ADHD and the Gluten Free Diet: Could it Be the Answer?

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ADHD and the Gluten Free Diet

ADHD and the gluten free diet have been in the news lately, but is it reasonable to assume that a restricted diet, such as a gluten free diet could really improve the symptoms of ADHD? Usually those who are recommended to follow a gluten free diet have a gluten intolerance or Celiac Disease. Celiac disease can cause a huge mix of symptoms, and the symptoms of ADHD can certainly be similar to some of the behavioral changes that take place in kids with Celiac disease. Many children with Celiac disease have nutritional deficiencies, such as anemia caused by inadequate iron absorption. Anemia is known to cause a lack of concentration in children. In addition, B vitamin deficiencies and magnesium deficiencies are very common in kids with celiac, both of which can cause behavioral changes similar to ADHD. Add to that the fact that most Celiac disease sufferers are undiagnosed, and you might just come to the conclusion that some kids who are thought to have ADHD actually suffer from a gluten intolerance or Celiac disease.

Could A Gluten Free Diet Be the Answer?

While not every child with ADHD behaviors is low in iron, magnesium, or B vitamins, and certainly not all kids with an ADHD diagnosis have Celiac disease, many kids might improve with a gluten free diet. Those who have celiac and have not been diagnosed would definitely improve with a gluten free diet once intestinal healing and better nutrient absorption takes place. Those who have food allergies to wheat or other foods that include gluten could also see behavioral improvements on a gluten free diet. Since food allergies and intolerances are known to significantly affect behavior in both children and adults, addressing any food allergies or intolerances could improve the symptoms of ADHD. If a parent notices other signs of gluten sensitivity, such as chronic hives, irritability, diarrhea, stomach pains, or constipation, gluten or wheat, as well as other food sensitivities could very well be an issue. If a child’s ADHD symptoms are due to a food allergy or intolerance, like gluten or wheat, the child will certainly benefit from a gluten free diet.

If a parent feels that gluten intolerance is an issue with his or her child, a diagnosis of gluten sensitivity can be made with a blood test and intestinal biopsy. In order for the testing to be accurate, the child must still be eating gluten. If a parent isn’t interested in obtaining a diagnosis, and would like to try a gluten free diet to see if there are improvements to the ADHD symptoms, the parent should be aware that in order to be tested in the future, the child will have to go back to a diet containing gluten for a period of time before an accurate blood test or biopsy can be done.

Resources

1. The Gluten File: ADHD