A newly published study conducted at the Sydney Children’s Hospital suggests that salicylate elimination diets for ADHD or eczema can have a startlingly high complication rate. The results of the study showed nearly half of the children treated with salicylate elimination had a complication, particularly food aversions and nutritional deficiencies. A few children also had full blown eating disorders as a complication of dietary treatment.
The Feingold diet is the most popularly used salicylate elimination diet used in the United States for ADHD. However, in Australia, where the study was performed, another diet commonly used is the FAILSAFE or RPAH diet.
The lessons salicylate elimination diet users can take away from the Sydney study are the following:
1) Dietary treatment isn’t necessarily safer than drug treatment just because it deals with food. Children who develop food aversions and eating disorders probably do so partly because of parents’ attitudes towards food. Some suggestions for keeping a healthy attitude toward food include keeping discussions about food away from just negatives (what you can’t have) and on to positives (what you can have that is good and tasty), and allowing some leniency during special occasions once behaviors have stabilized and your family has become used to the diet.
2) Don’t stop at elimination. As much as you hate to see your child have symptoms of ADHD, go the full mile and reintroduce as many foods as you can. This step is as important to his health as getting rid of the symptoms of ADHD.
3) If you feel like your child is unable to tolerate very many foods being reintroduced, then consider checking in with a dietician to make sure that she isn’t at risk for a nutritional deficiency.
4) If your child is on several elimination diets at once, check in with a dietician to make sure you are getting in all vital nutrients. This could happen in the case of food allergies or in the case of another family member having a restrictive diet due to another medical condition, such as diabetes, obesity, or high cholesterol.
5) If the full blown introductory diet doesn’t work after several weeks, don’t keep going. Diet doesn’t work for everyone and the longer you do a diet, the higher the risk of developing a complication. There is no need to put the diet on trial for more than 3 months once you have established that you are following it strictly.
6) Do not start a salicylate elimination diet at the same time as starting a gluten free or dairy free diet. Try one at a time, unless one proves to only partially effective, or testing by a qualified medical professional shows it is necessary to begin more than one elimination diet at a time.