Approximately 5 million children in 2010 were diagnosed with ADHD according to the Centers for Disease Control. It’s a shocking statistic that may have some parents of ADHD kids wondering “is this what I signed up for?” (which is certainly what I thought a time or two with Emma’s celiac diagnosis too). Now the lead researcher in the study published in Lancet, says ADHD isn’t a disease — but rather a group of symptoms triggered by the environment — primarliy food. Could it be that simple? Change the diet and maybe lose the drugs?
The new research, reported by National Public Radio, suggests diet could be causing Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. I’ll be right up front about this — the article doesn’t mention gluten once as a cause. In fact the article does little to guide parents in any sort of direction as to what kinds of food may cause this. And THAT is why I’m discussing this today. To let parents know gluten or casein (a protein in milk) may have something to do with it and it could be a place to start.
“Hypersensitivity to Food”
In the NPR article the study’s lead author Dr. Lidy Pelsser said,
“64 percent of children diagnosed with ADHD are actually experiencing a hypersensitivity to food. Researchers determined that by starting kids on a very elaborate diet, then restricting it over a few weeks’ time.”
“Hypersensitivity to food” that’s vague.
It doesn’t go into much detail on how to figure out which foods are the culprits only that it’s done by the process of elimination and that a doctor trained specifically in this area should oversee the process.
So what could it be in your pantry, refrigerator or cupboards that might be causing this issue? Where do you begin??? One possibility is gluten or casein.
What’s Gluten (or Casein) Got to Do With ADHD?
While there is limited scientific research available on this subject — there is some….
In a Norwegian study in the late 90’s doctors put 22 ADHD children on a strict milk-free and/or gluten-free diet(s). Celiac.com reported in 2009,
“They were taken off milk products and other foods containing casein. All exhibited a rapid improvement in general well-being, including improved mental health and general behavior, improved attention-span and better learning abilities. After a year, the families reported clear improvements in their child’s behaviour and attention-span. When the kids were taken off their diets, their symptoms returned nearly immediately. Before changing their diets, most of the children were taking medications, like Ritalin, to treat their symptoms. After their diets were established, their medications were discontinued.” – Celiac.com, 2009
Dr. Vikki Peterson discussed it in an article last January. She wrote about a recent talk that Dr. Peter Green (renowned doctor treating celiac disease and gluten sensitivities at Columbia University) had about this issue.
“I’ve been interested in gluten sensitivity as it relates to psychiatric and neurological problems, [Dr. Green said]. There’s a high rate of anti-gliadin antibodies in schizophrenia, depression and ADHD. Much higher than in the general population.’ (Recall that anti-gliadin antibodies are a gluten sensitivity lab test,)” wrote Dr. Peterson. Dr. Green did note in his talk that these folks didn’t have celiac antibodies– just the ones for gluten sensitivity.
To be honest, gluten or casein very well may not be the culprits. In fact, the Mayo Clinic has responded to the question about other food additives that may cause ADHD. Even staying away from processed foods could help. But I wanted to write this article for a parent who’s scouring the internet right now seeing this very study on food and thinking to themselves, “Now what?”.
I want to add the food study also mentioned there is a portion of ADHD kids who will still need medication, but Dr. Pelsser recommends starting with looking at food first, “….now we are giving them all drugs, and I think that’s a huge mistake,” Dr. Pelsser told NPR.
*Source note: NPR states on its website there will be audio from this interview available after 7 p.m. EST on Saturday March 12th, 2011. Check the link again later to hear more details on this study.