Crazy Food Journey

Living with newfound food intolerances (allergies, reactions)

ADHD and Food Intolerance

on August 5, 2014

girl bubbles stockHow many kids do you know who have been diagnosed with ADHD? It seems every time I am working with after school care or some other children’s class, I am being told about this or that kid who has ADHD. Several parents have even told me, “We’ve never had him tested, but he has ADHD.” Almost every kid these days seems to have ADHD. According to The New York Times there really has been a significant rise in the last few years.

Nearly one in five high school age boys in the United States and 11 percent of school-age children over all have received a medical diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, according to new data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

These rates reflect a marked rise over the last decade and could fuel growing concern among many doctors that the A.D.H.D. diagnosis and its medication are overused in American children

This just strikes me as crazy! This many kids have ADHD? Beyond that, there is something that scares me even more. I started looking into the most common treatment for this condition: Ritalin. And here is what I found on under the “For Professionals” tab.

Ritalin is a mild central nervous system stimulant.

The mode of action in man is not completely understood, but Ritalin presumably activates the brain stem arousal system and cortex to produce its stimulant effect.

There is neither specific evidence which clearly establishes the mechanism whereby Ritalin produces its mental and behavioral effects in children, nor conclusive evidence regarding how these effects relate to the condition of the central nervous system.

In other, more honest, words, we don’t know exactly what this stuff is. Nor do we know exactly what it will do to your child. All we do know is that it seems to keep the symptoms of ADHD temporarily at bay, so here, give it to your children. This doesn’t exactly inspire my confidence. In fact, it scares the pee-diddle out of me. After reading that, I swear to you, no child of mine will ever ever go on Ritalin. Ever!

I’m much more inclined to consider what might be causing it, and to look at what other solutions there might be. Most of these fixes I would never have considered about 3 years ago, but now it seems second nature to me to realize that ADHD, much like IBS, is not a disease, nor really a diagnosis, but simply a label for a group of symptoms. In an NPR article Dr. Lidy Pelsser of the ADHD Research Centre in the Netherlands says this about treating ADHD:

There is a paradigm shift needed. If a child is diagnosed ADHD, we should say, ‘OK, we have got those symptoms, now let’s start looking for a cause.’ 

According to Dr. Plesser, 64% of the kids diagnosed with ADHD, are actually experiencing food intolerance. Wow! So, we’re giving medicine we know nothing about to a bunch of hyperactive children, 64% of whom do not need it, when what they really need is to simply stop eating certain foods. For those other 36% of these children who may have no obvious reaction to foods, looking into food intolerance first would be the best first step for anyone who is symptomatic.

The 3 most common food allergies associated with ADHD symptoms are:

  • Dairy
  • Gluten
  • Food dyes and additives

Going backward, because I like to be complicated, many children are allergic to different food dyes. And part of the problem is that millions of pounds of dyes go into American foods each year, and most of them are specifically marketed toward children: cake, jello, pudding, cereal, soda, drink mix, cookies. . . Yum, yum! This is hard to cut out if your child is accustom to eating a lot of packaged foods (like all the ADHD kids I know do) but probably the easiest to cut out of the top three allergies.

Gluten–Let me tell you, there is so much information about gluten intolerance, it’s too much to cover in this post. Mood disorders and hyperactivity are common symptoms of untreated gluten intolerance or even celiac disease. Gluten causes many other problems too, discussed in some of my other posts: abdominal pain, acid reflux, stomach cramps, acne, eczema, chronic fatigue, headaches, false fat, infertility, diabetes, and severe PMS symptoms. It’s definitely worth considering cutting out gluten from your ADHD child’s diet.

Finally, let’s take a look at dairy. Personally, I love, love LOVE dairy! Absolutely love it. Cheddar cheese, cream cheese, yogurt, sour cream, cheese cake, ice cream, coffee creamer, butter. . . However, did you know that humans are the only species that continue to consume dairy after infancy? Most humans (between the ages of 2 and 5) stop producing the enzyme – lactase – that digests the main sugar found in cow’s milk – lactose. This helps me to understand a little more why dairy is one of the most common food intolerances and allergies among children. Humans simply weren’t created to continue consuming dairy past infancy.

Each of these foods is capable of causing the symptoms we refer to as ADHD. In order to determine which food(s) your child might be intolerant or allergic, try eliminating all of these foods completely for 4 weeks. . After the elimination time is over, add a little back in (one at a time of course) to see whether there are any adverse effects. While this may not be easy to accomplish, it will be well worth it if you can alleviate the ADHD symptoms.

All parents need to know the frightening truth about Ritalin. All parents need to know the adverse effects dairy, gluten, and food dye (among others) can have on the human body. All parents need to know that their children’s symptoms may be caused by the food that Mommy and Daddy are feeding them.

Whether you have already put your child on Ritalin and are wishing you could get them off, or are appalled to learn that doctors do not really know exactly what it is or how it works, or whether you are looking for an alternative to prescription medications, you really ought to try experimenting with your child’s diet. It’s not easy, but it will be more than worth it if you can help your child gain control over his/her ADHD symptoms without pills.


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