ADHD And Gluten:
Is There A Connection?
There is a growing amount of research regarding ADHD and gluten in an attempt to identify dietary factors that may contribute to ADHD symptoms.
Gluten is a protein contained in wheat grain, barley, rye, and spelt. Gluten is a large part of the typical US diet; it is found in breads, pasta, pizza, baked goods, cereals, etc.
The problem is that as many as one in 133 people suffer from gluten intolerance (Celiac Disease) which not only causes swelling in the intestinal tract, but there's evidence suggesting that gluten sensitivity may be at the root of many neurological and psychiatric conditions, including Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
In addition, people with Deliac Disease are also more likely to suffer from ADHD, which again suggests a link between ADHD and gluten.
ADHD And Gluten: The Research
In the November 2006 Journal Of Attention Disorders
, researchers Neiderhofer and Pittscieler (Regional Hospital, Bolzano, Italy) conclude a possible association of gluten intolerance (Celiac Disease) with emotional and behavioral disturbances such as ADHD.
They found ADHD symptoms were markedly overrepresented among subjects with untreated gluten intolerance, and suggested that a gluten-free diet may significantly improve ADHD symptoms within a short period of time.
Another group of Italian researchers from The University of Catania (Mazzone, Reale, Spina, Guarnera, Lionetti, Martorana, and Mazzone) noted that sufferers of Celiac Disease were also statistically more likely to suffer from an increased likelihood of emotional and behavioral problems, including ADHD.
Their study, published in the 2011 journal of BMC Pediatrics
, compared children and adolescents with gluten intolerance and measured the prevalence of emotional and disruptive behavioral disorders in CD children. Their disruptive and behavioral disorders improved after the introduction of a gluten-free diet.
Similarly, ADHD symptoms were also shown to decrease significantly by utilizing a gluten-free regimen. Subjects on the gluten restriction scored fewer behavioral problems on the Child Behavior Checklist, Children’s Depression Inventory, and The Multidimensional Anxiety Scale For Children. Subjects reported improvement within a short period of time.
Perhaps the most compelling evidence about the ADHD-gluten connection was published in the February 2011 edition of the British medical journal The Lancet
. Using a randomized control trial, researchers Pelsser, Frankena, Toorman, Savelkoul, Dubois, Pereira, Haagen, Rommelse, Buitelaar (2011) investigated the effects of a gluten elimination diet on the behavior of children with ADHD.
Using a sample size of 100 children with ADHD, they placed half of them on a gluten-restricted diet while the control group consumed their normal diet. After five weeks, 64 percent of the children on the restricted diet displayed significant improvement in their ADHD symptoms, while none of the control group had improved.
The research linking ADHD and gluten grows every year. As an ADHD doctor and mother of a son with ADHD, I found the research compelling enough to try a gluten free diet for not only my son, but my entire family.