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sugar free for ADHD

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 


two of my kids are diagnosed with adhd, so are their parents *sigh* and I am looking into nutrition now.


I want to go sugarfree, but I am very unsure. I managed to do a sugarfree birthday party, but it's summer, and the fruits are just gorgeous at the moment.


they ask for icecream everyday. yesterday we went to a circus where they got a small popcorn with sugar. DD1 got sweets when she went to an overnight visit with her friend.


I don't really want them to not have all the treats that I love. Sugar is love for me :(

Plus it's really difficult at times.


I desperately need advise from people who do it!

Do you ban every sugar including natural sugars like honey and maple? What about stevia, did anyone try it?

Sugarfree sweets with xylitol anybody?


I need your help!

post #2 of 25

Sugar rarely causes hyperactivity and inattention.  Artificial food dyes and flavors on the other hand do.  I'd suggest sugar added sweets in moderation (oh, and keep far away from artificial sweeteners as well - very bad) and natural sugars like fresh fruit as wanted.  Remove food dyes (all) and artificial flavors and see what happens.


Just understand - that if your child truly has ADHD, diet alone won't help.  Your child will, at some point, require medication.  If the diet works and removes the inattention and hyperactivity - your child didn't have ADHD to begin with but rather had a food sensitivity which often presents itself as being ADHD.

post #3 of 25
Thread Starter 

We don't give artificial colours or flavoring anyway. and i cook from scratch. mostly. if i use anything premade it's free of everything artificial anyways.




your child didn't have ADHD to begin with but rather had a food sensitivity which often presents itself as being ADHD

isn't that just pointless definition splitting? to my knowledge there is no "given" cause of adhd, so reaction to food is one of them. And mine do go hyper on sugar.


(but there are  not totally calm without it as well)

post #4 of 25

Actually, there is a reason to split definitions.  One is a behavior caused by a food sensitivity/allergy and another is caused by a differently wired brain which no amount of supplements or diet can help.  If your child are effected by sugar, then you need to remove it.  The question is... is it all sugars (naturally occurring as well as added sugars)?  The only way to know for sure is to do an elimination diet and then slowly add sugars back in.


My son was psychotic (literally) on food dyes.  Would become hysterical over nothing and would sometimes become violent.  His teacher noticed it happened right after he'd eat - we decided to try removing food dyes and viola! the behavior stopped.  It didn't effect his ADHD in the least.  He was still not able to focus.  He was still bouncing off the walls.  We've done various other eliminations, supplements, etc. and while the removal of food dye made a huge difference in removing one unwanted behavior, it didn't change the fact that my son has ADHD.  We started him on meds in September and it's been nothing short of a miracle.  Don't get me wrong, he's still the same goofy, hyper, silly monkey he has always been but now he can concentrate and focus.  


The first week he started on meds - he didn't shut up.  My almost non-verbal kid was talking a mile a minute.  I was seconds away from calling the doctor to tell him the meds were making it worse when I realized what was actually happening.  The world had been on fast forward his entire life.  The meds put the world on slow motion and he was seeing things in his environment (that were there since he was a baby) for the first time and was excited and wanted to share that with anyone who would listen.  


Meds are not right for everyone and I encourage everyone I know to try other alternatives before going the medication route.  But according to a researcher I met (who is a huge supporter of holistic medication in children) and my son's pediatrician who practices both holistic & alopathic medicine - if your child does have ADHD vs. a food sensitivity - the only way to help that child focus is through stimulants.  If your child has a food sensitivity - stimulants will send them through the roof vs. ADHD + stimulants = calmer and more focused.  


Sorry for the rambling.

post #5 of 25
Thread Starter 

that is really interesting! my kids, esp ds do react like that to sugary food - i think.


he gets really violent and out of control.


i guess i am still in shock because of the diagnosis, though obviously i had an idea ... but to read black-on-white that the drs recommend mph is hard.


i am still growing into this ...

post #6 of 25

{{{Triniity}}}  It's so hard.  Even if we know 100% - hearing a "professional" say those words can knock you for a loop. The one thing that really helps me is to remind myself that no matter what diagnosis they throw at us - if it gets him the services he needs to grow, thrive and become a wonderful young man,  they can call it whatever the heck they want.  He's still the same wonderful child he was before they attached a name to his behaviors.

post #7 of 25

I think your best bet is to figure out WHAT they go hyper on.  If it is M&Ms, eliminate them, if it is chocolate, eliminate it.  We are not completely sugar free though we do reduce a lot of it.  We still do fruit and naturally occuring sugars and heck my kids had some donuts today.  But we try to reduce it as much as possible. 

post #8 of 25
Thread Starter 
He's still the same wonderful child he was before they attached a name to his behaviors.


That is so true. It just makes me sad, that I am not the mom that I want to be for them. I am exhausted at the moment and cannot cope with their behaviour very well. And I don't feel supported because all the therapists offer is a parenting class which is basically "1-2-3 Magic". And I cannot and will not raise my children this way. I was raised that way and I know how much it hurt me. There must be a better way.


Do you know any books or something about the subject?


I think your best bet is to figure out WHAT they go hyper on.

I am trying to. It appears at the moment, that the effect of the sugar reduction just weared (?) off. Especially DS is really, really difficult at the moment.

post #9 of 25

Trinity - there is no one book that has the answers.  I have found that using a combination of parenting styles helps me parent as well as enlisted the services of a behavioral therapist who has taught my husband and I to parent our son effectively.


I really liked the book "Parenting With Love And Logic".  Now, I don't approve of a lot of their methods.  I don't think locking my son in his room is safe.  I think giving away a family pet because a child isn't caring for it properly is not the right thing to do for my family.  That being said - the gist of the book is giving options and allowing children to experience the consequences of their choices both good and bad.  The hard part is.... coming up with an option you can always live with.  So don't say - you can stop yelling or we can leave the party, it's your choice unless you are really willing to follow through.  


I read 123 Magic and what I took away from that is that everyone needs a cooling down time.  We don't use time outs as punishment.  We frame it as "you are obviously upset and I think you need a time out to think about what's going on".  What has really driven this home is my tendency to give myself time outs on occasion (including sitting myself on the time out step).


Finally, we found a behavioral therapist who specializes in teaching parents of special needs children how to parent their child effectively.  According to ours, most parents parent by the seat of their pants.  That's because that's how their parents parented them and their parents parented them and so on.  That works for about 65% of the general population.  It rarely works in the special needs population.  So we have to think outside the box.  Corporal punishment is a HUGE no no.  


Check out the gentle discipline section of this site - ask for book recommendations and then go to the library and start reading (if you really love a book... THEN buy it).  Even if you absolutely hate a book it's still good because you just learned what no to do.

post #10 of 25
Thread Starter 

I think I read every GP book on this planet :) - or at least most of them. I think, I am quite good in GD, and we are trying to live consensual, we are doing a one-to-one class in august, which is quite cool (family effectiveness training). I tried one of the classes or psychologist gave, but that was to much like "parenting your strong-willed" child.


I am thinking more about books about ADHD. I am really at my wits end with DS. I love him dearly, and he is so cute, but he becomes a monster if he is tired or hungry, and it's so difficult to get him to bed - not at his usual bedtime, but he is dead tired already than.


Today he hit my DD1 with a wooden plank onto the head, and I just did not know what to do. I yelled at him and put him to bed at once, but I don't really feel as if I managed that one very well.


But as I said, I am exhausted. I need a serious break, but I won't get one.


I actually feel like running away and leaving them all behind.

post #11 of 25

I would just like to add my 2 cents about things that you may or may not be willing to use or try but I want to share nevertheless.  I feel very responsible for sharing what I've learned over the years because my child is doing so well...I am so very grateful. 


First, one common misconception about dietary interventions for ADHD is that removing artificial colors and flavors is the "feingold diet" and is the recommended diet for those with ADHD.  I don't know if you think that, I just wanted you to know that Feingold is a low salycilite diet.  Most food contain some amount of naturally occurring salycilites.  It may be worth it to you to explore what the feingold diet has to offer since you are already free of colors and flavors...take it a step further.  It is highly recommended for kids with ADHD.  The goal of the diet is to balance food intake for the day to keep the amount of salicylites low so you must keep track of food choices.


As far as cutting out all sugar to improve behavior, it reminds me of the homeopathic remedy saccharrinum (sugar prepared homeopathically) which is a common remedy in the materia medica for ADHD.  If you are open to alternative options for your child it is worth considering consulting a homeopath who may get very good results treating the symptoms and reaching the underlying imbalance inherent in your child's behavior.  I DON'T believe it is a forgone conclusion that if your child is diagnosed with ADHD that they will eventually require a medication no matter what the general consensus is among parents and professionals. 


My child has over the years experienced inattentiveness, anxiety and hyperactive behaviors that go along with his spectrum diagnosis that has caused more then one teacher to suggest he "be on medication". (that's another story....that a teacher suggests a child be on medication is out of bounds) Over time, healthy supplementation (I use the brand "perfect food" powder for extra supportive nutrition), Heavy dosing of B 12 (methylcobalmin jarrow brand), a diet free of his particular triggers (Gluten and Diary), gentle herbal detox (cilantro works well), and a good homeopathic treatment plan has, over a period of over a year, brought him to a place where he is no longer anxious, inattentive, or hyperactive...not at all, IN ANY RESPECT. 


He is calm, thoughtful, reflective, friendly, warm and engaged with all aspects of his life including school work.  He still has a "more concrete" learning style and can occasionally be confused socially but every day he surprises me.  I believe that over time, this will wash away as well and in almost every way he looks neurotypical.  I thank G-d for the changes but they were no accident and were the result of a determined treatment plan of biomedical and homeopathic interventions. 


However, it irks me,  that most people assume I put him on medication, which is why he is doing so well and has shed so many of his former difficulties.  And, when my son was diagnosed with PDD-NOS his neuropsychologist told me that he has a "differently wired brain".  I instinctively knew that this was incorrect.  I know that the brain builds neurological connections continuously and the brain's plasticity is well established.  My cherished belief was that if his brain were "freed" from inflammation and toxins he would be able to build neurological connections in ways that were new and healing for him.  I acted from that belief to help him....and I think that that is what is happening for him right now. 


I think that if you have a hunch....about how to help your child, follow it.  By all means take out all sugar.  It may not be that he stops eating it forever.  But, he clearly is unable to metabolize it right now.  Take as much responsibility as you can for your child's unfolding into the person you believe he can be.  Is he differently wired?  Pharmaceutical companies run studies to try to prove that he is.  However, ask a different question.... many many alternative practitioners and parents ask themselves this question all the time.  Is his neurological wiring reacting to a complex barrage of environmental triggers and toxic substances stored in his tissues and brain?  Is what you are seeing a new normal for his "type" of brain under assault in this toxic world?  Interesting, yes?


Would he be energetic and goofy and lively but self controlled if he were on a medication.  Maybe yes?  But can he be energetic, goofy and lively as well as self controlled, without one, when his body is free of triggers, his body detoxed and allowed to rebalance itself....maybe yes as well!  The latter course is not one as well traveled but you will find people who can help guide you along the way, talented homeopaths, naturopaths etc.  Listen to your own wisdom and trust yourself.  Not me, or anyone else.  If what I write makes sense to you, great...or maybe someone else will read this and take it as helpful.  I am happy regardless.  I want to speak of my experience because the more I talk about it, the more people, even my my child's teachers and school professionals want to know what I am doing to help my child.  I am happy to share and if you are curious about homeopathic detox (of vaccines and other allopathic medicine), homeopathic treatment of ADHD and nutritional interventions to rebuild a healthy gut to digest food for a starving brain (because many alternative practitioners believe the epidemic of ADHD/Autism is related to brains literally starving for nutrients and incredibly poor gut flora ) please search the web.  There are many reliable sources....look for Tinus Smitts, homeopath, and Dr. Mercola for info on nutrition.


Good Health to all of us...we deserve it!

post #12 of 25

Trinity - I know for me, understanding where certain things are coming from makes it easier to manage.  It sounds like he has some impulsivity issues.  This is really common with kids with ADHD.  Also, I've noticed that SPD (Sensory processing disorder) is often co-morbid with ADHD.  It could be that your son's behaviors are sensory related as well.  The obvious answer is to do your best to avoid things that turn him into a monster (hungry, too tired, over stimulated, etc.).  I've found that bedtime is much easier when we have a set, peaceful routine.  After dinner, as long as it's not too late, he gets a little bit of screen time.  Now, some kids with ADHD this ramps them up so use your judgment on this one.  For my son, it quiets him.  I give him a 5 minute warning or "next commercial" warning and then the TV is off.  We then go and take either a lavender oil or Epsom salt bath (depending on the condition of his skin and his mood - if he's revved up high - oil, if he's cranky - Epsom).  I put on soft music and let him soak.  Then we dry him off, brush his teeth, get his jamies on and it's bedtime.  We have a story - my DH reads while I do bodywork on my son using essential oils (lavender, chamomile).  I usually work on his feet, either his stomach or back (he picks) and his head/face/neck.  After story time is over, then we put on his bedtime lamp (it's a very soft light from Ikea) which seems to really help him stay calm, put on the same CD that he's been listening to since he was a baby (Baby Einstein Classical Lullaby's) and tuck him in.  I sit in a chair next to him for 2 songs.  It seems like when I sway to the music - it's calming for him so I do.  Then I give him kisses, tell him I love him and leave.  


Occasionally he'll ask for his "sleepy medicine" which is 1mg of melatonin.  Funny thing is - he usually falls asleep right after which is long before it kicks in so it definitely has a placebo effect :)

post #13 of 25
Thread Starter 

Hi there,



diagnosed with PDD-NOS

Sorry, what does that mean? I have no idea ... headscratch.gif


How did you do the dietary change? Did you start cold turkey, or slowly? I am wondering about the diet changes, and plan to try dairy and gluten free, starting from next week because the kids will not have any school lunches than. but I am a bit frightened.


Our OT advised against dietary changes, saying that life is hard enough for ADHD kids, and there will be no positives coming from it. There are a lot of critics of Feingold, what's your stand?

I don't even know if I can do it here, not being in the US, therefor even the list of "safe foods" wouldn't help, and they claim on the webpage that you cannot find all the food additives only from the content sticker...


@spottedfox (cool name :) )

thank you for your description. I think we have quite a set bedtimeroutine, problem is only, that it's getting late for DS, and he is really getting tired, but he wakes up at 6.30 as it is, and if I put him to bed earlier he will be up even earlier ... plus we have dinner at 6, that gives us a tiny change that DH is there as well and we can have dinner as a family. Anything before 6 is just wishful thinking ...


I like your massage ceremony. DS is allowed to fall asleep right next to me, because I am in bed anyway, bf the baby. He listens to an audiobook a really calm one. I can totally block it out, which is a good thing.


He is just really tired in the evenings. He does not even need a sleeping aid like melatonin, DD1 is getting it and it does help A LOT with her, but DS is out in about 4 min.

post #14 of 25

PDD-NOS = pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified. It's an autism spectrum disorder (for now - until they change the DSM).  I respectfully disagree with your therapist.  If a child has a food sensitivity (vs. an allergy where they go into anaphalatic shock), the resulting behavior can be very ADHD like.  In fact, I've seen many children "cured" of ADHD by diet - well, they weren't really cured - it's just when you remove the allergen, the behavior goes away and they never really had ADHD to begin with.  LivingLife is correct in that Feingold is a low salycilite diet.  If you just google low salycilite diet - you should be able to find a lot of resources.  


There are definately two schools of thought on elimination diets.  Some say eliminate everything - start from really basic foods and then slowly start adding things in - keeping a food and behavior diary.  Others (like me) take one possible allergen out at a time and see if it makes a difference. 


If your son is exhausted at the end of the day (which mine is because he's in summer camp), there is no harm in keeping him up a bit with a book or a massage or something else quiet.  Usually the problems occur when you have an overtired kid running through the sprinklers at 7:30 at night after a long day at camp.... not that I'd ever do anything like that ~blush~ hehehehe

post #15 of 25

Yes, PDD-NOS is a spectrum disorder.  It basically means that he has some features of classic autism but not enough to qualify for the diagnosis of autism.  When the DSM in the states is rewritten he will likely be diagnosed with a language pragmatics disorder which essentially means that he can misinterpret language unless it is specific and concrete enough for him to grasp it's meaning.  So basically he has a high functioning spectrum disorder.


We have used feingold.  I have a friend in Australia who eats a low salycilite diet.  It is absolutely doable.  I printed out charts of the salycilite content of various items.  I then balanced our meals accordingly.  She describes her diet as a returning to the way our ancestors ate....eating fruits in small amounts in season, eating only a bit of nuts and nut items, and having a diet largely of roasted vegetables, rices and cooked meat.


However, it wasn't what really did it for us, maybe it will be for you.  It was GF/CF.  I go on every diet my son has ever been on because who likes to cook twice?...yes?  So, I am aware of what both diets did for me as well.  The low salycilite diet most definately helped me balance my mood.  I was less irritable, warmer, calmer and happier.  It did the same for my son just in a more noticeable way.  However, Gluten and Dairy, as well as other foods high in glutamate, like tomatoes, made his and my thinking cloudy.  Just for him it was more extreme then me.  He would get fuzzy headed, impulsive and he was on "high gear".  I didn't really notice until I stopped eating them just how much BETTER I feel when I don't eat them.  You try it...you might find the same thing.


Of course, it is tricky to read labels.  Feingold's website is cautioning you not to trust what you read.  Manufacturers hide ingredients in general wording, like "spices", or "natural flavors".  I believe your best bet is to cook your own food from scratch until or if you think it makes a difference for your family.  It is also less expensive to cook rather then buy packaged food.


When we went on GF/CF diets, the most recent being now for a year and a half, but on and off since he was 15 months old, we saw an immediate difference in his mood and behavior.  It fortifies you to continue.  We went "cold turkey" as you say, and explained it to him as being a diet that some doctors think will help you think better and be the best student and friend you can be.  I won't lie, it is HARD, mainly because of the feeling of deprivation, even a "why me", "why my child"...but so many children now are on special diets or are allergic.  You'll find that your child isn't the only one at all.


I also disagree with your OT.  I was a social worker/ child therapist in my "other life" before being a mom full time.  I used to say a great many things to parents I shake my head at now...before I walked in my "mom" shoes.  Your OT knows a great deal, I'm sure, and can help you manage your child's sensory input but her knowledge is limited by her life experiences and what she has "read" or learned as conventional wisdom.  Again, trust yourself, and think of this a journey and take heart....it is a long journey, where you will try many things to help your family, some with greater success then others.  You have been given a gift in some respects.  You already think outside the box.  Think about what you know about your children and try to help them.  And don't give up easily.  I had my son on the GF/CF diet on and off for years.  I'd always take him off because i'd feel badly that it made him different and he was missing out on yummy foods.  I also thought that I would help his gut heal and he could eat the foods again.  So, I'll tell you, I think that that was my biggest mistake...not being clear at the beginning that if it helps, stick with it!


Finally, I realized that he was already different and that was his life lesson.  He must have chosen it.  Why should I feel bad about it.  I needed to accept it.  And, he chose me to be his mom to learn that he could be strong in who he is and be clear and sure of it.  I also saw that it was more for him then just healing his gut.  He had a difficult time metabolizing glutamate (gluten and casein are high glutamate foods).  Amy Yasko (another one of those alternative voices) believes that an imbalance in glutamate/gaba receptors can occur soon after birth due to a deficiency in vitamin b12....You give the brain a chance to rebalance the reception, so to speak, when you supplement with b12 and allow the plasticity of the brain to rebuild. 


So, i've gotten to another place with it, where I accept the reality of his body and what it is dealing with, and I cope with it...while I am supplementing him with b12, I hope that he will one day be able to eat larger amounts of glutamate without becoming a "space cadet".  However, right now, he is doing so well, I am happy and feeling very safe here with him at this place.  I would have never thought i'd be happy with so much dietary change but it is so much better then him hiding under his school desk, having temper tantrums like a 3 year old and being unable to remember what we just said to him.


Do it your way though.  I found it easier to get the adjustment out of the way and jump in feet first, saying, "IT"S FOR HEALTH and a strong body" and within a couple of weeks we all saw the difference.  Take it slow if you must, but, beware of cravings, yours and theirs and know that you won't see a difference until it's all cleared from the diet.  In a few months it will become a way of life. 


GOOD LUCK and good health!

post #16 of 25
  I used to say a great many things to parents I shake my head at now...before I walked in my "mom" shoes.


LivingLife - my favorite saying is "I was a much better parent before I had my son :)

post #17 of 25
Thread Starter 



i am a pediatrician (no we never learned anything about nutrition -except how to keep someone on icu alive without starving him to death)


i want to go back and apologize for all the insensitive and sometimes plain stupid things i said to mothers. i was one of the drs who said "do you want to kill your child" when i heard about non-vaxing or family bed. hide.gif


i learned my lesson though and do believe in mommy wisdom now nod.gif


i did another sugar test yesterday and both kids were totally calm headscratch.gif


i am going to start cfgf on saturday, if anyone could guide me towards good recipes i would really appreciate it

post #18 of 25

All you have to do is google gluten free recipes and you'll find a bazillion.  You should also google gluten free on a budget for some great ideas as well.  

post #19 of 25

And I was one of those therapists who told parents that medication for ADHD is like insulin.  Would you keep a diabetic off insulin?  Well, actually, I say to my younger self...YES you can keep a diabetic off insulin.  My husband became diabetic a couple of years ago and his numbers are normal through diet and exercise with no medication needed. 


SpottedFox, I like your saying about yourself.  It's so true.  The older I get the more I am able to admit how little I actually know.  I was so much smarter when I was young....Life is nothing if not humbling. 


Triniity, there are many great flours you can use to make your own bread.  In the states there are many delicious alternative breads you can buy.  I don't know what's available where you live.  I like buckwheat, arrowroot, and tapioca flours.  Also, everything tastes better with almond flour.  Bobs makes a great almond flour.


For a couple of days until you get the hang of reading labels just make a lot of yummy roasts, egg dishes and soups.  Look up online what grains are gluten free and make lots of yummy stir fry dishes.  Maybe the markets in your area already sell gluten/dairy free products and gluten free flours.  If not buy a case on-line and have it shipped to you.  


We use almond milk instead of regular milk.  I think it tastes better then the other alternatives, like rice and soy, and has naturally occurring calcium.  The kids like my to buy chocolate flavored and it is really good...light and refreshing.  I like it too.  Coconut icecream and yogurt is delicious. 

post #20 of 25
Originally Posted by livinglife View Post

And I was one of those therapists who told parents that medication for ADHD is like insulin.  Would you keep a diabetic off insulin?  Well, actually, I say to my younger self...YES you can keep a diabetic off insulin.  My husband became diabetic a couple of years ago and his numbers are normal through diet and exercise with no medication needed.


Many things can be controlled by diet and exercise. I'd like to point out however, that there's a difference between adult onset diabetes, which often can be treated with diet and exercise, and juvenile diabetes, which can't. Of course we should always try diet changes and exercise first. I would go sugar free, dye free or whatever free for a good while if my kids had ADHD and I thought it could help. There's research to suggest that perhaps 30-40% of children with ADHD have food sensitvities.


However, there is good evidence to show that a good number of children with ADHD have brain responses and physiological responses that are different from children without ADHD. And these kids don't respond to changes in diet. If you've ruled out diet and environment, taking meds should be an option.


I'm very concerned about posts like this because it makes it seem like parents whose kids don't respond to mere diet changes are a failure for not 'curing' their kids' adhd.

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