Nutrition for ADHD

4 min reading time

I found out I had ADHD when I was 25. It shouldn’t have been a surprise, as it runs in my family. My mental health GP asked the right questions about my drug use, and with a referral for my diagnosis in hand, what I got was more a sense of relief.

Given that I was trying to kick the amphetamine habit, stimulant medication was never going to be a viable option for me. Or at least, not one that I was willing to consider. I had mind-made stories around being medicated long-term anyway, it made me “broken” in the eyes of society, needing to be “fixed”.

I’d just started studying Health Coaching, and (perhaps ironically) had always had an interest in health — particularly the intersection of nutrition and psychology — so I figured I could find the support I needed to thrive with ADHD somewhere in there. I was right.

It was a somewhat hard pill to swallow that the plant-based diet I viewed as the healthiest path at the time was no longer serving my brain, my hormones, or my immune system. The first time I had eggs in 3 years, I felt like I was high. Introducing eggs, slow-cooked meats, and oily fish back to my diet made a world of difference. So down the hyper-focus rabbit hole, I went.

Over the last decade I’ve experimented with changes to my diet that have ultimately been supported by research in the area of nutritional psychiatry. I’m sensitive to sugar and have a carbohydrate threshold, and can only tolerate gluten in small amounts. I thrive on a protein/fat heavy diet, and need to keep an eye on my hydration, Iron and Magnesium levels which both affect my cognition and rest. If I sleep badly, my brain really struggles. Giving up caffeine is near impossible but having more than 2 cups of coffee is too far in the wrong direction.

This has all been intensified by pregnancy.

I’ve been able to mitigate a lot of the more challenging ADHD food patterns such as repetitive eating, dopamine-driven food and drink choices, and binge-eating, through education and planning. I write a meal plan each week and do a grocery shop with a list on Sundays. This way I always have food on hand, don’t get overwhelmed with too-frequent grocery shopping, and make sure I’m nourishing myself appropriately. What works for me may not work for others but knowing your own patterns is helpful.

The other huge component of all this is of course, self-awareness. Something I have gained through a decade of dedication to the inner work. Knowing myself, trusting what my body is telling me, self-parenting through worthlessness and “othering” myself, and creating the supports that I need to thrive without pathologising myself or making this neurodivergence my entire identity.

A client of mine was struggling with self-abandoning through food and we identified the connection between brain fog/fatigue, ADHD, and nutrition… which prompted me to create this free guide on Nutrition for ADHD. If this is something that helps you, I’d love to hear about it.

You can download it for free here.

p.s. Some natural health and wellness folk talk about all the causes or ways you can prevent ADHD through diet and lifestyle, which I encourage you to be discerning about. This is a genetic neurological condition which can be exacerbated by poor diet and lifestyle, and supported through diet, lifestyle, coaching/therapy, and medication/supplements. By saying it is purely diet and lifestyle related (or even due to environmental toxins) we are allowing an ableist view of neurodivergence to endure.

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