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Do You Struggle With ADHD? Changing Your Diet and Habits in These 5 Ways May Help Ease Symptoms

Turns out, certain foods and a lack of activity may exacerbate symptoms.

Feeling foggy or unfocused? Adult ADHD could be to blame. According to the nonprofit CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder), around 10 million adult Americans are dealing with some form of ADHD. (Some sources estimate that up to 90 percent may go undiagnosed.) What’s more, studies have found that decreased hormone levels after menopause can make symptoms worse. If your lack of focus is exacerbated by the stresses of everyday life and certain dietary habits, these easy tips may help sharpen thinking so you can get more done (and with less stress).

Note: These tips are not a replacement for professional treatment. If you believe you have ADHD, make an appointment with a mental health professional — such as a psychologist, psychiatrist, or a primary care provider to learn more about your health and your needs.

Skip artificial dyes.

Hungry? Opt for snacks without artificial dyes. The dyes used in processed foods such as candy, popsicles, cereal, and frosting may worsen ADHD symptoms. “Some of the most widely studied food dyes are red dye 40 and red dye 3, which point to adverse effects in those with ADHD,” says neurologist Daniel Amen, MD. And research suggests exposure to artificial food coloring may alter your brain chemistry and hamper memory. (Note: This research was performed on children. More research is needed to prove these findings apply to adults.)

Lean into color coding.

Color-coding to-do’s, calendars, storage bins, and keys can may improve your ability to stay organized and focused whether you work at home or in an office. Research suggests colors help easily distracted folks stay on task better than dull black and gray hues. Want more proof? One study found that when a school repainted their lackluster walls with bright colors, the students’ behavior changed for the better — class attendance and grades improved, while tardiness dropped.

Eat pumpkin seeds.

Some sources state that people with ADHD tend to be deficient in magnesium and zinc. Why does this matter? Magnesium helps nerve cells communicate and protects against brain cell death. Zinc is a vital nutrient for the function of the nervous system and neurotransmitters. In addition, studies have shown that magnesium and zinc supplementation helps improve hyperactivity and difficulty focusing in children.

So, how can you boost your intake of these two essential nutrients? Savor two ounces of tasty pumpkin seeds. That’s enough to deliver the 310 milligrams of focus-enhancing magnesium you need daily. (Note: There is no guarantee that eating pumpkin seeds daily would improve your symptoms.)

Take a walk.

“Exercise boosts blood flow to the brain,” says Dr. Amen. “And people with ADHD tend to have low blood flow in the prefrontal cortex, a brain region responsible for focus, impulse control, judgment, and more.” Research backs up this theory: A stroll in nature may help reduce ADHD symptoms by promoting a dopamine release and improving executive function, among other benefits.

Try a PS supplement.

When more help is needed, try phosphatidylserine, or PS — an amino acid that helps improve communication between brain cells. What’s the evidence behind it? A scientific paper found that taking 300 milligrams of this amino acid daily may contribute to better cognitive function, improve memory, and lower cortisol levels in mature adults. These benefits may translate to people with ADHD as well. Note: Don’t try a supplement without approval from your doctor.

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

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