As a psychologist who has worked with children for some time, I have sadly seen children suffering with mental illness at young ages. Many times, mental illness is brought on due to environmental stress, genetic disposition or a combination of both. However, I have also witnessed times when a diet change has caused remarkable positive changes in children.
I worked with one little guy who had a rare genetic disorder for which he was receiving rigorous medical treatment. He was taking the treatments with few side effects and was doing well medically. However, he was very restless, had difficulty paying attention, and became very agitated very quickly if things didn’t go his way. Of course his mother wondered the usual things a mother would consider in a circumstance such as this. Is it the medical illness? Is it that she and her husband have been too easy on him because he is ill? Is the child depressed or is he suffering from bipolar disorder. He clearly needed some type of behavioral intervention, which is where we started after double-checking that he was medically stable. His mother and father admittedly allowed him to get away with certain behavior out of guilt, however, they were far more consistent in disciplining him. Behavioral modification was beginning to work effectively some of the time, however, he was still waxing and waning in mood and behavior. After months of working with him, I started to wonder if maybe there was a medical connection. However, we hadn’t yet examined what the child was consuming. While awaiting the next doctor’s visit, we spent the next few weeks examining what the child was eating. His mother began utilizing resources on nutrition and attention difficulties. She increased her son’s omega 3-containing consumption. She decreased preservatives and sugar. She also eliminated milk from his diet for a brief period to see if that would help. After just a few weeks of the diet change, the child began to focus better, was calmer and was able to express his needs more effectively.
Here’s a link for parents looking for information about the relationship between behavior and certain types of food.