Skip to comments.Diet change gives hyperactive kids new taste for life in Norway
Posted on 02/25/2008 10:52:36 AM PST by decimon
STAVANGER, Norway (AFP) - Tears streak Rita's cheek as she recalls what it was like trying to figure out what was wrong with her son more than a decade ago, but she breaks into a smile when she explains how changing his diet made all the difference.
"I could tell something was wrong with him as soon as he began eating solids as a baby. It was if the food was draining him," says Rita, 50, describing how her son Christoffer had yoyoed between passive and hyperactive behaviour until she had removed several staples from his diet including milk and grains.
Christoffer, today a normally developed 14-year-old, is one of 23 children suffering from hyperactive disorders who were put on milk-free diets in 1996-1997 and whose development has been tracked ever since by a small group of educators and researchers in the southwestern Norwegian town of Stavanger.
The group set out to prove a theory by Oslo-based scientist Karl Ludvig Reichelt that a metabolic disorder making it difficult to break down certain proteins, including casein (the protein in milk that makes it possible to make cheese), could cause mental problems like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
"One of the kids I worked with started on the diet on Wednesday and by the weekend his parents said they saw a huge positive change in his behaviour," says special educator Magne Noedland, who helped spearhead the diet project.
All 23 children, who were between four and 11 years old when the project started, were suspected of having ADHD and had been shown to have abnormal levels of peptides in their urine.
The accumulation of peptides, which are short compounds containing two or more amino acids, is an indication that the enzyme needed to fully break down certain proteins is inhibited or missing, and can have an opium-like effect on the brain, according to Reichelt.
Much international research has been done linking such protein disorders to cases of autism and schizophrenia, and a growing number of studies also hint that some cases of ADHD are connected with the digestive problem.
There is however a lot of scepticism to the theory in medical circles, with many doctors believing medication like Ritalin is the best way to treat the condition.
Noedland acknowledges the Stavanger project does not meet all scientific standards, claiming the main problem is the lack of comprehensive studies on how many ADHD children suffer from peptide abnormalities.
"There is no reason to put everyone with ADHD on a diet if only 10 percent of them have protein imbalances," he says.
The children in the Stavanger project all followed a strict casein-free diet the first year, and the results were overwhelmingly positive, Noedland says, pointing out that 22 of the 23 families reported clear improvements in their child's behaviour and attention-span.
A number of the children have since stopped following the diet for different reasons and some were put on medication, but after eight years six were still strictly avoiding all milk products and several had also cut out gluten, which is found in wheat, rye, barley and to some extent oats.
"We see a clear difference between those who stopped and those who stayed on the diet," Noedland says.
"Seeing these kids going from one day not being able to learn a thing to the next day being receptive; as a teacher that's a wonderful feeling," says Kristine Fosse, one of the educators involved in the project.
To illustrate her point, Fosse pulls out a writing test by a six-year-old boy who took part in the project.
The boy was asked to write his numbers after involuntarily breaking his diet and ingesting milk on September 22, 1996. The result was a confused and jumbled mess of squiggly lines. Just two days later, again strictly steering clear of casein, he repeated the exercise, this time writing four clearly legible numbers in an even line.
"It's incredible. We've seen intelligence tests that had gone steadily down suddenly turn around and go back up" after a change of diet, says Ann-Mari Knivsberg, who covers the research end of the Stavanger project.
One of the children who still avoids milk and gluten, 17-year-old Sigbjoern, says any lapse in his diet affects his performance in school.
"I can tell right away when I've eaten something I shouldn't. It's really hard to concentrate. I'm always careful before tests," he says, taking a big bite of gluten and milk-free carrot cake.
Considered a hyperactive problem child with retarded development in nursery school, Sigbjoern today ranks among the best students in his class.
"He had a slow start and a lot of trouble learning to begin with, but by secondary school he was really doing well," says Sigbjoern's mother Grete, 52.
Both Grete and Rita asked that their families' last names not be used for fear of stigmatisation.
"It is considered shameful to have ADHD," Grete says. "When they're on a diet they're just like everyone else. Just look at them. We have two normal, great kids. I'm eternally grateful that Sigbjoern was included in the project."
Hundreds of other Norwegian children with ADHD, mainly in and around Stavanger, have in recent years been put on milk-free diets to help deal with their condition, but Fosse complains many doctors don't inform parents of the option.
"We want to get the word out that this can be an alternative. Parents have to do a lot of searching before they get this information," she says.
"The scepticism is infuriating. I'm glad I have a good education and can stand up for myself when I meet doctors who ridicule what I'm doing," says Grete, putting her arm around Sigbjoern's shoulder.
"I mean, as a parent, wouldn't you want to at least try switching your child's diet before medicating him?"
We tried all the diets that were available for ADHD when our sons were young. Nothing seemed to help. But maybe they have a new one to try. I know that this article lists cutting out grains. My husband is diabetic and his new diet, 20 grams of carb a day, cuts out grains. We both lost weight and feel a lot better without the grains. May be something to this diet in the article. We notice that grains, and also white starches, just make you sluggish.
My son is in his 40’s now. We knew he was hyper when he was in the second grade. Changed is diet, no food coloring for one thing. Kept him away from floresent (sp?) lights which made a big difference. Those lights just sent him up a wall. After about a year, he outgrew it. Stay away from the drugs.
When my daughter was younger we found that milk made her very mean and she acted up soon after she had diary products. All of her doctors told us we were crazy, that there were no allergens in milk. We had only anecdotal evidence that milk was causing the problem, but that eveidence enough for us. We withheld milk and things were hunky-dory. We gave her milk and Dr. Jekyll turned into Little Ms. Hyde.
She outgrew this by about the age of 7 or 8.
Cow’s milk is for baby cows.
Why we drink it, I have no clue.
Those florescent lights...isn’t that what’s in all the classrooms these days? Isn’t that what Al Gore and the Enviros in all their wisdom want everyone to purchase?
Florescent lights are hard to work around for me, too and I’m not ADHD. Will always prefer the incandescent. (which reminds me, need to stock up on those before Obama’s Enviro Youth grab them off the shelves)
Yes. We had very good success with the Feingold diet.
Because we can?
Early intolerance to lactose is also easily mistaken for a problem with casein. That, compounded with "leaky bowel syndrome", where antibodies produced in response to the presence of gluten have managed to create microscopic holes in the small intestine, could create an impression that casein was the cause.
I'm finding it difficult to believe that a Norwegian study team could fail to recognize the cluster of genetic digestive differences that pretty much identify the Sa'ami. At the same time an American group discovered that some autistic children got better if treated as if they had Celiac. This seems to have involved children with Celiac symptoms but didn't "test" for it.
More recently 4 more Celiac genes have been found and there's no test for them yet.
Being autistic, having Celiac as well as lactose intolerance in a society bound and determined to eat icecream cones has just gotta' be one of the most miserable existences on Earth.
Disciplines that keep the kid off the pot 12 times a day and eliminate the projectile vomiting probably overjoy the parents of many autistic children.
Uhh...that Feingold? Or do I want to know this?
He' right, it's far easier just to go ahead and put them on drugs. /s
It tastes great and is very good for you. Cows meat is for making it move about I eat it for the same reasons as I drink milk, I am an omnivore and thats what we do.
We took our son off red dye and it really improved his ability to control impulses.
But milk is different than meat and not metabolized the same way. I’m not really sure how good it actually is for you. I know that milk drinking in men has been linked to prostate cancer. I keep my hubby supplied in beer and he has stopped drinking milk at meals!!!
I’m not saying that anyone should not drink milk, but it does make me wonder why we do it. Personally, I don’t like milk but couldn’t live without cheese. Yum!
Humans really aren’t built to properly digest grains like wheat. But don’t tell anyone, or ADM will have to kill you. ;)
That any food source is unhealthy for some people doesn’t make it a bad food source in general.
Any non-pharmaceutical solution that will help those with a systemic imbalance is great news.
Yes, if you have a hyper kid, you do want to know this!
I have had a milk allergy all my life, but only realized it a few years ago. I was raised in the fifties and hated milk, but was forced to drink it, particularly at family gathering on holidays. I always got car sick on the way home. Today dairy products make me vomit if I am not careful. For example eating a big meal late a night at a conference I go to every year, had me up all night vomiting. I found that I needed to cut out the dairy to avoid this problem. I also found that eating lot of raw carrots will counteract the problems to some degree. And yes, I did tend toward the hyperactive, but my natural avoidance of milk probably kept it at bay.
Increase omega-3 Fatty Acids, including supplimentation with fish oil caplets.
Buy shelled walnuts as a snack food. (Huge bags available at Sams -— contains 03’s, plus fiber.)
Many fishoil pills are no good and contain too many omega-6 acids, which is the problem. Go to this website:
www.t-nation.com and look for “flame out”
Cow’s milk is fine -— for most people.
Part of the issue is the removal of fat from the milk -— the milk contains hormones similiar to the human body -— when the fat is removed, the balance is upset.
Women with ovulatory disorders are told to stop drinking skim milk, and switch to whole milk, for this reason.
I never said otherwise.
Yeah, Grete in the article said it all: "I mean, as a parent, wouldn't you want to at least try switching your child's diet before medicating him?"
I can't recall hearing of that one. For anyone interested, here is the Wikipedia article on the Feingold diet.
“But milk is different than meat and not metabolized the same way. “
What hippie told you that?
No hippie. Simple fact. The protein in milk is a quickly digested protein. That’s why babies’ digestive systems can handle it.
You take a piece of fine steak, chew it up and in two hours, you won’t be hungry.
Try the same with a glass of milk.
Cutting out milk or grains might be an answer, but I’d like to know what the successful kids in this study did eat. Perhaps adding certain foods would fill in nutritional deficits. Or adding certain vitamins, minerals, or other nutrients in pill form. My very sickly 7-year-old was restored to radiant health in about a week with megadoses of good old vitamin C. Very mega.
Good luck with your sons
If I misunderstood that your comment was questioning bovine milk’s nutritional value for humans, I apologize.