ADHD and Food Allergies

Many organizations and researchers feel ADHD and food allergies may be closely linked, or, in fact, that children who are allergic to certain foods may display the symptoms of ADHD without actually having the disorder.

Unfortunately, understanding food allergies may be more frustrating with regards to ADHD, because they will differ individually for different children. Also, diagnosing problems with food is surprisingly more difficult than diagnosing other allergies.

What are Food Allergies?

A food allergy, like any other allergy, is triggered by a substance, called an allergen. When a child is exposed to this allergen, his or her body begins a very specific and highly involved immune response. For typical allergies, subsequent exposure of this allergen results in an immune response each time.

Different antibodies are useful in beginning this immune response; IgE and IgG. Physicians may generally use IgE, while others believe that IgG plays a very significant part in fighting food allergies.

Types of foods that normally cause allergic reactions in children are tomatoes, oranges, eggs, wheat and other dairy products. The study, led by Lidy Pessler of the ADHD Centre in Netherlands, revealed that when eliminating certain types of these foods for a child suffering from ADHD, a marked decrease in defiant and hyperactive behavior occurs. Children were either given this restrictive diet and a typical healthy one. Sixty-four percent of the children given the restrictive diet experienced a decrease in ADHD symptoms.

What Causes this Link

Much debate exists on what effect food allergies have on ADHD. However some speculate a chemical problem underlying this issue. Dopamine and serotonin are important neurotransmitters in the brain that aid in regulating the body's physiological processes.

With children with ADHD, foods that are processed, contain sugar, white flour, or high fructose corn syrup will cause atypical releases of these chemicals which affect the behavior of a child with ADHD. Other foods that are processed or have saturated fats will also cause this effect.

The Debate

This problem is usually hard to detect because they do not behave like other allergies do. As mentioned above, allergens provoke an immune system response. If that person is exposed to that allergen, like cat dander, again and again, the symptoms will be manifested.

However, for children with food allergies, the symptoms may not be consistent. This may be due to a food intake threshold that needs to be met in order for symptoms to appear. Even more complex, these thresholds can vary from day to day.

What Can Parents Do?

Parents of children with ADHD should contact their child’s doctor to request allergy tests. In accordance with research, parents should ask for a test that identifies IgE and IgG antibodies to ensure that they have received the most comprehensive evaluation for their child. Parents should monitor their child’s diet, and note if the child experiences ADHD symptoms after eating certain foods.

Also, parents should look for other physical symptoms of food allergies such as reddened earlobes, dark circles under the eyes, and weariness. Parents can observe children and assess them for allergies to help determine the probable source of increased ADHD symptoms. Placing children on a restrictive diet may be the first step in identifying foods that may cause allergies in children with ADHD.

Herbal and Vitamin formulas designed to help with ADHD symptoms are often an effective alternative to medication. focus formula is a product that many families dealing with ADHD children have found helpful.

More than ADHD and food allergies on our food and ADHD page.