ADHD and Gluten

Do you know which food sensitivity is most frequently connected with ADHD? Gluten.

ADHDers have a higher rate of food allergies and food intolerance than people who do not have ADHD.

Do you know which food sensitivity is most frequently connected with ADHD? Gluten.

In fact, some researchers believe 70-80 percent of ADDers have a gluten sensitivity.

Gluten is a protein substance found in most grains, (wheat, barley, rye) and food processed from those grains, such as, cereals, breads, processed and packaged foods. These products play a big part a standard western diet.

Gluten sensitivity affects the frontal and pre-frontal lobe of the brain, which is where our executive functions are housed (short term memory, planning, etc.) We know that the executive functions are impaired when you have ADHD; so by cutting out gluten, you can improve that functioning.

How do you find out if you are gluten sensitive?

It is possible to ask your doctor to test you,  tests are expensive and not always reliable (with a lot of false negatives). Also, the result can also be misleading. For example, the results might say your sensitivity is ‘mild’, but don’t let that trick you. What is mild on the medical spectrum may not be mild for you; which could mean a huge difference in how you function and operate.

Another option is to cut out gluten for 30 days and see if you notice an improvement in how you feel and think; although you will properly start to notice an improvement in less than a week.

I went gluten-free on the 1st of November 2012. I was motivated because I had a longstanding knee injury that was stopping me from running. I had tried all the traditional things, physiotherapy etc. and nothing seemed to work. When I heard that a gluten-free diet helps sports injuries because it reduces inflammation in the body, I decided to try it as an experiment. It worked! In the spring of 2013, I started running again. In June 2013, I did a 12K Spartan race where you run through a crazy obstacle course and get covered in mud. In September, I did my first ever half marathon in 2 hours. I was super proud and none of this would have been possible if I was still eating gluten.

What does this have to do with ADHD? Well, back in November 2012, in less than a week, I noticed a huge difference in my clarity of thought. My brain felt sharper and I felt happier (even though I hadn’t been feeling sad), and so I knew I would never go back to eating gluten.

Not wanting to keep good things to myself, I started suggesting to clients that experiment with a gluten-free diet. They experienced incredible results too. Everyone experienced different benefits. However, the common ones were: their brains felt sharper, being better able to focus; less hyperactive, a sense of calm, zero brain fog, with no more afternoon slumps.

The other benefit was that those that had excess weight to lose, lost it effortlessly.

Changing the way you eat does involve a bit of discipline and creativity as you overhaul a lifetime of food habits.

However, researchers found that everyone who has gluten sensitivity that gave up gluten, noticed improvement with their ADHD symptoms. That is an astounding result! Researchers barely ever say everyone!

Your challenge this week, is to give up gluten! It’s a big challenge, I know! But I promise you it will be worth it. Let me know how you get on!


Almog, M., L.V. Gabis, S. Shefer, and Y. Bujanover.  2010. Gastrointestinal Symtoms in Paediatric Patients with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Harefuah 149 (1):33-36

Niederhofer, H. 2011: Association of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Celiac Disease: A Brief Report.  The Primary Care Companion to CNS Disorders 13 (3): 609-618

Niederhofer, H., and K. Pittschierler 2006. A Preliminary investigation of ADHD symptoms in person with celian disease. Jounal of Attention disorders 10(2): 200-2004.

Nora T. Gedgaudas. 2009 Primal Body, Primal Mind.  Healing Arts Press. Vermont.


Have you ever gone gluten free? I would love to hear your experience. Drop me a note in the comments section!



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  1. Patti says:

    I am writing my thesis on gluten and ADHD (not necessarily celiac, but rather how gluten can exacerbate symptoms) and was wondering if you could point me to any other research you have found that correlates the two. I’m also curious as to where you found your facts in the beginning of your article. I’d love to include that. Thanks in advance!

    • Hi Patti
      I got my facts from the sources listed at the bottom of the article. Good luck with your thesis! sounds very interesting.

  2. My daughter just went through a 5 hour psychological testing. The results are in. She has ADD (ADHD) along with some comormidity manifestations. She’s 21.

    My husband and I researched ADD much nearly 20 years ago. Our oldest son was being treated. As I read scenarios, I saw myself and my family in many situations. But when my son was in middle school, he no longer wanted medication or the stigma of being different.

    Since then so many people have discounted ADD and ADHD altogether. I know that the symptoms are very real and are inherited. (I’ve dealt with them my entire life.) When they are so overpowering that self-esteem and ability to move forward in life are impaired, treatment is definitely needed.

    While my daughter was living away from home last year, she was misdiagnosed as just having depression. I knew that wasn’t right. I’m glad that she has chosen a good psychiatrist and psycho-analyst. I don’t know what medication she’ll take, but she was told by the psycho-analyst to go on a gluton-free diet. She started that very day. I am also doing it. If it benefits either or both of us, it will be fantastic. I think that our family should have gone gluton-free years ago. But I’m excited to do so during this Christmas season, so that I can free healthier for sure.

  3. Helen Adams says:

    Going gluten free has been so helpful to me for overcoming brain fog and fuzzy thinking and also for easing feelings of sadness. I have felt so much better since going gluten free and have been so for about seven years. Clarity of mind and thought is perhaps one of the greatest treasures that have come out of this for me. It can seem almost impossible at first, but there are so many online recipes and resources available that it soon becomes second nature. Really worth going gluten free for a few months to see if it can make a difference.

  4. Frank C says:

    PS when i googled adhd gluten and found this site I also got this study which pretty much confirms it.

    Association of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Celiac Disease: A Brief Report
    Helmut Niederhofer, MD, PhD corresponding author

  5. Frank C says:

    Yes works for me.
    I challenged it by going back and on and off having pizza and beer, and the adhd symptoms became bad again.
    Thing is, once you stop gluten and introduce it back into your life it is greeted with much worse responses.
    It also gives me dry frizzy hair, hypothyroidism[under functioning] acne, rashes, all sorts really, the list of conditions that gluten causes is phenomenal.

  6. Leigh says:

    I would like to try GF with my possibly ADHD son. do I need to remove every single trace of it?? Or can I just replace the major tangible things, like bread, pasta and cereal??

    • Julie M LeBlanc says:

      I have a similar question that has been posted.

      My son is diagnosed with adhd. In a desperate attempt to find relief in anything other than prescription drugs, we are trying gluten and dairy free. We have yet to test him for gluten sensitivity but will get on that shortly. Question is, do we need to remove every single trace of gluten as if he were celiac/allergic? Or is it ok if he consumes foods that may have small traces? Will we still see a noticeable benefit or will it zero out any effort?

      • Hi Julie
        I would remove every single trace of gluten for 30 days. After 30 days you could, if you wanted to add in traces and see how or if that lessens the benefits at all.
        It does take more effort this way, however the results will be clearer.

        Hope that helps!

    • Hi Leigh
      I would remove every single trace of gluten for 30 days. After 30 days you could, if you wanted to add in traces and see how or if that lessens the benefits at all.
      Even small traces can have a big impact on someone that is sensitive to gluten.

  7. Hi Jacqui, great article on gluten! I changed to a raw vegan diet in 2009 and that means cutting out cooked foods such as bread, pasta, cakes etc. Not only did I rid myself of all the chronic ailments that doctors told me were incurable, I also lost 64lbs in weight as a side effect! I rarely get colds or cold sores on my face now, which plagued me before so all in all I do agree that gluten is a major culprit in causing ill health. Much love, Val

    • Hi Val! You are a walking testimonial to gluten free living! Thanks so much for sharing… If anyone was on the fence about trying a gluten free 30 days I think you have just convinced them! Xox

  8. Jacqueline thanks so much for this thorough article. My son with ADHD tested positive for gluten sensitivity and yes the report was “mild”. As he heads into grade 11 this is a great reminder to get back on track to remove gluten from his diet. Very hard as he tends to eat at his girlfriends a lot but I’m definitely on track to try a 30 day trial and see how it goes. Thanks again for all you do.

    • Hi Leanne! Thanks for your comment. Brilliant timing for your son to go gluten free before he starts back at school. It does take a some forward planning a shift in thinking and a taste bud shift, but the benefits are so worth it! And after a short while those changes become second nature.

  9. Susan Cowan Morse says:

    I am glad that you wrote about gluten sensitivity. For any doubters who need to hear a real-life success story, I am one. I eliminated gluten from my diet 8 years ago when I was 35 years old. I have enjoyed vast improvements in my physical health, emotional well-being, and cognitive function ever since. Never did I fit the bill for Celiac Disease so gluten was overlooked as a culprit. Then one day I read about “wheat sensitivity” and put a check mark by every symptom. After that, I sought the help of a holistic nutritionist and I eliminated gluten. I went from being sick all the time with colds, bugs, hay fever, sinus and ear infections to having an occasional cold that is manageable and short-lived. I went from taking antibiotics 3 or 4 times a year since I was born to taking antibiotics maybe 4 times over the past eight years. I went from feeling chronically fatigued to feeling energized and well every day. I no longer have hay fever type allergies and no longer buy or use allergy medications. My productivity in my work life soared with this change if for nothing more than the fact that I no longer felt sick and fatigued every day. My mother wishes she had known about this when I was a child now that she has seen the improvements in my well-being. Of course, in the 1970’s the mainstream didn’t consider bread and pasta to be unhealthy for anyone. And as the packaged and processed foods industry gained more and more steam through the 80’s and 90’s, gluten began appearing in items that weren’t grain-based at all. For instance, modified food starch is often made from wheat and is used as an additive in most prepared foods. So as I grew up, my diet included more and more gluten when I wasn’t even intentionally eating it.
    I am willing to bet that more people than not have gluten sensitivity. While it is a very hard change to make, it is well worth every bit of time, energy and effort it takes. This is a change with a tremendous payoff. And even if you try it and realize that gluten is not your culprit, the work is still worth the effort to have given your body a break from packaged and processed foods, and from refined grain products.
    Again, I am glad that you brought attention to this in your blog. Eliminating gluten is another great non-drug strategy that can improve an AD/HD person’s well-being by leaps and bounds. It did mine!

    • Jacqueline Sinfield says:

      Susan!!! what a wonderful testimonial to being gluten free!! Thanks for sharing all your benefits! There are so many health benefits both for ADHD and overall health. One reader emailed me to say when her daughter stopped eating gluten her teacher thought she was on Ritalin. Incredible.
      I stopped eating gluten on the 1st of November 2012, as an experiment. I feel so healthy, and my dyslexic brain feels sharper and I generally feel happier, even though I didn’t feel sad before.
      I hope all the benefits you shared will inspire anyone to give up gluten, even for a little while so they can experience the benefits themselves.
      Jacqui 🙂


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