The Role of Food Allergies and Food Sensitivities in ADHD
Dwight Franklin, DOM
It is my estimation that about 9 out of every 10 phone calls I get from parents inquiring about my services are calling because they are looking for natural, holistic ways of helping their child's hyperactivity, impulsivity, and focus concerns. I very quickly explain to them that while we can make tremendous strides in those areas of concern through the implementation of very specific nutraceuticals, there is nothing that will be more beneficial to helping their child than a very individualized food therapy program.
In a previous blog post I explained that my favorite lab test to start families out with is neurotransmitter testing. It is a great lab test to show where the child or adult is currently at in regards to excesses and deficiencies in their various neurotransmitters. However, it does not go far enough in explaining why they may have these imbalances in neurotransmitters in the first place. Often when I see deficiencies or excesses within certain neurotransmitters I think nutritional deficiencies or excesses of certain nutrients respectively. Basically, when there is a deficiency the person is lacking certain vitamins, minerals, and amino acids that create that specific neurotransmitter and when there is an excess the person is consuming too much of certain vitamins, minerals, and amino acids that create that specific neurotransmitter. But there can be another potential cause, IGE-mediated food allergies and IGG-mediated food sensitivities.
When a person has a IGE mediated food allergy, also called a true allergy, there is an immediate immune response by the body. This may present itself as inflammation of the skin such as hives or eczema, inflammation of the respiratory system as you see when a person's throat closes after eating a peanut, or even inflammation of the brain with behavioral changes such as meltdowns. Parents are often aware of food allergies because the negative responses are immediate and easily linked back to the food that was eaten. Food sensitivities are slightly different.
Food sensitivities are what we call a delayed response by the immune system. Often the delay of a reaction to the food is 24-72 hours after ingesting that food. This makes it harder for parents, or the person having the reaction, to link the problematic response by the body back to the specific food. An example would be that a child has pizza with dairy and gluten on Sunday night and then is fine at school on Monday and Tuesday. And then Wednesday comes and OH BOY...Tantrums, lack of focus, and hyperactivity ensue but the parents are lost as to why the sudden change in behavior.
Both Food Allergies (IGE Allergies) and Food Sensitivities (IGG Allergies) can be tested with the appropriate, functional medicine lab work which we have access to here at Franklin Family Wellness Institute. Once the results of the lab work are received and foods that are creating the inflammation are removed, results can be incredibly life changing for the person. We have found tremendous results clinically in our office in working with both children and adults with brain health concerns through Food Allergy and Food Sensitivity Lab testing. We do not "treat" ADHD as ADHD is a medical diagnosis that only medical doctors can "treat". What we can do is greatly help many of these patients by removing the root cause of their hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention. That root cause is so often inflammation and that inflammation often comes from food. But please do not just take my word for it...
In a randomized controlled study done in the Netherlands in 2011, children age 4-8 years old diagnosed previously with ADHD were randomly assigned to either a restricted elimination diet group or a control group. 64% of the children in the elimination diet group showed significant improvement in all measure ratings of ADHD. Participants who had very positive results then went on to another trial in which they added back in the food sensitivities for each child. A relapse of symptoms were found in nearly two-thirds of the children.
I have found that it is very important for families to work with a health care practitioner who can help the family navigate this process of eliminating food allergies and sensitivities. Not only because they are trained to read the lab tests but also because it can be overwhelming to families to remove various foods without creating new nutrient deficiencies. You do not want to remove one problem only to create another. After working with these tests for over a decade I have been able to assist families at finding healthy foods to replace the problematic foods, making sure the patient's nutritional needs are met, and coming up with fun recipes that eliminate the allergies and sensitivities but still keep the patient happy and enjoying food.
If you live in the state of Florida and we can assist your family in any way please call us at (407) 755-3135. If you live outside of Florida please find a practitioner in your state who can help you receive the best possible care for you or your child's specific needs. Most importantly do not try to do these interventions alone.
(This Blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any illness. It is for informational purposes only. Only work with qualified health professionals in meeting your health needs.)