Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a behavioural and developmental disorder that affects 2-5% of children, and may also persist into adulthood. Children with ADHD tend to have short attention spans, making it difficult for them to concentrate and to learn skills such as reading and writing. They may also have difficulty forming relationships.


  • Short attention span (e.g. difficulty concentrating on one task, quickly forget instructions)
  • Restless, fidgety, impulsive
  • Irritable, short-tempered
  • Children may be labelled 'naughty' or 'disruptive'
  • Difficulties with learning to read and write are common
  • Boys are three times more likely to be affected than girls


  • Although the exact cause of ADHD has not yet been identified, factors that are suspected to be involved include:
  • Genetic issues
  • Exposure to alcohol, cigarette smoke or lead during foetal development
  • Artificial food colourings and preservatives may trigger or aggravate hyperactivity and other behavioural difficulties
  • Food allergies and intolerances
  • Deficiency of essential fatty acids, and particularly the omega-3 fats found in oily fish. This deficiency is common in children with ADHD, and may be due to either inadequate consumption of fish or an inability to effectively utilise the essential fatty acids that are consumed

Nutritional & Herbal Support

  • Omega-3 fats support the healthy development and functioning of children's brains, and are also important for their learning, attention span and behavioural development. Taking omega-3 supplements can be very beneficial for children with ADHD, especially those who don't eat much fish. Omega-3s are needed in large quantities to be effective, so choose a supplement that provides concentrated omega-3s in an easy-to-swallow format, such as a chewable capsule that's flavoured to hide fishy tastes. An appropriate dose for children over 2 years is 150-300 mg EPA and 100-200 mg DHA per day
  • Iodine is important for mental development, brain function and learning ability during childhood and adolescence. Deficiency of this important nutrient has been documented in children living in Australia and New Zealand, so taking a supplement may be of benefit. A dose of 30-60 mcg per day is suitable for children over two years of age

Diet & Lifestyle advice

  • Some of the drugs prescribed for the management of ADHD are associated with adverse effects, and many parents are understandably reluctant for their children to take them Fortunately, many children respond favourably to non-drug therapies designed to help them learn to modify or manage their behaviour, including cognitive therapy, behaviour modification and anger management
  • ADHD is more common in families with dysfunctional or difficult relationships, and family counselling may be appropriate in some cases. Family counselling has the added benefit of teaching parents the skills they need to help manage their children's behaviour
  • Interventions based on reward and praise for good behaviour tend to be more effective than those that only punish children when they're 'naughty', and additionally, help to build and maintain the child's self-esteem
  • Teaching children relaxation skills and Stress management techniques may also be helpful, especially for those who have difficulty with temper
  • Children with ADHD benefit from a diet that is rich in fish, fruit and vegetables
  • Sugary foods (e.g. cordial, lollies, soft drink, commercial breakfast cereals), junk food (e.g. chips and take-away foods) and processed foods (e.g. white bread) should be avoided, as should artificial colours, preservatives and sweeteners
  • Following a low-allergy diet may also help some children. Consult your healthcare professional for advice

If symptoms persist consult your healthcare professional. Information provided is of a general nature and should not replace that of your healthcare professional.

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