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  • Spectrum of Life

Integrative Approach to Reducing ADHD Symptoms

How diet, sleep, exercise, and behavior interventions can reduce ADHD symptoms in children.

Integrative approach takes into account a child’s life, including his or her relationship with family, friends, school and community, but not just focusing on one aspect . Therefore, it is crucial to look at nutrition, sleep, stress, exercise, and school performance as part of any ADHD treatment plan.

What is the right combination of diet, exercise, good sleep regimen and stress reduction that can further contribute to reduce ADHD symptoms?

Basic Nutrition

1. Eating well?

o The Glycemic index (how soon carbs become blood sugar)

o The faster the food turns into sugar, the higher the GI

No vs. High vs. Low GI breakfast

Studies showed that children that starts their day with Low GI breakfast tend to have

· Better executive function

· Better working memory

· Better attention

2. Artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives

o Artificial colors and/or a sodium benzoate preservative (food preservative) result in increased hyperactivity in general population.

3. Food sensitivity

o Check if your child is sensitive to food that causes them to display symptoms of ADHD.

o Food elimination way: Eliminate a set of foods such as dairy, wheat, corn, soy, eggs, peanuts. Do that for 3 weeks and see if there are any changes. If everything maintains, then go back to normal diet. But if there is an improvement, then you slowly add food back into the diet. For instance, add gluten food and wait 3 to 4 days to see if there are any changes. If no changes, then add another food.

4. Supplements


o Children with ADHD tend to have decreased levels of omega-3s in red blood cells and plasma. Omega 3 fatty acids helps the brain neurons to function and communicate more efficiently.

o Omega-3s, particularly with high doses EPA, were modestly effective in the treatment of ADHD.


o Iron deficiency has been reported in individuals with ADHD.

o Iron in take has improved ADHD symptoms.

*Have doctor check your child’s serum ferritin (a measure of iron stores) as too much iron may cause constipation and be toxic to the body. Supplement if necessary.


o Zinc is an important nutritional factor in ADHD.

*Check if zinc is low while checking for any iron deficiency. Supplement if necessary.


Pesticides and Toxins

· Children with higher exposure to pesticides had twice more odds of meeting the criteria for ADHD.

o Avoid using indoor pesticides as much as possible

o Consider using water filter

o Chemical fragrance in dishwashing soap/ detergent

o Watch out for toxins in plastics such as BPA


· Children with ADHD are more sensitive to stress and are more likely to encounter stress in their life from

o Teachers

o Parents

o Peers

· Supportive and minimize stress overload

o Positive and supportive

o Activities that your child enjoys and is good at

o Fostering child’s sense of worth and decreasing their stress


Behavioral management

· Positive Parenting

o Positive approach; clear rules; well-defined consequences

o Avoid negative emotions such as yelling and frustration

o Avoid criticizing your child


Is your child moving enough??

· Exercise triggers epigenetic changes that make the brain grow and be more efficient.

· Exercise 1 hour a day is good, but more if you can.

o Sports: Individual sports such as swimming, hiking, bicycling, running

o Traditional Martial arts

o Playing outside with friends


Is your child sleeping enough? Quality & Quantity!

· Sleep supports one’s neurocognitive function. Poor sleep may undermine neuronal development and day to day regulation and executive functioning such as processing speed and working memory. Sleep deprivation will also prevent consolidation of information resulting in poor memory.

o Preschool 10-13 hours

o School age 9-11 hours

o Teenagers 8-10 hours

· Improve sleep hygiene

In sum,


  • Change your child’s diet for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

  • Take your supplements

  • Organic food

  • Avoid pesticides

  • Positive parenting

  • Exercise

  • Sleep hygiene

  • Reduce stress

Foster a Happy, Confident, and Resilient Child through an Integrative Approach in Lifestyle, Diet, Sleep, and Exercise

By: Ms Jolene Yeo - SOL Pscyhologist


Arnold, L. E., DiSilvestro, R. A., Bozzolo, D., Bozzolo, H., crowl, L., Fernandez, S., Ramadan, Y., Thompson, S., Mo, X., Abdel-Rasoul, M., & Joseph, E. (2011). Zinc for attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder: Placebo-controlled double-blind pilot trial alone and combined with amphetamine. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology, 21(1), 1-19. doi: 10.1089/cap.2010.0073

Bloch, M. H., & Qawasmi, A. (2011). Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation for the treatment of children with attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder symptomatology: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 50(10). 991-1000. DOI:

Bouchard, M. F., Bellinger, D. C., Wright, R. O., & Weisskopf, M. G. (2010). Attention deficit/ hyperactivity disorder and uninary metabolites or organophosphate pesticides. Paediatrics, 125(6), 1270-1277. doi: 10.1542/peds.2009-3058

Konofal, E., Lecendreux, M., Deron, J., Marchand, M., Cortese, S., Zaim, M., Mouren, MC., & Arnulf, I. (2008). Effects of iron supplementation on attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children. Pediatrics Neurology, 38(1), 20-6.

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