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ADHD Hyperactivity or Food Allergy?

By: Julia Pendower - Updated: 28 Aug 2012 | comments*Discuss
Food Allergy Adhd Food Intolerance

Your child is clearly hyperactive, cannot sit still, and seems to have trouble paying attention to anything or anyone. It is causing problems at school, and your child's teacher has suggested that there may be a more serious issue underlying the problem than simple bad behaviour. They may have suggested that Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder might be something you should consider, and that a visit to your doctor might be in order. But before you take this step, are there any other possible explanations?

The simple answer is 'Yes'.

Possible Causes of Hyperactivity

Hyperactivity is a term that describes restless children who are easily distracted and who have a knack for being totally disruptive at home and at school. There are many possible causes of hyperactivity that should be ruled out before a possible diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is sought.

The Bright Child

Normal children who are very bright will have a tendency towards hyperactive behaviour when they are enclosed or restrained, and sheer boredom and a lack of sufficient stimulation can result in them resisting rigid classroom protocols and becoming highly disruptive. However, a predominantly impulsive-hyperactive ADHD child will show additional behaviours such as mood swings, a tendency to outbursts of rage and sometimes violence as well as a range of problems caused by inattention traits. However, some of these behaviours can be shown by children where there is a high level of frustration at being bored and permanently in trouble.

Food Allergy or Food Intolerance

Before exploring the 'Bright child' or ADHD options further, it is worthwhile for parents to fully review their child's diet to try and find out if some form of food allergy or food intolerance could be responsible for their hyperactivity.

Excessive Caffeine Intake

Caffeine in a child's diet is a major problem, whether a child suffers form ADHD or not. Few parents will allow their child to drink tea or coffee because of their caffeine content, and yet many parents will think little of allowing their child to drink a can of cola every day. Coca cola contains 44 mg of caffeine per 330 ml can, and Pepsi contains slightly less at 38 mg per can. Energy drinks such as Red Bull contain even higher levels, but are freely available in supermarkets and corner shops. So why does this matter?

One particular study found that an intake of one can or less of a caffeine containing cola increased ADHD scores in a child by 252%, a massive increase. Fortunately the solution is simple: stop allowing your child to drink products that contain caffeine. Decaffeinated tea, coffee and cola's are widely available everywhere. Once your child has got used to the alternatives they won't miss the extra stimulation, and it is probable that your child's teachers will thank you for a massive improvement in their behaviour.

Excess Sugar Intakes

'Sugar' is often blamed by parents for hyperactive behaviour as they observe that when their child eats sugar rich foods, the behaviour of their child can rapidly deteriorate. However, what parents do not tend to consider is that sugar rich foods are usually laden with additives. Whilst excessive sugar in the diet is not good and can make a child become overweight and obese, studies show that when pure simple sugars such as glucose or sucrose are given to children, children tend to be sedated, unchanged or even show a decrease in physical activity. As such, sugar alone is unlikely to be the culprit for hyperactive behaviour.

Food Additives and Food Allergy

There is growing scientific evidence that some additives and ingredients in foods can produce a food allergy in susceptible children and adults. Every human being is different, and minor changes in the way that individuals process certain foods can make one food ingredient fine in one person and produce problems in another.

Food ingredients have been named as possible culprits in children's behavioural problems include a food allergy to food dyes, glutamate and a wide range of aromatic compounds related to chemicals called benzene. Some natural substances can have high levels of these ingredients and produce problems too: for example, cinnamon can trigger hyperactivity and headaches in people.

Getting rid of all caffeinated drinks, crisps, snacks and sweets that are high in food additives is a very good place to start and to see if there is any marked changes or improvements in behaviour over a long period of at least several months. When a food allergy occurs, the symptoms may take hours or days to appear.

When to Look for Other Causes

When all possible steps have been taken to rule out the possibility of food allergy as a cause of hyperactivity and behavioural problems, it may be time to start exploring other possibilities such as ADHD.

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