Myth: Sugar causes ADHD

I’ve heard some people think that diet can cause ADHD- specifically sugar. This is not true.

Now, I’m not a dietitian, nutritionist, or doctor. If you want specific diet advice you will have to ask one of them. I just want to dispel some broad stroke misinformation about sugar causing ADHD.

Sugar is addictive. Because people with ADHD (especially if not properly treated or undiagnosed ADHD) are in need of dopamine, and they aren’t capable of producing it as easy as a neurotypical individual, they often crave sugar. In a sense, they need it more than a neurotypical person. Is this an excuse to gorge on sugar? No. That’s still unhealthy.  There are better ways to get your dopamine. Though having ADHD may explain why you are craving sugar more easily than others. On another note, sugar can mess with your gut bacteria which can cause you to crave it more- but again, consult your doctor for more information on this.

Sugar can cause hyperactivity in anyone, regardless of ADHD. You can’t use it as a scapegoat for ADHD. It causes everyone’s energy to spike and crash with consumption. Because people with ADHD have executive dysfunction and possible physical hyperactivity, sugar may hit a little differently than it does a neurotypical individual.

If you have ADHD and do consume more sugar than you think you should- talk to your doctor. Don’t accidentally self-medicate with sugar. Make them aware of how much sugar you are consuming. Ask them about how sugar can interact with your medication if you’re on any.

I don’t think it is news to anyone at this point that sugar is bad for you. ADHD or not, sugar is bad for you. We all need to limit our sugar consumption. Talk to your doctor to figure out how to do this. The best diet is the diet that is one that is healthy for you that you can maintain, and working with a doctor, dietician, or nutritionist is the safest way to find what is healthy for you. Make sure you are getting all the vitamins and minerals you are deficient in. Ask a doctor about your vitamins and mineral levels.

There is no “cure” for ADHD, and sugar does not cause ADHD. A proper diet that limits sugar can be a good contributor to help control your symptoms. Again, I am not a doctor or nutrition expert, but I did want to bring diet into the discussion because I want to bring diet into your awareness as a possible contributing factor to ADHD symptoms. If you haven’t discussed sugar and your diet with your care team, I encourage you to do so. Advocate for yourself.

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