Frequently Asked Questions
Last update 5/04/2010
What is the Feingold Program?HomeIt is a new way of shopping and eating that combines old-fashioned nutrition with modern convenience. We guide you through the process, step by step.
- First, we teach you how to determine if certain food additives or foods are triggering undesirable symptoms.
- Next, we show you how to find the food you enjoy, but in a more natural version. We also guide you to finding healthier non-food products.
- Then we show you how to comfortably make these changes a part of your life.
- Finally, we provide continual updates as products change. We share the tips we have learned so that you can streamline your shopping and have more free time to enjoy feeling good.
Who Uses the Feingold Program?Although foods / additives can induce many different symptoms in different people, the majority of families who use the Feingold Program do so to help a family member with behavior and/or learning problems. See the list of symptoms which are often helped by the Program.
Who was Doctor Feingold?He was an eminent pediatrician and allergist, and was Chief of Allergy at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in San Francisco. As he worked with patients he suspected of being sensitive to aspirin, he began to notice that they also reacted to some foods and food additives. He found, to his surprise, that not only did some people have physical reactions, but many experienced changes in their behavior.
Although it is well-known that things like alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, and chemicals like drugs can affect behavior, most people don't consider that chemicals added to foods may do the same.
In the late 1960's and early 1970's, Dr. Feingold developed what he named the "KP" diet. (It was based on the Lockey allergy diet used at the Mayo Clinic.)
Dr. Feingold found that he could help about half of the children who were diagnosed with what was then called hyperkinesis or hyperactivity. The media changed the name of the KP Diet to the Feingold Diet, and parent support groups chose the name "Feingold Associations" to honor the doctor who had helped their families. More information about Dr. Feingold.
Which foods can cause problems?
In addition to certain additives, foods believed to contain "salicylates" can cause unwanted effects for sensitive people.
It appears that some plants create a chemical similar to acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin). These plants include many common fruits and a few other foods. Aspirin sensitivity is well known, but most health care providers are not aware that certain fruits and other foods can also trigger problems.
The good news is that most people can later go back to eating some of the salicylates, especially if they don't overdo it. Individual sensitivities vary.
What about sugar?The Feingold Program does not eliminate sugar or junk food (although we encourage moderation). Sugar is often believed to be the culprit because sugary foods are generally loaded with synthetic additives. A small number of children don't do well with sugar, but most can enjoy sweets as long as they don't overdo them or eat them on an empty stomach.
How can a family follow this program?The main role of the non-profit Feingold Association is to help people get started on the Program, and to help them succeed. This work is carried out primarily by volunteers who have successfully used the Program with their families and who donate their time to help others. You can become a member on line or you can call 1-800-321-3287 (inside U.S. only) or 1-631-369-9340.
The Feingold Product Information Center contacts food manufacturers to research brand-name foods, and prepares books listing thousands of products that are free of both the obvious and the hidden additives that we eliminate. We also research fast-food restaurants to learn which of the selections can be enjoyed at places like McDonald's, Wendy's, Burger King, Papa John's, etc.
The Feingold Member material are filled with practical guidance to help families get started. The Feingold newsletter, Pure Facts, provides food updates and useful information ten times a year. Sample copies of the newsletter are available.
Where can I shop?The majority of the foods can come from your neighborhood supermarket. You might have to go to a health food store to get natural toothpaste and natural lollipops, or if you prefer, they can be mail-ordered from suppliers who cater to Feingold families.
You will be able to continue to buy many well-known brands, but will make a switch to the acceptable version. For example, Cheetos Natural White Cheddar Flavored Puffs are acceptable, but the orange colored Cheetos (with artificial coloring) are not. Duncan Hines makes a chocolate cake mix with artificial flavor - and another version without.
On the website is a list of companies with on-line or mail order shopping, or which provide on-line store locators for help in finding their locations. (Not everything these companies sell is acceptable on the Feingold Program - you must use the Feingold Foodlist & Shopping Guide)
Is it hard?We understand that it can sound overwhelming to do one more thing when the parents of the child with ADD or ADHD already feel like they are stretched to the limit. The good news is that it's amazingly easy to avoid the worst of the food additives when you use your Foodlist & Shopping Guide. Then, when you notice positive changes in your child, any extra effort in grocery shopping is worth it. Within a few weeks, most families report that not only are they comfortable using the Program, they find it rather disgusting to eat additives made from petroleum, and don't want to go back to buying those foods.
How long does it take to see a change?That's not possible to predict since there are so many variables. We can look back, however, and see how others have responded. It is fairly common to see a clear, noticeable improvement in as little as 3 days, but some people take 2 to 3 weeks. A minority of people report that the symptoms temporarily got worse before they got better. A person who is not on medication is likely to have a faster response than one who is (especially if the medicine is artificially colored!).
What is the success rate for this Program?The success rate for families following the Program correctly is over 80%.
There is some data that can be found in the studies on diet and behavior: The 1989 Kaplan study tested part, but not all, of the Feingold Program. Their success was 68%. The 1994 Boris study showed that 73% of the children responded favorably. The 1994 Rowe study found that even some of the children in the control group behaved badly after they were given yellow dye, and 75% of the children with ADHD improved on this "Stage-Two Feingold-type" diet.
I've heard it only helps a tiny number of children.By the late 1970's, Dr. Feingold was achieving a 70% success rate in his practice, but his critics complained that it was not high enough. Since that time, we have further refined the Program and believe we have increased the rate of success to over 90% based on member feedback ...... the 2% or 5% quoted by the critics is simply a myth.
Volunteers do not receive a paycheck, so they need to have a strong motivation to give their time and energy. Over the past 25 years, there have been thousands of parents, teachers, doctors and other professionals who have donated their time and talents to the Association. What these people received for their time is the satisfaction of seeing the Program work, both in their homes and for other families. It would be nearly impossible to even establish an association, let alone continue the work for all these years, if 98% or 99% failed.
Why does the Feingold Program have critics?Food additives are very big business. Foods that rely on additives are generally extremely profitable (additives are far cheaper than food). Drugs for treatment of ADHD are also big business. Many of the early studies, quoted by critics today, are from the 1970s. They were designed and funded by the Nutrition Foundation, an industry lobby.
How about families who try the Program and do not succeed?If a parent has our current Foodlist and other literature, and does not see an improvement in a reasonable amount of time, we ask them to please contact us and we will try to help them. In many cases, the lack of success is due to a simple mistake, like using colored toothpaste, or being unaware of hidden additives in low fat milk.
Sometimes the problem is that the child has additional sensitivities or allergies that need to be addressed. Or a child may have vision, auditory, or sensory deficits that need to be identified; toxic exposure to lead, mercury or pesticide or other toxins that must be addressed medically; a deficiency of (or metabolic problem with) certain vitamins, essential fatty acids, etc., or an unrecognized illness such as thyroid abnormality or parasitic infections which must be discovered and treated.
In most cases, even when a child has multiple problems, the removal of the additives will bring about a noticeable improvement, especially in behavior.
When a child's problems are subtle, improvements might be less obvious than they are for the bouncing-of-the-wall child. Attention and learning generally improve gradually, while behavior is likely to change quickly.
Many times a person will try to use the Feingold Program, but will not have our information. It seems easy enough to just read labels and choose foods that way. Unfortunately, food processing is very complicated and many food labels are incomplete or misleading. A product can boast "no preservatives" or "no MSG" when they actually do contain them. The regulations are very lax, in our opinion, and even so they are often ignored.
Could other things besides food additives be responsible for the child's problems?Absolutely!! Our materials frequently discuss other causes and treatments for behavior and learning problems However, we see a dietary approach as a simple, relatively inexpensive first step, and we like the fact that it is a technique parents can try on their own in their home. We feel that the fact that the increased use of food additives in the U.S. has paralleled the increase in learning/behavior problems deserves a closer look. Also, there has been a drastic increase in childhood asthma and ear infections, and we have found that they can be connected with diet.
Does the Feingold Association oppose the use of medicine for ADD /ADHD?
No, not at all. We just feel that parents have the right to have complete and accurate information about all the options available. Some of our members combine medication with diet. They are often pleased to find that they are able to use less medication. We don't criticize parents who use medicine. But we do criticize the unethical activities of some of the pharmaceutical companies that are profiting from the sales.
Does the Feingold Program support the use of vitamins, etc.?We prefer families first remove the suspect chemicals, then after they have seen positive results they can test out supplements if they wish, as long as the supplements don't contain the eliminated additives. For those who must use supplements or medications, we try to help them find appropriate brands without the additives.
Is the Feingold Program alternative medicine?No, not really. It is an elimination diet, which is one of the oldest and most conservative forms of medical treatment. If food additives are triggering the symptoms, it makes sense to us to remove them, rather than to treat only the symptoms - or to cover up symptoms without any attempt to identify the cause(s). Most of the children (and adults) we help will benefit from having fewer chemicals, not more.