The Feingold Diet removes
- Artificial (synthetic) food dyes
- Artificial (synthetic) flavorings & fragrances
- Three preservatives
- Artificial sweeteners
Temporarily Removed at The Start of The Program
- Foods and non-foods containing salicylates
- Aspirin and medicine containing aspirin
Products containing several other additives are marked in our Foodlist book because many of our members need to or want to avoid them. Sugar is not removed; most members tolerate sugar in moderation, although corn syrup is a problem for some.
Is it hard?
Most people find it takes a few weeks to fully adjust to the changes in the foods they buy and prepare, but that by about the 3rd week it becomes routine. If you see a big improvement, then the effort required will seem small by comparison. The diet itself is no more difficult than any other dietary change, requiring close attention until you are used to it. However, this is actually the question parents using the Feingold Diet are asked most often. Here are some of their answers about what HARD is:
- Seeing my bright, creative child struggle daily to learn because he cannot concentrate.
- Getting the phone call to pick my child up from school because he is out of control.
- Being left out of family gatherings because of the behavior of my child.
- Waiting for over seven years for my little boy to crawl up into my lap and say, “I love you, Mommy.”
- Not being able to ease her pain when she “just can’t stop crying.”
- Changing sheets in the middle of the night.
- Having a child who has no friends, and who is not invited to birthday parties.
- Having to put a helmet on her to keep her from injuring her head when she throws herself down in a fit of rage.
- Going through multiple child care providers and schools because no one can deal with my child.
- Albuterol treatments at 3:00 am.
When these problems go away because we pay attention to the brands of food we buy, or even make our own birthday cake (but there are acceptable mixes!), then life becomes much less hard!
Is it expensive?
If you need to replace some of the foods in your pantry, there will probably be an initial increase in the cost of your food, but once you have done this, the cost will probably be about the same. Some families find that their food bill goes way down because they are avoiding overpriced junk food.
Who can be helped?
The additives that are removed by the Feingold Diet have been found to cause many types of problems in people of all ages. Most of them are made from petroleum and can affect any system of the body.
Dr. Feingold initially developed the program to help an adult with a severe case of hives, and later found that the same diet helped improve the behavior of children suffering from hyperactivity. Over the years FAUS has received reports from members about a wide range of problems that have either improved or been resolved by following the diet.
What's up with salicylates?
Willow bark, which has long been used to ease pain and fever, contains salicylate which is the basis for aspirin. Some plants make salicylate to protect themselves from insects and disease. Even healthy foods like apples can be a problem for someone who is sensitive to them.
Many people believe that by measuring the salicylate content of various foods we can assume that those with the highest levels are the ones that will cause problems. Unfortunately, it is not that simple.
The Feingold Handbook will guide you through the process of testing for salicylate sensitivity, and the Foodlist helps because it is divided into two sections: non-salicylate foods and those that contain salicylates. See What’s Wrong With Apple Juice?
Are food dyes really harmful?
Yes, numerous studies have found that dyes are harmful. They can damage the DNA, the reproductive system, the immune system, cause headaches, reduce valuable nutrients in the body, cause cancer and bring on symptoms of ADHD.
Most of them have already been banned, but the few that remain are being used in ever-increasing amounts.
Where can I find suitable food?
Basic foods can be found in any supermarket. If you want to use many processed/convenience foods you might need to seek out additional stores. Many of the hard-to-find things (like natural marshmallows and bubble gum) are available online.
Aren't FD&C dyes certified to be safe?
No. “Certification” does not mean they are safe, it means they contain no more than the amount of lead, mercury, arsenic, benzidine, and other contaminants the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) considers acceptable.
Don't children want to cheat on the diet?
Most people believe they will, but we have found this is usually not a problem. If the family follows the recommendations in our Handbook, and provides desirable alternatives (and yes, there really are even naturally colored sprinkles) the child him/herself is often eager to stay on the diet and continue to enjoy the benefits. The more dramatic the child’s reaction to the additives, the more motivated he is likely to be to stay away from them.
Does scientific research support this diet?
Yes, FAUS collects the research on food additives and their effects on behavior, learning and health. You can access it here.
The 2007 British study by McCann et al impressed the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) so much that the AAP published an article saying “…a trial of a preservative-free, food coloring-free diet is a reasonable intervention.” An editorial in the British Medical Journal (May 2008) argued that removing dyes and preservatives should be a standard part of ADHD treatment.
What about eating out or visiting relatives?
Our Handbook and other materials offer many suggestions from parents who have addressed these issues.
In the Forum and on their Facebook Group, parents also share ideas that worked for them.
The preschool serves snacks. What can I do?
In our Feingold Handbook, we offer suggestions on how you can work with others who provide food.
Can I find medication without the additives?
There are several options that might help.
These are described in detail in the Feingold Handbook.
My child is on medication. Can I still use the diet?
Many families begin the Feingold Diet while their child is on medication. We can assist them as they work with their doctor and pharmacist to find an uncolored version. Then, it is typical that the parents will work with the doctor to gradually withdraw the medicine as the child’s symptoms improve.
But my child doesn't have ADHD. Can this still help?
The diet was originally developed for asthma and eczema. Its effect on behavior was a “side effect” noticed in the 1960s when the American diet became so saturated with food dyes and other additives.
The diet still helps people with asthma, eczema, migraines, and other symptoms in addition to behavioral problems or ADHD.
In addition to the “target” person for whom they use the diet, many find that other family members also benefit from eating the healthier food, no matter what their symptoms.
What are the chances this will help me or my child?
We cannot predict if the diet will help, but most of the people who use it say they have benefited, and in many cases the improvement is dramatic. Organizations like ours do not form, let alone continue for decades, unless the volunteers see that their work is successful.
Above is a graph of studies in which the researchers put the children on some version of a Feingold-type diet. You can see the percentage that they said had improved. What they did with these children was then challenge those who had improved with some food dye to see if it made them worse. Depending on how big a challenge they used, they got various results.
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This website is for educational purposes only. Neither a diagnosis nor a prescription is required in order to implement the Feingold Diet as a healthy choice. This information is not intended, however, to replace competent medical diagnosis. The Feingold® Association does not endorse, approve or assume responsibility for any product, brand, method or treatment. The presence (or absence) of a product on a Feingold Foodlist, or the discussion of a method or treatment does not constitute approval (or disapproval). The Foodlists are based primarily upon information supplied by manufacturers and are not based upon independent testing.