Was it Something My Child Ate?

Fast Facts:

  • Attention Defect Disorder (ADD) and Hyperactive behavior (ADHD) affect up to 10% of our children today. 
  • The number of children with ADD/ADHD has risen by 600%, since 1990 and the U.S. has five times more cases than the rest of the world put together
  • In the U.S., one in 18 school children suffers from ADHD and half are being treated with the psycho-stimulant drug Ritalin the number drug of choice

The International Narcotic Control Board recently issued a warning to the United States, which produces and consumes 90% of the worldwide Ritalin supply, that the drug is being over prescribed and long-term used could be dangerous for the well-being of our children. Studies cited by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration show Ritalin (methylphenidate) and cocaine cause nearly identical reactions in the same brain cells! In point of fact, cocaine addicts can hardly tell the difference.

Possible Causes

There are any number of underlying causes linked to ADD/ADHD that begin with: HEREDITY, food allergies, hypoglycemia, refined sugar and white flour products, poor diet, nutritional deficiencies, digestive problems and enzyme deficiencies, heavy metal toxicity, thyroid problems hypothyroid (low functioning thyroid) or hyperthyroid (overactive thyroid) smoking during pregnancy, oxygen deprivation at birth, environmental pollutants, artificial food additives, epilepsy, certain medications, and prenatal trauma. Preservatives and foods containing salicylates may contribute to this condition, along with low protein intake and assimilation.

Common Symptoms:

  • Impatience
  • Temper tantrums
  • Slow learning reasoning
  • Dyslexia
  • Absentmindedness
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Defiance
  • Learning disabilities
  • Low tolerance for stress
  • Clumsiness
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Inability to finish tasks
  • Chronic liar
  • Poor listening skills
  • Problem solving difficulties
  • Forgetfulness
  • Gets frustrated easily
  • Poor time management
  • Accident prone
  • Emotional instability
  • Destructive behavior

    * Not all symptoms are present in any one child.  Although hyperactivity is primarily a problem of children, adults are affected, also.

Feingold History

Benjamin Feingold, MD was an eminent pediatrician and allergist, at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in San Francisco. Dr. Feingold noted in 1973 that childhood behavior disorders seemed linked to dietary exposure to excessive food colorings, salicylates (compounds related to aspirin that occur naturally in many foods) and additives. As he worked with patients he suspected of being sensitive to aspirin he began to notice that they also reacted to some foods and food additives. Although it is well known that things like alcohol, caffeine, nicotine and chemicals like drugs can affect behavior, most people do not consider that chemicals added to foods may do the same. He found, to his surprise, that not only did some people have physical reactions, but many experienced changes in their behavior.

Dr Feingold reported that 50% of hyperactive children he put on a diet devoid of artificial colors, flavoring, natural salicylates showed dramatic improvement. This resulted in the development of the Feingold diet, a diet restricted in foods that are rich in these substances. Although the efficacy of this diet is considered controversial by many behavioral scientists, there are numerous reports in the literature, which support its value in managing certain forms of hyperkinesis in young children. The diet-behavior connection is still an active area of research, and the application of the Feingold diet in managing childhood/adult hyperkinesis is but one of several important relationships that continue to be under extensive research.

Where Does the Trouble Begin?

Did you know that the brand of ice cream, cookies and potato chips you select, and the type of fruit, vegetable or condiment you choose, can have a direct effect on your child’s behavior, health, and ability to learn? Did you also know that certain chemicals in the products you buy for your family could trigger irritability, hyperactivity, headaches or hives, to mention just a few.

For a surprising number of symptoms, treatment should begin with careful brand selection. What you're buying may get its flavor, color, and long shelf life from questionable additives. Even some traditionally "good" foods are a problem for some people. What changes should be made? What do scientific studies show? How can you find the best items to buy? It is important to learn to read and understand nutrition facts printed on the back of each product.

How Do I Get Started?

  • Dump all sugar and white flour. It does effect behavior. Eliminate foods that contain artificial colors, flavoring, preservatives, processed foods and those that contain salicylates: almonds, peanuts with the skin on, apples, (except green & delicious), dried apricots & dates, cherries, currants, all berries, peaches, plums, pineapple, prunes, tomatoes, cucumbers, mint and oranges.
  • Avoid carbonated drinks, which contain large amounts of phosphates.  Phosphate additive may be responsible for exaggerated muscle activity (hyperkinesis).  High levels of phosphorous and very low calcium and magnesium levels can indicate a potential for hyperactivity and seizures. Meat and fat are also high in phosphorous. So make sure the red meats you chose are antibiotic and hormone free.
  • Raw foods, dried foods and juices contain higher levels of salicylates than cooked foods. The salicylate content in foods is highest in unripened fruit and decrease as the fruit ripens. All fruits and vegetables should be ripe and peeled down to the fruit before eating. Salicylates are often concentrated just under the skin of the fruit and in the outer leaves of the vegetable. Make every effort to avoid foods containing salicylates, additives and colorings.
  • Even when we eat more nutritious food, I do not believe that we get enough of the nutrients we need from out diets. In light of the many problems and concerns with the standard American diet, I believe that supplementing nutrients will help to make our children healthy and happy.  Take your A, B, C’s vitamin, minerals & enzymes, that is! 

As I have seen in my practice, supplementing with Factor One: Bio-Immunizer whole food based vitamins/minerals and Factor Seven: Digestin plant based Enzymes promote nutritional health and can make a difference in how they feel and act. Also as a calmative for children suffering from ADD/ADHD Factor Six: Sommaserene is very effective. It is an herbal relaxant & non-narcotic stress reducer utilized to ameliorate nervousness, anxiety, insomnia, etc.

If your child's behavior does not improve on this diet, you could try a more restrictive dietary plan, it could mean that he/she is not affected by foods at all, or is sensitive to other foods. It's also possible that prohibited ingredients are sneaking into your child's diet. Studies indicate that some children are sensitive/intolerant not just to food additives but also to such foods as: wheat, eggs, milk and other dairy foods, chocolate, soybeans/tofu, corn products (including corn sugar and syrup).

Although a person can be sensitive/allergic to virtually anything, there are several groups of food additives that are notorious troublemakers. These are:

  • Sodium benzoate and benzoic acid
  • BHA, BHT, and TBHQ preservatives synthetic preservatives
  • Artificial colorings (look for names like "Red 40" and "Yellow 5" on labels)
  • Artificial flavorings, MSG, (including vanillin, used in synthetic vanilla)
  • Nitrates and nitrites found in luncheon meats, red meats and dehydrated fruits
  • Artificial sweeteners (acesulfame-K, Aspartame (Equal), saccharin (Sweet n’ Low), sucralose)

Ready, Set, Go!

Once you are set to go, put your child (and the rest of the family, if possible) on the modified diet for two or three weeks. If your child mistakenly eats a prohibited food, do not get upset just get him/her back on the diet. Using a separate page for each day, keep a journal based on common characteristics of ADD/ADHD, but modify that to include your own child's most troubling behaviors.

Document when behavior problems arise and which foods your child had eaten recently. Engage your child's teacher in monitoring your child's behavior, unless the teacher provides snacks for your child, there is no reason to risk drawing attention to your young one by telling the teacher about the diet.

Exercise: A Major Component?

Thomas Jefferson in 1785 advised a young friend, about the importance of studying the classic authors such as Homer, Euripedes and Sophocles.  He added, that it is necessary to always balance this mental work with the physical activity of walking.

As a result of Jefferson following his own advice his body and mind were sharp up until his death at the age of eighty-three.  Biographies of Charles Dickens indicate that he also walked between one and 20 miles a day and that his most productive writing were the periods during the time when he walked the most. The BBC reports that with increased emphasis on testing and grades and very little focus on physical activity our children are becoming doubly victimized.  Their playtime is reduced, or completely eliminated and they are punished for the resulting fidgeting that occurs as a result of a lack of physical activity. A catch 22 situation at best!

In addition there is the very real problem of childhood obesity rates on the rise in the United States over the past 20 years. Physical play is very important to a growing child but especially for the ADD/ADHD child.  To optimize brain development, physical stamina & endurance and mental strength throw out the TV and encourage him/her to get involved in physical play with their peers and family.


Frequently Ask Questions

Is it difficult?

We understand that it can sound overwhelming to do one more thing when the parents of a child with ADD/ADHD already feel like they are stretched to the max. The good news is that it is amazingly easy to avoid the worst of the food additives once you understand a few simple concepts. Then, when you notice positive changes in your child, any extra effort seems like a very small price to pay.

How long does it take to see a change?

When a child’s problems are subtle, improvements might be less obvious than they are before the “bouncing off the walls” child.  Attention and learning generally improve gradually, while the behavior is likely to change more quickly. Within 2-3 weeks most families report that not only are they comfortable using the new dietary plan, they find it rather distasteful the thought of putting chemicals, additives, etc. in their bodies. We encourage people to allow 4 to 6 weeks since it is possible that it could take that long. A child who is not on medication is likely to have a faster response than one who is on medication.

What will happen if my child unknowingly eats the restrictive food/s.

It is important to know that a temporary mistake will usually cause a reaction in the early stages of the new dietary changes, however, it is not cause to stop focusing your attention on the treatment. It is also important to realize that once the child is well established on the diet, they are usually much less sensitive and can often begin to tolerate minor excursions without any dramatic problem. In experiments where children doing well on the diet were given small amounts of colorings, most of them remained well. Instead of realizing that this meant the diet was working so well that the children were stable, this was misinterpreted to mean that the colorings were harmless at all doses.  This is not the case.  Use caution!


  • Lucas, B. 1981. Diet and Hyperactivity IN "Nutri. in Infancy and Childhood." Pipes, P.L., ed. The C.V. Mosby Co., St. Louis. 303 pp.
  • Howe, P.S., 1981. Basic Nutrition in Health and Disease, 7th ed., W.B. Saunders Co., Philadelphia.
  • Luke, B., 1984. Principles of Nutrition and Diet Therapy. Little, Brown, and Co., Boston. 816 pp.
  • Robinson, C.H., and Lawler, M.R., 1982. Normal and Therapeutic Nutrition. 16th ed., MacMillan Publishing Company, Inc., New York. 849 pp.
  • Kreutner, Patricia A. 1980. "Nutrition In Perspective." Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs. 665 pp.
  • Swain, Anne R et al, Salicylates in Food. Jrnl of ADA, V 85:1985.
  • Hartmann, Thom. The Edison Gene. VT: Park Street Press, 2003.
  • Block, Mary, OD. No More ADHD. TX: Block Books, 2001.
  • Armstrong, Thomas, PhD. The Myth of the ADD Child. Eng: Penguin Books, 1997.



A choice of the following:

  • OptiKids PowerPack
  • Grace Energy Shake
  • Grace Cereal Blend
  • Oatmeal with favorite ripe fruit, nuts, raisins
  • 1 cup whole grain cereal  cup soy, rice, almond, etc.
  • 2 slices whole grain toast  2 tsp. nut butter, or natural peanut butter
  • Water to drink is the best choice (glass-bottled spring or filtered water)

Snack: Trail mix, nut butter on whole grain or sprouted grain crackers, dried fruit (be creative)



  • OptiKids PowerPack
  • 1 cup vegetable soup with barley (without tomato)
  • 1 jack cheese sandwich on whole grain, millet, sprouted grain bread
  • 1 cup soy, rice, almond, etc.
  • 2 oatmeal cookies
  • Water to drink is the best choice (glass-bottled spring or filtered water)

Snack: Trail mix, nut butter on whole grain or sprouted grain crackers, dried fruit (be creative)



  • OptiKids PowerPack
  • 3 oz. chicken breast, fish, lean red meat
  • Sweet potato, brown rice, whole grain pasta
  • Vegetables raw or cooked
  • 1 slice whole grain, millet, sprouted grain bread or crackers  2 teaspoons nut butter
  • 1 cup soy, rice, almond, etc.
  • Water to drink is the best choice (glass-bottled spring or filtered water)

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