My son was diagnosed four years ago, at age 7, with ADHD and ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder). He was the third most hyperactive child the doctor had ever seen (this is out of thousands of children). What a blow to me. My son has had many health issues since birth. He is legally blind, was born with an immature stomach and larynx, and seemed to have one problem after another. The quick answer given to us was to get him on medication. They gave me a list of all the ADHD medications available and I researched them, to see which one was the safest. I decided on Concerta, which was one of the newest drugs, and the biggest pro (I thought) was that it would only last in his little body for 12 hours. After that, as the studies showed, there would be no trace. The con to Concerta, as with many ADHD medications, is appetite suppression, but I felt that I could work around that.
After a year on the medication, I started to see that every 8 months or so, my son’s medication needed to be increased, as his body would develop a tolerance to the previous dosage. By the end, his medication was at 54 mg, which was an enormous amount in my eyes.
After a year and a half, I started researching ADHD a little more. My gut was telling me that his ADHD was more environmental, rather than genetic. I did a lot of research, yet there was so little to guide me. I tried an expensive, holistic approach that a certain company recommended, only to see that my son needed to take 6 large supplement capsules at one time, which caused severe abdominal problems. I stopped the supplements immediately, and we were back at the beginning.
Then, about four or five months ago, my boss told me about whattofeedyourkids.com, a blog that her daughter had started. I eagerly went to the site and devoured everything that was written. The things I read made the light bulb go off in my head. Intolerance to gluten and hyperactivity in ADHD/ADD children were connected.
I took this newfound information to my son and discussed the change he would have to make. He listened intensely to what I had to say and the words that came out of his mouth were heart-wrenching for me; “Mom, I will do it, if it means I can be normal like everyone else.” That was the start of a new era for us. We started out small, making little changes here and there. We went gluten and dairy free. Through this, we found out that my son could tolerate dairy well (although I found I could not). So for him, we focused on being gluten free. He remained on his medication during the process, which took some time. We tried many different products and recipes, made lists of what was good, and what was not. The hardest thing I come up against is his age and lack of vision. For him, texture is a big issue, so we are still searching for a good bread recipe.
We have been 85% gluten free for months now, and the difference is utterly amazing. My husband (the skeptic) is truly amazed that food can cause such a change in the body. Since school ended 2 weeks ago, my son has not taken one Concerta pill. While he has normal 11 year old boy antics, the change in his hyperactivity is amazing.
Before this change (without medication), my son could not sit for 5 minutes or control his urges to aggravate others (part of ODD). He was like a wild monkey stuck in a small cage. With medication, he was quiet, but not in a normal, positive way. He withdrew and could sit in front of a computer, away from all, for hours on end. He had trouble sleeping to the point where we needed to give him melatonin at night to help him fall asleep, and he had terrible nightmares and night terrors. AND after the medication wore off, he was ravenous. He would eat all night until bed, non-stop. What I found out just prior to getting him off of gluten was that he was not thriving. For years we tried to get him to the 50 lb. mark, but he would teeter just below, and his growth in terms of height was….slow. Recently we went to the doctor to talk about the changes that were occurring and to have a checkup. In 8 months he gained 8 pounds and grew almost an inch. To me, that speaks volumes. Right now, without any medication, we have seen a different child. A child I remember who had a sense of humor, and a gleaming smile. He is outgoing, speaks clearly and wants to interact and do things besides sit in front of a computer.
Right now, my son needs a lot of reassurance that he is doing well, and it is reassurance that I have no problem providing. I tell him everyday how proud we are of him and how courageous he is to take this change head on. The one piece of advice I can offer to other parents of ADHD children is that when this change occurs as a result of a new dietary regime, you really need to have a hold on behavior modification. That can come from a program such as The Total Transformation, or behavioral therapy, which I highly recommend. Having structure, rules and consequences, and following through consistently are really important. My child has underdeveloped social skills, and little understanding of social cues. Working on this everyday is key. While he has the summer off, we have the chance to work on them and perfect them without needing to simultaneously focus on school (that would be tough).
This was the best thing we ever stumbled across, and I am forever grateful to the fellow parent who brought this to my attention. She gave me the greatest gift I could ever have, she gave me back my son and for that she will always have a special place in my heart.
See Gluten and ADHD (Part II) to see how Jonathan did after summer vacation.