Data and Statistics
Cost of ADHD
The Science of ADHD
The Importance of Science
Understanding Research Studies
Levels of Evidence for ADHD Interventions
Treatment of ADHD
Complementary and Other Interventions
Neurofeedback (EEG Biofeedback)
Fish Oil Supplements and ADHD
Nutrition and ADHD
Questions and Answers
Carrying Your Medication
ADHD, Sleep and Sleep Disorders
Disruptive Behavior Disorders
Tics and Tourette Syndrome
Professionals Who Diagnose and Treat ADHD
Hospital and University ADHD Centers
Insurance and Public Benefits
The Insurance System
Paying for Medications
Private Health Insurance
Public Health Insurance
Frequently Asked Questions about ADHD
Myths and Misunderstandings
Glossary of Terms
ADHD in the News
Fact Sheets on ADHD
For Parents & Caregivers
Parent Training and Education
Social Skills Interventions
Coexisting Conditions in Children
Pediatric Bipolar Disorder
Substance Abuse and ADHD
Common Coexisting Conditions in Children
Preschoolers and ADHD
Behavioral Therapy for Young Children
ADHD and Childcare
Diagnosing ADHD in Adolescence
Treatment of Teens with ADHD
ADHD Information for Teens
Parenting Teens with ADHD
Questions and Answers
Teens with ADHD and Driving
Teens and Driving
Medication Abuse and Diversion
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
Requesting an Evaluation in Public Schools
Tips for Working with the School
Tips for Talking to Teachers about ADHD
Finding the Right College
Disclosing ADHD During the Admissions Process
Succeeding in College with ADHD
Scholarships & Financial Aid
Questions and Answers
Tips for Completing Homework
How to Communicate with your Child’s Teacher
Homework Help for ADHD
Surviving the Holidays with ADHD
Diagnosis of ADHD
Diagnosing ADHD in Adults
ADHD and the Military
How to Succeed in the Workplace
Laws and Legal Protections
Americans with Disabilities - ADA & ADAAA
Legal Rights in Higher Education and the Workplace
Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
Finding an Attorney or Legal Advocate
Living with ADHD: A Lifespan Disorder
Women and Girls
ADHD Medication and Pregnancy
ADHD and Driving
Organization and Time Management
Relationships & Social Skills
Marriage and Partnerships
Social Skills in Adults with ADHD
Mastering Social Skills
Time Management: Step-By-Step with a Day Planner
Apps for ADHD
For Healthcare Professionals
Clinical Practice Guidelines
The ADHD Diagnostic Process
Diagnosis in Adults
Diagnosis in Children
Clinical Practice Tools
Evaluation and Assessment Tools
Rating Scales and Checklists
Treatment of Adults
The Role of Medication
Teacher Training on ADHD
Tips for Teachers Video Series
Recursos en español
Tips and Resources
Medical Benefit Program
Start a Group
Current CHADD Volunteers
Volunteer Leader Center
Login to your CHADD email
Edit your website
Other Local Support Resources
Find a Study
Post a Research Study
Young Scientist Awards
CHADD's Amazon Store
P2P On Demand Webinars
CHADD Advocacy Manual
Training & Events
Save the Date - 2018 Conference on ADHD
Call for Papers - 2018 Conference on ADHD
2017 Annual International Conference on ADHD
2017 Conference Web Site
Pre Conference Handouts -Thursday 11/9/17
General Conference Handouts -Friday 11/10/17
General Conference Handouts - Saturday 11/11/17
General Conference Handouts - Sunday 11/12/17
Conference Program Book
Order the 2017 CHADD Conference In-A-Box
ADHD Awareness Month
ADHD Awareness Month Calendar
Ask the Expert
Ask the Expert Educator Edition
Parent to Parent Program
P2P On Demand Sessions
Family Training on ADHD In Your Community
Teacher to Teacher
Teacher to Teacher - School System
Calendar of Events
Training for Professionals
Health Care Providers
Training for Parents
Transitioning to Adulthood
Find a Chapter
Local Affiliate Resources
Tools and Resources
Start a Group
Recruitment & Retention Tools
Renew My Membership
The ADHD Tool Kit
Membership Types and Benefits
Get Listed in CHADD's Resource Directory
JOIN CHADD - International Membership
JOIN CHADD - US Membership
Attention Magazine Subscriptions
Attention Magazine - Digital Editions
CHADD Discount Advantage Programs
Mission and History
National Resource Center
Boards and Staff
Board of Directors
Professional Advisory Board
Public Policy Committee
CHADD Funding Sources
Advertise with CHADD
Jobs at CHADD
Bilingual Health Information Specialist
Health Science Writer
Education Program Manager
Report a Problem
Gifts that Lead
Gifts that Sustain
Gifts that Double
Other Ways to Donate
Corporate Partner Members
Donate Your Vehicle
ADHD Weekly Newsletter
Gluten-free for ADHD? Check the Research
Join the discussion.
It can sometimes seem like everyone is suggesting a gluten-free diet as treatment or cure for a range of ailments. In fact, the
of foods and self-care items in the United States generates more than $1.77 billion a year and is projected to grow rapidly.
There are frequently articles or blogs suggesting a gluten-free diet can help alleviate the symptoms of ADHD, with some people arguing a gluten-free diet might even “cure” ADHD. There are some bloggers who have described their children’s ADHD symptoms as having improved or having been eliminated entirely when their families adopted a “gluten-free lifestyle.”
This may have left you wondering if cutting out this protein found in wheat products could help your child. We decided to take a look at the research surrounding gluten and ADHD to find out.
What is gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. Gluten helps to give elasticity to dough and enables breads to be soft and puffy. It is also used in seitan, which is prepared wheat gluten used in meatless food products. Gluten can be used as an ingredient in other foods, including prepared foods such as soups, sauces, salad dressings, and cereals.
As long as humans have been eating wheat, they have been consuming gluten. However, several authors and researchers have argued that as wheat has changed through selective breeding to improve crop production, so has the gluten it contains. This newer form of gluten, they say, has contributed to an increase in health problems for some people. This remains debatable and is currently under research.
Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity
Celiac Disease Foundation
estimates that 1 in 10 people have celiac disease. Gluten triggers their immune systems to attack their small intestines, causing damage to the body and preventing it from properly absorbing nutrients from the foods they eat. This leads to abdominal pain, gastro-intestinal symptoms, and malnutrition. Celiac is a hereditary condition and not one that develops later on in life. The only effective treatment is to completely forgo gluten in any form and in any food product.
Many people with celiac also describe difficulties with attention, memory, and behavioral issues. ADHD is often a co-occurring condition to celiac disease.
Some people who do not have celiac disease do experience a non-celiac-gluten sensitivity.
shows wheat exposure is triggering an immune reaction and cellular damage in their intestines. They will experience many of the same symptoms of celiac but do not test positive for celiac disease. They find their symptoms will disappear when gluten-containing foods are eliminated from their diets. A small group of people experiencing symptoms that resemble ADHD, but who do not have ADHD, will also see an improvement in those symptoms.
Some parents of children with ADHD, when looking at research on celiac disease, may think that by eliminating gluten from their children’s diets the ADHD symptoms will also decrease or the disorder will disappear completely. This assumes that all ADHD symptoms are related to the symptoms of non-celiac-gluten sensitivity.
Researchers who have examined the relationship between ADHD and celiac have not found that ADHD is caused by celiac disease, even though ADHD can be a co-occurring condition to celiac.
“There is no conclusive evidence for a relationship between ADHD and celiac disease,” write researchers in the study
Association of ADHD and Celiac Disease: What Is the Evidence? A Systematic Review of the Literature
. “Therefore, it is not advised to perform routine screening of celiac disease when assessing ADHD (and vice versa) or to implement gluten-free diet as a standard treatment in ADHD.”
If a person has inattentive and behavioral issues related to celiac disease, those symptoms can improve when celiac is treated, regardless of an ADHD diagnosis. Here are some research findings:
Elimination diets' efficacy and mechanisms in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism spectrum disorder.
Various diets eliminating gluten and dairy proteins where examined for their impact on neurodevelopmental disorders, including ADHD. Researchers looked specifically at the microbiome-gut-brain axis since it is often cited as the mechanism by which gluten is thought to cause ADHD symptoms. Research shows only a small group of children respond to elimination diets, and most specifically diets that avoid artificial colors or preservatives. Research on eliminating wheat products hasn’t shown an improvement in ADHD symptoms but there continues to be a need for further exploration of this research.
Truths, Myths and Needs of Special Diets: Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Autism, Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity, and Vegetarianism.
supplementation with omega-3
might be helpful, along with avoiding artificial colors and preservatives to improve ADHD. A gluten-free diet should be used only if there is an allergy or sensitivity to gluten, not as treatment for ADHD symptoms.
Gluten Free Diet For Children With Attention Deficit And Hyperactivity Disorder.
After six months of dietary intervention, a small group of children with ADHD on a gluten-free diet showed a statistically significant decrease in hyperactivity symptoms that was sustained while on the diet. However, other symptoms of ADHD, including attention, where not evaluated.
Could a gluten-free diet help to decrease your child’s ADHD symptoms, specifically if your child does not have celiac disease or non-celiac-gluten sensitivity? Some things to consider:
When ADHD does not co-occur with celiac, research has seen limited or no improvement in ADHD symptoms. When there has been noticeable improvement, it has been for the symptom of hyperactivity only.
Some children who displayed ADHD-like symptoms actually had celiac or non-celiac-gluten sensitivity. When celiac disease or non-celiac-gluten sensitivity was diagnosed and actively treated, those symptoms cleared up because the children did not have ADHD.
that focused on artificial colors or preservatives were more effective at alleviating ADHD symptoms than those that eliminated gluten.
"With primary ADHD, however, diet changes don't make a dramatic difference," Jay Salpekar, MD, the director of the Neurobehavior Program at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, DC, tells
. "A healthy diet will improve a child's energy level and feeling of well-being, but it probably won't make him less hyperactive or more attentive if he truly has ADHD."
Given the few benefits shown for children with a diagnosis of ADHD without celiac disease, and there is no evidence that celiac or non-celiac-gluten sensitivity is a cause of ADHD, eliminating gluten is
likely not helpful
for reducing or eliminating ADHD symptoms and research evidence doesn’t suggest it as a complementary approach.
However, if a child has celiac disease or non-celiac-gluten sensitivity, he might experience an improvement in symptoms that resemble ADHD when celiac disease or non-celiac-gluten sensitivity is treated. This is a benefit of treating celiac disease unrelated to ADHD.
You can learn more about celiac disease or non-celiac-gluten sensitivity from the
Celiac Disease Foundation
. You can find more research on this topic and other topics related to ADHD in our A
DHD Research Library
. Learn more about
CHADD’s Levels of Evidence for ADHD Interventions
What has your family’s experience with elimination diets been? Have they been helpful for you?
Have you thought about a gluten-free diet as one of the possible tools to decrease ADHD symptoms? We look at the research behind this popular theory to learn if it could be helpful for your family. Keep reading for what we found out
This article appeared in
May 04, 2017.
The information provided on this website was supported by Cooperative Agreement Number NU38DD005376 funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the CDC or the Department of Health and Human Services.