“How Cleaner Eating Helped My Son with ADHD”
Eat, drink, and love the effects that organic foods may have on your child — at least for a while.
I remember two years ago when the doctor told me Lucas had more than enough symptoms to confidently give him an ADHD diagnosis, and how the doctor asked me if I would like him to prescribe medication. I was, “Huh? I thought you were supposed to tell me what to do!” I felt like I was slapping the doctor in the face when I hesitantly asked him if there was anything else we could try before resorting to medication (the medical community is generally in favor of medicating for ADHD). “Organic food has helped many of my patients,” he said.
Really? Why had I never read or heard that before? In the hundreds of hours of research I’d done, I hadn’t read anything that said organic eating might affect ADHD symptoms. But I do trust my doctor, and I was willing to try anything.
So that afternoon, we went to the grocery store and spent two hours (lots of label-reading) and $200 on organic food shopping. Lucas was suspicious at first (does organic = yucky?), but I explained to him why we were changing the way we eat, and that we were trying to live a more healthy lifestyle to help make behaving and thinking clearly easier for him. I told him it might take a few weeks, or maybe even months, but we were going to do whatever it took to help him. He became a willing, if skeptical, participant.
We ate an organic meal that night. And either because of my awesome powers of mind control and psychological manipulation, or because it was actually true, Lucas said the organic food tasted better. The next morning I fed Lucas organic cereal with organic milk, an organic packed lunch for school, and organic dinner.
The following morning, after a day and a half of organic eating, Lucas was ready for school 10 minutes early. If you have a kid with ADHD, you know why the Hallelujah Chorus just erupted in the background. If you don’t have a kid with ADHD, you have to understand what the typical morning in our house used to look like. I broke down Lucas’ morning into little tasks and set a timer for each tiny job. Putting on underwear, shirt, pants, belt, socks, shoes — all these seemingly simple jobs were separated. I yelled at him to get moving, took (or threw) away toys as punishment for being off task, and, in the final countdown of seconds to get out the door, I sometimes grabbed his mouth and swished a toothbrush around in there just to get those damn teeth brushed already. That was because he had wasted 10 minutes singing in front of the mirror, or maybe stared at himself and hummed quietly like the creepy kid from the horror movie does right before the mom gets the ax.
I set the alarm clock earlier and earlier. Still, somehow we always ended up racing around in a frenzy in those last few minutes. On a daily basis, I bit back tears as I herded the kids out the door a few minutes late, where the neighbors’ kids would wait patiently for me to take them to school, sometimes asking innocently, “How come you’re always yelling at Lucas?” because they had heard me screaming at him from inside the house. Which would make me try even harder not to cry, and then I would make stupid nervous-sounding small talk in the car with Lucas on the way to school, saying “I love you” about a billion times in a guilty attempt to reassure him of my undying love for him.
Mornings. Were. Horrible.
So being ready 10 minutes early after one day of organic eating pretty much blew my hair off my head. It was a miracle.
Lucas had a great day at school that day. The following week, after gymnastics, his instructor came running out to find me, eyes round with excitement. “Are you Lucas’s mom? What have you been doing? He was a different kid today! I have never seen him so focused!”
It seemed that we had found the “cure” for ADHD: Just eat properly. Feelings of self-righteousness crept in. My husband and I started having those kinds of conversations, the ones that go something like this:
“What is wrong with the food system here in the United States?”
“The entire system needs a major overhaul.”
“I can’t believe we’ve been putting harmful chemicals into our children’s bodies all this time.”
“I can’t believe people just give their kids whatever crap they find on the grocery store shelf without reading the labels or understanding where the food came from.”
“This is why everyone has ADHD. It’s because of the food.”
“Yeah, and every other health problem.”
“Yeah, it’s all because we eat a bunch of crap.”
I did my little victory dance up there on my high horse, even as a knowledgeable friend warned me that the positive effects of the organic food could be a result of the sudden and drastic change, and that I shouldn’t be surprised or discouraged if the effects weren’t long-lasting or didn’t sustain the initial level of intensity.
I couldn’t stomach her negativity, though. I needed a win. But, unfortunately, my friend was right. As time has slipped by over this past year, we’ve lost some of the “miracle effect” of organic eating. We still eat primarily organic though, and I have noticed that if we go off organic for more than a few days, Lucas starts scaling the walls like Spiderman.
We still aren’t ruling out medication, but Lucas is doing well enough in school that we feel we can hold off for a while. So, for now, we’re sticking with our not-so-miraculous-but-definitely-worthwhile solution of eating organic food.
Now, if only eating organic was a sure-fire way to prevent mamma from losing her mind on a busy morning.
Updated on December 3, 2020