ADHD and Food Allergies

In recent years, a possible correlation between ADHD and food allergies is being discussed more and more due to results of extensive testing and clinical research. The symptoms of food allergies and ADHD are strikingly similar and raise the question of whether some people are being misdiagnosed with ADHD, when they may be having a natural reaction to or even an allergic reaction to food, food additives, or dyes which is provoking such symptoms.

Diet and the Brain

Food choices can detrimentally affect the levels of brain neurotransmitters and hormones, which are vitally important in the regulation of mood, sleep, appetite, attention and impulse control. Certain foods are known to contribute to hyperactivity and anger issues, two signs or symptoms often associated with ADHD. Some of these foods implicated in ADHD and food allergies are:

Milk and Cheese

Dairy products contain a chemical called casein which researchers suspect may play a role in increasing symptoms of ADHD due to casein intolerance. In individuals who are unable to fully breakdown the proteins in casein, a substance remains in their system that eventually produces opium-like symptoms, such as the characteristic "spaciness" and poor attention span exhibited in those diagnosed with ADHD. Coincidently, quite a few people suffering from ADHD after reducing the amount of dairy products in their diet, experienced enhanced cognitive abilities and less "brain fog".

Wheat, Rye and Barley

Gluten-Sensitive Enteropathy, or Celiac disease, is caused by the protein gluten found in foods containing wheat, rye and barley. When someone suffers from this disease for several years without a proper diagnosis, (as with many instances of ADHD and food allergies) damage is done to parts of the intestine responsible for absorbing necessary nutrients. Thus, the person is unable to take in these nutrients and suffers from many symptoms such as:

  • malnourishment
  • poor growth
  • developmental delays
  • abdominal ailments
  • bloating

Because the body is not receiving the vitamins essential to healthy development, the brain is also directly affected by this lack of nutrients and begins to malfunction. Learning problems and poor attention span in children begin to manifest in school, causing problems in relationships and progress of childhood self-esteem. In several research studies, children who eliminated gluten from their diet showed significant improvement in these areas once thought to be ADHD-related.

Food Allergies in General

Allergic reactions to food can be caused by any kind of food, but some foods are more commonly seen in cases of severe food allergy. A tie between ADHD and food allergies is definitely something to consider because of those physical symptoms seen in both ADHD and food allergies.

Children with learning-behavioral issues often have chronic sinus, coughing and ear problems, both of which can be symptoms of ongoing food allergies. Emerging from these health issues are school-related problems which begin affecting children with ADHD as soon as they begin kindergarten. Restlessness, aggression, distractibility and apparent laziness are traits attributed to a child without teachers or parents who understand the root cause of these issues. Several other symptoms that are not usually connected with ADHD food allergies are:

  • halitosis
  • migraines
  • bed-wetting
  • seizures

Testing for Food Allergies and ADHD

Unless the allergy is immediately detected, it may be difficult to pinpoint an exact food allergy that may be causing ADHD symptoms in a child or adult. Allergy tests can be unpredictable also, which results in some false positives and negatives. However, one interesting side note of food allergies is that research has discovered that people are more likely to crave the same foods which are producing their allergic symptoms!

At-home allergy tests can also be conducted under a physician's supervision by eliminating one type of food from the diet every few weeks and closely monitoring any behavioral, physical or cognitive changes that may occur from this change.

Exploring the relationship between ADHD and food allergies is a serious new field of study that can reduce and perhaps even eliminate the need for continual medication and its side effects if someone diagnosed with ADHD is discovered to be allergic to certain foods.


› ADHD and Food Allergies

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