Diet may help ADHD kids more than drugs

A study published in the Lancet this year, looks at the effects of a restricted elimination diet on the behaviour of children with ADHD.  There were several phases to the trial. At the start of the first phase, children were placed on a few-foods diet (rice, meat, vegetables, pears and water) which is a very comprehensive elimination diet.  In the second phase, those who had had at least a 40% improvement in ADHD sypmtoms from the elimination diet, were challenged with either high IgG foods or low IgG foods (foods that each specific child was tested to have an intolerance to – thus the foods added were individually chosen).  Following this challenge, 63% of the children relapsed. The conclusion of the study is that a restricted elimination diet may be beneficial not only in ADHD but also in oppositional defiant disorder.

The article, although widely praised, has come up against a lot of resistance from, mostly, doctors working with children with ADHD. Many have said that ADHD is a chemical imbalance and that “no handul of strawberries is going to fix that.” It is at this juncture that I would like to point out that everything we eat induces some form of response from our body. Some foods increase chemical mediators known as cytokines which can be pro-inflammatory. We know that inflammation is one of the leading causes of chronic disease. We also know that ADHD is an inflammatory state. Additionally, whilst medications like Ritalin may normalise a chemical imbalance, they work on the symptoms, not on the root cause. So whilst giving a child Ritalin may make them less hyperactive (although give them insomnia and affect their growth pattern), it will not reduce any IgG intolerances to foods they may be consuming. If you take the Ritalin away, the food intolerance will still exist. If you leave the Ritalin in, it is quite likely that other mental health problems will arise, for example, anxiety.

I am by no means saying that food is the only cause of ADHD. Issues involving mitochondrial dysfunction, immune dysfunction, gastrointestinal dysfunction and problems with detoxification are also implicated. However, should we not be looking at food hypersensitivities or intolerances as a first port of call? I challenge those working with children with ADHD to start taking a holistic approach to treatment. Prescription medication is not the only answer. It just raises many more questions.