While we may hear often that children’s behavioral problems are caused by genetic factors, that is far from the whole story. In the process of parenting and healing my child with multiple behavioral disorders, I have learned and can definitively say that there are further causes behind these disorders, which means they can be healed.
That’s right: autism can be healed, and so can ADD/ADHD, ODD, OCD, dyslexia, and a number of other childhood behavioral and developmental disorders.
If you have decided to seek out natural alternatives to medication for your child, you will find many, many suggestions, but before you can begin “treating” your child, you have to accomplish a few things: reduce inflammation, eliminate toxins, and strengthen the immune system. The good news is these can all begin with some simple changes you can make in your child’s diet.
Below, I’ll give you five ingredients to cut out of your child’s diet NOW, which will not only begin the path to healing, but will likely result in improved behavior almost immediately.
#1- Food dyes
Artificial food coloring is responsible for a host of behavioral and learning problems in children, including symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder, hyperactivity, autism, aggression, and much more. Because they are a neurotoxin, food dyes can cause headaches and migraines, as well as mood imbalances. Removing food coloring is one of the main components of the Feingold diet, a popular diet used to treat behavioral disorders and learning problems.
Food dyes, unlike many other ingredients, are easy to spot and are often found in foods marketed to children. Besides the obvious baked goods and candies, artificial coloring is often found in juices, pudding, and even in vitamins. Look for them under the following labels:
- blue, red, yellow or green (any combination, sometimes followed by numbers)
- FD & C lakes
- citrus red 2
- artificial color
#2- Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
It’s what makes Chinese takeout so tasty, bland foods not taste like cardboard, and is the reason you can’t stop at just one chip or cracker.
Monosodium glutamate is a common flavoring additive in many packaged foods, especially soups and flavor packets, and can be linked to a number of health problems, including migraines, as well as behavioral problems in children, because, like food dyes, it is a neurotoxin.
The very tricky part about MSG is that it can be hidden under a number of names, so you need to be familiar with its aliases, which include:
- Any ingredient containing the words “glutamate” or “glutamic”
- Yeast extract and other yeast ingredients
- Anything hydrolyzed or autolyzed
- Calcium or sodium caseinate
- Some gelatins
- Textured protein or protein isolates
MSG is responsible for making you crave junk food. It is formulated to make foods taste irresistible, causing you to eat more and more and still remain unsatisfied. As you crave these fake, artificially-flavored foods, real, whole foods are less appealing.
MSG can totally change the way you eat and what your body yearns for.
#3- Artificial sweeteners
Like artificial colors, artificial sweeteners affect brain health, and can contribute to behavioral problems in children.
Additionally, they can retrain our taste buds to prefer the intensely-sweet flavor of fake foods over the natural sweetness of healthy, whole foods like fruit. And like MSG, they cause us to crave more sweetness than we were ever supposed to, because the unnatural sweetness is like nothing found in nature. There are many artificial sweeteners, under a number of brand names.
Watch out for these:
Artificial sweeteners are most commonly found in “diet” or “sugar-free” foods.
#4- High fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
You may recall several years ago when the Corn Refiners Association put out an ad that insisted that high fructose corn syrup was not harmful, but simply “natural, and, like sugar, fine in moderation.”
This unfortunate half-truth has perpetuated the idea that HFCS, also known as isolated fructose, high fructose syrup and corn sugar, is somehow part of a healthy, balanced diet. This simply isn’t true.
High fructose corn syrup contributes to hyperactivity in children and other behavioral problems. Because it is chemically-derived from corn starch, it has a much higher sugar content than sugar itself. The high-fructose makeup of this syrup means that instead of our bodies processing it slowly, as with regular table sugar, it goes straight to the blood stream.
#5- White bread (and other refined grains)
After eliminating the above ingredients from our diet, the next thing we did was to remove refined, white flour. This was a bit of an adjustment, and at first, it just meant that we didn’t eat bread at restaurants. From there, I started using whole grain flours in my home baking.
I will always remember early in our real-food journey, we were eating at a restaurant with family and my dad offered a roll to our son. I said no, but he blew me off and went ahead and gave it to him. Within minutes of finishing the roll, our son had gone from being fairly calm to running around and under the table, shouting, and being overall crazy! My dad believed me then and has never offered our son bread again!
While this may seem like a tough step, it was necessary for us to take on our way to better eating and better health. If you are eating white bread right now, switch to a whole grain or gluten-free version as a baby step to eating better.
Don’t be complacent
It might seem like making these changes aren’t worth it, and you might want to quit before you even try. Don’t.
Once you remove these ingredients, one by one, you will start seeing changes in your child and you will be motivated to learn more and do more- I promise! When I interviewed Gordon’s mom, Tracee, she told me that eliminating red dye for her autistic son’s diet completely eliminated his tantrums, practically overnight. She went on to completely heal him from autism. You have to start somewhere, so choose an ingredient and get it out!
Read Gordon’s amazing story of healing here, then go over and read Brendan’s story of being healed from autism here.
It’s important you learn the truth about these toxic ingredients because, as Dr. Mark Hyman says, “Doubt and confusion are the currency of deception, and they sow the seeds of complacency.”
It’s up to you to learn all you can about these ingredients and make healthy choices for your family. Food manufacturers will do everything they can to convince you that eating these things is fine “in moderation.” If they can confuse you, they win; if you feel overwhelmed by sorting through information and are uninformed, you will have little will to make changes.
Make the changes your child needs and experience health and freedom for your entire family!
I’ve been reading that going organic and sprouted/real sourdough is more important with wheat than just going whole grain.
Ultimately, gluten must be removed. Our family did eat sprouted and sourdough bread for a long as we were making the transition to eventually going grain-free. The list here is simply a starting point, and where we started as a family to start eating better and healing our bodies. <3
Totally agree about all gluten should be avoided. Banning only White bread is like advising to switch from unfilterred cigarretes to filtered. Less bad, but still bad.
I just want a list of what I can give them! It would be shorter!
Tiffany- I understand that feeling! Focus on whole foods: pastured meats and eggs, vegetables, and fruits. These should make up 80% of the diet, with the remaining 20% being other foods.
Krystal Evans says
I find this very important,Thank You
Anita Sauve says
While I agree that high fructose corn syrup is an awful ingredient that nobody should consume , I believe it does not go directly into the bloodstream. Fructose must first be broken down and processed in the liver which means that it raises blood sugar more slowly than glucose. But this is very hard on the hard on the liver and leads to things like non-alcoholic fatty liver disease which is showing up even in children now who consume HFSC in beverages etc.
Syd Coulter says
My daughter is autistic and also has ADHD, we do this with her as well. I have noticed that it does help with a lot of her meltdowns and also with her being able to sleep better. I don’t necessarily agree with the fact that you said you could “cure” autism because you can’t cure a neurological disorder. You may need to rewrite that to you can help control side effects of autism but not autism itself.
Thanks for your thoughts Syd. Autism can absolutely be healed. I have two such stories on this site and know countless other parents who have healed their children. Autism is not as much as neurological disorder as a full-body toxicity problem, which originates in the gut. I stand by my words and hope that you will continue to research how you can help your daughter. The GAPS diet was created to heal autism and it does work.
Syd Coulter says
There may be such stories, but Autism is a spectrum disorder. Which means that every case is different. I stand by what I said in that, you can treat or heal the symptoms of Autism and not the disorder itself. I’m sure the stories that you have mentioned are true and the other parents you know. But, you also have to take into account how sever the child’s autism is on the spectrum. My daughter is on a special gluten free, casein free, no food coloring or dyes, no processed food or sugars, organic, non-gmo. I have done lots of research, she also has her therapy’s and we do not vaccinate. She has improved greatly in the last year. I think it is a little miss leading and somewhat no fair to say you can heal Autism when I believe (and the researcher I have read and books and children my daughter goes to school with, a school for autistic children) that this may work for some but not all cases.
RecoveringKids.com | Biomedical Healing
All diseases are curable. Not all patients are curable however. So yes autism can be cured, but that doesn’t meant that every patient with autism can be cured. One has to treat the patient, not the disease.
I am concerned, I understand I must give her food that does not have the above mentioned. But I need a diet so that I know which foods to focus on
Look into a paleo diet. Tons of great recipes these days!
At the beginning of my son’s first grade year, a new friend and her husband suggested eliminating corn syrup and red dye from his diet to eliminate the hyperactivity. I began a diet change the following day. For us, the results were immediate! The first two to three days, he was very calm and focused. By the end of the first week, he needed significantly harder work in school! His dietary changes have been in place for a little over 6 months. He’s reading like a pro now and receives so many compliments on his behavior. I couldn’t be more pleased!
Susan Kanen says
Also protect your children from fluoride in drinking water, toothpaste, dental products, pesticides and drugs. Fluorides accumulate in the bone even passing thru the placenta. Mother’s milk is 200X less concentrated in fluoride. Do not use fluoridated water for infant formula!
How to know if the wAter is fluoridated? Thanks.
Is distilled fluoridated?
Great tips and definitely add alkalized, ionized water to assist with the detox.
I’ve used the world’s best brand for over 7 years and solely recommend it to our holistic clients.
What brand it is?
I have a one-month old and have been, for the most part, living this way myself for a few years (organic, gluten-free, pastured meats/eggs, avoiding artificial additives, using natural cleaners.) I plan to do the same with my daughter, as much as I can. My concern is when she goes to grandma’s and discovers M&Ms, or sees her cousins eating fruit snacks or other junk, or the family member or random stranger giving or sneaking her something. How do you avoid that?
If I explain my thoughts and wishes to other people, I think they’d roll their eyes and say something about me taking away their childhood. I know avoiding junk food won’t have a negative impact, but some people don’t get that. Or they’ll say “one wont hurt.” That may be true, but then maybe thstkk lead to more. I was with my nephew recently, and an older man offered him some of his deep-fried frankenfood, which he took and ate. How do you avoid that? When she’s old enough, I’m sure she’ll discover and eat junk, as I do sometimes, but when they’re so little and not fully developed, I’d like to keep it to a minimum. Preferably without being labeled as crazy!
That is every mama’s battle, Kerri! When they were younger, we just put our foot down and made sure everyone u destroy our wished. We didn’t let other people’s opinions bother us too much, because, ultimately, our responsibility was to our kids and keeping them healthy. As they’ve gotten older, they’re in more and more situations where they have the opportunity to eat junk, and sometimes they do. I just believe that if they’re eating wholesome food 95% of the time, the junk won’t affect them too much. It’s a difficult road to walk for sure, but we just have to do the best we can for them and hope that by teaching then good food habits, they will make good choices. Your daughter is blessed to have a mama who has been mindful from the beginning!
Yes, been there, older kids eat more junk. My hope is that if they are used to real healthy tasty food while young, they will be able to notice difference in how they feel after eating processed food. May be parents can bring this to their attention, see how you feel in the morning? , whats your energy level? notice the discomfort? Brain fog? They might not make the connection themselves. Real food is delicious, i hope to bring up adventurous gurmans.
I have seen several lists of ingredients to avoid. I would love to find a list of foods/products – beyond the obvious (fruits/vegetables) – that are on the healthy and safe side. What will satisfy my 10-year-old stubborn child when right now all he wants to eat is sugar-laden foods/snacks? He’ll eat and enjoys fruit, but he wants more than that. Something more substantive and something that seems ‘special’ (yet that is perhaps secretly healthy). Any recommendations?
Hi Kimberley. My two suggestions for transitioning kids to a stricter diet is to rip the band-aid off, so to speak, by only keeping healthy, diet-approved foods in the house, and by making diet-approved treats so they don’t feel deprived. My flourless blender blondies or pineapple upside down cake are really popular with my kids! Hope that helps. <3
Kristie Neddermeyer says
Do you have a cookbook or somewhere that you share recipes? I would like to try some of these more natural alternatives but prefer recipes from someone that actually knows they taste good!
I have recipes here: https://thefamilythathealstogether.com/recipes/ and also have lots of cookbooks I really love. One of my first paleo cookbooks, and one that has very simple recipes is Make it Paleo. Against All Grain is also one of our family’s favorites. Hope that helps!
What do you mean by yeast extract and other yeast ingredients? Does this include “instant dry yeast” that I use when baking bread? If it does, can I still bake wheat bread?
Yeast ingredient to look for also include hydrolyzed yeast and autolyzed yeast. Real yeast is not included. 🙂
Omayra Creazzo says
I’m at wits end!! My 5 year old son has been kicked out of 2 daycares, 1 elementary school and denied entrance to 2 other elementary schools …because he is behaviorally challenged, and there isn’t enough support for him. He has sensory integration disorder, ADHD, and doesn’t sleep well at night. I can’t have adult social interactions with him around because he hits other kid’s and anything can set him off. At this point I will try anything, Thank you for the testimonials and outlining a way to start. It seems overwhelming when I imagine changing the entire household diet overnight. So I appreciate the approval of starting one step at a time.
This sounds just like my situation. Have you found anything that has helped over the past year? I’m about to start cutting these foods out of my sons diet, but nothing has worked to help him, so far.
phani yiangou says
check out hand in hand parenting – a new approach to listening to kids, ackowledging emotions, allowing tantrums, and this approach heals all the past traumas, and miraculously calms kids down
Hayley J says
You realize that dyslexia is hereditary and has been linked to chromosomes? They have found that intense early reading intervention can cure it. I am dyslexic, as is my Dad and older sister, my younger sister who showed signs was lucky enough to go through a very strict reading recovery program in 1st grade and was cured. My older sister and I both had tutoring through the Michigan Dyslexia Institute to help us, but it was too late to change the way our brain was designed to work.
Hi Hayley. Lots of things that are “genetic” in nature can still be treated with lifestyle changes. Dyslexia is no different. The gut and brain are very closely connected and healing the gut can, in fact, heal the brain, regardless of the cause.
My son had symptoms of dyslexia in 1st grade. He struggled with reading and spelling. I removed dairy from his diet and his dyslexia symptoms improved. He started improving on reading and is now reading above grade level. I read a book called “Is This Your Child?”. It explained food allergies and symptoms. It showed how handwriting can change when an allergy is exposed. Sometimes bigger, some smaller, some backwards, etc. Also, how drawings go from sweet and innocent to dark and violent upon introducing an allergen. I truly believe most illnesses, diseases, and conditions are attributed to food sensitivities or environmental influences- air, water, chemicals, etc.
I’ve noticed the same in my son, who exhibits symptoms of dyslexia- the symptoms are much worse if he eats anything out of the ordinary. The GAPS diet is actually designed to heal dyslexia, among other things, and all my kids do better when we adhere to the diet.
Kimberly Santos says
I just needed to read the part where you said ADD, ADHD, ODD etc can be healed. We’ve been at this for years after drinking contaminated water for half a year in a rental house. We’ve done all the things like you’ve mentioned here and more but the healing has seemed like baby steps! We finally found a great functional Dr and are hoping to see some big improvements soon. Again, just so thankful for those words, I believe them, but sometimes I need the encouragement. The journey is hard work and painful at times!
Please help looking for more diet healthy foods my daughter has ADHD ODD going to clean up diet. I’m interested in free news letter meal tips thank you