ADHD And Diet

Updated on March 03, 2010
E.M. asks from Boulder, CO
14 answers

I have a four year old daughter who was diagnosed with ADHD and some sensory integration problems (mostly vestibular that are related to hyperactivity). Every doctor/specialist seems to think their area of expertise holds the answer. The psychiatrist thinks medication is the answer, the psychologist thinks we need to take a behavioral approach, we are also doing OT which doesn't seem to be helping and the nutritionist thinks she could have a milk protein allergy that is causing her behavior. She is mostly a sweet, loving energetic girl but she has an extremely short attention span for anything she thinks is difficult or boring. She also has an extremely low frustration tolerance and gets angry very quickly over seemingly small things. She is not currently on any medication. Does anyone know about a casein free diet for ADHD and if it really might work? Any other tips/advice? Her moodiness is currently the biggest concern I have. Her moods dictate the mood of the entire family. Help!

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So What Happened?

Thanks everyone for all of the advice! We've been trying everything and are not against medication at all. Our first psychiatrist prescribed a stimulant which was terrible! She could easily be classified as "over-focused adhd" and AFTER I gave it to her I read stimulants and this type of adhd do not go well together. So we took her off of that after a hard month. Our next doc (second opinion) told us he would never prescribe stimulants for a four year old. He prescribed something for hyperactivity (clonidine) which just made her lethargic and tired. So we took her off that after a groggy month. Neither drug addressed her moodiness and the stimulant made her irritable on top of it. We are working with an OT, a therapist and have an appointment with a nutritionist next month. At this point we're going to look into every option except drugs until she is older. But I admit it, I was emotionally and physically exhausted and I wanted a quick fix.

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answers from Boston on

The American Academy of Pediatrics says that the only two evidence based approaches are medication and behavior modification. There are extensive studies saying that medications are safe and effective. They don't work for everyone, but they should not be dismissed out of hand if you haven't yet tried them. Dietary approaches have not been shown to be effective in studies although individuals will report anecdotally that it helps.
There are plenty of conditions/disabilities which are comorbid with ADHD that could be helped with other therapies and tactics but the core attentional problem would still be there.
Hope this was helpful.

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answers from New York on

Oh yes, my daughter has ADHD she is now 8 years old. When she was younger her behavior and moods were terrible, very stressful on the family. It is getting better. It would not hurt to try the diet intervention. My daughter does seem to get cranky when she eats alot of food with red dye in it, so we stay away from that, but it is not the cause of her ADHD and not the source of all her behavior issues. We generally don't eat any processed food anyway. It is my opinion that diet will not have an effect on ADHD as ADHD is a neurological disorder, there is a difference in the makeup of the brain of children with ADHD. I suggest that you read Edward Hallowell's book Driven to Distraction and the book Parenting Children with ADD. Another good book is The Survival Guide for kids with ADD or ADHD by John F. Taylor, PHD. I just purchased this one and I am reading it with my daughter. A good internet resource is alot of useful information on the site regarding different treatment methods ranging from behavior modification, diet, medication etc....and it has a forum that you can talk to other people who are touched by ADHD. Everyone is different what works for one child with ADHD may not work for another. My daughter does not take medication, at this time it did not help her, maby in the future it will be more helpful for her. We use alot of behavior intervention and it is not easy!!! On the other hand, My son also has ADD and he is on medication and he responds very well to it, this is the right treatment for him at this time, this also may change in the future. Learn everything that you can about ADHD and you will beable to make informative decision regarding your daughters treatment plan. Also just beaware, there is a higher incidence of learning disability in children with ADHD even though these children are usually 10 times brighter than the average child. Hang in there it does get better

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answers from Boise on

Yes. My first suggestion is to go and have her blood tested for allergies. Before you limit anything out of her diet. It will not show up if you have taken it out of her diet. Make sure she gets the blood test (the scratch test is basically useless).

Casein and Gluten are huge HUGE contributors to behavior. Have you watched her reaction after she has eaten anything with milk protein in it? Does she have more mood swings shortly after she has had anything with milk in it? Also watch Wheat. See what happens to her after she has had something with wheat.

My husband was just diagnosed with a wheat, cows milk, egg white allergy. We found out that all of his passing out, psoriasis and other body issues has all stemmed from this allergy. His parents had him in OT, the school wanted to put him into special classes because he was not able to focus, they had him on psoriasis medicine (which causes cancer if used for a long period of time), etc. etc.

My oldest son was diagnosed with a wheat allergy. He would get frustrated and not be able to handle anything. He could not sit still, and there were days last year where he would all of a sudden stand on his chair in class. We took wheat away and it was as if I had a completely different child.

There is a cookbook out there, I have not checked it out yet, but it is called Casein and Gluten Free cookbook for kids with Autism. Well we know our kids don't have autism, but to have a cookbook with those good recipes in it the name doesn't matter.

Before medicine try and see if they'll do a test for you. It is not that expensive and the switch is, after a few weeks at it, not that hard to do.



answers from Boise on


I used to work with special needs and I strongly recommend against drugs at her age. I would try behavioral therapy and keeping her challenged. I don't know about the diet but it is worth a try.

Those drugs are very strong, have bad side effects, and there are not enough studies to show how/if they are dangerous to little kids. Most of the drug studies are on adults.

Anyway, I had several, several kids on those kind of drugs and they stopped their hyperactivity and sat around drooling and sleepy (not kidding). So a lot of parents love those drugs. I am not saying that ritalin is bad, my brother takes it every other day for ADHD, but he is an adult and he can't stand it daily. He says it makes him lose his creative thinking skills when he is on it.

Hope this helps.



answers from Houston on

Get her some good quality fish oil to try before and medications. My 2 boys, 9 and 5, have been on it for 3 years for add/adhd symptoms. It helps with the moodiness, and almost no temper tantrums when they have taken their fish oil. Concentration for homework and reading is 100% better. We use Carlson fish oil because its pure and has very high dha/epa. My boys take 2 1/2 teaspoons morning and night with meals. This is more than suggested, but I believe it's safer than prescription medication.Order it online at Vitamin Shoppe and it's 50% cheaper than in the store.


answers from Dallas on

Hi Liza,
I would do the food allergy testing. Also avoid processed food--it's not good for anyone.
I can help you with some natural supplements if you are interested.



answers from Philadelphia on

It absolutely would not hurt to have her checked for allergies. My son has ADD and is allergic to milk. He can drink it and it doesn't affect him physically, but his mood changes, he becomes much more "bouncy" and aggressive. I can tell right away if he's had milk because of his behavior. We had him on a casein-free diet for about a year and it was great (the best he's ever been). But it's a super difficult diet to be on because milk and casein are in EVERYTHING! We stopped the diet because he's actually not too bad off it and it wasn't worth the disruptions to our household. But if you find your daughter does in fact have a milk protein allergy and the casein-free diet works for you, you should definitely try it.



answers from Phoenix on

My son was diagnosed with ADHD at age 2! Believe it or not the doc wanted to put him on meds at that age too. He's now 16 and has never been on meds. I found that food allergies made a huge difference. He was allergic to dairy, wheat, gluten and corn products. It was easier for me to figure it out because he had rashes and stomach issues along with neurological behavioral problems. I just recently had his food allergies cleared through acupuncture. He never outgrew any of his food allergies after all of these years. Good luck to you. You're a great mom!



answers from Denver on

Hi Liza,
Consider the souce and the training of the doctor and think outside of what you would normally turn to. Personally going to a chiropractor, I know and have seen changes in children with ADHD and unblocking the nerves and improving nutrition. I would recommend Dr Kevin P Noffsinger
10200 East Girard Avenue,Denver, CO 80231,###-###-####
or any Maximized Living Chiropractic care facility. You will learn about nutrition and how it is impacting your child and family.

89% of our childre have an adverse reaction to artifical food colorings and wheat/gluten is creating issues in many people these days.
In the mean time you may want to take a look at the webinar by Dr Sears:

I hope this helps.



answers from Denver on

I would check out or a Brain Balance center. Both can help without medication. We've done the first with wonderful changes, and are looking into the second for our second child who won't benefit from IM as much. We've already started some of the exercises with good success. I like that it's not major family changes, and relatively few appointments to get a permanent change. GL!



answers from Salt Lake City on

My son has similar issues and behaviors. He has ADHD and some sensory issues, and has had a lot of the same behaviors you describe. I chose (and my pediatrician agreed) to not persue a "formal" diagnosis or medication. He is now 9, and it has been an adventure! I have had to take every day at a time. I have also had to throw out expectations of "normal" or treating him like a child his age "should be" (and ignore all the comments from non-understanding family etc). I deal with what he needs that day at that moment.
Like I said, he's now 9. And things are pretty good. I never did any diet modifications, other than trying to make sure he eats a well-balanced diet. His teachers have been very understanding, mostly, and willing to work with him. I am definitely against medicating him unless there is no other way (and that is only a means to help, not the final solution).
You're going to be dealing with this long term. So make sure that however you deal with it, you're not expecting a quick solution. Ultimately, the goal is for her to learn to regulate herself (but this can take until she's an adult, though it definately gets better over time).



answers from Colorado Springs on

Hi Lisa,

I know that the diet has been successful for some parents on another parent chat site, parent-to-parent. Check out their site at



answers from Boise on

I would second the issues that no good studies back up diet for kids with ADHD. Kids with ADHD often have more intense moods than other kids - which is often where the behavioral interventions come into play. Help her learn to regulate her attention, and she will regulate her mood better too! Things people don't often think about are yoga for kids, as it teaches them how to integrate their mood/thoughts and attention span through calming the body. Good luck to you and your family.


answers from Missoula on

Hi, I have a friend who has 4 sons and her oldest was going to public school when they told her he had to be medicated because he had ADHD. Well, kids are naturally bored with learning if it is not fun. So, what she did was start homeschooling because in order to keep her son is school, he had to be medicated, but that was not the answer. She changed his and the other 3 boys' diets by removing anything that had preservatives, dyes, and phosphates in it, and her kids are much calmer and easier to handle now because of it. I wouldn't let some doctor tell you that your 4 year old daughter has ADHD. ADHD is so overrated. If your daughter is hard to handle, she just has a strong personality and maybe needs a different kind of discipline. Any kid can be handled without medication. My son also had a very strong personality and I bought the book "To Train Up A Child" by Debi and Mike Pearl. It's working and everyone is much happier. Hope this helps.

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