4 strategies to maintain a healthy diet

people with ADHD know how much the condition can affect every aspect of their life – from how well they do in school to their relationships. But many people with ADHD may not be as aware of how much the condition can influence their eating habits. And if left unchecked, these bad eating habits can affect your mental and physical health.

Some of the most common problems are “hyper fixation” and binge eating. Hyperfixation is an intense fixation on certain activities or interests, but it can also include eating habits. This means that some people may only eat one specific food or meal for a while before they get tired and move on to a different food or meal.

Studies have also shown an association between ADHD and certain eating disorders, with binge eating disorders being one of the most common. Binge eating disorder is when people consume large amounts of food in a short period of time, even when they are not hungry. It is estimated that nearly a third of people in the US who have binge eating disorders also have ADHD.

Some experts believe that people with ADHD may overeat to satisfy their need for stimulation. Binge eating can also happen because ADHD makes it difficult for people to self-control and self-regulate, which means they may be more likely to overeat if they are sad or angry, and may not find it so easy to tell when they are full.

Some evidence suggests that binge eating in people with ADHD can be attributed to an increased neural reward response to food rather than impulsivity. This is when the brain is exposed to a stimulus that is rewarding and responds by releasing an increased amount of dopamine, a chemical in the brain associated with reward and pleasure. However, impulsivity (another ADHD symptom) can also lead people to overeat — especially foods that are unhealthy.

Some ADHD medications can also suppress your appetite during the day. But as the drug’s effects wear off at night, appetite increases, which can lead to binge eating.

Sensory issues may also explain why some people with ADHD tend to eat or avoid certain foods. Certain textures or smells can cause sensory overload, making it difficult for people with ADHD to eat them — leading to the avoidance of these foods or food groups altogether.

There is also evidence that people with ADHD tend to gravitate towards junk food, especially foods high in sugar. This could be because foods high in sugar stimulate the release of dopamine.

People with ADHD have lower levels of dopamine. As such, they may be more “prepared” to seek out dopamine. Since eating simple carbohydrates (such as high-sugar foods) triggers a surge of dopamine in the brain, this may be why people with ADHD tend to hyperfix or binge on these foods.

Nutrition and ADHD

Not having a varied diet or just eating foods high in sugar can lead to a range of health problems, from vitamin deficiencies to obesity. High-sugar diets can also affect energy levels and mood.

Some preliminary research suggests that certain foods, for example highly processed additives and preservatives, may also alter behavior and cognitive development.

Several studies have shown that nutritional deficiencies can affect behavior and cognitive function in people with ADHD. Vitamin D and magnesium in particular are important, with research showing they can improve alertness and decrease hyperactivity a little. Vitamin D can also affect how dopamine forms in the brain.

But even though ADHD can make it harder to keep eating habits in check, if you have ADHD, there are things you can do to improve the situation. Here are some of them:

4. Plan

Buy and plan meals for the next week. Meal planning makes it easier to decide what and when to eat and can help you avoid compulsively buying or eating processed and unhealthy foods.

3. Eat small but nutritious meals throughout the day

If this is planned, it can help you avoid stuffing yourself with unhealthy snacks — and it can also help you avoid late-night binge eating if you’re someone who forgets to eat throughout the day. A balance of protein and complex carbohydrates (like chicken, beans, or whole grains) will help you get adequate nutrients and vitamins, but it will also help you feel fuller for longer and give you energy.

2. Create a healthy food environment at home —

This may involve not buying high-calorie snacks or replacing them with nutritious ones – like fruits or vegetables, which can help improve your alertness.

1. Supplement certain vitamins and minerals

People with ADHD are more likely to be deficient in certain micronutrients, including omega-3s, magnesium and zinc. These nutrients are important for ensuring that the brain, body, and immune system function at their best.

While adjusting your diet isn’t always easy, working with a nutritionist or psychologist, getting help from a loved one, or even using a daily meal planner can be helpful in helping you get on the right path. Even making just a few small changes to your daily eating habits can have a significant effect on your health in the long run.

This article was originally published on The conversation by Hazel Flight at Edge Hill University. Read the original article here.

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