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ADHD Diet: Feingold Diet

Dr. Benjamin Feingold is perhaps one of the first medical doctors to have recognized the link between the food children eat and their learning and behavioral problems.  In the 1970's, he published a book detailing his approach to helping children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.  The Feingold Diet is based upon the premise that foods with artificial additives contribute to behavioral problems (hyperactive and impulsive behavior), learning problems (short attention span, cognitive problems), and health problems (difficulty sleeping).  Since the book's publication, several studies have been published supporting the claims made by Dr. Feingold.  The Feingold Association reports that 90% of children who have gone on the diet havesucceeded in overcoming ADHD. As with any treatment plan, there will be a small percentage of children that don't respond to the Feingold diet; however, the Feingold Diet is a well-researched diet with a high success rate in addressing certain behavioral concerns among children.

The Feingold Diet is more comprehensive and holistic than a simple elimination diet, for it involves removing non-food items containing certain compounds.  The following food and non-food items are slowly eliminated from the diet.

Food with artificial coloring

Did you know that the pretty colors that turn candy pink and grape soda purple are made from crude oil, which is where gasoline is derived? You can find artificial colors listed on ingredient labels as Red 40, Yellow No. 5, etc. Sometimes, the label might have "FD&C" attached to the colors' names. This stands for "Food, Drug, & Cosmetics," which means the coloring can be used for food, cosmetics, and medicine.  If a food coloring item is listed as "D&C," it is considered safe for cosmetics and drugs, but not for food.

Food with artificial flavoring 

Artificial flavorings are combinations of many synthetic and natural chemicals.  For instance, vanillin or imitation vanilla flavoring is derived from paper mill waste.

Food with artificial sweeteners

Aspartame, the artificial sweetener used to make Equal and Nutrasweet, is not as safe as its manufacturers would like us to believe.  Researchers have discovered that aspartame alters the ratio of amino acids in the blood stream and lowers the levels of norepinephrine, dopamine, serotonin, and adrenalin in the body.  Because of this, there are around 92 health problems and side effects related to aspartame consumption. Among these is hyperactivity in children.

Food with other additives

Other foods with additives like sodium benzoate, sulfites, nitrates, and MSG are eliminated.

Non-food items with salicylates

Salicylates are a group of chemicals related to aspirin that are found in fruits and plants as natural pesticides.  Salicylates are also manufactured and used in many non-food products, including perfume, medicine, and solvents.

A less rigorous way to approach the Feingold Diet is to slowly eliminate food and non-food items with artificial dyes, then eliminate artificial flavorings, etc.  If there is little or no improvement in behavior, the Feingold Association recommends eliminating corn syrup and corn sugar (often in sodas and other sweetened foods), hydrolyzed vegetable protein, calcium propionate (in baked goods), and sodium nitrate (in processed meats).   It might help to use a diet journal to record the foods you have eliminated and your child's response to each change.

You should start noticing improvements in your child's behavior after a few weeks. Once you do, restore one eliminated food every other day and observe any changes in your child's behavior.  If he or she begins misbehaving, this will help you confirm which specific foods or which specific additives are the real culprit in your child's ADHD.

The UnRitalin Diet used in the UnRitalin Solution incorporates principles of the Feingold Diet.