How a Gluten-free, Dairy-free Diet Helped Heal My Son with ADHD

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I was elated the day my 10-year-old son, Oliver, came home and announced the five words that would warm any mother’s heart. No, not, “Mom, I ate my vegetables,” but “Mom, I am popular now!”

Not that I care particularly that Oliver is popular in the 'captain of the football team' or 'class president' sort of way, but when you have an engaging child who loves to be around other kids and his behavior ends up annoying and turning those same children away, it is heartbreaking.

If you have a child or live with someone with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), you will know what I mean when I say that every day can be a challenge and test every ounce of patience that you have! While the symptoms of ADHD vary in every individual, in my son’s case he could be distractive, impulsive, and sometimes downright provocative. Getting him up, dressed and at the table for breakfast in the morning could require military-like precision: a change of plans could set him off in a spiral of uncontrolled behavior; his sister could easily provoke him, causing endless sibling fighting; and his behavior could swing from charming and sweet to a hellion at the drop of a hat.

There would be days at a time when I literally would feel like every day was Groundhog Day and collapse in exhaustion and frustration. We went through so many babysitters one year that I almost threw my hands up in the air and gave up!

So one day we all woke up and the bad dream was over, completely over! Oliver is easy to deal with now and just a pleasure to be with. He wakes up now every morning on his own and makes orange juice for the whole family. He and his sister are now the best of friends and rarely fight. And he is asked over to other children’s homes now for play dates. There are no more of the dreaded calls from school, and Oliver is just happier and has so much more self-confidence. The house is finally calm and we are all able to breathe a sigh of relief.

By now you are probably wondering how Oliver made such a 360-degree turn in his behavior. Was it behavior modification or the endless parenting classes that we went to (although I am sure all of those helped)? No! One day we decided to visit Dr. Bock in Rhinebeck, New York, the author of Healing the New Childhood Epidemics: Autism, ADHD, Asthma, and Allergies. For those of you who are not familiar with Dr. Bock, he has clients from all over the world and he literally heals (or at least greatly improves symptoms of) many children with ADHD, autism, asthma, and allergies through supplementation and diet change.

After a battery of blood tests, stool samples, and an in-depth interview, it was revealed that Oliver has gluten and dairy intolerances as well as iron and zinc deficiencies. While Dr. Bock put him on supplements and we saw the results of that immediately, the main thing we saw set him off was gluten!

Unfortunately gluten is in everything or at least everything a 10-year-old boy loves! Gone were the beloved morning bagels, the donuts that my husband would take him to have for “treats,” pizza, pasta, cookies, and even the garlic knots and sandwiches he would crave at school.

The good thing is that Oliver has seen the changes in his own behavior and likes the “new him.” In fact, he likes the way he feels so much that it is now him that takes staying on the diet so seriously. When he does lapse and has something with gluten, either by accident or on purpose, we all see the immediate difference.

If you are anything like I was, you completely roll your eyes when a mother explains that her child is on a gluten-free or dairy-free diet or has this or that food sensitivity. At bake sales and birthday parties I thought it was comical the lengths parents had to go to make sure everyone’s food needs are met.

Well it is embarrassing to say, but I have officially joined the food sensitivity group and have taken my son completely off gluten and dairy. It has been so worth it! Never again will I look at another parent’s choices with what I realize now was judgment.

I never thought a small change such as a change in diet could alter a child’s behavior so dramatically, but I have seen it with my own eyes. I recognize that I am lucky. Oliver only has mild ADHD and is able to function at an extremely high level in a challenging school, but the changes we have seen in Oliver are dramatic both at home and at school. For anyone who has a child with ADHD or autism, I ask them to open their minds and hearts and get their child tested or take their child off gluten and dairy for a month and see if changes happen.

These days there are so many wonderful substitutes for the “regular” foods. We have actually had fun trying them all. Both of my kids have a thumbs up and thumbs down system for letting me know how they fall in the rating and whether I should buy them again! Eating gluten-free does not have to be a life sentence and can be beneficial for everyone in the family!

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