific ailment. ADD/ADHD is blurry in definition because it often is accompanied by other diseases such as learning disabilities, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, Tourette syndrome, substance abuse, and Conduct Disorder.

Behavior and lifestyle issues for your teen may include he or she:

  • has trouble getting organized and setting priorities
  • has a tough time getting started on homework and other assigned tasks
  • “Spaces out” when listening to someone or doing assigned reading
  • often gets sidetracked from tasks unless she’s doing something that’s especially interesting to her.

Your teen’s education and social life can be compromised with behaviors exhibited like: an inability to complete tasks in the allotted time, a propensity to be unorganized and thus late all the time, easily distracted when driving,  and is constantly fidgety or talking over everyone else–making relationships challenging. The good news is that ADD/ADHD can become a manageable disorder with the aides that go beyond traditional medicines and therapies, and a willing spirit on behalf of you and your teen!

Research is also showing that there are lifestyle habits and choices that can be made to further benefit symptoms your teen is experiencing.  If we pay close attention to how diet affects ADD and ADHD, we remember this disorder is one that stems from the brain. We need to examine what we can feed our teens to better nurture the brain of a growing being with this disorder. Across the board, scientists and psychologists agree that a diet high in false nutrients (junk food), sugary foods, and fried foods are the brain’s nemesis. Sugary cereals, chocolate, deli meats and processed meats, white-flour based carbohydrates, and convenient foods are all counterproductive in regulating behavior even with medication and behavioral therapy.  

Breakfasts that are especially rich in protein are helpful, as protein has been shown to trigger alertness-inducing neurotransmitters while carbohydrates induce drowsiness. Protein has been repeatedly shown to increase focus and sustain concentration. Another helpful approach could be eliminating all chemicals in a teen’s diet, and focusing on eating things that are not likely to trigger any irritations or symptoms. Such foods could include:

  • lamb
  • chicken
  • potatoes
  • rice
  • bananas
  • apples
  • cucumbers
  • celery
  • carrots
  • parsnips
  • cabbage
  • cauliflower
  • broccoli
  • salt
  • pepper
  • vitamins
  • supplements

Several vitamins that have been found to be helpful include B Vitamins (for focus), Zinc (dopamine regulator), Iron (vitamin absorption), magnesium (calming effect), and multivitamins (to insure vitamin intake). It is easy to make sure your teen gets these vitamins by providing “grazing food” for their growing bodies in the form of pre-made healthy snacks such as string cheese, trail mix, Greek yogurt, fruit, popcorn, or celery and peanut butter. By offering small meals more often, the active ADD person is more likely to get what they need in one sitting instead of being overwhelmed by the task of consuming one huge meal.

Pacific Quest has many workable solutions to soothing the symptoms of ADD/ADHD that help make your teen’s life as well as your family life more operable now and in the future. Contrary to popular belief, kids and teens do not outgrow their symptoms. Therefore, a long-term health plan is essential. Many teens who come to Pacific Quest come because traditional therapies are not working or have been exhausted.  

Pacific Quest is one of the primary places to approach treatment with a holistic perspective, bringing nutrition and diet into the process. The team at Pacific Quest creates farm-to-table meal preparation, implementing horticultural therapy into the process. The cuisine offered is dominantly organic, anti-inflammatory, whole foods that cater to a wide variety of diets including allergen-free, gluten free, dairy-free, vegan and/or kosher. Additionally, all animal sources of protein are sourced locally and are organic. We at Pacific Quest are enthusiastic about our beautiful and mystic setting and excited about how that affects dietary choices in teens. Long-term habits can start here. Why not give your teen a foundation for a prosperous future with the help of Pacific Quest?  Contact our Admissions Director JD Daubs with any questions you may have concerning how to connect your teen with Pacific Quest.

To learn more about us contact us with any of your questions and to set up a consultation on our office line, 808-937-5806, or email us.

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