Food Sensitivities and Elimination Diets
Recent studies suggest that sensitivities to certain foods may worsen symptoms of ADHD in children.
When kids with ADHD are placed on a special elimination diet — excluding foods that trigger unwanted behavior — as many as 30 percent of toddlers and preschoolers benefit, says Eugene Arnold, M.D., author of A Family's Guide to Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and professor emeritus of psychiatry at Ohio State University. He says that such a diet does not seem to have any effect on adults with ADHD.
On an elimination diet, you start by eating only foods unlikely to cause reactions:
- Vitamin supplements
Then you restore other foods, one at a time, to see whether they cause a reaction.
If nothing happens in two weeks — if you see no difference in your child's behavior — stop the experiment. If you notice an improvement, reintroduce one excluded food each day and watch what happens. If the child has a bad response to the food — if he becomes more fidgety or has trouble sleeping, for example — eliminate it again. If it's a food your child really likes, try reintroducing it again a year or so later. If they're not repeatedly exposed to the trigger food, children often outgrow sensitivities.
If you'd like to try the diet with your children at home, Dr. Arnold recommends consulting a registered dietician go to eatright.org.