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(continued from part 1)
ADHD and Food Allergies
Do Food Allergies Really Exist?
The formal medical societies like the AMA claim there is no such thing as
food allergies. Rapp and her friends have been screaming for decades that
they do exist. So, what is the bottom line? Does it really make sense that
what a child eats can affect him so strongly that experts will diagnose him
as having ADHD?
We know that the brain is a highly complicated and sensitive organ. We
know that many foods have a physiological effect on the body without
inducing a classic allergic response.
For example, people who are sensitive
to monosodium glutamate can have a severe reaction to eating it. The
chemicals in red wine affect certain people. We also know that ingesting
certain foods alters brain function. Diet has been proven to influence
neurotransmitter function. Components of foods can also be used as drugs.
For example, tryptophan, tyrosine, and choline have been used in the
treatment of sleep disorders, pain, depression, mania, hypertension, shock,
The logic of Rapp’s argument is so strong and there is enough circumstantial
evidence, that I feel that the question is really the other way around. We know
that the brain is intricate and has tremendous metabolic requirements. We know
that some people have very strong reactions, including behavioral changes, to
certain foods. These things are undisputed. If it turns out that foods do not
elicit significant problems in sensitive children, in my opinion, we would need
to explain why not!
Are we really seeing an allergy mechanism to food? I prefer to stay out of
that debate. Rather than be ostracized by the doctors who specialize in allergy,
I feel it is safer to call them food sensitivities. There are no doctors who
specialize in sensitivity.
Does Your Child Have Food Sensitivities?
A large number of ADHD children may be having a negative response to food,
and this response may be the primary cause of their ADHD. In what type of
child should you suspect food allergies?
The following is a list of symptoms that resulted from food allergies in certain
Research shows that by treating the food allergies all of these symptoms can be
- Changes in mood
- Sleep disturbances
- Delay in sleep onset
- Other headaches
- Abdominal pain
If you see your child’s symptoms in this list it is possible that food allergies
may be contributing to his problem. If your child also has other allergic
problems, such as allergy or asthma, then food allergies are almost certainly
contributing to his problems.
What Should You Do?
As I wrote in How to Help the Child You Love, there are a number of
approaches to diagnosing food allergies. None of them are well substantiated
and all of them have difficulties. Yet, many people find that these diagnostic
techniques worked for them.
Therefore, I’d suggest you could use them
provided you have it on good authority that the person administering them has
a strong record of success. In my experience, these techniques are more of an
art than a science. They really depend upon the talent of the diagnostician.
As I said last time, the best approach to finding food allergies in your child is
an elimination diet. It doesn’t really matter which one you choose. I prefer the
three that I outline in How to Help the Child You Love.
Researchers claim that the percentage of ADHD children whose behavioral
symptoms are affected by foods ranges from 60% to 75%. This, however, is
probably not an accurate number. Parents who consent to have their children
participate in diet studies usually believe they have observed food-induced
problems in their children.
Therefore, children who participate in these studies
are more likely to respond to foods than the general population. The truth is
we do not know what percentage of ADHD children will respond to dietary
changes, but it seems that the number is significant.
Treating the food sensitivities in ADHD children has a number of advantages
over using medication. One major advantage all the current methods of
treatment can be used to treat pre-school children. Most clinicians do not use
medication on pre-school children. A more significant advantage of treating
food allergy is that when it works, it works all day. In contrast, Ritalin wears
off in about 4 hours.
All this, of course, is providing that food allergies really do exist.
The main thing to remember is that if you think your child has food allergies,
then the biggest mistake you can make is to go to an allergist. They don’t
believe in food allergies. And whatever you do, do not go to an allergist and
ask to have your child provocation-neutralization tested for food allergies. He
is going to laugh at you.
Food allergy is an alternative medicine diagnosis. Still, there are physicians
who specialize in diagnosing and treating these sensitivities, but they no longer
call themselves allergists. Rapp and her group were so ostracized by the formal
allergy societies that they eventually broke off and formed a new field called Environmental Medicine.
Therefore, if you want a physician to treat your child you need to find an
Environmental Medicine specialist. They are not so common, but they are
As I mentioned before, there are a number of approaches to treating food
sensitivities. The one you can do yourself is to use an elimination diet. I
devoted a large section of How to Help the Child You Love describing
exactly how to use elimination diets to diagnose and treat food sensitivities.
In the final analysis, I feel it is fair to say that many ADHD children have
sensitivities to the foods they eat. These sensitivities may exacerbate their
ADHD symptoms. I won’t go so far as to say that food allergies cause ADHD.
That means that if your ADHD child has severe food sensitivity, treating that
sensitivity may not get rid of his ADHD.
However, until you treat his food
allergy, nothing else you do will really help your child’s ADHD, either.
Anthony Kane, MD
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