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Disclaimer: Been There, Tried it is based upon personal experiences of those who have tried a particular intervention. It is NOT medical advice, nor a substitute for medical advice. It is neither an endorsement or opposition to any intervention. This is an opinion piece.
Oh, ADHD. When this diagnosis got added to the pile, the research began:
Half of what I read talked about the importance of diet. The other half included medical recommendations debunking special diets as a myth, and mirrored what we’d heard from our pediatrician and psychologist: stimulant drugs like Ritalin.
Ritalin at age 4?! It seemed so illogical to me; a child with speech delays, articulation and fluency deficits — how would a child with limited and mostly unrecognizable speech be able to tell us about side effects? Not to mention the sleep issues we were already experiencing — to learn that inability to sleep was a common side effect of stimulant medication.
Research on the Feingold Diet was promising, included many success stories, and was non-invasive. As a family, we decided to try it – and besides, less sugar and a better diet is good for all of us.
The Feingold program comes with many good materials, including guides and pamphlets for teachers and practitioners. We found the most useful item was the diet book itself – it’s how we built weekly shopping lists. Lists of “Feingold approved” foods are listed in the book – meaning that they don’t have additives like BHT (found in many cereals), dyes, salicylates or high fructose corn syrup.
What I liked about it: Learning to really read nutrition labels and understand what is in our food.
Be prepared: Using the book to look up every food item before tossing it into the grocery cart was daunting at first, but over time, it became easier to shop. (I spent nearly 2 hours in the grocery store the first time, but it got easier.) Eventually we learned to buy, try and love more whole foods that don’t need labels.
Outcome: This was not an ADHD cure for our kiddo. We did, however, see significant gains: More speech, less meltdowns, more even-keeled moods. After reading (and re-reading) the materials and the book, my personal belief is that when a person has a chemical or salicylates sensitivity, there are symptoms that mimic ADHD. When the items are removed from the diet, so are the symptoms. In my opinion, it won’t alleviate all of the symptoms of ADHD, rather, it identifies and addresses a sensitivity.
Today: 7 year later, and we still avoid dyes, high fructose corn syrup and other additives. What we learned from this diet was valuable. In the beginning, it seemed as though we’d never find anything to eat – today we avoid processed foods and apply a lot of what we learned. Still at age 11 when our kiddo overdoes it on processed foods, we see the difference in changed mood, increased behaviors and hyperactivity.
More information about the Feingold diet can be found on their website.