The Feingold Diet
Dr. Benjamin Feingold, a pediatrician and allergist, believed that hyperactivity and related learning problems in children were caused or influenced by sensitivities to certain natural food substances as well as to artificial food additives. He developed a program to test for such sensitivities through a diet that eliminates all synthetic colorings and flavorings, certain preservatives, and salicylates (chemicals similar to aspirin that are found in a wide variety of foods).
The Feingold program consists of two stages. During the first stage, the chemical compounds found in certain food additives and the salicylate compounds found in certain foods are avoided. Certain fragrances and nonfood items which contain the chemicals listed above are also eliminated.
The artificial additives that are avoided include artificial colorings and flavorings, and preservatives such as BHA, BHT, and TBHQ. Salicylates are found in a wide variety of fruits and nuts, so the first stage of the program requires elimination of foods such as almonds, apples, berries, cherries, grapes, oranges, plums, and tomatoes. During the second stage, the salicylates are tested by adding them one at a time back into the diet to determine which can be tolerated.
The Feingold program is controversial, in part because research findings are mixed, and in part because it can be a difficult diet to follow. Some studies have shown this program to have helped more than half of the children who appear to be sensitive to the foods targeted by this diet.
If you suspect your child is one of the number who will be helped, you may find it worthwhile to try this approach. Because the goal of the program is to test for food sensitivities, it does not need to be followed long-term if it does not seem to be helping.
More information on this diet can be found online at the Feingold Association of the United States.