Is the Feingold Diet Effective for ADHD? Here’s What You Should Know

It’s not news that diet has a lot to do with good health. But what you eat can also have an effect on behavior and learning ability. At least, that’s what the Feingold diet is about. What is it? Read on to learn more.
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feingold diet

What’s the Feingold Diet?

The Feingold diet eliminates foods that contain certain artificial flavors and additives. The diet was developed by Dr. Benjamin Feingold, a pediatric allergist, in the 1970s. Feingold believed that many children’s behavior problems were caused by food additives, and he created the diet as a way to eliminate these problems.

The diet has three main rules: eliminate artificial coloring, flavorings, and preservatives; avoid synthetic fragrances; and eat only fresh, unprocessed foods. The Feingold diet has been shown to be effective for some children with behavioral problems, although it is not a cure-all.

Some children may also be sensitive to other food ingredients, such as natural salicylates, which are found in some fruits and vegetables. For these children, the Feingold diet may need to be modified to eliminate these additional trigger foods.

Feingold Diet and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)

The jury is still out on whether the Feingold diet actually works. Some studies have shown that the diet can improve behavior in children with ADHD, while other studies have not found any benefit. Symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder include: hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention. It’s possible that the diet may work for some children but not others. 

If you’re considering trying the Feingold diet, it’s important to speak with your child’s doctor or a registered dietitian first. They can help you determine if the diet is right for your child and offer guidance on how to implement it.

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What Are the Risks of the Feingold Diet?

The goal of the diet is to eliminate potential adverse reactions to foods, including hyperactivity, ADD/ADHD, and behavioral problems. While the Feingold diet has helped many people identify food intolerances, there are some risks associated with the program. For example, eliminating certain foods from the diet can lead to nutritional deficiencies.

The diet can be restrictive and may be difficult to follow long-term. This can lead to nutrient deficiencies if not done correctly. Second, eliminating certain foods from the diet may trigger food allergies in some children. If you’re considering the Feingold diet, be sure to speak with your child’s doctor or a registered dietitian to get started.

Phase 1: Removing Potential Triggers

The first step of the Feingold Diet is to remove potential triggers from your child’s diet. These include artificial colorings, flavorings, and preservatives as well as synthetic fragrances. You’ll also want to avoid processed foods and eat only fresh, unprocessed foods. This may sound daunting, but it’s actually not as difficult as it sounds. There are many foods that don’t contain these triggers, and you can find replacements for most of the foods that do.

For example, instead of processed cheese, you can buy organic cheddar cheese. Instead of candy, you can buy fruit leathers or dried fruit. There are also many Feingold-approved products available at health food stores and online.

Phase 2: Test Salicylates

The second phase of the diet is to reintroduce salicylates into the diet. Salicylates are found in some fruits and vegetables, as well as in some medications. They can cause adverse reactions in some people, so it’s important to test for them. The best way to do this is to eliminate all salicylates from your diet for a period of time, and then gradually reintroduce them.

If you find that your child reacts negatively to salicylates, you’ll need to go back to the first phase of the diet and eliminate them completely. If there are no adverse reactions, you can continue to eat foods that contain salicylates.

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How Long Should the Diet Last?

There’s no definitive answer to this question. The Feingold diet should result in improvements within a few weeks, usually 1-6 weeks. Some of the diet’s stipulations should be continued indefinitely. However, other aspects of the diet may only need to be followed for a short period of time.

Avoid Artificial Colorings, Flavorings, and Preservatives

Proponents of the Feingold diet claim that certain artificial food additives can cause hyperactivity, learning difficulties and other behavioral problems in children. The diet requires avoidance of all artificial flavorings, food dye, coloring, and sweeteners. While this may seem like a tall order, the diet does allow for the use of natural alternatives such as honey and maple syrup.

Avoid Fruits and Vegetables With High Levels of Salicylates

Salicylates are a natural compound found in some fruits and vegetables. They can also be found in fragrances, cosmetics, and medications. People who are sensitive to salicylates may experience symptoms such as hives, itching, swelling, asthma and headaches. The Feingold does not allow fruits like apples, apricots, cherries, grapes, berries, prunes, tangerines, oranges, peaches, plums, and tomatoes.

As far as vegetables are concerned, the diet does not allow for alfalfa, peppers, zucchini, spinach, cucumbers, squash, radishes and sweet potatoes.

Avoid Nuts, Seeds, and Spices

The Feingold diet also requires the avoidance of all nuts and seeds due to their potential to cause allergies. This includes peanuts, chestnuts, almonds and other nuts and seeds. Spices such as allspice, cumin, curry, pimento, rosemary, thyme, and turmeric should also be avoided.

Drinks to Avoid

Apart from colored sodas and sports drinks, the diet does not allow for alcoholic beverages, coffee, or tea. Fruit juices should be avoided as well.

Feingold Diet – What Can You Eat?

Substances such as stevia, xylitol and sorbitol are allowed in the Feingold diet. So, what can you eat?

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The list of allowed foods is actually quite long and includes many healthy, whole foods. Here’s the food list:

  • Fruits: bananas, cantaloupe, honeydew, kiwi, mango, papaya, pineapple, and watermelon are all allowed on the diet.
  • Vegetables: bean sprouts, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, green beans, lettuce, mushrooms, peas, sweet corn, potatoes, and onions.

Should You Implement the Feingold Diet?

While the diet has been shown to be effective for some people, there is still debate about whether or not it is necessary for everyone. Advocates of the diet claim that it can help to improve a wide range of conditions, including ADHD, asthma, and migraines. 

Critics, on the other hand, argue that the evidence is inconclusive and that the diet may be unnecessarily restrictive. Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to implement the Feingold diet should be made on an individual basis. Those who are considering the diet should speak with their doctor or a qualified nutritionist to see if it is right for them.

The diet is not recommended for pregnant women or young children without medical supervision. If you have any chronic health conditions, it’s also important to speak with your doctor before making any major changes to your diet. The risk of potentially serious complications is simply too high.

The Feingold Diet – The Bottom Line

Hyperactivity in children has been on the rise in recent years. Many parents are looking for natural ways to help their children focus and concentration. The Feingold diet is one possible solution that is worth considering. However, it’s important to speak with a healthcare professional before making any changes to your child’s diet. 

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