“His restlessness always increases after he has a lot of chocolates”, complained Amit’s mother. “Is it possible, Doctor?”

You might be wondering whether these are just the words of an over-concerned mother or a correct observation?’, aren’t you?

To begin with, the answer is – Yes, it’s possible and can be something known as a food trigger in his case.

Let’s have a look at what ADHD is and what food triggers are.

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disease condition that stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It can start, in most cases, in childhood and may continue its way to adulthood. It is one of the common medical conditions affecting children. More occurrence of this condition is observed in boys as compared to girls. Restlessness, concentration difficulties as well as behavioral changes can be observed in individuals suffering from ADHD. There can be extreme hyperactivity and attention difficulties.

ADHD can be difficult not only for the suffering individual but also for his/her family. Often, we have observed there is a lack of awareness regarding the same. So, today we will be going through the diet changes or dietary modifications that can be made that have been proven to be beneficial to those suffering from ADHD.

The exact cause of this disease condition remains unknown to the medical world as of now. However, there are certain factors known as triggers. These are food sensitivities that can trigger ADHD reactions in the form of increased symptoms.

The diet changes may not stop or cure the condition altogether. However, improvement has been observed to occur in the relief of the symptoms of the affected individuals, when these diet changes have been made.

Food triggers are dietary substances that when consumed show a considerable difference in an ADHD patient. Food triggers may be individualized and specific to each suffering individual. However, a few foods when consumed have shown to have more impact on the symptoms of ADHD than the rest.

There is no definite diet for ADHD. However, common Food Triggers that have been observed in the cases of ADHD are mentioned below.

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  1. Sugar/Artificial Sweeteners

A high intake of refined sugars may lead to increased dopamine production. Chronic overconsumption of sugar should be watched out for. However, short-term consumption of sugar does not seem to influence ADHD symptoms in most individuals. Limiting the intake of sugar is always a healthy choice for everyone, whether suffering from ADHD or not.

  1. Processed Foods

Processed foods, such as breakfast cereals, maida products, and bakery items, should be avoided and reduced. This can also include fast foods and fried food products. Eating such non-healthy foods can lead to further attention issues, as the child starts to lack a healthy diet. The vitamins and essential proteins needed are compromised with the intake of such foods.

  1. Caffeine

A lower intake of caffeine is recommended for ADHD. Higher caffeine intake has been related to an increase in the symptoms and restlessness of the individuals. Tea and coffee consumption should be watched out for and best avoided in ADHD individuals. 

  1. Food Additives

Common food additives, such as MGS (Monosodium glutamate), sodium nitrate, and sodium benzoate, are observed in many food products. They may occur as artificial flavors, food colors, and preservatives. They are usually present in carbonated drinks, candies, sauces, and processed foods. It is necessary to be aware of the contents of food products before consumption. A healthy diet free from such additives is more helpful to maintain a healthy body and overall good health.

  1. Chocolates

High sugar content in chocolates and candies can worsen ADHD symptoms. There has been no substantial scientific evidence regarding the same. It has been noticed as an individual food trigger in many cases of ADHD.

  1. Gluten

A gluten-free diet has been proven to be beneficial to individuals with ADHD. Gluten is a protein found in specific food products, such as wheat, rye, and barley. When a diet low in gluten or free from it is consumed, the overall health of an individual improves. General fatigue and dietary difficulties can occur in individuals having gluten intolerance when they consume gluten.

  1. Allergens

Certain food products may cause trigger certain individuals’ ADHD symptoms. Some of the common food products to watch out for are milk, nuts, eggs, soy products, and fish. It is essential to identify the food triggers by noticing any behavioral changes as and when they occur. This observation has to be done by parents or family members of the affected individuals. Individual food triggers when taken care of can help to reduce the difficulties faced in ADHD.


A high-protein, low-sugar, and no-additive diet is best-suited for ADHD individuals.

There is no rule as to the above food consumption, as every dietary consumption should be individual-based. Overall energy and concentration can be affected by daily diet. Certain food items that cause difficulty in one person need not cause the same in another person. Keeping a record of their dietary consumption hence can prove useful for ADHD individuals. So, it is always essential to follow a healthy diet for a better life.

Besides diet choices, it is also essential for ADHD individuals to have the proper emotional support from family and friends.

  • Written by Dr. Neethu Krishnan, Associate doctor to Dr. Rajesh Shah

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