As researchers uncover the relationships between food intolerances and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, more and more diets have been formulated to help children overcome the symptoms of this debilitating disorder. One of these specific ADHD diets is called Sara's Diet, or the lutein-free diet. Sara's diet is essentially a gluten-free, casein-free diet that also restricts foods containing lutein, a pigment that naturally occurs in some fruits and vegetables. The diet was developed when researchers discovered that removing gluten and casein without removing lutein led to allergic reactions to foods with lutein, causing a metabolic imbalance that gave rise to disrupted neurotransmitter activity.
Lutein can be found in many foods, such as egg yolk, red peppers, peas, spinach, mustard, Romaine lettuce, and leeks. The amount of lutein found in these foods depends on several factors, such as period or season of the year, soil conditions, and exposure to light. Some foods, like tomato, melon, and cucumber, do not contain lutein, but contain other pigments like lycopene and zeaxanthine, which the body converts into lutein. What makes this different from lutein found in other vegetables is that the immune system does not react to lycopene and zeaxanthine. Some researchers think that lutein is not essential to our diets; in fact, the human body cannot utilize dietary lutein. In order to obtain the lutein that our body needs, it is better to eat foods that contain pigments that can be converted by the body into bio-available lutein.
Sara's diet is simple to follow. All foods with lutein, foods with artificial food coloring, and foods with artificial sweeteners are removed, and replaced with a diet of nutrient-rich foods. The new diet allows the immune system to calm down and let go of its hold of the detoxification and digestive pathways of the body. Use of vitamin B supplements, omega-3 fish oils, and healing foods like aloe and coconut help ease the process.
As Sara's diet progresses, the child goes through a healing process in which toxins are flushed out, and balance in the immune system and metabolism are restored. However, the first few weeks of the diet are not always easy. After about twelve days, the immune system begins to shed stored toxins, and your child may experience a "healing crisis" as the toxins get naturally purged. Other symptoms like strep throat, flu, and cold-like symptoms often emerge during the first four months of the diet. So don't worry if your child experiences these symptoms. Although it might be a little worrisome at first, take this as a sign that you are on the right track.
If a gluten-free, casein-free diet does not seem to be working for your child, he or she may benefit from Sara's diet. Before removing any pigments from your child's meals, however, you need to consult a nutritionist or your health care practitioner and ask for their opinion. Putting your child on Sara's diet without the proper consultation may lead to vitamin A or D deficiencies, which will only aggravate the symptoms of ADHD.