AN ACCIDENTAL DISCOVERY
Dr. Ben F. Feingold was chief of allergy at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in San Francisco in the 1960’s. He observed that some of his allergy patients who removed certain foods and additives from their diets reported that they (or their children) were calmer and better behaved. His research led him to discover a sensitivity in some people to certain foods and food additives. This sensitivity led not only to physical problems, but behavioral problems and learning difficulty as well.
Dr. Feingold, a pediatrician, developed a special diet, first called the Kaiser Permanente diet, and later the Feingold diet, as a treatment for children with ADD and ADHD. His discovery has led the diet to be successfully employed for any person who has these sensitivities. The treatment is simple; the results are in some cases, miraculous.
Studies show a success rate of between 58% and 81%, and one study from the University of Wisconsin showed a 100% success rate.
DOES THIS SOUND LIKE YOUR CHILD?
How do you know if your child is Feingold sensitive? The Feingold Association of the United States offers a checklist of behavioral concerns that may indicate a sensitivity including:
- Marked hyperactivity
- Impulsive action
- Poor self-control
- Unpredictable behavior
- Abusive behavior to people or pets
- Little or no recognition of danger to self
- Low frustration tolerance
- Excessive whining
- Short attention span
- Accident proneness
- Difficulty writing and drawing
- Resistance going to bed
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Restless sleep
If any of these presentations sound like your child, you may want to consider trying the Feingold diet.
ONE PARENT’S STORY
When we talk about how our son John used to behave, people who know him literally think we are joking. John is an unusually gentle, kind, sensitive child who is very focused on fairness and respect. He has never had a time out in school. He is shy, considerate, patient, meticulous, and sometimes meek to a fault.
So it’s hard to believe he used to be a bully.
But it’s true. When he was one and two years old, he gradually began to develop more erratic and unpredictable behavior. He whined a lot, was difficult to satisfy, had edgy, frenetic physical energy, and could not get to sleep. The worst, though, was that he tended to lose his temper suddenly with other children, and when he did, he would hit them. Hard. One time at a playdate he walked over to his friend Owen, and completely out of the blue pushed him so hard that he lifted the smaller boy off his feet and five feet in the air onto his back. After we separated the two kids, I asked John why he did that. He shrugged his shoulders, looked me in the eye and answered with complete honesty, “I don’t know.”
He was not a pleasant person to be around. He hit his mother. He whined incessantly. He cried a lot. He had tantrums.
The hardest part was this deep feeling I had in my gut that this was NOT my child. That there was a REAL John in there somewhere that was trapped. I found myself slowly surrendering my fatherly dreams of a magical child who grew up strong and kind and wise, who aspired to great thing and inspired those around him. I lowered my expectations to the realm of survival.
Some parents said it was simply the “terrible two’s”; but the behavior had started long before the “two’s”, and it just didn’t feel right. We heard about the Feingold diet and saw a checklist like the one above and said, “That sounds like our kid!” So we tried it.
Now, there are very few instant, magical, complete cures that one is likely to experience within a lifetime. This was one. In three days, our son, our John, the REAL John, was back. It was LITERALLY Mr. Hyde to Dr. Jeckyll. He was sweet, patient, content, grateful, kind. And every time we missed something and a dye or preservative or some vinegar “got through”, Mr. Hyde came back, and stayed for exactly three days. The Feingold program has proven itself to us in the many times we would observe the behavior without realizing something had gotten through, only to discover the culprit later.
I will never forget making fish sticks one night. John took a bite, stood up, walked over to his mother and punched her in the arm. “Why did you do THAT?” I gasped. He gave his shrug and said, as if we were both watching someone else do it on TV, “I don’t know.” I checked the ingredients and discovered vinegar listed in tiny print.
We taught John to recognize the symptoms of a “reaction” and to associate the Feingold list with how terrible he felt during those times. It was easy in this way to teach him to self-regulate his diet. We have never had an instance of John eating something without checking its safety: he has such a visceral connection to the reactions, he has no interest in going there for any reason.
The Feingold diet saved our son, and when I look around I see, every day, children that look JUST like our son used to look when he was reacting (which, before we discovered Feingold, was every day: he loved apple juice, raisins, ketchup, grape juice, berries, pasta with red sauce, etc). I hope the parents of these children at least try the diet for a few days just in case their Mr. Hyde might be waiting to turn magically into wonderful Dr. Jeckyll.
One big benefit is that the diet is easy to try, you only have to try it out for a few days up to a couple weeks in order to determine if your child is sensitive, and the big jackpot is, if your child is Feingold sensitive, you may have found that elusive Magic Bullet that will turn your Dr. Jeckyll into Mr. Hyde (Though the Feingold Association suggests 4-6 weeks).
The Feingold Diet eliminates two classes of foods: artificial dyes and additives, and foods naturally high in salicylic acid. The following is the main list of what to avoid:
- Synthetic food dyes, colors
- Artificial flavors
- Three main preservatives- BHA, BHT, TBHQ
- Foods high in salycilates, including
- Apples (including juice, cider, sauce, etc)
- Berries (all)
- Cucumber, pickles
- Grapes, raisins, vinegar (except grain vinegar, rice vinegar)
- Plums, prunes
- Oil of wintergreen
This may seem like a prohibitive list, but keep in mind that there are many alternatives to these foods. Apples, for example, are off limits but pears are perfectly fine. Oranges are a no-no but grapefruit is ok.
Tropical fruit is almost all friendly: bananas, guava, mango. Also Dates, figs, avocado, cantaloupe, coconut, pineapple, papaya and most vegetables.
Sadly, many parents will consent to risky medical interventions and medications before making the simple effort to test their child for sensitivities like Feingold. Others will do nothing at all, chalking their child’s behavior on his or her personality, or simply believing they will “grow out of it”. We have seen many children in our professional and personal lives who present with classic Feingold behavior whose parents have been told about Feingold yet have never made the effort to test. When the risk is virtually zero and the return is potentially massive, it’s hard to imagine what is going on inside their minds. Perhaps they have been eating too many almonds. If your child may be Feingold sensitive, please consider taking the few days or weeks to try the diet. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Another thing that is important to understand is that many parents dismiss the idea of food sensitivities because they feed their kids organic, free range, fair trade, local healthy foods. However, the truth is that Feingold is not as much about how healthy the food is, it is about isolating specific chemicals in foods that may irritate the system of one sensitive to them. Organic apples will make the kid just as crazy as conventional.
If you determine your child is Feingold sensitive, you can proceed to “Stage Two” in which certain foods are reintroduced. Synthetic additives are not reintroduced.
For more information, speak with Dr. Matt or Dr. Julieta. You can also contact the Feingold Association of the U.S. at 631-369-9340 and at www.feingold.org.