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ADHD Diet: Rotation Diet

Many children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are intolerant of or allergic to certain food groups. When these foods are repeatedly eaten, they can worsen your child's hyperactivity, impulsivity, or inattention, and repeatedly cause other allergic reactions.  If your child is known to be intolerant to several foods, one of the best ways to help him or her cope with the disorder is to go on a rotation diet.  The premise of a rotation diet is that the typical American diet is full of foods that contain allergens, such as artificial flavoring, preservatives, and certain complex proteins like gluten and casein.  The solution to this is to "rotate" the foods you regularly eat.

A rotation diet is designed to allow the immune system to repair itself by minimizing allergic reactions.  It is also used to unmask hidden food allergies by removing certain foods.   With time, a person on a rotation diet can regain tolerance to foods they were once sensitive to.  In some cases, rotation diets have even prevented new allergies from developing.   There are many books that go into greater detail on food families and how these should be rotated, but if you read on, you'll find a brief description on how the rotation diet works.

There are three principles to the rotation diet:

  1. No one food should be repeated until the fifth day of a four-day rotation. This means that if eggs were eaten on day 1, no eggs or food containing eggs should be eaten again until day 5.
  2. Foods from the same botanical family can be eaten every other day.  A food family is based on biological origins, which means these foods may contain the same allergens and may trigger the same reactions when eating.  For instance, oats, wheat, and rye all belong to the cereal grain family.  You can give your child wheat bread on day 1 and oats on day 2, but the same cereal grain must not be eaten until the fifth day.  You might want to consult books on rotation diets for this, as they contain charts that detail which foods belong to which food family.
  3. No one food may be eaten twice in the same day.  For instance, if your child had wheat bread toast for breakfast on day 1, wheat in any other form – be it in a different sort of bread, pasta, flour, etc .– must not be eaten for lunch or dinner

You can begin the diet with the most easily rotated food family – proteins – by rotating beef, fish, chicken, eggs (if tolerated), and so on following the three principles of the rotation diet.  Depending upon your child's allergies, you can also choose another category like fruits.  The cereal grains family is one that definitely has to be rotated, because children with ADHD often cannot intolerate  gluten.

As the foods keep getting rotated, each food item will have four days to leave your child's body before it is eaten again.  In this way, you can unmask previously unknown food allergies, allowing you to objectively identify which symptoms are provoked by which food.  Keep a food diary every day of the diet, as this will be indispensible in helping you track the symptoms connected to each food.  Once you've identified a particular food your child reacts to, remove it from the diet completely for thirty days. Afterwards, introduce it again on a rotated basis.  Sometimes, food tolerance can be regained after a few months of avoidance, as long as your child does not eat the food more than once every four days.

A rotation diet may seem overwhelming and confusing at first, but with a little instruction and time, the diet will become part of your child's and your family's lifestyle.  In thirty days, the beneficial effects of the rotation diet – among which are reducing ADHD symptoms and allergy symptoms, immune system repair, and enhanced overall well-being – will be seen and will even increase cumulatively as the diet progresses.