July 18, 2024


Welcome to the Food

Certain foods may be affecting a child’s ADHD | Feature Story

A headache does not mean one has a brain tumor, but some brain tumors do cause headaches.

Likewise, ADHD behaviors do not mean one has a food allergy, albeit some food allergies cause, in some children, behaviors that are on the official list of ADHD symptoms. (Mind you, I believe ADHD is one of many bogus psychological diagnoses, but that is subject for another column.)

I take requests, the latest of which comes from a parent who wants me to encourage everyone with a child who is impulsive, lacks concentration skills and exhibits other ADHD symptoms to see an allergist, preferably one who specializes in allergies to foodstuffs of various sorts. I also turn down certain requests, as I will do with this one.

Several months ago, someone pointed out to me that no credible, peer-reviewed study has ever confirmed the ADHD-food allergy connection. Well, that’s not exactly true. Research reports averages. Research does not report on individual cases. So, for example, if one thousand children are included in a study that purports to determine whether or not food allergies cause ADHD behavior and ten children (one percent) are reactive but nine hundred and ninety are not, the study’s authors report that their research failed to find a connection. Not so. It found a connection in one out of one hundred cases. What is reported and what actually happened are two different things.

Are some children allergic to certain foods? Yes. Do certain food allergies manifest behaviorally? I believe so, but don’t expect to find a peer-reviewed study that confirms that. If you do, it will be an anomaly. Nonetheless, over the course of my career, I’ve heard hundreds of reports from parents who credibly claim that when they eliminated junk from their children’s diets, ADHD behaviors disappeared or abated considerably.

It is a parent’s responsibility to feed a child responsibly. That includes eliminating or minimizing refined carbohydrates, cane sugar, caffeine and processed foods. The latter tend to contain artificial flavorings, preservatives, taste enhancers (e.g., MSG) and colorings. That’s simple commonsense.

If your child exhibits ADHD behaviors, and you suspect certain foodstuffs are a culprit, be your child’s personal allergist. Eliminate the above junk from his or her diet for two weeks and see what happens. If you see improvement, keep going.

I need to point out, however, that eliminating certain foodstuffs from a child’s diet can have a placebo effect. In other words, if your child thinks that his behavior – which he has seen causes much angst among adults, including you – is going to improve if he eats nothing but fresh veggies and grass-fed, free-range, vaccine-free animals, his behavior may well improve even though he is not medically reactive to any of the aforementioned junk. In that case both you and he will think he is allergic to the typical junk found in lots of foods and your family will eat better and everyone will be happy, which is just fine and dandy.