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How Diet Changes Can Impact Children With ADHD, With Dana Kay

The science is clear: diet does matter.

Dana Kay, founder, and CEO of Our Road to Thrive and creator of the ‘ADHD Thrive Method 4 Kids’ program, holds this belief firmly: “Without a healthy diet, any supplement, medication or treatment will not work,” she explains. As the parent of a child with once-untameable ADHD, Kay felt as though she tried everything. But in the pursuit of reducing her son’s chronic tantrums and emotional outbursts, she learned that a foundation could not be built without taking away the foods that inflame the brain, body, and gut. 

“I could put my kids through college with the amount I spent on supplements before finally realizing the truth. We needed to take ownership and responsibility for his diet. When you’re building a house without a solid foundation, it is going to fall down. The body is the same.”

A Life at a Time

Now committed to helping parents reduce their children’s ADHD symptoms naturally from home without medical intervention, Kay uses her unique position to spread information and rescue families from states of disarray. “I’ve had parents come to me with children that have thirty-minute tantrums several times a day. Parents who don’t know where to turn after having tried so many different things. But when they start working with me, I provide them with clarity through a step-by-step plan on how to fight their child’s ADHD symptoms naturally. For one family in particular, their child went from constant meltdowns to hardly a single one,” Kay recounts.

“If the child did get upset, they would get over it within a matter of minutes. The family changed his diet, targeted problems within his body with specific supplementation, reduced inflammation in his body, brain, and gut and finally took total control over his health. I had tears in my eyes as I listened to this parent thank me for everything I helped her with. So many families are struggling, and what they’re missing is guidance. The guidance and wisdom they need to step off the rollercoaster and return their child to a state of normal health and bodily function.”

Finding the Right Treatment

The right form of treatment in children can be a topic of contention. For parents simply looking to repair the family unit and act in their child’s best interest, it can feel as though there is no right answer. However, leading studies have proven otherwise. A study carried out in 2001 concluded that 56% of children with ADHD tested positive for food allergies compared to just 6-8% of children in the general population. A further study in 2011 agreed, determining that 64% of children diagnosed with ADHD are actually experiencing a hypersensitivity to food. As a parent, these studies can mean a world of difference. 

Kay believes that it’s time to rethink the ways in which we feed our children. In doing so, we work to create a generation much healthier than the one before. “My number one tip,” Kay begins, “is cutting out foods like gluten, dairy, and soy. The Autism Research Institute has been collecting data from over 27,000 patients. They collated their findings and used a ratio to compare children who got better versus children who got worse. Masking symptoms with Adderall (a common ADHD stimulant medication), for example, has a 0.7:1 improvement ratio. That means that for every child that got better, another got worse with the same treatment. 

However, here’s the breakthrough moment: The gluten and dairy-free diet has a staggering improvement ratio of 24:1. The findings speak for themselves — all aggressors of the body, brain, and gut should be removed from your child’s diet. But without knowing exactly the right foods to avoid, it can feel like a battleground. This is where I lend a hand; I give the tips and advice on all the inflammatory foods to avoid in my webinar, ‘The Four Secrets That Finally Reduced My Son’s ADHD Symptoms.’

The problem we’re encountering today is the rate at which children are being told they have health disorders. In 2018, 54% of American children were diagnosed with a chronic illness. This is up from just 15% two years ago. And for some of these children, I’m sure a diagnosis helped facilitate their recovery. But how many of these children are suffering from a cluster of symptoms with various underlying causes? Sometimes, medication isn’t enough to solve the problem. Instead, it will mask it or hide it temporarily. Millions of children are prescribed amphetamines without so much as an explanation or presentation of other options beyond prescription medication. To reach a solution, consider avenues outside of what authority may tell you. It’s important to be critical when it comes to your child’s health.”

With a continued analysis of the data, the findings are even more damning. In 2015, a study found that the risk of hyperactivity increased by 14% with each additional sweetened beverage. Letting your child have one soda can be the difference between playing calmly with their siblings and having an aggressive temper tantrum that disrupts the household. Food intolerances are linked to depression, emotional dysregulation, and volatility. Unknown to parents everywhere, these small dietary allowances can upset your child’s gut health in substantially damaging ways. After embarking on a journey with her own son and his recovery, Kay learned this lesson the hard way. Now, she understands just how long it takes to see tangible results and how every little decision matters.

The Power of Support

Kay believes that consistency is key when it comes to long-term improvement in your child’s symptoms. “Rome wasn’t built in a day. The journey is not as easy as popping a pill and feeling better. As parents, we need to give ourselves permission to take things slow,” Kay explains. Understandably, it can be difficult for parents to maintain proper sleep hygiene, fulfill their responsibilities and live as usual knowing that their child urgently needs help. But Kay believes that steadying the course and staying patient is crucial throughout the process.

“We need a step-by-step plan to help us get to where we need to go. Look to those who have experience; those who have also walked this same journey. Seek guidance from them. I used to think I could do it all by myself, but I was wrong. I encounter a lot of parents who think the same: that they can read all the books, watch the webinars, listen to the podcasts, and everything will be alright. But without the right support, that’s going to take you a really long time, and cost a lot of money. You need a step-by-step plan; it’s the only way to keep moving forward. That’s what I’m here for.”

According to Kay, support and accountability aren’t optional; they’re essential. “I walked this journey alone, and it took me years of education to get to where I needed to go. There was so much trial and error. I’ve worked with countless families that have spent upwards of $40,000 trying to alleviate their child’s symptoms. They come to me and say, ‘We’ve tried absolutely everything.’ But they’ve never tried a proven system that works. Part of what makes my community so powerful is shown in how much support there is available, both given from me and from parents to each other. When you announce that you’re going to do something, you’re a lot more likely to do it, and that accountability is essential when it comes to the health of your family unit.”

Alongside accountability and support comes recognition – recognition for the things that go right and the progress that your child makes along the way. Kay believes that it’s important to celebrate the wins, big or small, and to vocalize when people are doing well on their journeys. “It creates that positive feeling of community and equity. This then gives us the depth we need to deal with harder issues. It’s a lonely place as a parent; truthfully, when I saw other families happy and playing, I used to feel like I was the only one dealing with my problems. But having cultivated such a strong, supportive community, I know that none of us feel alone anymore.” When it comes to helping your child manage their ADHD symptoms, Kay shows us all that we don’t need to do it alone. We make the most strides when we have people behind us, and for those who feel they’ve tried it all, Kay’s step-by-step process offers new hope in helping your child and returning the household to normality.

Hanson Cheng

Written by Hanson Cheng

Hanson Cheng is the founder of Freedom to Ascend. He empowers online entrepreneurs and business owners to 10x their business and become financially independent through systems and rapid skill acquisition. Hanson has scaled several businesses in different industries to multiple 7 figures in the last two decades. He writes about building teams and systems that grow businesses at different levels of success, from solopreneurs to companies with multiple departments.

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