Consumed By Food

Her psychologist insists that diet can't eliminate my daughter's ADHD symptoms. But I wonder: How could good food NOT help her feel good?
The Distracted Princess | posted by Sarah Kaczmarek

Following Hadley's ADHD diagnosis in October, I began researching the ways that diet might impact her ADHD inattentive-type symptoms. I broached the subject with Hadley’s child psychologist, who said that she has not observed any significant improvement in symptoms due to dietary changes during her years of practice. She told me of parents who tried diets and supplements, but ultimately ended up using ADHD medication.

We’ve seen her psychologist off and on since Hadley was 3 years old, so I trust her opinion, but I still have this nagging feeling. I’ve questioned it, abandoned it, questioned it, abandoned it, and now I’m back to questioning diet.

How can diet ~not~ impact symptoms of ADHD? Don’t we all feel better when we eat better? What about the information I’ve read on about protein, omega-3s, and iron? And the article I read recently in MedPage Today? Should I now start giving Hadley omega-3 and omega-6 supplements? How in the world do I tackle this while also navigating behavior-modification interventions, challenges faced at school (an entirely different subject), and trying to be patient?

Besides, will we even get far enough to reap any benefits? It is hard enough to get ANY child to try new foods, let alone Hadley. As a baby, Hadley had Milk Soy Protein Intolerance so severe that she ended up on a central line for 60 days. She outgrew it finally at 18 months, but the MSPI always gave her trouble -- even on amino-based formula. Her doctor indicated that any pain she endured from eating during the first 6 months of her life would not impact her future desire to eat, but again I wonder, how can it not?

And how do I regulate food at school? The school says: If a child is hungry, they can take food from the breakfast line. After the first two weeks of kindergarten, I got a note saying I owed a balance. When I asked Hadley about it, she excitedly told me, "I can take what I want and you don’t pay." I wonder how this can be since I feed Hadley breakfast, and she takes lunch. I'm sure I could provide a note, or ask for a physician's note, to prevent her from taking another breakfast, but is the potential meltdown worth it? I just don't know.

When she was two and half years old, Hadley started seeing a child psychologist for her biting and her avoidance of new foods. She continued biting children for over a year, even with time outs and other behavior interventions. And when I say avoidance to new foods, I mean full on plates-thrown-across-the-room, screaming-meltdown avoidance. She drank water and milk until she was 5 because she wouldn’t try anything else -- not an entirely bad thing. She didn’t try peanut butter and jelly until her 3rd birthday, but then ate it almost every day for a year.

To say she was picky eater would be an understatement. When people offered the advice, "Don’t be a short-order cook. She'll get hungry enough and eat," I would try hard not to scream. You get the point: Change comes slowly and, though she has gotten better over the last two years, food is still a challenge.

I’ve been successful in making small changes recently. She drinks a high-protein breakfast shake made with soy milk that she’s learned to enjoy. I’ve removed the apple juice at lunch and replaced it with water this week. She’s discovered ranch dressing with lettuce and other veggies, and we’re working on V8 Splash. We still make peanut butter and jelly every day for lunch.

Will the changes make an improvement to her inattention and distractibility? Who knows. What I do know is there can’t be any harm in feeding my children healthy food. Slowly.

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