The ADHD diet: Avoid Digestive Stress Part 1
Creating an ADHD diet that minimizes digestive stress will vastly improve your overall health and minimize your ADHD symptoms. An increasing number of studies reveal that poor digestive health can cause neurological disorders like ADHD or autism.
Is it a coincidence that the number of people with ADHD started to increase around the same time people started consuming more processed foods?
Digestive stress refers to the amount of effort the body must exert to digest food properly. All foods have pros and cons. This depends on how you prepare each food and in what quantity you consume it; even too much of a good thing can cause digestive stress.
The following article discusses the major food groups and how our bodies handle each one. In essence, the goal of a healthy ADHD diet is to maintain a thriving level of beneficial gut flora so other less favorable organisms (like bacteria and parasites) can’t take over.
Carbohydrates (aka sugars) are the body’s primary short-term fuel source. All carbohydrates are made of small molecules called monosacharides. Monosaccharides don’t require digestion and are immediately absorbed into the gut lining. In a healthy digestive system assimilation causes little or no bodily stress. The most common monosaccharides are:
- Fructose and Glucose: found in fruits, vegetables and honey
- Galactose: found in soured milk products (yoghurt, kefir, sour cream, cottage cheese, etc…)
Disaccharides or polysaccharides are carbohydrates constructed from several monosaccharides being bound together. In order to use these sugars, the body needs to first break them down into monosacharides. Therefore, these carbs are harder to digest. The most common of these are:
- Sucrose: found in table sugar and maple syrup
- Lactose: found in milk
- Maltose: the product of starch digestion. Found in all grains, starchy vegetables, rice, beans, legumes and foods made from flour
However, some of the categories overlap. For example, unripe fruits can contain sucrose while many vegetables contain maltose due to the presence of small amounts of starch.
Proteins are the building blocks of life – along with DNA and RNA, proteins are one of the three major macromolecules essential to all life forms. Proteins are therefore essential to good health – every meal should ideally contain them in some form. In a healthy digestive system, proteins are easily broken down into smaller amino acids and absorbed into the gut lining. In recent years, however, many people have been experiencing difficulty digesting certain proteins like gluten (found in grain) and casein (found in milk).
Many of these food allergies are due to modern food preparation methods. For example, lactose/casein intolerant individuals are often able to drink raw milk because the lactase and other digestive enzymes haven’t been destroyed by pasteurization.
Similarly, breads, cereals, and other gluten-containing foods can be eaten safely – if prepared traditionally – by most people with gluten-intolerance because these foods have been through the fermentation process. Proteins are found in:
- Meats : beef, veal, pork, lamb, ham, liver, kidney, etc…
- Poultry : chicken, turkey, duck, goose, etc…
- Game : venison, pheasant, rabbit, etc…
- Fish : salmon, trout, haring, tuna, mackerel, shellfish, sardines, etc…
- Dairy products : cheese, yoghurt, milk
- Animal byproducts : eggs
- Nuts & seeds : almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, flax seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, etc…
- Beans & legumes : lentils, peas, kidney beans, etc…
- Fruit : avocado (it’s a fruit)
- Grains : barley, oatmeal, quinoa, amaranth, etc…
Although proteins are essential, they shouldn’t be eaten in large quantities due to their acidic nature. People whose diets consist of too many proteins may develop gout or other conditions associated with acidosis.
As far as digestive stress goes, fats are tolerated quite well (if consumed in moderate amounts!). The body doesn’t require much work to absorb fats, but their digestion depends on adequate bile production from the gallbladder.
Exceptions to the rule are short-chain fatty acids – found in butterfat from cows and goats – and medium-chain fatty acids – found in butterfat and tropical oils (like coconut) – which do not need to be acted on by bile salts for absorption. These fats are easily absorbed and provide immediate energy.