Nutrition and ADHD


To view the full article (Connecting ADHD and Nutrition) discussed in the video, visit Experience Life.

Dr. Bock on WPIX Channel 11:


The current epidemics of ADHD/ADD and autism offer a perfect example of the difference between conventional/pharmaceutical medicine and integrative/functional medicine.

Building on the ground breaking work of Dr. Ben Feingold who found that food dyes and additives can trigger ADHD symptoms, further researchers have broadened and confirmed that work. In 2004, Dr. David Schab at Columbia looked at all the placebo-controlled, double-blind studies on the subject,

Our study showed that the average effect on children’s behavior was distinctly larger than the more widely recognized effect of typical lead exposures on children’s cognition. Untold billions of dollars have been spent to remove lead from gasoline and paint, but hardly any outcry, attention, or resources have been mobilized to remove artificial dyes from the food supply.
- Dr. David Shabb

Another contributing factor appears to be food allergy/sensitivity. Dr. Lidy Pelsser of The ADHD Research Center in the Netherlands did a trial of a hypoallergenic diet in 50 ADHD children in 2011. Sixty-four percent improved on the diet and relapsed when the diet was discontinued,

We think that intervention should be considered for all children with ADHD, provided parents are willing to follow a diagnostic restricted elimination diet for a five-week period, and provided expert supervision is available. Children who react favorably to this diet should be diagnosed with food-induced AHDH.

- Dr. Lidy Pelsser

Interestingly, despite this evidence the FDA voted against warning labels for the food additives, whereas the European regulatory bodies endorsed labeling. These phenolic compounds are detoxified by a process called sulfation, and using nutritional agents that enhance sulfation may be beneficial as well.

One can see the difference between the conventional approach of adding a medication to control ADHD symptoms as opposed to the integrative model of removing phenols or allergic foods to reduce neuro-excitation.

Another study performed by Dr. Julia Rucklidge of the University of Canterbury in New Zealand employed a comprehensive formula of micro-nutrients and found a significant reduction of ADHD symptoms without the side effects of medication. These results were confirmed in a subsequent placebo-controlled study with eighty patients. Of course, working with an integrative practitioner with experience treating ADHD offers the possibility of a more targeted approach using agents like fish oil, B12 and pycnogenol. Dr. Rucklidge noted that some of the treated patients didn’t function as well when they had a yeast infection. This points to a common finding by integrative physicians that intestinal health can have a major impact on neurobehavioral issues, and that balancing the gastrointestinal tract with changes in diet or treating the flora can lead to improved behavior.

ADHD allergenic foods

Besides avoiding allergenic foods, another commonly employed dietary strategy is the elimination of gluten and casein. In his book, ‘Healing the New Childhood Epidemics’, Dr. Bock discusses at length the impact that gluten and casein may have and the benefits of eliminating them. In addition, diets that are high in sugars and starches can exacerbate ADHD because of problems such as hypoglycemia and the disturbances of intestinal flora. In severe or refractory cases, a more extreme regimen such as the specific carbohydrate or GAPS diet can have profound effects.

Another area where nutritional issues may impact neurologic function is the presence of toxins in our diets. Organic foods help avoid pesticide residues and avoiding tuna and other large fish reduces exposure to mercury.

ADHD nutrition

It is obvious that there are a variety of dietary/nutritional interventions to address ADHD withouthaving to resort to the use of medication. The job of the integrative practitioner is to guide the patient/parents toward the most effective regimen.