Half way through kindergarten, it became painfully obvious that my son had issues with behaviour, concentration and hyperactivity. After hours upon hours of research, I decided to give the very complex Feingold diet a trial to see if my son’s suspected ADHD would improve.
In the early 1970’s Dr Benjamin Feingold, Chief Emeritus of the ‘Department of Allergies’ at the ‘Kaiser Foundation Hospital,’ speculated that particular foods and additives could trigger ADHD. Feingold made claims that once 30 to 50 percent of patients experiencing symptoms of hyperactivity were placed on an extreme food elimination diet, symptoms of ADHD had rapidly decreased. In his studies, Dr Fein gold had purposefully eliminated preservatives, colours, and salicylate’s from the diet’s of his patients.
The Fein-gold diet is a salicylate free, colour free, preservative free, sweetener free diet. Salicylate’s are natural chemicals found in fruits and vegetables. The list of vegetables and fruits containing salicylate’s that your child will be unable to eat will seem never-ending.
The diet exists in stages, and stage one is known as the elimination process. During this process, you must cut out all salicylate’s, which means meal times will be very bland for at least a week. During stage one, you can introduce salicylate’s one at a time to confirm which salicylate’s your child can or cannot tolerate. However, after watching my son react to particular salicylate’s, I did notice that it can take up to 72 hours for negative reactions to stop.
My son could not eat any red coloured fruits or vegetables. This included, strawberries, cherries, capsicums, red apples, grapes, blueberries, blackberries, tomatoes, or products with red food colouring. I made ice – cream from scratch, and bought an organic brand of yoghurt from Coles. Even still, my son could only eat the natural vanilla flavoured yoghurt from that particular brand. I spent hours in the supermarket reading ingredients, and sifting through the products to determine what he could and could not eat. I had to cut out all soy products, savoury products, cakes, biscuits and lollies. He couldn’t even eat baked goods from the bakery, hot chips from the shops, or packet chips from the supermarket, because of the preservative in the oil on the baking trays.
All food dyes are banned. Sunset yellow, red, pink, green, blue, brown and black. My son had huge reactions to sunset yellow, which is in the majority of savoury foods, sweets and flavourings such as imitation vanilla essence. He had a major reaction to twisties in the early days, which resulted in him smashing his sisters glass tea set. Chocolate is also banned. To be honest, it felt like he couldn’t eat anything.
However, we did have alternative solutions. I bought his lollies from a special company which sold natural lollies. I tried giving my son the lollies from the Natural Confectionary Company. However, he could only have two of the colours. He couldn’t have the cherry, strawberry, blackcurrent or orange lollies. I used beetroot (the alternative to tomatoes) to make lasagne, beetroot sauce for pizza bases, and spaghetti Bolognese. I even made homemade ice-cream as a substitute to real ice-cream. The Feingold information booklet even tells you how to make your own food dyes out of natural alternatives. However, beetroot sauce as the alternative to tomato paste on the pizza base, tomato in the lasagna, and spaghetti Bolognese sauce really didn’t cut it for me or for my son.
I supported my son by placing our entire family on the diet (his two sisters and myself). As a Feingold diet participant, I have to tell you that in all honesty, I found all the Feingold diet alternatives more than boring. I also believe that the diet itself was making my son depressed, and highlighting to him that there was something really wrong with him. He had to say no to the hotdog at school on hotdog day, and he cried at birthday parties because he wasn’t even allowed to have a sausage sandwich. And, sadly, just to add to our situation, some children are more food sensitive than the average Feingold dieter. My son was one of these overly food sensitive children.
However, the pros to the diet were that my son did improve almost one hundred percent, compared to his earlier behaviour. He could finally concentrate, sit still and stand still. He barely called out in class anymore, and he rarely misbehaved.
Two weeks before his birthday, I decided that he most likely wasn’t allergic to soy. For his birthday I made him a lovely chocolate mud cake, which had a large amount of soy in it. It turned out that he was allergic to soy. He had a terrible reaction to the cake, and misbehaved at school for the next five days. Just as I thought I could put him back on the diet, he came down with a cold and developed an ear infection. So, I had to put him on amoxicillin to eliminate the ear infection. During this time he kicked the teacher, couldn’t concentrate, and spent a week in trouble.
After his ear infection went away, I put him back on the diet, only to find that he was most likely allergic to spinach. I made a lovely spinach pasta dish, only to find that he went to school the next day, and ripped his work up in front of the librarian. He also screamed at her, threw himself on the floor, and tried to kick her. I did some more reading, and discovered that I was going to have to eliminate more products, and vegetables from his diet. I was actually beginning to wonder if he was even getting enough nutrients.
It simply became too hard, and I decided that I just couldn’t do the diet anymore. My son has a severe case of ADHD, he was quickly losing his self-esteem, his impulse control was out of control, and I wasn’t going to experiment anymore with diets when medication could set things straight for the moment.
The Feingold Association can be joined for a small fee of 69 US dollars. Membership is for a lifetime, comes with forum support, a complete guide explaining the diet, food list, shopping list, shopping guide and some recipes.