Can a Gluten FREE Diet help kids with ADHD?


My dear blogging friend, Kourtenay at Girls With Coupons, just started a new mission of sorts to see if a Gluten Free Diet could help her son’s ADHD. I know Gluten can and does wreak havoc with a lot of people.

I thought we’d follow along with this great series. Here’s her first post introducing her Gluten free switch:


How many times have we heard from someone that knows someone, who told them something that sparked your interest? Well, this is one of those times. My husband heard from a co-worker that his son spent over $700 at a nutritionist to discover that his son (who has ADHD and temper issues) needed a Gluten free diet. I never heard how they came to that conclusion however, after four days being Gluten free, he was much calmer and the little boy’s anger issues under control. Hearing this, we decided to start our son on a Gluten free diet.

Our son has ADHD and isn’t always a happy camper. With him, his ADHD meds are the cause of him feeling on edge, especially when he goes through a growth spurt. In the past, when he’s been off medication he’s happy as a lark but can’t focus or retain anything he learns in school. It’s torture for him because when his meds aren’t right, he can’t help how he feels and has absolutely no control of the side effects.  Little things just seem to tick him off and it’s becoming a challenging dynamic in our family and at school. With meds there is always a trade off. At this point we’ve been asking ourselves, “Do we want him hyper and happy or focused and frustrated?”

In the state of Kansas, ADHD is considered a disability but if his behavior or impulses are difficult for him to control, calling it a disability only goes so far with those that still don’t comprehend all of the physical logistics. Unfortunately, not all people are very understanding or tolerant let alone empathetic to his circumstances regardless of how many times we advocate on his behalf. Couple that with him being 13, growing like a wild week AND the onset of hormones makes it a perfect storm for his emotions to be all over the place. We would start him on a new medication and he’d do pretty good for a while. It’s only when he goes through a growth spurt that we find ourselves back and square one. It breaks my heart for him because I know and understand he REALLY can’t help it and has no way to balance what he knows with what is happening inside of his body. When someone takes a medication and it makes them sick, or break out in a rash, that is a side effect. In our son’s case, when the ADHD medication isn’t just the right does, the side effects are anger, irritability and impulsivity to name a few. It’s the same concept only these side effects pretty much bring his school and social life to a screeching halt.

Additionally, he’s always been an extremely picky eater with his favorite foods being (as with many kiddos) pasta, cereals and anything on bread. When he ever DID eat a sprig of broccoli I almost fell on the floor in shock. Giving him supplements of vitamins and protein helped him get the nutrients he was lacking in his diet but just weren’t completing the entire picture. To say it’s frustrating is an understatement. We did try changing his diet several years ago but it was an epic fail due to the fact that there just wasn’t enough options to keep his choosy pallet on board.

After hearing the success my husband’s co-worker’s grandson had, it seemed to make perfect sense to go gluten free and try taking away his medication altogether. We figured we needed to see our son as he is with no medication…almost starting from scratch, while working on his diet.  After all, almost everything our son wanted to eat, could be the very things bothering him. What an awful concept! We always assumed that like many picky eaters, eventually he would simply grow out of it. I would have never put two and two together because eating gluten free is to help people who have Celiacs disease. I’ve heard Elisabeth Hasselbeck speak of it often but would never have thought in a million years it could help someone with ADHD.

Having said that, I’m not stating that our son has been diagnosed to need a gluten free diet…. however, his doctor did say he has heard of success with this diet in treating ADHD. I’m not a doctor, nor am I saying that a gluten free diet is a cure for ADHD. I’m just a mom trying whatever I can to help my son. With that, we’ve decided we’re going to give it a whirl. It’s only day two and we already see an improvement in his behavior. He is having focused conversations and is much calmer, more patient with his little brother and less agitated.

Here’s the kicker though. When I first went to shop for a few gluten free staples, I must admit I had sticker shock. I scoured the health food section for what seemed an eternity, reading labels and price comparing with my mouth dragging on the floor. I’ve never paid $6 for pancake mix or $5 for a loaf of bread. My mind started to race that my food budget was out the window. Naturally my child is worth doing anything I can for, but still…everything I saw that was labeled gluten free was considerable higher than I imagined it would be. So when I remembered that Chex had gluten free cereals and is a cereal I already know my son will eat, I was ALL over that! Even better with a coupon!

We hope and pray this is the answer for our son. My husband and I see him as a bright, talented, gifted, compassionate and loving boy, and want the world to see him as we do. Like all things we understand it takes time. I’ve decided to take it one step at a time as not to overwhelm my son or myself for that matter.  It is good to know that there could be something out there that can help.

So say a prayer, keep your fingers crossed and I’ll update soon on his progress.

If anyone has had similar circumstances and success with a gluten free diet for a child with ADHD, please comment below. I would love to hear what you have to say on the subject.

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  1. Jocelyn says:

    This is very interesting. I have a 14 year old with ADHD. Thank you for this article.

  2. Kelly Andrus says:

    As a mom of an autistic boy, we are looking into removing gluten from his diet. Thanks for the very informative blog! :)

  3. Renee says:

    I wish your family the best of luck. We are on week 3 of Gluten Free for my 4 year old son. His blood work showed Celiac Disease but his endoscopy showed normal. Our pediatric GI recommended we put him on Gluten Free for 3 months to see if there are any changes. Your post about Chex cereal gave me a chuckle. I am going into sticker shock as I learn to cook and buy gluten free. My son too is an extremely picky eater. He has been in preschool since September and has never eaten lunch at school because he won’t touch a vegetable.
    I have been buying Chex like crazy. Honey Nut, Rice, Cinnamon; and Chocolate. I can’t keep it in the house. If Chex could hide a vegetable in their cereal, I’d be in heaven :) .

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