Attention deficit disorder (ADD) is a condition that involves inattention and distractibility. When hyperactivity is accompanied and predominant, it is called attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). ADD and ADHD mostly affect developing children, beginning before age seven, and many of these children continue having distractibility into adulthood.

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ADHD is estimated to affect approximately 5% of the U.S. population (adults and children) and approximately 9% of the population of children in the U.S.1 and is more common in boys.

It is natural and normal to occasionally have symptoms of inattention, especially in children, but when it interferes with development, then it becomes abnormal. The following signs may be noticed in someone with ADHD:

  • difficulty organizing things and tasks
  • forgetful
  • easily distracted
  • difficulty following through
  • fidgeting
  • impulsivity
  • restlessness
  • difficulty engaging in activities quietly

There is little known about the cause of ADHD. There is clearly a familial risk pattern associated with ADHD, but there may be environmental influences that could be modified to lower the risk of or the severity of this condition. Some evidence suggests that toxin exposures or allergic reactions in utero or as a young child may be contributing to a person’s risk, whereas other observations indicate perhaps nutritional deficiencies related to brain health such as iron, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, folate, and other phytonutrients may play a role. A Western diet low in these and many other nutrients and high in dairy, processed and red meats, salt, and refined sugar has been associated with higher risk of ADHD.2

  1. Akinbami LJ, Liu X, Pastor PN, Reuben CA. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder among children aged 5-17 years in the United States, 1998-2009. NCHS Data Brief 2011:1-8.
  2. Howard AL, Robinson M, Smith GJ, et al. ADHD is associated with a "Western" dietary pattern in adolescents. J Atten Disord 2011, 15:403-411.

Action Plan


  • Reduce exposures to toxins and chemicals in general. One way to do this is to seek out whole, unprocessed foods with no additives and low in salt (no refined flours, no refined sugar, no added coloring or artificial ingredients, etc.).
  • Reduce animal products (particularly dairy and meats).
  • The most important dietary goal may be to get a high amount of micronutrient-rich foods in every day as in the Nutritarian eating style, which includes such foods as vegetables, legumes, seeds, nuts, and fruit. These foods will provide sufficient amounts of a variety of specifically brain-supportive nutrients.
  • A variety of forms of exercise or active play time has been shown to help the symptoms of ADHD when done regularly.1
  • Supplementing with low to moderate doses of omega-3 fatty acids (DHA, EPA) may be helpful for some with ADD.2
  1. Kamp CF, Sperlich B, Holmberg HC. Exercise reduces the symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and improves social behaviour, motor skills, strength and neuropsychological parameters. Acta Paediatr 2014.
  2. Bloch MH, Qawasmi A. Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation for the treatment of children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptomatology: systematic review and meta-analysis. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 2011, 50:991-1000.

Ask The Doctor

The following are sample questions from the Ask the Doctor Community Platinum and higher members can post their health questions directly to Dr. Fuhrman. (All members can browse questions and answers.)


My son was diagnosed with ADHD about two years ago and was put on Ritalin and more recently Adderall. I recently told his doctor that I want to take him off the meds completely. The doctor was surprisingly supportive. He said to look into the Feingold Diet. Are you familiar with this Program? What would you suggest?


This diet has been tested in numerous studies with variable results and is not very effective. This food-additive-free diet is a start, and our children should not consume dyes and chemicals in their food, but eliminating them is not enough. Optimal brain function requires more than just removing food additives and food coloring in processed foods when the diet remains poor and deficient in essential nutrients and essential fatty acids necessary for normal brain function. What studies have shown to be highly effective is a high-nutrient diet, removal of processed foods, and supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids.


My daughter is 10 and was diagnosed with ADHD. We opted not to treat her with meds. We have been giving her a product which contains 100 mg of DMAE and fish oil. Is this safe? We have been working toward changing her diet. I have noticed that red dyes and processed foods are the worst for her, especially sugar. How much DHA would she need in addition to your multi?


I wouldn’t use the product with DMAE in it, as the research isn’t convincing, and we don’t have enough safety information on it. Test her on a sort of elimination diet if you haven’t done so, by eliminating all processed foods and additives in general, including sugar and white flour, as well as no dairy or gluten (wheat, barley, rye). Keep working on improving her diet to involve more vegetables and see how she does. She needs to eat nuts, seeds, greens, mushrooms, and fruit daily. Don’t forget that pesticides have been associated with many cases of ADHD, so organic is best. Read this article for supplementation information.

The entire family has to make a radical dietary change in these cases and not just eliminate some of the marginal foods. You really have to go for nutritional excellence as a total