By Taytum Marler
What is ADHD and why does it seem so prominent in children? ADHD is an acronym that stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, but what exactly does that mean? It is a common neurological developmental disorder that shows up through an inability to pay attention, unusual hyperactivity, and impulsive behavioral problems. Even though ADHD cannot be “cured,” you can get a better hold of it or lessen the symptoms as you get older. However, since children’s brains are still developing, their ADHD symptoms can seem over exaggerated. How can we identify and understand these symptoms though.
What is the cause of ADHD? There is not really much research to explain why ADHD actually occurs. It has yet to be pinpointed as to where this attention deficit hyperactivity disorder stems from originally. Most people believe that it is simply genetics, if you have a parent or other relative with it then most likely you could have it too. Other guesses are that environmental toxins or even an early birth can cause ADHD, but these have yet to be proven. A common misconception is that sugar creates ADHD in children, however, there have been many studies that have debunked this thinking. That is not to say that sugar does not have a part to play with ADHD prone children; it simply enhances their hyperactive tendencies.
Signs of ADHD in your child take on many forms. The two main symptoms are usually categorized as inattention and hyperactivity. Inattention, which can look like difficulty learning in class, forgetting where they placed important things, or even daydreaming a little too much. Hyperactivity, on the other hand can be more impulsive, such as not being able to sit still for long periods, little to no sense of danger, and constant talking. Both of these have to be in the extreme when it comes to children with ADHD. Just because your child tends to talk a little too much does not necessarily mean they have ADHD, but when that talking is excessive and also paired with a few other symptoms, then maybe consider that they may have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Although it is very unlikely that outside factors (such as sugar) cause ADHD, they can definitely enhance the hyperactivity of a child who already has it. The western diet, which mainly consists of fats, calories, and sugars has been known to be associated to the extreme with ADHD in kids. There is also the risk of irritability and restlessness when a child consumes foods with dyes, such as Tartrazine (yellow #5), however, this is common for most children but is, again, exaggerated in kids with ADHD. Other dyes that have been associated with making ADHD symptoms worse in children are, Blue #2, Red #40, and Yellow #6. You may want to cut out these dyes for a while to see how they may be affecting your family. Excessive use of technology, especially at a young age, also enhances habits of poor sleep, hyperactivity, and inability to pay attention for extended time periods. Children who deal with ADHD are already “hyped up,” and by giving them sugars and fats or even technology, it can cause a “problem” child because their energy levels are through the roof and they do not know how to properly process their energy. Another outside factor that can exaggerate ADHD in children is early childhood trauma; while this looks different for everyone, if your child has gone through something traumatic early on then symptoms of ADHD may be excessive.
Even though there is no proof that any outside factors, such as sugar, television, dyes, etc, can cause ADHD, it certainly does not help that child (or any child really) to calm down. Regulating your child’s intake on such things may help lessen their hyperactive habits and inability to pay attention. I would, at the very least, experiment without such factors and see if any change occurs, it will certainly not hurt. Your child is still developing, and it could be beneficial for both of you to experiment going without outside distractions like fatty foods, food dyes, and/or television for a bit.