Feingold Diet for ADHD Children: How Change in Diet Could Help ADHD Symptoms

A Brief Background on Feingold

Born on June 15, 1899 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Dr. Benjamin Feingold was a witness and participant in crucial milestones in the medical world. After a fellowship at the University of Goettingen in Germany, he worked under Clement von Pirquet, the man who created the term "allergy."

Feingold’s specializations are in pediatrics and infectious diseases. While working as Chief of Allergy at the Kaiser Permanente, he discovered that patients who are sensitive to aspirin also demonstrated physical reactions to certain foods and most food additives. Dr. Feingold theorized that such foods and substances heighten the symptoms of many disorders, including ADHD. He developed a program that serves as guide in creating diets for children who suffer from various illnesses. This program, which he originally called KP Diet, has been found to be an excellent guide in formulating a diet for children with ADHD. Dr. Feingold died on March 23, 1982 but he left behind an army of advocates for the Feingold diet.

The Feingold Diet

The Feingold diet for hyperactivity is categorized by nutritionists as a type of elimination diet. That is, the Feingold diet identified the foods and other substances that should be eliminated in the diet for ADHD children. The key points in Feingold’s ADHD diet are the following:

  • Salicylates – These are substances produced by plants to protect against many types of soil bacteria. The most common type of salicylate is aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) and it is used to counteract inflammation. Unfortunately, many people cannot tolerate aspirin. This sensitivity should compel them to avoid other forms of salicylates, such as methyl salicylate (oil of wintergreen, any product that has mint or has minty flavor). Some of the foods that contain significant amounts of salicylates are tomatoes, strawberries, and almonds.
  • Sugars – The Feingold diet for ADHD in children does not completely reject sugars but these should be taken in moderation. Sugar should be avoided when the stomach is empty. Most importantly, when the parent finds that the child does not react well to sugar, any food that has sugar should be completely avoided. Substitutes such as aspartame and other artificial sweeteners should also be avoided.
  • Food additives – Some food additives provide artificial flavor and artificial color while others are added to food to prolong the shelf-life. These preservatives (such as BHT and BHQ) and additives are suspected of exacerbating the symptoms of ADHD in children. The Feindgold’s ADHD diet completely prohibits any food that has synthetic food additives. Thus, when buying ingredients, it is recommended that parents should carefully look at the labels to ensure that no synthetic additives are present.

The Feingold diet cannot be considered as an alternative to medicine but it may reduce the dosage of ADHD medications. Before embarking on any diet, it is recommended that parents should first consult their children’s pediatrician.