ADHD illustration
Elson Haas, MD
written by
Elson Haas, MD

May 19, 2018

Article Tags: lifestyle | children's health | integrative medicine clinic

ADHD, Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, has become more common in recent decades. It is more common in children, and three to one in boys over girls, and also becoming more common in young and older adults. Though genetics and personality may be factors, there are definitely strong correlations with poor diet and the overuse of salt, sugar, sodas and other beverages containing caffeine, refined foods, and food chemicals. There may be food allergies or hypersensitivities, and often there are deficiencies in minerals, such as potassium, zinc, magnesium, and manganese, as well as some of the B vitamins. All the distractions of our modern, high-tech world may also play a role.

Most books on clinical ecology and pediatric allergy include some discussion of hyperactivity and suggest positive results with nutritionally-based treatments. Hyperactivity is usually viewed as a positive stimulatory reaction of the food addiction phase of allergy, as a response to repeated intake of foods or chemicals. During withdrawal phases, there is a temporary, further stimulation or depression; with clinical improvement, the hyperactive state can be duplicated with positive food tests to “challenge” the child. I believe that most, though not all, hyperactivity problems are related to these allergy-addiction states.

The late Dr. Benjamin Feingold, a pediatric allergist, was astute enough to pick up the presence of poor diet and allergies in many of his cases of hyperactivity in children. His evaluation of food allergies, nutrient deficiencies, lead and other metal toxicity, and sensitivity to sugar, food colorings and preservatives, and salicylates gave him the insight to create his special diet plan, which has been effective for many of his and other doctors’ patients. When parents of hyperactive children have fed their kids the Feingold diet, they have seen some positive results; however, the Feingold program does not work for all of them.

Common food allergy reactions associated with hyperactivity are to wheat, corn, milk, and eggs, and sometimes the other gluten-containing grains, including rye and barley. All of these foods are avoided with the Feingold diet, as are soft drinks; sugar and processed foods; foods containing chemicals, especially coloring agents and in particular yellow dye #5 (contains tartrazine, chemically related to a salicylate); and fruits and vegetables that are high in natural salicylates, which include peaches, plums, prunes, nectarines, grapes, raisins, cherries, apples, apricots, strawberries, tomatoes, and cucumbers. This special diet also calls for an increase in quality protein and a decrease in refined carbohydrates along with “orthomolecular” nutrient therapy.

The Nutritional Approach to Hyperactivity

This focuses on the B vitamins, particularly niacin, pyridoxine, and pantothenic acid, along with extra vitamins C and E, zinc, manganese, magnesium, calcium, and chromium. L amino acids may be helpful. Herbal texts suggest red clover blossom tea as a good calming herb for children with this condition; chamomile may also be helpful. Ritalin, a stimulant drug, apparently has a paradoxical calming effect in hyperactive children, but it has many side effects and is definitely the treatment of last resort. Still, the stimulant drugs like Ritalin, Adderall, and Concerta appear to work well to improve focus and brain function while calming down the children and adults.

Overall, a healthy lifestyle can be beneficial in balancing mood and energy and improving health overall. We mention a good, balanced, and hypoallergenic diet as a basis. Physical activity also helps. If we can gather the motivation to exercise regularly, it is usually energizing and helps bring about an improved sense of peace and optimism. Beginning with nature hikes, walking with the head up and the shoulders back, along with deep breathing of fresh air will definitely change our energy. Learning relaxation and meditation can also help people with ADHD.


  • Food Reaction Tests—Antibody Levels or Cell Reactions
  • Stool Test for Yeast—with Culture and Sensitivity
  • Digestive Analysis for proper Function and Ecology
  • Urine Test for Yeast and Bacterial Metabolites
  • Blood Cell Mineral Measurement for Magnesium, Potassium, and more
  • Hair Analysis as Screen for Lead and Mercury Toxicity



What to include as diet and supplements:

  • Multi-Vitamin/Mineral
  • Magnesium
  • Fish Oils—EPA & DHA
  • Lecithin—Choline and Inositol
  • Vitamin C
  • Probiotics (Healthy Bacteria)
  • Elimination Diet

What to avoid:

  • Refined Sugar—Cane and Corn Syrup
  • Cow’s Milk
  • Wheat and Wheat Products as a Trial
  • Craved and Habitual Foods
  • Other Possible Food Reactions—Peanuts, Citrus, Eggs, Soy, and Chocolate
  • Artificial Coloring Agents
  • Additives that affect Neurological Function
  • MSG (Monosodium Glutamate)
  • Aspartame
  • Artificial Flavors

Stay Healthy!


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