Is There a Connection Between ADHD and Eating Disorders?
While the connection between ADHD and eating disorders may not seem obvious at first, psychologist John Fleming, Ph.D found in his research that people who compulsively overeat are at least five times more likely to have ADHD. As we wait for more research to better understand the connection, many clinicians feel the link between ADHD and eating disorders is likely due to multiple factors. Read below as we explore potential factors that may link ADHD and eating disorders and offer tips to help your child curb impulsive overeating.
ADHD and Impulsiveness
The impulsiveness and inattention associated with ADHD can interfere with a child's ability to make good choices and stick to a healthy diet and exercise plan. If your child eats absentmindedly, too quickly, or displays other unhealthy eating habits, set your child up for success by planning ahead. Kids with ADHD respond well to structure, so plan meals and snacks ahead of time when possible. Schedule eating just as you do waking, sleeping, and other activities, and encourage grazing as a way to ward off compulsive overeating. Make sure exercise is part of the schedule as well to help your child avoid eating from boredom or anxiousness. Remove trigger foods from the home and allow your child to enjoy those foods (like sweets, chips, fries, etc.) occasionally and only when outside the home. Click here for more tips to help kids with ADHD develop healthy eating habits, and try these three diet changes to support for better behavior today.
ADHD and Sensory Processing Disorder
People with ADHD may have trouble with their interoceptive sense, which is a the brain's ability to properly interpret signals from the body's internal organs. Signals for hunger, thirst, pain, sleepiness, and toileting may not come naturally to kids with ADHD. While it is widely accepted that poor interoception can lead to food aversions and under eating, it may also contribute to misinterpreting different bodily signals as hunger. In other words, a person who feels hungry all the time despite appropriate caloric intake may be misreading his or her body's needs. Targeted sensory motor activities that promote proper neural connections and brain function like those included in The Brain Balance Program can improve sensory processing for better interoception. Learn more about improving symptoms of processing disorders here.
ADHD and Food Sensitivities / Allergies
When a child with ADHD has food sensitivities or allergies, it may mean that certain foods are not being fully digested in the stomach and can then get through the lining of the gut causing leaky gut syndrome. Some kids actually crave the problematic food creating a cycle of overeating, thus continually feeding their allergy or sensitivity. This cycle triggers an immune response in the body and brain leading to inflammation and possible poor absorption of vitamins and minerals. Chemicals produced during this immune response can affect a child’s behavior and learning ability, exacerbating symptoms of ADHD. The Brain Balance Program includes bio-nutritional testing to uncover potential food sensitivities and nutritional deficiencies so we can recommend dietary changes as needed to nutritionally support improved brain function in your child.
While the connection between ADHD and eating disorders continues to be investigated, parents can make changes today to improve the health of their entire family.
If your child is struggling with symptoms of ADHD and needs help mastering healthy eating habits, we invite you to consider The Brain Balance Program. By combining sensory motor, academic, and bio-nutritional objectives, our non-medical approach is helping kids reach their physical, social, and academic potential. Contact us today to find the center nearest you!
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