Going gluten-free has definitely experienced a huge influx of media, social, and scientific attention over the past couple of years. Many scientists and researchers are searching for confirmed links between a gluten-free diet and just about anything from quick weight loss to drastic behavioral changes in people on the autism spectrum. The most recent study in the quest of gluten-free as a cure-all is a study exploring the link between children diagnosed with ADHD while they are actually suffering from Celiac’s disease.
The German study examined 67 children who had been diagnosed with ADHD. 10 of the children (which is 15%) were confirmed as suffering from undiagnosed Celiac’s disease, which is disproportionately higher than the 1% of the general population who suffer from Celiac’s. The truly remarkable finding in this study is that each of the 10 children showed a marked reduction of ADHD symptoms after introducing a gluten-free diet. The study’s author also noted that the number of children suffering from a gluten sensitivity was not confirmed, but would probably yield similar results in improving the behavioral problems that arise with ADHD.
The only drawback to this study is the small sample size. The study would certainly benefit from a second trial with different children with ADHD. It is clear to me, however, that there must be many children who are inaccurately diagnosed with ADHD when they are actually suffering from a significant food allergy. Most Celiac’s can attest to the fact that when they consume gluten it’s not just gastrointestinal giveaways. There are severe headaches, lack of ability to concentrate and remember things, and increased irritability. These symptoms are largely consistent with what many see as attention deficit.
One of the biggest lessons from this study is the importance in examining the whole person when coming up with a diagnosis. While many parents rely on doctors and teachers to confirm well known troubles (like ADD and ADHD), there are some quicker fixes that don’t involve giving children medication. One of the major advantages of introducing a gluten-free diet is the ease with which most processed foods can be eliminated from your diet. Although I’m not an advocate of people going gluten-free without a confirmed sensitivity or allergy, I do think that exploring behavioral changes through adjusted diet can do a lot in helping people, especially children.