The Feingold Diet and Other Alternative Treatments for ADHD

    Updated 05 December 2021 |
    Published 12 December 2019
    Fact Checked
    Medically reviewed by Dr. Sara Ritchie, Assistant professor of pediatrics, Medical University of South Carolina, South Carolina, US
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    Do you wonder if there are ADHD treatments other than medicine and behavior therapy? We asked Dr. Sara Ritchie for her thoughts on alternative treatment options like elimination diets, chiropractic therapy, memory training, and more.

    Can changing your diet help treat ADHD?

    Dr. Ritchie says that diet’s effect on ADHD is what researchers are in the midst of testing, and it’s a pretty controversial topic:

    “A lot of studies have not shown that it helps, but there have been some smaller cohort studies that have shown that potentially there are some foods that you can avoid to help your symptoms.”

    Some of those foods include:

    • Food additives
    • Potential food allergens
    • Saturated fatty acids
    • Excessive iron
    • Excessive zinc
    • Refined sugar

    Dr. Ritchie says avoiding these foods and substances hasn’t been proven to help at a clinically significant level, but the one that looks the most promising would be avoiding excess sugar and food additives like artificial colors. 

    “And what some experts have recommended is that you can trial an elimination diet, so try eliminating food additives. Do this for about five weeks, definitely under the supervision of your provider and/or a dietician, to see if that helps. And if it does, you continue with the diet. If it doesn’t, you stop and resume your normal life, and there are other therapies to try,” Dr. Ritchie suggests.

    What is the Feingold diet for ADHD?

    The Feingold diet is an elimination diet. It was created by Benjamin Feingold, a pediatric allergist. He created the food allergen elimination diet in the 1970s with a specific focus on salicylates, artificial food colorings, artificial flavors, and preservatives like BHA and BHT. 

    “Again, it wasn’t proven to have a clinically significant change of the symptoms, but there are some smaller groups of people who have found it to be beneficial,” explains Dr. Ritchie.

    Can chiropractic help with ADHD?

    Chiropractic is an alternative treatment of joints and muscles through manipulation of the spine and other parts of the body.

    Dr. Ritchie says that chiropractor therapy is a part of CAM (complementary and alternative medicine), and a lot of those therapies are used very commonly by patients. But there’s not a lot of literature that supports it being a clinically significant addition to your therapy. Some people think it’s helpful, and it’s especially important for them to find a chiropractor who specializes in pediatric care.

    Mindfulness for ADHD

    This is another therapy that hasn’t been proven effective by clinical research.

    “Some people try things like practicing mindfulness, which is basically similar to meditation. You’re practicing being aware of your thoughts, your emotions, or your experiences to help self-regulate your ADHD symptoms.”

    On a final note

    Dr. Ritchie concludes, “People have tried all of these therapies, and some have found them helpful. And certainly, if you find something helpful then that’s wonderful. We just don’t have clinical research to support these therapies.” 

    History of updates

    Current version (05 December 2021)

    Medically reviewed by Dr. Sara Ritchie, Assistant professor of pediatrics, Medical University of South Carolina, South Carolina, US

    Published (12 December 2019)

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