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New Research Confirms ADHD Caused By Food

A study published last month in the British medical journal The Lancet indicated that in at least 2/3 of all ADHD cases, food sensitivities were the cause.

Pause for a moment and think of what this means. 64% of the kids out there being dosed with toxic pharmaceutical drugs to treat ADHD simply don’t need them! This number is monumental. In the U.S. alone, that represents an estimated 5 million children.

From NPR’s coverage of the study:

Teachers and doctors who worked with children in the study reported marked changes in behavior. “In fact, they were flabbergasted,” Pelsser says.

“After the diet, they were just normal children with normal behavior,” she says. No longer were they easily distracted or forgetful, and the temper tantrums subsided.

Some teachers said they never thought it would work, Pelsser says. “It was so strange,” she says, “that a diet would change the behavior of a child as thoroughly as they saw it. It was a miracle, a teacher said.”

To me, the only thing surprising about this study is that it was done. I’m not surprised that a link between ADHD and food can be so clearly demonstrated. It is, after all, the premise behind the book Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride.

Dr. McBride contends that the link between our digestion and neurological and psychological disorders is absolute. The theory is straightforward. When the balance of “good” bacteria and yeast to “bad” bacteria and yeast in our digestive tract goes out of whack, a condition called “gut dysbiosis” occurs. The “bad” microorganisms produce toxins which weaken your immune system, tax your organs, and throw multiple body systems out of balance. The toxins can also increase the permeability of the gut lining, leading to IBS and a host of other digestive disorders.

But perhaps the most noticeable effect of these toxins is the taxing of the neurological system.

Indeed, the human digestive tract contains over one million nerve cells, about the same number found in the spinal cord. There are actually more nerve cells in the overall digestive system than in the peripheral nervous system. Furthermore, major neurotransmitters found in the brain — including serotonin, dopamine, glutamate, norepinephrine and nitric oxide — occur plentifully in the gut as well. Enkephalins — described as the body’s natural opiates — also occur in the intestinal tract, as do benzodiazepines, psychoactive chemicals similar to mood-controlling drugs like Valium and Xanax.
(source)

In other words, poor digestive health can lead to mood disorders and other neurological disorders like ADHD and autism.

Perhaps you’re aware of your own food sensitivities. Gluten. Lactose. Eggs. Peanuts. Artificial colorings or preservatives. MSG. You eat these foods and feel like death walking. So, you avoid them.

But is avoiding them enough to actually heal the gut?

In short? NO.

Avoiding foods you’re sensitive to can keep you from feeling bad, but it doesn’t actually repair the dysbiosis or heal the gut lining.

That’s where a new class from Ann Marie at Cheeseslave comes in.

Introducing Reversing Food Allergies: An Online Cooking Class

By following the diet protocol set up by Dr. McBride (the GAPS Diet), you can actually heal your food allergy! Watch this brief promotional video in which Ann Marie shares how she did it. She went from being a 27 year old with rheumatoid arthritis and chronic fatigue syndrome brought on by a gluten intolerance to being a happy, healthy woman who could eat pizza and chocolate chip cookies!

If you suffer from a food sensitivity, check out Ann Marie’s newest e-course: Reversing Food Allergies.

In this class, you’ll learn everything you need to know to get started on the GAPS Diet. With 50 video tutorials, an exclusive online forum, and more than 200 GAPS-friendly recipes, you’re sure to jump start your healing.

Hurry, enrollment ends March 31st! Click here to learn more.

USE THIS COUPON TO SAVE ON ENROLLMENT

From now until March 28, you can use coupon code HEAL to save $20 on enrollment, bringing the price down to $129! And, if you’ve ever taken my Real Food Nutrition & Health E-Course, you can email me for an exclusive coupon code for $50 off enrollment (bringing the course down to just $99)!

Click here to learn more about how to reverse food allergies!

(photo by whatshername)

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I am a passionate advocate for REAL FOOD -- food that's sustainable, organic, local, and traditionally-prepared according to the wisdom of our ancestors. I'm also an author and a nutrition educator. I enjoy playing in the rain, a good bottle of Caol Ila scotch, curling up with a page-turning book, sunbathing on my hammock, and watching my three children explore their world.
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95 Responses to New Research Confirms ADHD Caused By Food
  1. Barb @ A Life in Balance
    March 16, 2011 | 7:33 am

    Incredible! I wish I had time to take the class, but I’ll start with reading the GAPS book.

    We always hear about how kids need to start the day with a good breakfast, and that we need to eat a whole foods diet to stay healthy, but so little about using diet as nutritional therapy to reverse and fix diseased states. Very frustrating!

    • KristenM
      March 16, 2011 | 1:07 pm

      Barb — Even if you don’t have time to take the class right now, you could still register to lock in your savings. After March 31st, the price is going up to $199. If you bought it now with the coupon, you’d save $70! You buy lifetime access to the course, so you could feasibly buy it now and actually make your way through it in a few months when you have more time. That’s what I’m doing!

  2. Dana Seilhan via Facebook
    March 16, 2011 | 1:01 pm

    Food sensitivities and possibly subclinical deficiencies too. If these kids are being fed lowfat diets… well… the brain kinda needs fat.

  3. Dana
    March 16, 2011 | 1:03 pm

    I bet those kids are malnourished too. The government is really pushing for us to give our kids low-fat diets, and how many parents are raising their kids vegetarian now?

    • KristenM
      March 16, 2011 | 1:09 pm

      Yes, they’ve got two strikes against them: sub-clinical deficiencies because they don’t eat enough fat and naturally occurring fat-soluble vitamins, AND sub-clinical deficiencies because they have poor absorption of nutrients thanks to the undiagnosed food sensitivity.

    • Trish
      March 17, 2011 | 4:50 pm

      “how many parents are raising their kids vegetarian now?”

      Not nearly as many as those who take their kids to McDonald’s for dinner. Low-fat kids are most definitely not an epidemic (in the U.S. at least). Granted, they’re still malnourished, just for different reasons.

  4. Melissa Carter Medaugh via Facebook
    March 16, 2011 | 1:11 pm

    that’s one of the first interventions that parents can look at – their child’s diet. But sometimes it’s easier, albeit sad, to give a pill rather than change the diet/lifestyle.

  5. Natalie Arsenault McQuilton via Facebook
    March 16, 2011 | 1:15 pm

    If I had a dollar for every parent of an ADHD child I’ve spoken to who tells me they’ve tried food changes and it didn’t work, I’d be rich. But, it usually consists, solely, of taking out food with preservatives and food coloring. Nothing else. Yeah, that’s not going to change much. Unfortunately, their doctors have very little information out there for them. And, when I post things like this on my wall, not having an ADHD child, they get kind of ticked. I’d like to believe all parents of these children would be open-minded to alternatives, but they aren’t. This will be an ongoing battle!

    • TABATHA
      March 21, 2011 | 1:51 pm

      Having two boys with ADHD I totally agree with this article. There are many parents who would try anything to help avoid going on meds…with that being said, we are dealing with kids, schools, friends, families. This is where the difficulties arise. Kids want to be like their friends and eat like their friends. We had it all dialed in at home, only to learn that friends give them treats at school, the teachers give out treats as rewards, and sometimes the chocolate milk is too hard for them to resist. Parents can try to do their best informing others of their intentions, but again….we are dealing with kids……This is the most frustrating part of the diet. I’m still game to try again. Fingers crossed.

    • Lauren
      August 28, 2011 | 2:02 pm

      I absolutely agree that most parents don’t understand the complexity of the digestive process and the problems in our food supply. That said, I plan to start my 6 year old on a stimulant this week. I never would have thought I could even stomach that idea. However, I was recently diagnosed with severe ADD myself, which has led to the realization that my mother, my sister, and my daughter all have debilitating cases of ADD. We’ve always known something was “different” about us, but as hard-working girls with high-standards, no one ever thought that ADD could be the cause of our uneven successes and multiple failures, especially our social problems. For years, all of us have eaten “healthy” (some mixture of paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free, organic, local, whole food, low-carb, no sugar, etc). We get plenty of exercise (biking, dancing, hiking, weight training, etc). We mediate and get enough sleep. Speaking specifically for myself, I have spent the last 12 years exploring food choices, and the last 6 narrowed in on food intolerances. It turns out that even with all the natural, holistic treatments including CBT, and vitamin supplements such as 5-HTP, L-tyrosine, Zinc, etc), I still need a stimulant to be able to function on a daily basis. It turns out ADD was the cause of my anxiety, my depression, and my severe social phobia. There is simply too much static in my brain for me to function properly without a “toxic” psycho-stimulant. Now, I can clearly see my daughter dealing with the same problems and I understand that she is *suffering*. She wants to do the right thing, but can’t because her brain won’t let her. I see from my mother and older sister what lifetimes of untreated ADD does to your soul. Yes, food absolutely makes a difference. But sometimes it’s simply not enough. Good luck to all the adults and children out there with this problem! I hope you can find some peace.

      • Wes
        March 24, 2012 | 5:26 pm

        I am the same way. Despite eating well throughout my entire life and now (I grew up abroad where I never was subjected to the food pyramid and the likes), I still suffer ADHD and need to be on stimulants to go about the more organized parts of my every day life (work, university, etc). I was diagnosed about a year and a half ago, midway through my sophomore semester at university and it was clear I had a terrible case of it, mainly inattentive type. My dad also has ADHD which is really noticeable and he eats similarly to myself.

        I have a feeling adult ADHD is a lot more genetic than what is diagnosed in children (only a relatively small percentage of those diagnosed with ADHD as a child continue to have it as an adult). For those who can do without the meds and correct all symptoms through your food intake, great! But please don’t shame those of us who do eat correctly yet continue to have ADHD that must be managed through meds. :)

  6. Carol Terney Federoff via Facebook
    March 16, 2011 | 1:16 pm

    May God bless you and grant you many years for spreading the information on this……MY kid Used to be on those drugs! NOMORE! She and I have been med free for over 4 years!

  7. Food Renegade via Facebook
    March 16, 2011 | 1:18 pm

    @Natalie — The beauty of this is that it’s a study published in Britain’s leading medical journal! You can point them to it in a very unbiased fashion and say “Look, in 2/3 of all cases, ADHD is due to food sensitivities. Period.” It’s no longer your “opinion” as a parent to non-ADHD kids, it’s hard science.

    • Aaron
      March 16, 2011 | 11:51 pm

      I thought this study had been roundly criticized for the fact that it wasn’t, and in fact, couldn’t be re-structured as a double-blind? Doesn’t this mean that all of the results are potentially influenced by the expectations of the people doing the data gathering?

      • KristenM
        March 17, 2011 | 3:16 pm

        Yes, but that is true of ANY clinical study of diet.

  8. Karen Moore Kmieciak via Facebook
    March 16, 2011 | 1:20 pm

    It is certainly easy to judge “those ADHD parents” when you aren’t walking in their shoes. My family eats real food. No artifical sweeteners/dyes/junk. Organic raw milk, organic meats, organic vegetables and grains. Has it made a difference? Sure. But I still have a child that can’t get through the day without his medication for ADHD and anxiety. Food may be medicine but it’s not always good enough.

    • Lauren D
      March 18, 2011 | 3:49 pm

      Thank you Karen! What is wrong with people who think that parents of ADD/ADHD children are lazy and are taking the easy way out by shoving a pill down their child’s throat. We do this as a last resort after everything else has failed, including diet restrictions. Most parents I know cry at the thought of giving their children these pills, some of which have their own side effects.

    • Heather D
      March 22, 2011 | 2:43 pm

      Yes! We’re the same way. We did try the diets — grain-free, everything. Nothing seemed to make a difference at all. The only thing we’ve found is that he’s worse when he doesn’t get enough protein, or eat enough in general. But that’s “worse” as in “worse than usual”, not as in “he’s fine when he eats well.”

      We did not start medicating until he was 12 years old. It’s not because of school pressures, he’s always been homeschooled. The difference has been remarkable. Like there was a kid locked inside him all these years who finally was able to come out, since he’s actually able to *think* now. He’s discovered multiple talents, at a near-prodigy level in fact, that were latent all these years because he could not even focus enough to do the things he wanted to do.

      We still have issues, of course. He also has Asperger’s, so we have tantrums and sensitivity issues. And now that we have something more resembling normalcy, we’re going to try a stricter diet again and see if it makes a difference with the remainder of his issues. But I’m pretty well convinced that his issues are inherent in his brain and not merely dietary.

      I’m not arguing against the diet connection — far from it! I think it’s quite definitely true for many, if not even most ADHD kids. But not ALL of them. Let’s just be careful not to unfairly accuse ALL parents of ADHD kids of not taking their diets seriously and over-medicating. :)

    • Amy
      April 15, 2011 | 1:34 pm

      This post still makes me angry one month later when I came across it.
      The study showed that ADHD symptoms were made *worse* or exacerbated by their diet. NOT that for 2/3 of them diet caused the ADHD and simply changing diet would cure them!

      I am the parent of a child with severe ADHD. He is on two different specialized diets, we eat only real, whole, traditional foods. That helps with about 25% of the severity of his symptoms. It takes the edge off. But the other 75% of the severity of his symptoms requires medication–and I hate medication. We don’t even use Tylenol here. But without it, he is literally out of control–even with my background in child psychology and development, even after raising him in a slow-paced Waldorf environment and homeschooling him. It would take him an hour to do one page math problems or writing because he is so distracted and climbing all over the furniture because he cannot sit still, spinning in circles, short term memory problems, etc.

      So please, do the world a favor and stop judging parents of kids with ADHD if you have never walked a mile in their shoes. We are not all drug-pushers who have never tried an alternate solution.

  9. Dana Seilhan via Facebook
    March 16, 2011 | 1:22 pm

    Karen, maybe you should try dropping the grains now. That’s part of what damages people’s gut linings, especially if you’re still eating the gluten-containing grains.

    People think they are off the hook about this because whole grains are “natural.” Not so.

  10. Genevieve Cruz via Facebook
    March 16, 2011 | 1:23 pm

    Natalie you are spot on!

  11. Jennifer Flickinger via Facebook
    March 16, 2011 | 1:26 pm

    @ karen you’re right, their are still children out there that actually need the meds 1/3 of them actually and there is no shame in that.

  12. Jennifer Flickinger via Facebook
    March 16, 2011 | 1:26 pm

    ahhh they’re not their*

  13. Karen Moore Kmieciak via Facebook
    March 16, 2011 | 1:32 pm

    I will certainly give a gluten-free diet a try. We are a grains-loving family so it will be hard but doable. My main point is that I find it disressing that parents of ADHD children are all lumped into this stereotype that we are lazy parents who shove MAOIs and SSRIs down our kids’ throats. No matter where I read I’m constantly feeling defensive about my child taking meds.

    • Tricia
      March 16, 2011 | 8:58 pm

      As a special educator, Karen, I have to say, thank you for doing what you do for your child! But I also have to say, I have never seen a parent shoving any type of medicine down their child’s throat. I also still see no connection between diet and ADHD, and especially autism (in fact, I think that’s a pretty irresponsible theory/rumor to spread). I don’t think anyone needs to judge what a parent decides is best for their child, under any circumstances, whatever it may be. Keep doing what you’re doing Karen, you sound like a great mom! :)

      • Tracee
        March 18, 2011 | 3:42 pm

        Ms. Tricia,

        You are a special educator that has called the diet/autism link “an irresponsible theory/rumor to spread”. In your position, with all due respects, it is clear that by calling it a rumor that you have yet to see what the actual medical research says about the subject. Have you seen any of this medical research on this page of links?http://mrsedsresearchandrecipes.blogspot.com/p/research-guide-for-autismdietgi-tract.html
        Especially the speech made to the Maine CDC by Dr Timothy Buie. I have often felt that experts and professional who do not read the research are being the irresponsible ones. I am not trying to offend you, I’m sorry if I do, but there’s alot of research not being read. There is a subgroup of autistics that respond to dietary methods. When an autistic child responds to a diet it means they had a medical reason why and I also find it irresponsible so many experts want to deny them the dietary medical attention they need. I’m not trying to make you mad, I’m just trying to bring this to your attention.

  14. Lynne McBride via Facebook
    March 16, 2011 | 1:43 pm

    miracles happen when you give up gluten.. promise.

  15. Food Renegade via Facebook
    March 16, 2011 | 1:43 pm

    @Karen — More specific than just going gluten-free would be a diet designed to help heal the gut. If someone has a food sensitivity (like, say, to gluten), it’s usually because of gut dysbiosis and increased permeability of the gut lining. In those cases, it’s not enough to AVOID the foods causing us problems. We should also work hard to ADD the foods to our diet that will actually promote healing. Ann Marie’s newest class, Reversing Food Allergies, promises to do just that. http://www.realfoodmedia.com/foodallergies/?AFFID=54563

  16. Karen Moore Kmieciak via Facebook
    March 16, 2011 | 1:47 pm

    I will definitely give it a more thorough read, thanks!

  17. Food Renegade via Facebook
    March 16, 2011 | 1:49 pm

    @Karen — Also, I want to go on record as agreeing with Jennifer. The study showed that a full third of diagnosed ADHD kids don’t respond to diet changes at all. So, please PLEASE don’t feel like this article is judging you or attacking your parenting choices! My only goal is to empower parents to make informed decisions. There’s no shame in deciding to do what’s best for you or your family (including putting them on meds)!

    • Heather D
      March 22, 2011 | 2:46 pm

      “Like”. :)

      I must admit I posted my comment above before fully reading the thread — so it’s nice to see this acknowledgement here.

  18. Karen Moore Kmieciak via Facebook
    March 16, 2011 | 1:52 pm

    Thanks so much for saying that. It’s a hard path to walk when all you want is to give your kid the tools for a successful life. I appreciate the great dialogue!

  19. Diet is important and adjunct to that are meditative practices and bodywork for children, specifically polarity therapy and energy balancing that parents themselves can learn to apply at home- this along with working for awareness (and reduction of ) light stimulation, electronics stimulation, and improving sleep quality goes the extra mile that dietary change may not reach in some. Herbs have also restored the nervous system at a foundational level in a manner superior to drugs.

    • Lori A
      March 17, 2011 | 9:29 pm

      Can you point to some information on the internet to ask my naturopath about or share more of your own experience? My daughter has seizures and I’m finding that much that helps ADHD/Autism helps her.

  20. Melissa Carter Medaugh via Facebook
    March 16, 2011 | 2:18 pm

    I worked as an assistant to a chiropractic neurologist in Charlotte who worked with ADHD diagnosed children. The info from the American Naturopaths Association mirrors many of the doctor’s recommendations. http://www.pustaverchiropractic.com.

  21. Candace Ireland via Facebook
    March 16, 2011 | 2:20 pm

    we homeschool and I’m guessing my little guy would probably be diagnosed with ADHD if he were in school. I notice a huge difference with diet, esp grains. people think I’m nuts to milk goats, make kefir, ferment, sprout, garden, juice, etc. but it’s worth it to know my kiddos are getting the nourishment their growing minds and bodies need. how could I give them any less.

  22. Carol Terney Federoff via Facebook
    March 16, 2011 | 2:51 pm

    Maybe I should mention….we avoided the adhd drugs for my son with FOOD…..my daughter and I were is ‘worse’ shape with BIPOLAR….if we can ‘cure’ bipolar with food, I firmly believe we can cure it all! Just my thoughts on our own very real experiences.

  23. Serena
    March 16, 2011 | 5:01 pm

    This isn’t that new. It just recently got published in the Lancer. Parents of autistic children have been doing this with some excellent results. However – I would caution against jumping all over the bandwagon quite so easily.

    For one thing, those imbalances in the gut are often as not caused by antibiotic use which is typically done without a thought for gut health. Another point is that the gut CAN heal to a great degree. It takes a little time, but it can be accomplished. As one who cannot metabolize the toxins produces by fungus, I’ve been through this mill hardcore. Fungus is what antibiotics are made from, and it’s also what yeasts in the gut are – a class of fungus. That is to say – mold. So when you take antibiotics, you are created an internal war zone between two competing species of mold. And then, depending on your ability to recover from that, you get to live with the ravages of that war. Some people are more vulnerable to this effect, some people heal much more easily than others. However – avoiding wheat gluten and yeast forever isn’t going to do you much good if you keep on consuming poisons that continue to damage the gut. Fungus likes carbs, we like carbs. But if you stop eating carbs, we will all die. Creating a gluten pogrom is a little less serious, but based on the same wrong assumption.

    So don’t go jumping on the gluten-is-evil bandwagon. Or, at least, put a little thought into it first and react rationally. It’s not that complicated:

    Gluten doesn’t CAUSE all these conditions, or most of our ancestors wouldn’t have survived well enough for us to be here now. Most ate piles of it all their lives. What’s relatively new is this practice of eating antibiotics every time you get a sniffle. And that vulnerability IS inherited. Thanks to mainstream medicine’s refusal to recognize that issue properly, I know many others who will be glad to have more gluten-free food available as they try to heal from those other issues.

    You realize – most agricultural herds are fed substances to control this mycotoxin-induced problem because of what it does to them? Been done for decades. And it works. Good luck raising gluten-free livestock! I’m not saying avoid good medical care when you need it, any more than I would say avoid eating well. Just don’t make the mistake of turning a good piece of information into a meaningless fad. Then you go down the same crazy road all this low-fat stuff has led us to.

    • Ellere
      March 17, 2011 | 9:26 am

      Drugs are not made from fungus. Penicillin is, and was discovered in 1928. Things have changed a bit since then.

    • Rhonda C
      March 17, 2011 | 4:22 pm

      “But if you stop eating carbs, we will all die. ”

      Very true, but not all carbs are found in foods with gluten. Vegetables and fruits contain carbs. Personally, I find a gluten free diet (NO grain foods at all) to be very easy. I’ve never felt better and I can think more clearly than I have in years, and I do have ADD (no meds). My gut health greatly improved within a week of cutting gluten foods — no more nausea, no more painful gas, no more irritable bowel, I’m very “regular” now — and I was eating “healthy grains” before I cut the gluten foods.

  24. Joel Caplan via Facebook
    March 16, 2011 | 5:56 pm

    Did you know they are preparing cholesterol lowering drugs for children now? They are testing NOW!

    • KristenM
      March 17, 2011 | 4:39 pm

      This is truly sad. Children NEED cholesterol (as do we all, but they’re growing brains)!

  25. Tracee
    March 16, 2011 | 6:14 pm

    The sad thing is that this study won’t make an ounce of difference, it will go into the ever growing pile of other studies that the public is told simply do not exist. Last week in my Special Ed training class, our new textbooks had a small section that describes the lancet 2007 study and pretty much poo-poos the whole notion. In the class lecture we were told there was nothing to the diet connection.

    I’m not trying to be a downer, I just mad becuase they are getting away with this at the expense of peoples lives.

    • K.
      March 17, 2011 | 10:22 am

      Sadlly, I agree. For whatever reason the U.S. allopathic field thinks the BMJ is a bunch a quacks or something.

  26. Gayle Trepanier via Facebook
    March 16, 2011 | 7:41 pm

    SLEEP and GOOD FOOD and LIMITS = happy kids. Who knew?

  27. sandy
    March 16, 2011 | 8:22 pm

    My oldest daughter is 34. When she was 8 she was diagnosed with ADHD. They immediately wanted to a.) put her in special ed! and 2) put her on drugs. As her Mom, that just didn’t feel right to me. So, I put her into a private school that would work with me and started working on adjusting/controlling her behavior without drugs. I kept track of food items that “set her off” and we avoided them. I kept her busy in activities that would let her burn off energy in acceptable manners. I became a from scratch cook, i canned, I froze, I watched what she ate like a hawk. I had a teacher once tell me I would never get her out of highschool. I did. She graduated from college cum laude with three majors! I didn’t know much but I had a mom’s instinct and willingness to learn and work hard at controlling the problem.

  28. Alice Sun via Facebook
    March 17, 2011 | 1:13 am

    When I use to teach Sunday school with 3 year olds, it would really bother me to see a child strut into class with a glazed donut. I’d have 10 kids in class on a sugar high. It was exhausting.

  29. Mary Light via Facebook
    March 17, 2011 | 7:34 am

    Thankfully we have these resources- social networks, internet research options, and growing natural healing community- to help more people stand up to doctors. part of the problem is how quickly, often, and persuasively drugs of all kinds are pushed- not just for ADD, but for blood pressure, “cholesterol”, hormones, digestive imbalances, and psychological states. No other big pharma is extremely powerful and determined.

  30. Melissa Carter Medaugh via Facebook
    March 17, 2011 | 7:43 am

    @Joel – OMGDNS!!! Can they leave our flippin’ kids alone already!!! it makes me sick that drug companies are targeting our children, and well-meaning, but uninformed parents are buying in!!!

  31. poetess
    March 17, 2011 | 9:28 am

    The only thing this study confirms is that teachers and parents, knowing about the child’s condition and the diet that is being tried for improvement, will believe that there is an improvement. Whether there is actual improvement, and whether it’s caused by the food or by the adults’ expectancies and accordingly modified behavior, or merely by the structure introduced into a life by following a rigid diet, is entirely unclear. So don’t claim causality when it may be just correlation, please. Especially when, in the course of the text, it becomes very clear that you’re just using this supposed causality to promote your business. The last time I checked, allergies could go away on their own due to hormonal changes (childhood to adulthood, mostly), could be managed through complete avoidance or rare contact, or could improve by a move to a more favorable climate. That’s it.

  32. K.
    March 17, 2011 | 10:19 am

    As an adult with ADHD it’s nice to know that the word is getting out on all of this, BUT BUT BUT! they really need to do the research here and publish these things in the American Medical Journal(s) so that U.S. MDs will start paying attention. Even the allergists don’t buy into this. Also disappointed that this article didn’t address HOW to determine which foods you may be allergic/sensitive to.

  33. Josh
    March 17, 2011 | 10:59 am

    CAUTION: The sample size was 100 (50 in the test and 50 in the control group). Secondly, the results don’t mean that food “causes” ADHD. This study is great in that it gives some strong direction to looking at the impact of foods on ADHD. I would like to see the entire study, as I would also want to know what foods they were eating/ eliminating, as well as what else was happening with these students. If they generally don’t eat breakfast, and now they’re being given breakfast because of the study, that would improve symptoms.
    I’m not saying don’t get excited, but be careful how you spin this study.

  34. Denise Mackie via Facebook
    March 17, 2011 | 3:35 pm

    I see this to be true almost daily…soon it won’t be ‘breaking news’ but common knowledge. There is no other way, if you want good health, you must put the right things in. Would you buy a vehicle and put vinegar in the gas tank? Yet we do this to ourselves and wonder what is wrong !?

  35. Melissa Fritcher via Facebook
    March 17, 2011 | 3:36 pm

    I wouldn’t say ‘cured’ yet, but I see such improvement in PMDD, hyperinsulemia, blood sugars/lipids/pressure, etc. All markers of inflammation and hormone-driven mood swings. Even my daughter who’s recently started her cycles has seen benefits. My son’s ADHD is greatly improved just one what we’ve done so far! You’d think, for people suffering with these kinds of issues, you’d consider ANYTHING possible and exhaust all avenue’s before dismissing out of hand. I love how people say sugar doesn’t make kids hyper. My new answer is ‘Well, have you seen them off of it, really?! An elimination diet takes weeks to detox and test, one meal isn’t going to cut it, and kids these days eat sugar 24/7′ I can not wait for the class. I want to be more knowledgable about this stuff so I can spread that information more effectively.

  36. Shana Evans via Facebook
    March 17, 2011 | 3:37 pm

    I’ve been telling social workers this for years!!! They diagnosed every foster child that entered our home with ADHD and wanted them on meds (even though after a month or so of healthy eating habits, the symptoms disappeared)!!!

  37. Shana Evans via Facebook
    March 17, 2011 | 3:39 pm

    Here’s another testimony when I shared it yesterday…”My sister has a 19 year old who receives Social Security because the six year use on Ritalin caused him to have strokes. He is considered disabled and unable to work because he can’t focus and keep a job. I’m talking about the guy who stands out in front of a restaurant clothed in a costume holding a sign waving people in. He can’t even hold down that kind of job.” Tiffany R

  38. Renee Maxwell via Facebook
    March 17, 2011 | 3:48 pm

    That’s all well and good and I’m sure this is often true for MANY kids. However, please be careful before you make sweeping judgments. Children who suffer from serious mental illness are not in the same category as those diagnosed by ADHD, and to suggest that you can cure their symptoms by diet alone is downright dangerous. As a parent of such a child, I only wish it were possible. But the fact is that my son has been exibiting symptoms since he was an infant on breastmilk. He was raised on a very wholesome diet and that hasn’t diminished his condition in the least.

  39. Debbie Harrison Sliwa via Facebook
    March 17, 2011 | 3:49 pm

    Have you seen this: http://sahmville.blogspot.com/2011/02/autism-improvement-on-video.html Incredible how Janice was able to help her son with a dietary change!

  40. Denise Halyama via Facebook
    March 17, 2011 | 3:51 pm

    I can attest that my son, then 3 yrs, was exhibiting severe signs of ADHD. Removing food dyes, reducing sugar and preservatives reduced his symptoms to almost gone. Whether the body is predisposed to problems or not, my definite opinion is that what we put in our bodies can and does contribute…and even more…can and does heal.

  41. Terra Swan-Angulo via Facebook
    March 17, 2011 | 3:53 pm

    Renee – perhaps, however I feel it is more dangerous to recklessly drug children. I think before drugging them, diet should be altered. If that doesn’t work, then move forward with other treatments. I believe that the statistic I read was something like only 10% of kids diagnosed with ADHD actually have ADHD. We can all agree that there are far too many ADD/ADHD diagnoses these days.

  42. Renee Maxwell via Facebook
    March 17, 2011 | 3:54 pm

    If a change in diet actually “cured” someone’s Bipolar Disorder, I would venture to guess that they were misdiagnosed in the first place.

  43. Dana Seilhan via Facebook
    March 17, 2011 | 3:55 pm

    Renee, you also can’t make sweeping judgments about people with mental illness. While it’s probable that some of the causes are genetic or irreversibly developmental (sometimes with developmental problems you can diminish or reverse the symptoms), mental illness can also be *triggered* and be a symptom of something else that is wrong. Being deterministic about mental illness is one of the reasons that the mentally ill face so much discrimination. Society writes you off as irredeemably flawed when your problem might actually be that you’re lacking something and would get better if you had it.

    I have suffered from longstanding grief from losing my son to his paternal grandparents. But my worst symptoms of depression and anxiety came with extreme malnutrition. Since I increased my fat intake I have done much, much better.

    I have heard of bipolar being triggered by extreme stress–and this from advocates for the bipolar. I also live with a man with nonspecific bipolar controlled by medication, but he’s also overweight (possibly obese) and suffering from fatty liver and hormonal imbalance diagnosed by his GP through labwork. I refuse to believe this is a coincidence, and I strongly suspect that if he took better care of himself he’d need less medication for the bipolar. The trouble with mental illness, though, is that you get the vicious cycle of whatever the trigger was, then the mental illness, then not taking as good of care of yourself, then more mental illness, and you just spiral on down… not a good scene.

  44. Dana Seilhan via Facebook
    March 17, 2011 | 3:56 pm

    I guess the bottom line is that when someone is in your care you should take care of them no matter what, and feed them properly (if you’re in the position to be feeding them) whether or not it will “cure” them of anything, because you never know what conditions you might be affecting, causing, or fixing if you make sure they are getting proper nutrition. The ultimate goal is a healthy person, not so much the solving of a problem.

  45. Local Nourishment
    March 17, 2011 | 4:00 pm

    My first child (now 31) was a MESS after eating food with artificial colors. The pediatrician told me I was nuts, that there was NO evidence that was true. We ran our own test. Two weeks off, one day on, two weeks off, etc. I told his teachers I was running a test and I needed to know the same day if he exhibited what they called hyperactivity in those days. The teacher’s calls exactly coincided with the one day on when he was allowed to eat from the cafeteria and I didn’t withhold color-containing foods. I took this evidence back to the pediatrician and got laughed at.

    Moms know. I don’t need a study sample size of more than one to know what sets MY child off. And Dr. Xxxx, don’t you dare laugh at me ever again.

  46. Renee Maxwell via Facebook
    March 17, 2011 | 4:02 pm

    My point is simply that for some people with mental illness, psychiatric drugs are the difference between a healthy happy life and a nightmarish existence. If I’m defensive, it’s because I did try everything before I medicated my son, but that certainly doesn’t stop people from judging me. Without meds he is aggressive and violent. I am the primary target of his abuse. If you’d like to take him off medication, he can come live with YOU.

    I’m ALL about traditional foods. I’m not trying to argue against the benefits of a whole foods diet! I’m simply trying to point out that the suggestion that mental illness can be cured by diet alone is misleading at best and dangerous at worst.

    • Lori A
      March 17, 2011 | 9:50 pm

      Renee- just because YOUR child couldn’t be cured by diet alone does not mean that someone else’s child can’t be cured of their mental illness/neurological disorder. Your child is aggressive and violent without the meds, mine is aggressive and violent ON THE MEDS, and I was told that is a NORMAL side effect of the meds. My child is doing much better since changing her diet and taking her off meds.

  47. Tiffany Washko via Facebook
    March 17, 2011 | 4:10 pm

    LOVE the article, except for the uneducated slam against vegetarianism in the comments. You can be a nourished vegetarian.. pastured eggs, raw diary and cheese, healthy fats, fermented foods, sprouted foods, etc.

  48. Melanie
    March 17, 2011 | 4:10 pm

    Here’s where I have to cry BS – if 2/3 of kids with ADHD are fully resolved with a change in diet, then it probably WASN’T ADHD to begin with, it was a food sensitivity that exhibited ADHD symptoms. We already know that there is a huge problem with misdiagnosis of ADHD because there is no blood test or other black and white marking – it’s behavioral. (Before you ask, my son is ADHD, on meds, responded excellently to them, is at a very low does, and eats well but not gluten free.)

    • KristenM
      March 17, 2011 | 4:20 pm

      I think that’s fair to say in regards to many other “illnesses” that are basically made up to describe a particular set of otherwise inexplicable symptoms, but which aren’t caused by any testable pathogen or blood marker. ADHD strikes me as one of those types of illness (as do many other behavioral and mood disorders). The fact that so many of them respond so well to dietary changes should make doctors and researchers ask if these are really even “illnesses” at all. I don’t have the answers, but I am appalled by the lack of questioning going on in our medical community.

      • Melanie
        March 17, 2011 | 4:31 pm

        I agree, Kristin – it’s incredibly difficult to diagnose mental/psychological/emotional/neorological/emotional illnesses, since you can’t just culture blood and get an answer.

        However, I have read about many parents who say that stimulant drugs didn’t work for their kid, but changing diet did. So boom – the ADHD in their child is cured. Except for the fact that if a stimulant drug like Adderal or Focalin does not have the paradoxical effect it’s supposed to have on an ADHD child (it slows them down), it wasn’t ADHD in the first place. If you give a non-ADHD kid a stimulant, he’ll react like anyone else on a stimulant – high! But if you think it’s ADHD, and drugs didn’t work, but a change in diet did, it wasn’t ADHD.

        • Sue
          July 22, 2013 | 12:50 am

          I’m not sure that we really disagree, and this may just be an issue of semantics, but I think it’s an important one: By Kristen’s definition all the types of kids you mentioned would have ADD, because in this sense ADD is a cluster of “symptoms” (behaviors and subjective experience) that can have multiple causes- same with IBS, depression, etc. I think that just because a person doesn’t respond to medication or was cured by diet doesn’t mean they didn’t have ADD in the first place if ADD is conceptualized as a syndrome of unknown and heterogeneous cause.

          I like this idea because as someone with ADD that doesn’t respond to stimulants (or yet to a variety of major, empirical dietary and lifestyle tinkering), I don’t like the idea of being told I don’t actually have a disorder whose description I do in fact fit to a T (even ruling out differential diagnosis)- all but my response to stimulant medication (just felt like I was on speed). It may just be about how my body metabolizes the medicine (or food, for that matter). Psychiatric labels can definitely be pigeonholing if we don’t honor their limitations, but I’m grateful to know that certain struggles I’ve had are explainable by a (pretty well-delineated) phenomenon other than my own inherent stupidity, laziness and craziness- even if adderall can’t fix it. Otherwise, I don’t have ADD but something that looks exactly like it and may remain forever unknown, making it much harder to talk about with others in a common language- when the symptoms of ADD are already poorly understood by most and thus hard to talk about in the first place. Maybe my ADD is caused by something that exactly mimics ADD symptoms, but then why not call this ADD too- or call ADD itself a symptom of that other, as yet unknown thing.

          Many mental disorders are resistant to the usual treatment as well as alternative approaches, and people in this situation tend to fall through the cracks. For example sometimes people with treatment-resistant depression get told by psychiatrists that they’re still depressed because they want to be, or have a “self-defeating character structure” or something further depressing like that. I don’t think it’s reasonable or fair to take away altogether a label that is both accurate and helpful to a person suffering. It’s also a bit like when doctors tell parents whose children have recovered from autism that they must have been misdiagnosed in the first place- super invalidating. It’s not that they never had it, it’s that they did and then cured it, and that’s cause for celebration! I agree with you in general though! I think we may have the same general idea, but are just wording it differently.

  49. Melanie Palmer via Facebook
    March 17, 2011 | 4:18 pm

    I’m right there with you, Renee. Truly.

  50. Melanie Palmer via Facebook
    March 17, 2011 | 4:25 pm

    @Terra – I believe you have the 10% statistic backward. And I’ve not personally seen a mother decide to use ADHD drugs recklessly. In my experience, every single one went into it with a heavy heart. But sometimes, you simply do not have the time to wait for a diet change to take effect – you need to use the drugs while you are changing the diet. In my case, my son was having so many serious problems at school that while waiting for his diet changes to take effect (if they did at all), he would have risked being expelled. From first grade.

  51. Shana Evans via Facebook
    March 17, 2011 | 4:48 pm

    Thank you to the people that liked my comment. Renee, I was not suggesting that EVERY child is missed diagnosed. If you read it again, I said that every foster child placed in my home…To SOME, medication is the quick fix. These SOME do not want to take the time to figure out if something else is contributing to the behavior (i.e. diet, lack of discipline, home environment, etc.) as was the case with the children in our care and the social workers. I, however, did take the time and this is what I witnessed. I also do know people who diagnose their children ADHD all the while feeding them junk and not disciplining them (correctly) and NO, they do NOT need meds, but their parents DO need some parenting skills. Now, the problem is that all these parents have to do is tell the doctor that their child is ADHD and the meds are prescribed! The doctor does not check into diet, parenting, home environment, etc. And neither do the schools. THIS is the problem that we see.

  52. Melanie Palmer via Facebook
    March 17, 2011 | 4:58 pm

    Actually, I have had a very different experience, Shana. (And I am sure this is not the norm.) My child’s psychiatrist inquired extensively into diet, parenting, and home life. So did the school. In fact, the school, for some time, was not sure it was ADHD, which delayed his diagnosis and the ultimate help he received.

  53. Shana Evans via Facebook
    March 17, 2011 | 5:08 pm

    Sounds like you have a good psychiatrist and school. This is something to be most thankful for.

  54. Terra Swan-Angulo via Facebook
    March 17, 2011 | 5:08 pm

    Melanie, I maintain that ADHD is over-diagnosed. I don’t know your child, or Renee’s child, and I am not saying that they don’t have ADHD or they don’t require drugs. What I am saying is there are not enough parents out there advocating for and protecting their children by making informed choices. When I see a parent who says that their child “really has ADHD” and then proceeds to give them some cruddy snack food that has zero wholesome ingredients and contains artificial colors, I want to scream. How is that fair to the child? And it does affect the rest of us when people take any kind of meds, as they get into our water supply.

  55. Kristi Tibbs via Facebook
    March 17, 2011 | 5:13 pm

    All I know is that my son is now reading, focusing more in school, and much better behaved overall after I changed his diet to real food. I’ve cut my grains out, but had some this weekend while we were out of town. A few hours later I was very cranky, irritable, and easily angered. I think it’s all connected.

  56. Renee Maxwell via Facebook
    March 17, 2011 | 5:16 pm

    Shana, I think that kids in foster care are an exceptional case. Clearly, they haven’t had an ideal home life, let alone a proper diet. Kudos to you for treating them holistically! The world needs more foster parents like you.

    And let me just say it again for emphasis: ADHD should not be lumped into the same category as mental illness. Children and teens with untreated mental illness are at high risk for suicide, substance abuse, and violent behavior. Certainly, a traditional diet is just one aspect of good lifestyle choices that can enable someone to manage their symptoms. But diet alone is not a sufficient treatment. To suggest otherwise is irresponsible.

  57. Candace Isetts-Williams via Facebook
    March 17, 2011 | 5:45 pm

    @kristi our experience has been the same with my son on the autism spectrum, he stopped tantruming, gained eye contact and started reading within days of going gf. I think the kids that benefit from a restricted diet are those that have food fetishes. My son would hide in the pantry and eat a loaf of bread and still craves other carbs. If only I could get him to have a BM on a more consistent basis. even with miralax, he will not have a bm but once every several weeks. At its worst, he will go two months without having a bm.

  58. Melanie Palmer via Facebook
    March 17, 2011 | 6:39 pm

    Terra, you and I are certainly in agreement on your last comment.

  59. Revenwyn
    March 17, 2011 | 8:22 pm

    I was diagnosed as ADHD in 1992 in 4th grade. I was inattentive, but not especially hyper, maybe more than most girls, and I liked to beat up those who picked on me. I was prone to excessive bouts of anger, as well as very odd interests.

    Medicines did not help but caffeine did. The medicines made me a zombie. My family was raw food vegan so diet wasn’t an issue at all. It wasn’t diet. But it also wasn’t ADHD.

    Turns out I actually have Asperger’s Syndrome, something that wasn’t even a diagnosis given to girls at the time, and rarely boys. I found this out this year, at age 28. The way I was back then showed it as well. Had I known the proper diagnosis I would have been much better off.

    But no, diet doesn’t work for everyone. Just saying that.

    • Kate
      March 25, 2011 | 1:52 pm

      A raw vegan diet may well have been the problem. Following a diet with nourishing animal foods may have cured you.

      • Alex
        September 19, 2012 | 9:28 am

        I turned vegeterian a few years ago and now vegan and found my ADHD being better managed. I disagree with that statement please do more research it’s diet not raw vegan or eating meat it is what you put in you mouth all deit(s) can be good or bad depending on how you eat.

  60. Stacie Carpenter Enyart via Facebook
    March 17, 2011 | 10:12 pm

    Thank you so much for this post. I have known that for years. The more people that are informed the better. Thanks.

  61. Melissa
    March 20, 2011 | 2:27 pm

    “I’m ALL about traditional foods. I’m not trying to argue against the benefits of a whole foods diet! I’m simply trying to point out that the suggestion that mental illness can be cured by diet alone is misleading at best and dangerous at worst.”

    I Agreed 100%!!!!

    I think that a Whole Foods, Grain free, Organic veggies & fruit, no sugar, High animal fat diet is best for EVERY Human, and that it can drastically reduce the number of ‘behavioral disorders’. And that it should be the First place we start to evaluate ALL areas for Total Body Health. But, I certainly don’t agree with it being the Cause/Cure to everything.

    And I find it hardly unbiased when this is clearly a Sales tactic for this whole Outrageously Expensive ‘Program’!!!!

  62. Carol Terney Federoff via Facebook
    March 21, 2011 | 9:33 am

    Suggesting that food can cure mental illness is not dangerous…the drugs we used to be on ARE. It does take time and is not a on meds one day, off the next sort of thing; but, people do need to know it works. I’m sorry I’m not in the position to spread our story more but please do not shrug it off as impossible. My daughter and I are living proof, and she also displayed symtoms` from a very early age.

  63. Melanie
    March 21, 2011 | 2:48 pm

    Yeah, I too was a little disturbed that the “article” turned out to be more of an advertisement, but I found the comments very interesting and informative. MOre so than the article in fact.

  64. Walter Jeffries
    March 23, 2011 | 6:16 pm

    “atleast 2/3rds”
    “64%”

    Uhmm… My ADHD won’t let that one get by. Math kicks in and says to me, 2/3rds = 66.6bar% ergo atleast 2/3rds is great than 66.6bar% and 64% is less than that…

    Sorry, digression… :}

  65. Lauren Lionheart
    March 24, 2011 | 3:13 pm

    Thank you for sharing these research findings! I have experienced that what I eat has a HUGE effect on how my body feels. At one point I was feeling similarly burned out by food intolerances and fatigue. It’s been 3 months on a simple healing diet and the difference in AMAZING.

    Love and encouragement to everyone who is following their path to digestive and personal freedom. You are supported and in great company!

    Peace,

    Lauren Lionheart

  66. Pure Mothers
    March 25, 2011 | 1:27 pm

    Can you reverse a nut allergy that developed after a round of Cipro antibiotics from leaky gut? My body has already made antibodies to the proteins in almonds, walnuts and tahini. If you cover that in your class and it works, I think I’ll register!

  67. Nisha
    April 12, 2011 | 8:18 am

    My friend Beccy has a gluten allergy, but it must not be as severe as some as she tries to stay away from bread but sometimes its too tempting for her, which makes me think that it would be horrible if i couldnt eat ‘normal’ bread anymore because i love it so much!

  68. Pat
    May 5, 2011 | 4:41 am

    Proper diet like eating raw foods is the key to proper digestion or better digestive health. Eating fruits and vegetables are ideal. Thanks for this very informative post. Nice share Kristen!

  69. Stacey
    June 6, 2012 | 8:38 am

    My husband was diagnosed with adult ADHD about 5 years ago. He’s also diabetic, and was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 14. He eats pretty well when I feed him but if he’s out during a lunch break or whatever, he doesn’t eat very well. He also is on Adderal (90 mg/day!) and has had diet soft drinks for as long as I’ve known him. I have a feeling that just cutting out the diet soda would probably help his symptoms, but he has never done it long enough to see if it helps. It’s so hard to get an adult to change their diet, if they’re not wiling to try it. I know that if either of my kids show signs of ADHD, I will be exhausting all types of nutritional therapy before medicating. We are mostly grain free, gluten free and daughter and I are dairy free (hubby eats gluten and whatever else when he’s not home). I don’t buy anything with artificial sweetners colors or flavors, nasty food additives and the only “junk” food we have in the house is ice cream(although we just started making our own at home), and organic corn chips, and of course diet soda! we eat 85% organic, 75% local and I make nearly everything from scratch. So I’m hoping to at least give my kids a good start to help avoid ADHD! :)

  70. Paul Youngquist, LMT.
    March 31, 2013 | 8:36 am

    Bad food choices are causing these problems by shutting down our receptor sites in our brains for serotonin and dopamine. Eventually causing auto immune problems. Foods that processed, contain corn syrup, sugar and/or carbohydrates all include some kind of toxic endocrine disruptive additives from some point in growing, producing or manufacturing. We need better control over what is allowed to be called food. We need to have a new category called life sustaining food on our product labeling. Let’s push for that along with GMO labeling. If we want to talk about doing something more than just surviving. We need to direct our education and food industry towards thriving.

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Who Am I?

My name is Kristen Michaelis. I'm a nutrition educator, author, and mother of three. I adore hats, happy skirts, horizons full of storm clouds, the full-bodied feel of wind as I ride motorcylces, reading in my hammock, and a hearty shot of Caol Ila scotch. I'm also a rebel with a cause.
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