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ADHD Diet: Carbohydrate-Specific

The Specific Carbohydrate Diet was originally formulated to help treat autism, celiac disease, and Crohn’s disease, but it was recently discovered that the diet can alleviate symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.  The specific carbohydrate diet heals the gut problems experienced by children with ADHD by balancing the flora in the intestinal tract, thus decreasing hyperactive and inattentive behavior. It is not as commonly used as the Feingold Diet or the gluten-free casein-free diet, because it is more restrictive and more difficult to implement.  However, it might be worth a try if other diets have failed to bring benefits.

In the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, all grains, sucrose, and lactose are removed, and only very specific carbohydrates are allowed in the diet.  Children with ADHD tend to have a hard time digesting complex carbohydrates like polysaccharides and disaccharides.  That is because complex carbohydrates have millions of units of sugar, while monosaccharides have one unit.  Thus, digesting complex carbohydrates takes longer, which means glucose is released into the bloodstream very slowly.  Not only that, but the gut is often unable to break these carbohydrates down efficiently, and the undigested material serves as a breeding ground for harmful bacteria.  The bacteria overgrowth is followed by an overproduction of mucous, which in turn makes it even more difficult for the gut to digest and absorb nutrients. 

The purpose of the Specific Carbohydrate Diet is to get rid of the highly complex saccharides within the body and break the ongoing cycle of digestive problems caused by the overgrowth of harmful bacteria in the gut. At the same time, the diet keeps the good bacteria alive and balanced, allowing the gut to digest and absorb all the food it receives. 

Essentially, the Specific Carbohydrate Diet involves removing all complex carbohydrates, and restricting meals to foods easily digested into monosaccharides or no carbohydrates at all.  Simple carbohydrates like glucose and fructose are easily digested and absorbed by the intestine wall because they only have one monosaccharide molecule structure. What makes the Specific Carbohydrate Diet difficult to do that is your child must follow the diet strictly to receive any benefits from it.

Foods to eliminate: 

Sugar. Table sugar, sucrose, molasses, or other processed sugars are not allowed.
Vegetables. All canned vegetables are not allowed.

Grains and legumes. All grains such as wheat, corn, oats, and soy are not allowed; neither are some legumes like chickpeas, soybeans, and beansprouts.
Starchy foods. Potatoes, parsnips, yams, and other starchy root crops are not allowed.

Meat. Canned meat and processed meats are forbidden.

Dairy products. All types of milk are not allowed; neither are sour cream, buttermilk, and commercial yogurt. Cheese with high lactose content like mozzarella, cream cheese, and processed cheese must be restricted.

Misc. Other foods that are not allowed include pasta, bread, canola oil, ice cream, chocolate, commercial ketchup, balsamic vinegar, commercial nuts, whey, and commercial mayonnaise.

The following foods are authorized in Specific Carbohydrate Diet:

Sugars. Honey is the only sugar allowed by the diet.

Vegetables. Most fresh, frozen, raw, or cooked vegetables are allowed, including broccoli, lettuce, carrots, zucchini, onions, and watercress.

Legumes. Unroasted cashews, peanuts in their shell, natural peanut butter, string beans, peas, and lentils are allowed.

Meats. All unprocessed meats can be eaten.  Some processed meats are allowed as well, provided that they do not contain starch, sugar, and corn products.

Dairy. Except for the cheeses listed in the previous list, all cheeses are allowed.

Fruits. Most fruits can be eaten, including bananas, coconuts, apples, tomatoes, tropical fruits, cherries, and grapes.

Misc. Coconut oil, olive oil, unflavored gelatin, vinegar, weak coffee, and fruit juice with no additives are allowed.

Before you attempt to put your child on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, consult your health care specialist or nutritionist and ask for their advice or opinion.