ADHD Diet: Foods That Cause Symptoms and Physical Stress

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Did you know that the food you eat contains chemicals that influence brain function? When heated, certain foods release anesthetizing or stimulating effects, causing confusing signals in the brain. Dairy and wheat also have sedative properties by nature. Since these two foods are staple items in our modern diet, it’s no wonder that many children and adults have ADHD, and why ADHD diets are a popular treatment. Inattention is a symptom that affects ADHD sufferers across the age spectrum, and explains why those affected by the disorder tend to be apathetic and numb. At the same time, they display symptoms of aggression or stress when they consume stimulants from food.

Children with ADHD are in a constant struggle against the effect of the sedative and stimulating food substances, which may be responsible for their hyperactive symptoms. They have a hard time focusing because their brain receives conflicting signals. This is why ADHD is not always due to a neurotransmitter imbalance; often, they are caused by the chemicals found in food. Below are the food chemicals that cause ADHD.

Opioid peptides

Opioid peptides are morphine-like substances derived from wheat and dairy. Sometimes, opioid peptides can be even more powerful than morphine. These amino acids are derived from gluten and casein, two proteins found in wheat and dairy, respectively. The human body was not designed to break down gluten and casein, so when they are left half-digested, the remnant of these proteins get converted into opioid peptides. These peptides stimulate appetite, inhibit concentration, and can cause a gut flora imbalance. They are also very addictive. Try going a few days without eating a single morsel of wheat or dairy, and observe how you feel. Most people who go on the gluten-free casein-free diet experience because your brain is experiencing withdrawal symptoms from the lack of opioid peptides.


Beta-carbolines are substances that emerge when food is heated. They are derived from proteins; therefore, the more protein a food has, the more beta-carbolines it produces. There are three kinds of beta-carbolines – uppers, downers, and anti’s. Humans are very sensitive to their stimulant or sedative effects because the brain makes use of beta-carbolines in its regulation of neurotransmitters. Beta-carbolines exist naturally in the brain but when beta-carbolines from food interact with them, they can affect brain function in an unpredictable way. This is because the concentration of natural beta-carbolines is up to 1,000 times lower than neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. This means that even small amounts of foreign carbolines can have powerful effects on the brain, which results in behavior like ADHD symptoms, aggression, apathy, and stress.


One other food substance that can trigger ADHD symptoms is quinolines, an organic compound formed by the heat. Like beta-carbolines, these substances can alter behavior and stimulate appetite through its effects on neuron receptors.

While it’s difficult to tell which of these food substances are responsible for a person’s ADHD symptoms, you can slowly uncover the culprit through the help of an elimination diet. This is a special kind of diet that involves removing whole food families for three days and observing one’s behavior. If symptoms improve, there’s a high chance that the offending food might be from the eliminated food group. Alternately, you can try the gluten-free casein-free diet and see if avoiding opioid peptides from wheat and dairy makes a difference.

Consider reducing the amount of sugary foods, fast foods, and processed foods in your child’s diet, and replacing these with green leafy vegetables, meat, and fish. Research suggests that ADHD symptoms can be caused by a nutritional deficiency, due to children’s preference for unhealthy food.

Join a support group

One of the best ways to cope with the diagnosis is by joining an ADHD support group. Fellow parents of children with ADHD are more than happy to give you tips and advice on managing your child’s symptoms and dealing with the challenges of the disorder. At the very least, a support group will provide you with a sympathetic ear when things get especially stressful.