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ADHD prevention strategies

No one is sure that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder ( ADHD) can be prevented. There are, though, ways to help all children perform to the best of their ability at home and at school.

Can good antenatal health help in preventing ADHD?

Poor antenatal health is associated with ADHD. So if you are pregnant, you can increase the chance of your child not having ADHD by staying healthy throughout your pregnancy. A healthy diet and appropriate antenatal care are important, as is avoiding the use of alcohol and drugs.

Children whose mothers smoked while they were pregnant have a greater risk of developing ADHD, as do those whose mothers consumed alcohol or used drugs. Some studies suggest that being born with a low birth weight, or prematurely, or suffering brain damage in the womb or in the early years of life may be associated with a greater risk of ADHD. What all these studies have in common is an emphasis on good antenatal health.

Does diet play a role in preventing ADHD?

Giving your child a healthy, balanced diet from an early age will instil good eating habits. A balanced diet, being physically active, and getting exercise can help all children, even those who are already diagnosed with ADHD.

There is no scientific proof of a link between ADHD and sugar intake. Some experts believe that altering a child's diet may reduce hyperactive behaviour. Ben Feingold developed a popular diet designed to treat hyperactivity. It is an elimination diet that eliminates artificial colourings, flavourings, and preservatives. The clinical community hasn't accepted the diet, and some studies have actually disproved Feingold's theory. However, many parents who have tried the diet reported an improvement in their child's behaviour.

Processed sugars and carbohydrates may have an effect on a child's activity level. That's because these compounds produce a rapid increase in blood glucose levels. They do this by entering the bloodstream quickly. This blood sugar spike may produce an adrenaline rush that could cause a child to become more active. Then, decreased activity and even mood swings may be noted as the adrenaline levels fall.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) says that if a clear link seems to exist between foods or drinks and hyperactive behaviour, doctors should advise parents or carers to keep a diary of foods and drinks consumed and ADHD behaviour. If the diary backs up the link then a referral to a dietician will be offered. A dietitian can help you monitor the changes to your diet to make sure they really help.

Parents may be encouraged to try eliminating certain foods from their children's diet if they feel the foods affect behaviour negatively. Some experts, though, think that behavioural changes may actually be due to the way the families interact with each other while they're on an elimination diet. The child's behaviour may improve, not because of the diet, but as a result of getting more attention from the parents.

It's important not to be too restrictive with your child's diet. Being too restrictive can result in nutritional deficiencies. Dieticians and doctors can help you devise a healthy eating plan for your children.

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