Monday, June 23, 2008

Sue Scheff: Can the Feingold Program Help Your Child's Behavior?

Many learning and behavior problems begin in your grocery cart!

Did you know that the brand of ice cream, cookie, and potato chip you select could have a direct effect on the behavior, health, and ability to learn for you or
your children?

Numerous studies show that certain synthetic food additives can have serious learning, behavior, and/or health effects for sensitive people.

The Feingold Program (also known as the Feingold Diet) is a test to determine if certain foods or food additives are triggering particular symptoms. It is basically the way people used to eat before "hyperactivity" and "ADHD" became household words, and before asthma and chronic ear infections became so very common.

ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is the term currently used to describe a cluster of symptoms typical of the child (or adult) who has excessive activity or difficulty focusing. Some of the names that have been used in the past include: Minimal Brain Damage, Minimal Brain Dysfunction (MBD), Hyperkinesis, Learning Disability, H-LD (Hyperkinesis/Learning Disability), Hyperactivity, Attention Deficit Disorder, ADD With or Without Hyperactivity.

In addition to ADHD, many children and adults also exhibit one or more other problems which may include: OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder), Bi-polar Disorder, Depression, Tourette Syndrome (TS), and Developmental Delays. These people often have food or environmental allergies. Many have a history of one or more of these physical problems: ear infections, asthma, sinus problems, bedwetting, bowel disorders, headaches/migraines, stomachaches, skin disorders, sensory deficits (extreme sensitivity to noise, lights, touch), vision deficits (the left and right eyes do not work well together, sometimes nystagmus).

While all the above symptoms might be helped by the Feingold Program, generally the characteristic that responds most readily is behavior. Although the symptoms differ from one person to another, the one characteristic that seems to apply to all chemically-sensitive people is that they get upset too easily. Whether the person is 3-years-old or 33, they have a short fuse.

Dr. Feingold began his work on linking diet with behavior back in the 1960's. He soon saw that the conventional wisdom about this condition was not accurate. At that time most doctors believed that children outgrew hyperactivity, that only one child in a family would be hyperactive, and that girls were seldom affected. Parents using the Feingold Diet also saw that these beliefs were not accurate. Years later, the medical community revised their beliefs, as well.

Another change in the medical community has been the increased use of medicine to address ADHD. In the 1960's and 1970's medicine was used with restraint, generally discontinued after a few years, and never prescribed to very young children. If there was a history of tics or other neurological disorders in a family member, a child would not be give stimulant drugs. The Feingold Association does not oppose the use of medicine, but believes that practitioners should first look for the cause(s) of the problems, rather than only address the symptoms. For example, ADHD can be the result of exposure to lead or other heavy metals; in such a case, the logical treatment would be to remove the lead, arsenic, etc.

The Feingold Association believes that patients have a right to be given complete, accurate information on all of the options available in the treatment of ADHD as well as other conditions. Sometimes, the best results come from a combination of treatments. This might include using the Feingold Diet plus allergy treatments, or plus nutritional supplements, or plus a gluten-free/casein-free diet, or even Feingold + ADHD medicine. We believe that it's useful to start with the Feingold Diet since it is fairly easy to use, not expensive, and because removing certain synthetic additives is a good idea for anyone.

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