Response to Doubters - Still Don't Think Food Affects Behavior? Read This.

Does Food Affect Behavior? Wondering if there is any science to prove that there is? Check out this post to find out.

In a Whole New Mom guest post called Think Food Doesn’t Affect Behavior? You’ve Got to Read This, I suggested that food may affect your child’s behavior more than you think. The post resonated with many parents and has been shared over 400,000 times. Some weren’t convinced. This post is for skeptical moms and dads who have kids with behavioral problems.

Dear Mom. Dear Dad.

Your child is suffering.

Her child’s unfocused mind prevents her from learning.

 child’s struggling brain drives him to tantrums, fights, and meltdowns.

Play dates have made way for sessions with:
- psychologists
- tutors
- psychiatrists, and
- the school principal.

This isn’t a happy situation.

I suggested that your child’s problems might lessen or disappear if you adopt a diet based on real food.

Your response: where’s the science?

You wanted:

- double blind tests
- a larger number of subjects
- more facts and figures.

You claimed that my evidence was anecdotal.

First of all, you’re right. The evidence was indeed anecdotal, but I don’t think anecdotal is a dirty word.

Why Anecdotal Evidence Is Not Always Bad

Consider the tragic story of Ignaz Semmelweiss, a Hungarian doctor practicing in Vienna in the 1840s.

I admit to being just a little obsessed with this piece of medical history.

Distressed at the shockingly high rate of childbed fever in his maternity clinic, he set out to discover the cause. He had a hunch that doctors who performed autopsies and went directly to the delivery rooms to assist birthing mothers might be somehow infecting their patients. To test his theory, he instructed his staff to wash their hands in chlorinated lime before delivering babies.

The results?

The mortality rate dropped dramatically.

April 1847 –18.3% death rate

(He started his hand-washing protocol mid-May)

June 1847 – 2.2% death rate

July 1847 – 1.2% death rate

August 1847 – 1.9% death rate

Dr. Semmelweis produced anecdotal evidence demonstrating that morbidity and mortality rates plunged drastically when doctors washed their hands before attending to their patients.

- Without hand-washing, the mortality rate was high.

- After washing hands, the mortality rate went down.

- They stopped washing their hands and deaths increased again.

The same thing happened in Hungary when he instituted hand-washing in another hospital.

You don’t need to perform complex statistical analyses to see that his protocol saved lives, and many of them.

You’d think that doctors in the Vienna General Hospital, as well as physicians around the country (and around the world), would embrace his protocol.

You’d be wrong.

Semmelweis postulated that invisible particles were causing childbed fever.

With Pasteur’s discoveries about bacteria still two decades away, critics labeled Semmelweiss’ theories as ungrounded.

They lacked robust scientific proof. The medical community basically said his ideas were hogwash.

Who knows how many thousands upon thousands of women might have been saved over those next few decades before antiseptic techniques became accepted practice, had they only accepted the anecdotal evidence?  

But no--women kept dying.

So Mom, do I have scientific proof that will satisfy you?

Well yes, there is some, such as this study on the effects of food on children’s behavior published in the highly prestigious Lancet - though probably not enough to convince you that this real food diet can help.

But I don’t think we need studies by scientists with degrees and lab coats to let parents know that it’s ok to feed their kids real food.

The REAL Need for Scientific Evidence

The onus of proof, if it lies anywhere, is on Eggbeaters®--not on the egg.

It’s on the frozen chicken nuggets--not the roast chicken dinner.

It’s on the industrialized margarine--not on farm fresh butter.

So my question is: If eating a clean diet with no food colorings or other chemical additives, a diet lower in sugar and higher in healthy, traditional fats might cure your child, why not just give it a try?

What are you afraid of?

This much I know: Not every learning disability or behavioral problem is caused by food; however, some are 100% caused by food.

Our old friend, anecdotal evidence, shows that for some kids, their problems disappear completely once they adopt a paleo diet. Click to learn what a paleo diet is. This is to say that deep down these kids don’t even have learning disabilities or behavioral issues.

Is this the case for your child? The only way you’ll know is to try.

And if it doesn’t help, you can always go back to the cognitive and behavioral therapists, psychiatrists and psychologists, Ritalin and Adderoll.

These options aren’t going anywhere. They’ll still be available.

But how sad to go this route if your kid is one of those for whom a dietary change would make the problem simply disappear.

 Do YOU think food affects behavior? Why or why not?

Ruth Almon of Paleo Diet Basics

Ruth is a big fan of the whole foods paleo diet, having regained her health after decades of living with chronic fatigue syndrome.

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  1. Great article and great comments!

    I have been on a roller coaster all my life with digestive issues, skin problems, and now my joints and nerves, as well as depression and apparent social disorders. As you age, if you buy into all the B.S. that when you have a health problem, you need to go to the Dr. to get checked out and will most likely leave with no less than one prescription and usually more, almost always including antibiotics or some type of steroid for inflammation, then you can pretty much count on dying a slow painful death. Sadly most people just attribute this to the aging process and never give it another thought. Too many people suffer needlessly because of these lies which have been perpetuated through many avenues. Namely the U.S. Government and all it's created departments that have taken it among themselves to interfere in the lives of the people not only in this country, but countless others. If you can brainwash people (through lies and control) starting at an early age and continue doing so all of their lives, how will they ever know that they've been duped? The lies become the truth and the truth becomes a lie! Many pockets are lined and many people suffer and die because they were none-the-wiser. Our society is nothing more than puppets dangling on a string. Then, occasionally a light-bulb comes on and we begin to think for ourselves. It's like..."Once I was blind, but now I see"! When this happens, we are no longer seen as "normal" or a part of the standard, but as "different" and often as someone looking to cause trouble, and are most always misunderstood.

    Since the blinders have been removed from my eyes, although overwhelming, for the first time in my life I have hope that as I stay on this journey of healthy eating and cutting out all of the things that have been slowly killing me, that I can have joy, peace and good health and live a more fulfilled life than I have for the past 55 years. Not only have I suffered, but my family has as well and now although I'm on what I believe is the right path, they are not so interested in making the changes I've made to improve their health. Additives cause addictions and as many of you know, these things are not so easily given up! Often it's because of laziness, but quite often it's because people who are suffering with these food addictions really can't believe they would be better off without all the junk in their diets, or don't believe they have what it takes to be able to change (the lie). It's really hard for me and often I cave into convenience when I'm tired or end up going out to eat and not having the healthy choices to eat right. Not having support in your home makes it difficult to get it right and very frustrating too. But, as I continue to make changes and see even small improvements, it motivates me to keep on pursuing my health journey.

    People can say what they will and defend what they believe, but as it is, each one of us are ultimately responsible for ourselves in the end. Although I don't agree with everything the "medical experts" say or do, they do have their place in our lives. We just have to be careful not to place them so high on a pedestal that we forget they are human and are subject to making mistakes just as we are. When we give them or anyone else a place of control in our lives, we are setting ourselves up for lies and a sense of hopelessness that will keep us always dependent on someone else to tell us what we need and what is good for us. We have been given a brain to think with and if that light bulb has come on in your head, by all means use it to THINK with and don't allow others to dictate to you what is best for you when they don't even know you! Thanking God for giving me eyes to see and praying for health and happiness to find it's way to all who have a heart to find it!

  2. I can personally confirm one thing about this dyes DEFINITELY play a roll in behavior!
    My 9 year old has been diagnosed with ADHD and ODD...and one of the things we had started doing was eliminating any food dyes from his diet, and have seen a BIG difference.
    Sure, he is not 100% well behaved now, but I can confidently say that he is 70% better than he was BEFORE eliminating the food dyes.
    It has gotten to the point to where my wife and I can tell if he has eaten anything with any type of food dye in it just by his behavior.
    We are still in the process of trying other things out in, addition to the food dye elimination, to see if we can make the 70% go up to at least an any increase in good behavior is a plus in our book!

  3. WELL SAID!!!

    It is so frustrating to sit there and watch people feed their kids dye-filled, additive-laden crap while they complain about their kids' behavior, and then look at you like *you're* nuts when you suggest that, maybe, if they fed their kids something at least resembling real food some of those problems might go away.
    Where's the proof? they say.

    **rolls eyes, stamps foot**

    1. Of course food affects behavior. And even if it isn't an immediate result, it has long term effects. Furthermore, if it isn't in your life, it will affect your gut which will affect your children's gut. So I don't need a double blind study. It's totally common sense. Study the gut and look at food and you know it has to.

  4. All three of my kids are sensitive to Chocolate. All have different reactions, my oldest just get very intense and works as super sonic speeds. We took chocolate out of his diet when he was very young to preserve our sanity as I just couldn't keep up with him. Then along came our second child, he began eating chocolate as a toddler and began having night terrors. His Pediatrician insisted that chocolate didn't cause night terrors but I had the nagging feeling that if his brother had problems with chocolate maybe we should try cutting it out of his diet too. It couldn't hurt. So out went the Chocolate and within 48 hrs he was sleeping through the night. It had been months since both my husband and I had slept through the night as his terrors were 2-3 pre night every night and would last 15-30 min at a time. The first night without Chocolate he only had one terror. We did try to see if the terrors came back several months later we gave him chocolate and that night he had a terror again. You would think that we would have figured out not to give our youngest chocolate when she was old enough to have some but we hadn't learned yet. Her reaction was the worst of all. She would become very emotional and act out with hitting kicking bitting and scratching, and I was her number one target for her aggression. Once again when we took out chocolate the behavior began to improve drastically within 48hrs our relationship improved drastically. And by the end of one week no chocolate she was not kicking, bitting, hitting or scratching at all, she was able to handle her emotions so much better.

  5. Said before and simple...but you do ROCK! As I was reading this post I found myself reading it out loud and shouting like a crazy person. Especially this part:

    "So my question is: If eating a clean diet with no food colorings or other chemical additives, a diet lower in sugar and higher in healthy, traditional fats might cure your child, why not just give it a try?
    What are you afraid of?"

    and this...

    "And if it doesn’t help, you can always go back to the cognitive and behavioral therapists, psychiatrists and psychologists, Ritalin and Adderoll. These options aren’t going anywhere. They’ll still be available."

    Good Lord - Yes - and Hallelujah!!!

    Just like every other darn thing in this MAD MAD world - the easy way out is really the hard way and the hard way is really the easy way. When will people learn? Think people, THINK!!!!

    1. You are so right. I don't mean about me "rocking" but I mean your other stuff :). Thanks! And likely you mean Ruth anyways :).

  6. I agree that food certainly affects behavior, however I strongly encourage you to reconsider whether you need scientific evidence for this.

    The story about Semmelweiss is not anecdotal evidence. It is an empirical study. There was a pre-intervention measure of the number of women who died, the intervention of hand-washing, and the post-intervention measure of the number of women who died. We could do a dependent samples t-test to determine if the decreased death rate was statistically significant, which it likely was based on the percent change. Regardless of the complexity, this is empirical evidence, NOT an anecdote. Anecdotal evidence would be, "One time someone performed an autopsy without washing his hands, and a woman died because of it."

    Rejecting empirical evidence for anecdotal is why children are dying of whooping cough and meningitis. The scientific method is rigorous when practiced correctly, and it can give us confidence in the medical interventions we use.

    Ph.D. Candidate

    1. Hi Katie,
      the bigger point I was trying to make is that if you have a kid with behavioral issues, you should go ahead and try a whole food diet, like the paleo diet, and just see if it works.

      The jury is still out, as far as the scientific community is concerned, on whether diet has any affect on ADHD. I say, when you hear story after story from parents saying when they removed red dye, or wheat, or something else from the diet and all their child's serious problems disappeared just like that, it is worth trying on your own child.

    2. True. The "Anecdotal Attack" is just that, an attack. Belittling others who have empirical evidence that demands a change to the "Scientific Legend" of what the ideal diet is, which is itself a polluted well to drink from, scientifically speaking, because of the monies involved in influencing "scientists" who do well not to buck the system.

      They only thing we really know is that something smells rotten in Denmark. All these high sounding promises we keep hearing from these same Fed Agencies and Private Foundations while the opposite effects are being experienced are more like some kind of wild psych experiment to see just who will keep believing lies base solely on someone who wear a white lab coat.

      1. Well said. The professionals have a place but there are some things that just aren't adding up. Or adding up in the wrong way. Money is being made on the backs and at the expense of people who are slowly dying.

  7. I've been struggling with my ability to function properly in the world my whole life. I had symptoms of ADD, ADHD, compulsive disorders, social anxiety & bipolar disorder 30 years ago, before many of them had a name. I barely graduated from high school, dropped out of college and struggled to hold jobs & maintain relationships. I spent years in therapy trying to figure out in what way my parents had failed me that would make me unable to accomplish the basic things that other people do effortlessly.

    I was lucky to find a chiropractor 10 years ago who suggested I cut down on sugar. This experiment lead to eliminating simple carbohydrates all together. This inadvertently turned into a gluten-free diet, long before most people had heard the word gluten. The results were immediate. My anxiety lessened dramatically. My mind was able to focus long enough to complete some tasks. The total & complete discomfort of just being in a body was relieved enough that I didn't feel like I was losing my mind.

    I called my doctor & suggested that I was allergic to wheat. To this he answered, "No. Probably not. But there is a test." After the blood work, all I got was a note saying "Test negative." No suggestions, no other analysis or thoughts on my symptoms or my experience.

    But there was no doubt about it in my mind. This was a profound discovery that changed my life & my perspective. Apparently, it was in my body, not my psyche. Doctors seemed uninterested, so I looked elsewhere. I changed everything I could think of about my life to see what kind of affect it had. In many cases, the symptoms improved. Keep in mind, that I was still suffering from extreme fatigue, brain fog, cognitive dysfunction, anxiety & bipolar swings. All of this made researching, label reading & implementing changes extremely difficult. Desperation, though, is always a great motivator.

    Things did keep steadily improving & my search eventually led me to the right doctor who discovered that I had Lyme Disease & several co-infections. This was a tough blow in what I was feeling was great progress. As I sat crying in her office, she leaned over to me & said, "You should feel lucky. Most people that have what you have are in a wheel chair by the time they come to us."

    Later I thought, "This isn't luck. I have worked my butt off my whole life trying to make a dysfunctional body functional." Clearly, I had made great strides. Apparently, I should have been in a wheelchair.

    As part of my treatment of the Lyme, I am now going to great lengths to shield myself from EMFs emitted by electrical wiring, cell phone towers, WiFi routers & appliances. Imagine trying to explain that one to your friends.

    In my long experience with this I have run into so many doctors, patients & supposedly healthy people who hear my story & quickly dismiss it based solely on what is commonly known or accepted. Some have gone as far as Googling the CDC or the WHO & quoting a quick summary of their opinion. A few have actually searched Pub Med & reported their apparently expert analysis of what they found there.

    It's always so funny to me how easily people are willing to write off the lengthily personal experience of someone right in front of them. I'm standing here & telling you what happened to me. This was my experience. Just because people that I've never met, who've never heard my story, haven't addressed it directly on their website doesn't mean it didn't happen to me. Just because the right PhD candidate hasn't done the right experiment on the right people to perfectly mimic my intricate set of circumstances doesn't mean it didn't happen to me. Just because we haven't had enough time or funding to fully explore the consequences of all the changes we've made to our food supply, and our environment in general, doesn't mean they aren't affecting me.

    It seems that this age of Rational Thinking & our worship of the Scientific Method has taken away people's ability to really be in the world. To really take in what's happening around them, examine it, ponder it & come up with their own impression. We have relinquished our ability to have our own experiences & have our own opinions on them. We have lost our ability to have an experience of being in a body & gaining our own wisdom from it. We have plugged into some collective consciousness in which all of our impressions of the world must be supplied to us by scientific studies conducted by other people in sterile environments.

    Just as sadly, we have lost our ability to really be with one another & hear what each other is saying. We have given up our ability to connect & learn from one another. We have stopped allowing ourselves to benefit from the sharing of new information & experiences. We have stopped appreciating each other for the things that we can teach each other.

    I can tell you that I am richer for having experienced this. I am open to live in this world & explore it & learn from it in ways that other people aren't. I am having my own experience, not one that I am told to have by people who are supposedly the experts on how to have a human life.

    Oh... and eating a whole food diet definitely had a profound affect on my ability to do this.

  8. I absolutely know that food affects behavior! I am a grandmother and have many food allergies and sensitivities. I know that my eating chocolate will make me cry easily, wheat will cloud my memory and make concentrating on anything impossible as well as create huge digestive issues, mushrooms bring on asthma, diet sodas cause me to have anxiety attacks, melons cause me to be agitated.....need I go on?

  9. I am amazed that parents would fight to say food has no correlation with behavior and just not give it a chance, and instead sit by and watch their child be drugged!!! I would do and try anything for the health of my kids. I don't have behavior problems with my kids but I did have a preemie with several health problems. The dr's were treating him the same way they treated all babies with the same diagnosis instead of looking at him as an individual. I am an RN so I had the knowledge to think through some things and refuse some treatments, like low dose antibiotics for the first yr of life. I feel bad for parents who have to just trust drs and don't have a medical background. The problem with all of this lies in the training of medical professionals and the greed of the pharmaceutical companies. Because I have been in healthcare I have seen the politics of it all. Our dr's are not trained in natural therapies or diet..ect. They can only speak from the education they have. What they are brainwashed to believe so to speak. I have seen patients with extreme conditions that drs don't know what else to prescribe and then think the patient is faking it. Only to have someone come in with a herbal remedy that totally fixes the problem. Believe it or not I have seen it quite a few time because now people are starting to take more control of their health again (which infuriates drs). Also, a scientific study can be misleading to a layperson. There are so many variables that go into a study that an average person or even nurses can not even understand. It might sound good on paper but unless you are trained in scientific experiments (there are college courses on just that) you cant believe what you are reading. I would trust anecdotal evidence before a scientific experiment any day. Then their is the conspiracy of the pharmaceutical companies. I wont get into that as this post is long enough. But basically if they lose business the whole health system will crumble. And if you didn't know, the drug companies come into drs offices with nice catered meals and little gifts to sell their product to the dr who also sometimes get monetary kickbacks for using that product. I guess what I am trying to say is any parent needs to try EVERYTHING for their child. not just dismiss something on the grounds of no scientific evidence. If it cant hurt to try then why not??? Because eating a real food diet is work. That work I believe too many parents are too lazy to do. It is much easier to pop a pill, collect SSI and give the child a label and wipe their hand free of the problem. Sad but true. I have seen it firsthand. I have also seen firsthand the change in a child who I know is allergic to red dye but moms too busy and lazy to omit it from the kids diet....Sad.

    1. You are very right when you say that docs aren't trained in nutrition. Maybe 6 hours out of all their med school from what I have heard. Not good. We must keep trying to get the word out - thanks!

  10. Stop blaming ADHD on food additives, sugar and sodium benzoate. The INCA study is hugely questioned by scientists, in particular by Russell Barkley, who is the world wide EXPERT on ADHD. Do your due diligence and investigate his site. Unlike your site, he has no money to make by people reading his information. Diet has NEVER "cured" or "prevented" ADHD and it never will. That has already been firmly established by scientists and doctors and respected institutions like the National Institute of Health.

    1. Hi Jo. Sorry you feel this way. I looked up Russell Barkley and personally I find him lacking in this arena. He has a lot of recommendations for medications but doesn't touch at all on the fact that foods make a huge impact in this. This is from the reviews on one of his books on Amazon. Apparently I am not the only one who thinks food has an impact and there are countless other parents who think the same. I don't know Barkley's motivation, but many docs are happy keeping folks on meds. They don't study nutrition barely in med school and the treat symptoms rather than going after the root cause. It's bad practice of medicine in my humble opinion.:

      This book has no intention of helping you treat ADHD. It simply wants you to continue on with ADHD, eating tons of sugar, getting little exercise, eating trans fats and all the other things that ACTUALLY CAUSE ADHD....I saw no explanation of what actually causes ADHD, no way to treat the CAUSE of ADHD, no scientific studies backing up what the CAUSE is.

      He spends a lot of time talking about the evaluation process but fails to mention that the evaluation process shows that 80% of people have ADHD!! He fails to mention that Eli Lilly psychiatrists are the doctors that updated the actual definition of ADHD. I realized me and most of everyone I know actually has ADHD by this definition.

      ...this book is morally wrong in it's [sic] attempt to sound so thorough when leaving out actual facts. He spends a long time reviewing medication, yet never mentions that all of the medication he's recommending comes with severe side effects and does nothing to address the CAUSE of ADHD.

      1. It would be nice if there was a disclaimer that explicitly stated that you are not claiming nutrition is the sole cause of ADHD, but rather a potential added environmental stressor. To claim otherwise is offensive to those who have struggled with ADHD, perhaps un-medicated, who can never undue the cascading effects of jobs and relationships lost, or are permanently affected by the severe injuries as a result of untreated ADHD, etc.

        You have to take Russel Barkley seriously, as well as the hundreds of researchers who have devoted most of their careers to studying actual ADHD, to have any credibility in discussing ADHD. He has said repeatedly that the disorder was improperly named. Any credible theory on the nature of ADHD must now posit neuropsychological constructs that are related to the typical development of inhibition, self-regulation, and executive functioning. It must be account for the overwhelming genetic contribution to ADHD. The heritability of ADHD has been shown to be somewhere around 80%—which is about the same for human height, and higher than that of intelligence and personality traits. Twin studies have shown that only about 20% of the variance in symptoms can be explained by environmental factors, such as lead poisoning, head injury, etc.

        Could nutrition contribute some of the variance within that 20% environmental? That is possible. It might aggravate a small percentage of symptoms in certain people with ADHD, but it is definitely not the "cause" for those who have the real thing. That not to say its not a worthwhile intervention to study by the way. It would be interesting to look at nutrition-related epigenetic effects on ADHD as well as non ADHD individuals.

        This International Scientific Consensus Statement on ADHD is a must read as well amid all the media-perpetuated misinformation out there.

        Rob MacInnes MA (clinical psychology)
        Doctoral Candidate


        Barkley, R. A. (Ed.). (2006). Treatment of childhood disorders. Guilford Press.

        Levy, F., & Hay, D. (Eds.). (2001). Attention, genes, and ADHD. Psychology Press.

        1. Hello there. I find your comment interesting, but not compelling. I read their statement but honestly, there are many consensus statements in the medical community that I don't agree with and think are politically and financially motivated. I am not saying that this one is for sure, but I am saying that it happens all the time.

          Do you have data on the 80% hereditable statement that you made? I would be interested in seeing that. I think that it is quite possible that we are talking about congenital issues and epigenetics as opposed to clear genetic issues that can't be overridden.

          I would love to hear what you think. Thank you.

          1. *reposting because I replied in the wrong place before- a few more sources added*

            Sure, the 80% or specifically the degree of variance explained is a rather conservative estimate by the author of the chapter I cited in the last post—Treatment of Childhood Disorders (both a standard and/or recommended text in Masters an doctoral level mental health training for a Developmental Psychopathlgy or Child and Adolescent Psychopatholgy course). Various twin studies usually get coeeficients between .75 to .97, which is to say 75 to 97% of the variation in ADHD symptom presenation of the individuals in those studies is explained by genetic effects.

            Here are a few of the specific studies:

            Levy, F., & Hay, D. (Eds.). (2001). Attention, genes, and ADHD. Psychology Press.

            Thapar, A., Holmes, J., Poulton, K., & Harrington, R. (1999). Genetic basis of attention deficit and hyperactivity. The british journal of psychiatry, 174(2), 105-111.

            Coolidge, F. L., Thede, L. L., & Young, S. E. (2000). Heritability and the comorbidity of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder with behavioral disorders and executive function deficits: A preliminary investigation. Developmental neuropsychology, 17(3), 273-287.

            Kuntsi, J., & Stevenson, J. (2000). Hyperactivity in children: A focus on genetic research and psychological theories. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 3(1), 1-23.

            I can understand being off put by Russel Barkley.. When I had my first Child and Adolescent Psychopathology class I remember thinking (because of the biases I had at the time) that for sure this guy must be a stooge for the drug companies, but now that I have had more experience in the field, learned a bit about understanding research methods and their limitations, and have had to go far deeper into the scientific literature than I had before, I've found him to actually one of the few very helpful ADHD advocates who actually offer useful, testable theories of the disorder that future researchers can build upon or reject—one that goes way beyond a surface-level symptom checklist, which is misleading at best. I'm not at all against eating clean food, rather I'm for better diagnostics cause I'm sure there are plenty of people out there that don't have ADHD and are being treated for it.

            Also, I'm not saying that you were implying the following, but I should also put this out there: To write off the empirically supported treatment of stimulants as "bad" because they can potentially be abused is both irrelevant and inflammatory, unless you are willing to write off all psychopharmacological interventions—all medications can potentially be misused or abused by a serious recreational user.


            Nathwani, A. (2000). Pharmacotherapy of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder reduces risk for substance use disorder. Ambulatory Child Health, 6(1), 73.

            Wilens, T. E., Faraone, S. V., Biederman, J., & Gunawardene, S. (2003). Does stimulant therapy of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder beget later substance abuse? A meta-analytic review of the literature. Pediatrics, 111(1), 179-185.

            Biederman J. Wilens T. Mick E. Spencer T. Faraone SV. Pharmacotherapy of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder reduces risk for substance use disorder. Pediatrics 104(2):e20, 1999 Aug.

            Wilens, T. E. (2004). Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and the substance use disorders: The nature of the relationship, who is at risk, and treatment issues. Primary Psychiatry, 11(7), 63-70.

            This video has been really helpful for me in understanding what is at stake for folks with true ADHD:

            (Link deleted by Whole New Mom due to it not working anymore)

            Good luck,


            1. Rob, again, I really do appreciate your thoughtfulness about this post but I still think we are right. There are many many problems with studying twins and deducting statistical information and proclaiming genetic determination from that. Genetics in and of itself is a very very problematic study. The Angelina Jolie case is one that I hope to write about. And there are many more.

              This post is excellent in pointing out the problem with using twins to proclaim genetic bases: Twins have the same and almost identical environment growing up. Perhaps they have a tendency towards ADHD, but then they eat the same foods and use the same personal and home care products and they end up with the same condition. This is clearly a problem.

              I am not anti medicine. But it has its place and needs to be relegated there. If Barkley gets payouts from pharma then he needs to answer to his bias towards Big Pharma. Just like I would expect anyone to ask me about my recommendations that I stand to make money from. And believe me--I am questioned about that and I am always happy to answer.

              Regardless of his associations, there are just countless stories of healings from the pain of ADD, ADHD, autism, autoimmune diseases, and more from dietary and lifestyle changes. I can't really understand why this shouldn't be the first place to go and why people are so vehement that talking about food affecting behavior seems so "crazy." To me, it seems crazy to think that it wouldn't. Our stomachs and our brains are clearly connected.

              This is an interview with Martha Herbert, Prof of Neurology at Harvard. She has done tons of work regarding the Gut and Brain connection as it relates to autism. Is there a reason we should think this doesn't extend to other conditions as well?

    2. She never said that changing a child's diet would cure REAL disorders like ADHD, she said VERY CLEARLY that many of the issue children have that parents believe are caused by an underlying disorder, are actually food related and that it wouldn't hurt to TRY it. OF COURSE it wouldn't! What do you have to lose from feeding your child healthy food? And if it DOESN'T work as she pointed out that it WOULD NOT for children with TRUE disorders, then you can always go back to your meds and doctors. And in the end, your child WILL benefit in some other way from the healthier diet, even if it does not cure their behavioural issues. Some people will never stop putting others down, what do you have to judge her of??? Trying to TRICK people into falling for her SCHEME of CONNING parents into feeding their children HEALTHY food? WOW!

      1. Hi Kaitlin. I appreciate your standing up for myself and the author. Really. However, I honestly do think that dietary changes can cure real disorders. It has been shown over and over again. The author of the Gut and Psychology Book (affiliate link) has cured her son of autism w/ diet and many many parents have seen their autistic children healed by going gluten and dairy free. I just don't think it will cure every child b/c there is a lot more going on than just dietary issues. There are toxins and congenital issues and genetic ones.

      1. Also Jo, although there is nothing wrong in accepting payment for promotional work, the following link at states -

        "Dr. Barkley frequently discloses accepting monetary compensation from drug companies whose products are marketed to treat ADHD."

        There is, however, something wrong in implying that Dr Barkley is simply a good samaritan whose preaching is unpaid.

  11. Good grief, if it might help your kid and it's relatively "easy" - why on earth wouldn't you try it?? What would it hurt to feed your kid the whole roasted chicken instead of the nuggets? Why wouldn't you cut out the "crap" you buy out of a box? What could it possibly hurt?? Jeez!!

  12. Great article one that needed to be written. Yes, I do believe that the GMO junk has an effect on the behavior of our children, and also on adults. One article I read said the GMOs in our societies diet causes more violent behavior. All you have to do is look around at the way people react to the smallest inconvenience to see that this is true.

    Would love for you to share this on Real Food Fridays.

  13. We have many people in our 10 person family with food sensitivities. We have been struggling for years. But I have seen the pattern repeat itself over and over again. The wrong food is eaten, the behaviour changes. For different people the trigger is different foods and the resulting negative behaviour is different. Some get very emotional, some get angry and throw fits, some get headaches, some get depressed,etc. As I have observed my family I have seen the pattern being repeated over and over again. With the help of a naturopath, and allergy reversal system we have found the trigger foods and pulled them out of our diets. However mistakes are made, restaurant meals are eaten, family dinners happen and the wrong foods get eaten. And so the process begins again. It can be a mentally exhausting trip for mom and a road not understood by others unless you have walked the road yourself. Many do not believe us and think we are weird but we need to watch what we eat or else we can't function properly.
    This is a topic I am very passionate about and as a result we all eat healthier. Sometimes it is hard not to be consumed by it as meal making takes on a life of it's own.
    We have found the most help thus far with eating foods prepared from scratch most of all, and allergy reversals. We also work hard on healing the gut where many of these intolerances stem from.

    1. Thanks for sharing. I am looking at allergy remedies myself - interested in what you found to be helpful - thank you!

  14. 100% correct. My son is almost six. At the age of two, he began to have uncontrollable outburst that included hitting, kicking, biting and hurting himself and others. At the age of three, we couldn't leave the kicked out of church and actually had thoughts of running away or leaving him on a hospital doorstep. At four, someone suggested taking him off of products with gluten...this helped, but still had issues. We found a chiropractor that did blood work and informed us that his liver didn't work properly, building up toxins and swelling his brain....she told us that if we vaccinated (which for some reason, we felt lead not too), he would have died or developed autism. She suggested a special diet of NO Grains, No refined sugar, No additives, dyes, preservatives.....Basically...only real food. Outcome, he is happy, healthy and still bad at times...but after all, he is a boy...all boy. Special note: Pediatrician told me many times that I was a horrible parent for not vaccinating him and not putting him on Ritalin at the age of 2 1/2. If it wasn't for special sites like this one, I would have been lost. I have learned how to make our own lotions, chick pea cookies, grow our own food and canning skills. We have a long way to go...homeschooling due to food, mold and no vaccinations...I couldn't have done it without the support of your site and others like you. Thank you!

    1. You are so kind. I am glad to be of help. I feel at a loss sometimes - there is so much I am still working on, but I pray that my trials will result in blessings for others. Take care :)!

    2. Glad it worked out for you. I tend to not touch that vaccinations cause autism topic but I would like to offer my experience and opinion based on years of daily interaction with autistic individuals. I am a Special Ed teacher. I work with ALL types, all levels of those with special needs including many on the autism spectrum at all levels. The other professionals and I see it over and over in families of those with autistic children - there is nearly always a family member and many times another sibling also on the spectrum at some level - it may even be a generation or two back. Prescribing ritalin to a 2 yr old? - hope you found another doctor. I will also respectfully say that you are able to not vaccinate your children because the majority of us do.

    3. @Tammy, wow, how sad that you have to home school your child because he is not vaccinated. My son is also not vaccinated. Thankfully, he was still admitted at school. Every time I thought about going to get him vaccinated I got a bad feeling like something was going to go wrong. I just couldn't bring myself to do it. My choice still makes me nervous and I always question whether it is the right one, but it feels right. My son is also almost 6. Good luck with your son's health and follow your instincts even when it isn't always easy. Nobody else has walked in your shoes and you are the BEST advocate there is for your own family.

      1. Hi, my name is Jo. I am the one who posted the comment in direct response to Tammy. I just wanted to clarify that I am NOT the same Jo that posted about ADHD and food not being related, and who mentions the INCA study. She is entitled to her opinion but I am not her and I do not agree with her. I am severely dairy intolerant(not just lactose intolerant) and I know first hand that eating certain foods can have a huge impact on health and behavior. Adrienne, I'm in agreement with you on this subject. It is sad that a person would rather be right than improve the health of their children and family, by continuing to choose a way of life that doesn't serve them the way it should. I really, really do not understand that at all. I love the internet because I have access to all kinds of information and I learn new things everyday, and there's nothing wrong with saying you didn't know about something. If I had a child with ADHD and someone told me there was a chance to improve his daily life by changing his diet, I'd sure give it a try.

  15. we were so hopeful that diet would be the answer for our son. I do believe that we did the right thing and that it is the healthy choice anyway, but he eats no dairy or eggs (allergic to them), no gluten, no dies, no preservatives or artificial anything and on and on. And his compulsiveness and behavior haven't improved dramatically. I wish we knew what else to try. Any ideas?

      1. I agree with Adrienne. GAPS isn't a cure all for every person, but it can really help. I found the book fascinating.

    1. @Walkermama, we have a friend with a child with an autism diagnosis who essentially healed his son. I don't know all of the protocol but I don't think it was diet based. Or at least not completely diet based. You can learn about it at Also, Cara over at Health Home Happiness has a daughter with autism who was significantly (but not completely) helped by GAPS. I think she also did some Traditional Chinese Medicine. Her blog is at (Link deleted by Whole New Mom due to it not working anymore). It's a GREAT resource if you do consider doing GAPS. I, myself, am about to start on it looking for healing from rheumatoid arthritis (autoimmune). Good luck to you!

    2. GAPS is a great place to start! It deals with the bacterial balance in the digestive tract (good vs. bad bacteria), which is a good thing to look at if dietary changes alone aren't helping.

    3. Sometimes the kids who find gluten difficult to digest have to remove other grains ( or some) for awhile. My son had to also remove oatmeal, yes even the gf kind! AFter the gut is healed, you may be able to add small bits back in.

  16. Wow, excellent post. You are so right, why do we feel defensive when we are promoting real healthy food for our families. It shows how far off the mark we have gotten.
    I think one of the biggest reasons people protest this kind of information is that they are overwhelmed and do not want to think they can make the changes.

    1. Hi Jennifer,
      It's overwhelming precisely because we're so far off the mark. There are lots of kids growing up now never seeing their parents cook anything. Cooking is a big mystery to them. And though the general idea is easy (eat real food, don't eat processed junk) there are a million little details to know when you switch to a real food diet.

      I actually wrote an ebook specifically for these people who feel overwhelmed. It's sent to them in installments once a week over a 3 month period, each chapter with only one thing to change, so I think (I hope!) it simplifies it into easy to manage changes.

      1. You are soooo right, Ruth. I just heard someone say "My kids have no idea where eggs come from." It's so important to have kids (and adults) learn. 🙂

        1. Adrienne, have you seen this clip for Food Revolution. ? I swear I must have seen it 20 times. I found it hard to comprehend how kids can get to the first grade and not know the names of basic fruit and vegetables. Having grown up with a mom who cooked most things from scratch, it's unfathomable.

          1. WOW! I can't believe I missed this comment. This is HORRIBLE! And we're the ones who are told that we are crazy......

  17. Being well past my childhood... I've just found that my life-long learning disabilities, behavior issues and auto-immune disease are definitely food related. I wish my parents had known about food issues 60+ years ago. It would have saved me years of bad medical diagnoses, years of unneeded psychiatric care and decades of a less than ideal existence. It is a simple fix, drug free, and easy for any caring parent to at least try... It absolutely can't hurt. It took me 60 years to get here but eating real food, ditching allergens, and eliminating chemicals from my life and I am finally a whole, healthy and happy person. I hope your article touches many parents.

    1. Hi Kay,
      Wow. Your comment simply says it all.
      I was planning to start a section on my blog where people tell their personal health stories and how changing their diet healed them. If you would like to share your story, please contact me at at this email address.
      That goes for anyone else who has a story to share.