Helping hyperactive children

 Several terms are used when discussing children who literally can’t still hyperkinesia, hyperkinetic disorder, over activity, and Attention Deficit Disorder. The name for the problem, hyperactive child described chronic level of motor activity relative the age the child, mainly in boys between one and sixteen years, characteristically around accompanied by short attention span, impulsive behavior explosive outbursts substantial complaints at home or in Although hyperactivity challenging phenomenal improvements in behavior can be achieved by changing

 Symptoms and causes

 Boys are more frequently diagnosed as being hyperactive than girls, but this may due the fact that girls usually don’t such extreme symptoms, are louder, whereas girls more commonly suffer from mood changes, lack of attention and some speech disorders. Most children aren’t diagnosed until they are few years old, but worth bearing in mind that hyperactive babies often suffer from colic and need very little They may also be very restless, fidgety and perpetually rock cot Children can have poor control and coordination and are generally clumsy, and they leave trail destruction behind them. Other common symptoms include social and behavioral aggression, poor eating and sleeping habits and temper tantrums. Some hyperactive children also suffer from headaches, asthma or hay fever

 One of the problems with the diagnosis of hyperactivity is that children have such personalities, and adults’ perception of their behavior boisterous child lovable and of beans to one adult, while to another, the same childlike hyper active pain in the backside. It may also be the case that child acts up for more attention in certain circumstances, for example when younger sibling in the keeping record of your child behavior, noting the other people present and whether the child has spurt of energy about half an hour after a sweet drink or snack perfectly normal Some people grow into before they are diagnosed, so mood swings behavior problems can be due to hyperactivity even in your later years.

The cause of hyperactivity is still unknown. It was once thought to be caused by brain damage, but research does not support this theory. What we do is that it is genetically determined, in other words it is passed down from parent to child. It is also known that certain foods can influence hyperactivity, either by causing an allergic reaction or because an enzyme deficiency in the digestive system means that certain compounds found in foods/food cannot be broken down by the instead they become toxic and behavior Before you start treating your child you should seek professional advice to ascertain whether he or she is hyperactive or is suffering from another type of psychological or sociological problem.

Food and hyperactivity

Once your child has been diagnosed as hyperactive, the treatment frequently involves a modified diet, possibly in conjunction with drug and/or behavioral therapy. It is better to help your child by changing their eating habits than to put them on medication or simply to ignore the potential healing effect of When treating hyperactivity with dietary changes, there is a fine balance between controlling your child’s diet while at the same time making the dietary changes appear normal. If you overplay the message that their food is being controlled, children may start to use the situation to them.

Managing your child’s diet

The first stage in managing hyperactivity is to keep a diary of everything your child eats and drinks, how they are behaving, and whether they suffer from any physical symptoms such as diarrhea, upset a blotchy red rash, or color draining from their face. It is important to make notes and not to rely on your memory.

Time-consuming as it you need to keep details of food packaging and to question the school about what they eat and drink there. In the long run it will help everyone if you can be specific about the foods they can eat and the foods they should The only way to investigate the relationship between certain foods and behavior is to follow a type of exclusion diet, but this has to be managed in way that does not isolate your child. It is important to replace excluded foods with something equally delicious and nutritious.

You may find your child is hyperactive even when they are still being bottle or breast fed. Your doctor or dietitian can help you to find more suitable milks and infant formulae. If you are still breastfeeding, you could apply the advice this chapter to your own food. The main types of foods linked to hyperactivity in children are food additives and colorings, sugary foods such as sweets and chocolate occasionally, particular ingredients such as wheat or dairy products (this is more common in families where there is a history of asthma, eczema or migraine).


Additives are chemicals or added to manufactured foods to make them last longer or taste and look the food thinks people will find most appealing. Not all additives are potentially harmful chemicals, some vitamins and preservatives that are essential to prevent food However, the following additives have been most strongly linked hyperactivity in children • Colorings: E102 Sunset yellow, E124 Ponca E127 Erythrosine Benzoic acid and the salts of E320, E321 Antioxidants BHA and In most European countries, the majority of additives and preservatives are shown on the label with number this is a code number recognized within the European Union.

In the wake bad publicity about E numbers, food factures sometimes list technical names rather than Remember that just because there is not an E number on the label, doesn’t mean additive isn’t there. Flavoring additives do have be specifically listed on the Additives also include processing aids, chemicals used food manufacture for technical reasons. For example, they are used to stop ingredients sticking machinery or to help foods chill freeze quicker.

These additives do not have to be listed on the The best way to ensure your child has an additive-free diet is to feed them food that has not been processed by food manufacturer. Use much organic produce as possible, keep chemicals out of your food. Stick plain fish rather than fish fingers or fish coated in breadcrumbs or batter, lean meat rather than ready-made sausages or burgers. Give your child fresh vegetables fruits rather than tinned or frozen, unless they are of reputable make and state on the label that they are free of questionable additives.

Buy natural, yoghurt and add your own fresh fruit, either cut into tiny pieces or Instead of ready-made sauces, pickles and salad creams, stick to homemade onesie, dressings and sauces Keep stock of homemade sauces in the refrigerator and freezer for occasions when time is short.


Keeping to pure, unprocessed foods is the best way to manage child’s diet, because even foods that can claim to be additive free may be high in which can also aggravate bad Sweet foods, such as cakes, biscuits and drinks, send blood sugar levels shooting up, resulting in rush of energy.

If the energy rush can be slowed down, behavioral problems will be less severe. Some high fiber foods contain fair amount of sugar, but the inhibits the absorption of sugar into the body. Conversely, foods with smaller amounts of sugar no fiber will be rapidly absorbed: potentially, these foods are worse for your hyperactive child. Look to the fiber content as well as the sugar content of the food With sugar, as with additives, labelling can get a little tricky. Under content legislation it is difficult to check the amount of sugar added to a drink or food because quantities are seldom given.

The list of ingredients gives you know as to whether the food contains a small amount of sugar, which won’t aggravate behavior much, or- as is the case with a can of cola as much as seven teaspoons of sugar, which will cause havoc! You may think that it is easier to stick to products labelled sugar-free, no LM sugar or low-sugar, but there is usually a catch. Sugar-free products may contain artificial sweeteners (and quite likely a host of other additives), No added sugar probably means the product is naturally sweet. Low sugar may simply mean that the food has less sugar than the standard version of the product. There are also many different forms of sugar.

Words to look for on a label include sucrose, glucose, dextrose, fructose, glucose syrup, corn syrup and invert sugar, many parents think that if something contains fructose (fruit sugar), it means it is healthy. Fructose, like any other form of sugar, can aggravate hyperactive behavior. Unrefined brown sugar and honey can have just as destructive effects on behavior as refined white sugar. Fresh or dried fruits, as long as they are free of preservatives and additives. will not have the same effect. This is because the fiber within the cell walls of the fruit slows the absorption of fruit sugar into the body and therefore your child doesn’t experience sugar swings, closely linked to behavior swings, one of the major problems for parents of hyperactive children is finding suitable puddings.

It is all very well to say that fresh fruit is the ideal dessert, but you need to find ways to make it special. In the Taste Good section of this book I have created some versatile, fruit-based desserts that can be enjoyed by the whole family. Even chocolate can be enjoyed, if it is the right sort of chocolate and is eaten as an occasional treat. By the right sort’ I mean one that is high in cocoa beans and therefore has less sugar. Specialist chocolate companies make chocolate with at least 60% better still, 85%-cocoa solids.

I do not recommend substituting artificial sweeteners for sugar for a number of reasons. I have seen some hyperactive children behave badly after they have eaten artificially sweetened foods, as it is the sweet taste that sets off the behavior, through a learned association, rather than a rise in blood sugar level Children don’t need sweet-tasting foods. They should be able to get all the energy and nutrients they need from fruit and from foods that are not naturally sweet Some artificial sweeteners can irritate your child’s gut and cause diarrhea.


Another association between food and behavior lies with caffeine. This chemical is found not only in coffee, but also in tea, cola drinks and chocolate:  affects the pancreas and the body’s ability to control sugar levels. Some children go wild when they are given cola drinks, or tea or coffee. Instead, I suggest healthy, fruit-based drinks blood sugar levels and plenty of water to maintain steady.


As well as citing the right foods it is important to look at the frequency of eating. Regular small meals help to keep blood sugar levels steady and the digestive system primed to deal with food efficiently. Encouraging your child to cat breakfast, even if it is as simple as some fruit and yoghurt, is a good start to the day. Fruits and healthy (not-too-sweet, fiber-rich) biscuits, packed in a little box for school break times, reduce the likelihood of them eating some- thing inappropriate when their friends are tucking into snacks. Taking time to sit at the table and relax at meal times is also very important. Hyperactive children are more sensitive to situations such as the television being on when you are trying to get them to cat their meals.


Many vitamin and mineral supplements contain not only a lot of sugar, but also colorings and other additives. My philosophy is that children shouldn’t need supplements if they are eating a well-balanced diet, which you can achieve with the help of this book. If in doubt, ask your doctor or dietitian for advice.

Further investigations

Sticking to a well-balanced, low sugar, low additive diet with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, fish, meat, eggs and beans, and some bread, pasta and rice for about a month should give you time to note improvements. You will probably be so relieved you will find it easy to continue with the healthy eating regime. If your child’s behavior is still a problem, it may be related to a specific food such as milk, eggs, wheat or tomatoes, to name but a few likely culprits. At this point  cutting these foods out of the diet completely for no longer than two weeks. If you notice an improvement you should consult your dietitian or doctor to check that your child is receiving adequate nutrients Of course, you may find that your child’s behavior is not linked to diet. There are plenty of professionals who can help you cope, so don’t struggle alone.

Growing out of it

The good news with hyperactivity is that your child may grow out of it. I usually suggest that you retest the foods after about a year to eighteen months and then at yearly intervals after that. Do this gradually, introducing small quantities, so that if there is a reaction it shouldn’t be too severe. Don’t tell the child when you are retesting, as some children play up to the situation.