Attention Deficit, Hyperactivity Issues?: Addressing Diet, GI Tract Issues Could Provide an Alternative Treatment Option


by Dr. Michael Boss

In my practice, I have worked with many children who have a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ ADHD). I often hear parents say, “He (or she) didn’t used to be like this!” The parents, understandably, are at a loss. They receive notes from teachers, have frustrations and struggles at home, and they finally succumb to mind-numbing medications to help regulate their “uncontrollable” child.

It is a stressful, frustrating and agonizing experience for everyone involved.

In my practice, through years of working with ADD/ADHD children, teens and adults, I have observed one common denominator: the foods they eat.

A Different Approach

In a nutshell, most ADD/ADHD patients I have worked with have gut issues. This means they have some combination of gastrointestinal (GI) issues. For example, they digest food poorly, have inflammatory issues, food sensitivities, skin irritations, bloating and foul smelling gas and/ or alternating bowel habits.

A proper evaluation of history, diet intake and lifestyle is important to determine how to address the causes, which can include malnutrition, poor GI function and inflammation production. These issues impair the function of areas in the brain that control focus, behavior, anger and self-control. The result is a youngster who struggles with concentration, has trouble staying within specified boundaries, has sleep issues and struggles with many aspects of home and school life.

Start with the GI Tract

Mounting research indicates that the overall function and activity of the GI tract plays a major role in problems like ADD/ADHD. Faulty production of digestive juices leads to inferior digestion of the foods we eat, which sets the stage for bloating, inflammation, food sensitivities and a leaky gut. These kids normally have poor gut flora balance. The good bacterial colonies residing in your gut play key roles in the development of cancer, asthma, allergies, obesity, diabetes, autoimmune diseases and even brain, behavioral and emotional problems like ADHD, autism and depression.

Restoring and maintaining the beneficial flora can help reverse and even eliminate these issues. Constipation and/or diarrhea are also big indicators of poor GI function. Normal bowel movements are very important to overall health.

Look at the Diet

Recent research shows that your diet, regardless of age, plays a tremendous role in your overall health and wellness, including the production and function of neurotransmitters that affect your brain. You have heard the old adage, “You are what you eat.” I like to take that a step further by saying, “You are what you digest and absorb from what you eat.”

The standard American diet, filled with low-nutrient, inflammatory carbohydrates, processed sugars, poor protein sources and bad trans fats, is packed with ADD/ADHD stimulating grenades. Research indicates that one exposure to many of the adverse compounds used in processed and packaged foods can cause detrimental effects on the body for six weeks. Think about the effects of multiple exposures per day.

The Gluten Issue

The term “wheat gluten” represents a conglomerate of tens of thousands of potentially harmful proteins that are all capable of wreaking havoc on the body. Commercialized and processed wheat flours and products are in nearly every processed food, most of them touted as “healthy.”

Modern wheat is very different from its ancestors. Most wheat grown today is a byproduct of three different ancestral wheat varieties combined into one. The flour used in most processed foods and breads today comes from a hybridized form of wheat that seems to be responsible for causing an increasing number of people to experience serious health problems, including things like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), brain fog and hyperactivity disorders.

A 2005 study published in the journal Plant Physiology stated that modern wheat is capable of producing at least 23,788 different protein varieties. Each one of those is capable forming immune-triggering reactions within the body.

Food Additives

Chemicals that are added to foods are some of the biggest problems for children with ADD/ADHD. Tertiary Butylhydroquinone, or TBHQ, is used in many foods, ranging from crackers to crisps to fast foods. It is also found in certain brands of pet foods, in cosmetic and baby skincare products, varnishes, lacquers and resins. It is added to delay the onset of rancidness and greatly extends the storage life of foods. The problem is that it has been shown to cause hyperactivity in children as well as asthma, rhinitis and dermatitis. It may also further aggravate ADHD symptoms and cause restlessness.

Allura Red AC, or Red 40, is the most common red dye used in foods manufactured in the U.S. It is found in things like sodas, cough syrup, candy and cereals. If a food product targets children, it most likely contains Allura Red AC. The dye is banned or discouraged in parts of Europe as studies have shown a link between Allura Red C and ADHD and other hyperactive disorders.

There is also tartrazine, also known as Yellow 5. More allergic reactions are caused by tartrazine than any other food dye. Symptoms like migraines, depression, itching and blurred vision are common. Some research has suggested a link to behavioral issues, cancer and damaged organs. It is banned in some areas of Europe but legal in the U.S. and Canada.

Getting on the Right Track

First, don’t try to create a treatment program based on diet and supplementation on your own. Instead, find a qualified practitioner who will build a program that is workable for you and your child. Many parents need an “authority figure” who they can defer to when it comes to introducing and enforcing new eating habits. “Reasoning” with an ADHD child when it comes to food can be difficult. When I work with parents, I play the authority figure role to take that burden off the parents.

Eating habits are very important, but even more important is healing a damaged GI system. Healing a leaky gut, restoring normal gastric enzyme production and establishing a beneficial flora environment is essential to overcoming ADD/ADHD. It isn’t as easy as buying and taking supplements. Knowing the right products and doses to use for the individual is a huge part of the healing process. That’s another reason working closely with a qualified, experienced practitioner is so important.

Dr. Michael Boss, DCDr. Michael Boss has been a practicing chiropractor and wellness practitioner for more than 23 years. He is co-founder of Elevate Life, and he provides wellness, weight loss and healthy treatment programs that focus on functional health care, Diabetes prevention and treatment, nutrition, acupuncture, exercise, hormone function and balance, chronic diseases, nutriceuticals and more. He is available for consultation at the Elevate Life Integrative Health Club. Call 210-490-2223 or 210-264-2570 for an individual consultation, or visit to learn more.

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