Kleinburg Integrative Health:

Pediatric ADHD and Gluten Free Diet

by Sarah Tayebi,
Naturopathic Medicine Graduate

December 2020

Attention deficit and hyperactivity are common neurodevelopmental conditions affecting people of all ages including children and young adults.

There has been a sharp increase in the number of people diagnosed with ADHD  worldwide, and this may be due to changes in diagnostic criteria placing  a higher number under the ADHD umbrella.  According to a world health organization (WHO) report, the global incidence of ADHD during childhood and adolescence (2-18 years old) is around 2.2%2.  This incidence in Canada is very close to the universal statistics and estimated to be around 2.1%, however it is slightly higher in Ontario (6.1% among children aged 4-16 years old) as well as Quebec (5.4% among children aged 6-14)2.   In the United States the prevalence is slightly higher ranging from a high of 17.6% in Arkansas to a low of 5.6% in Nevanda.  There is no biological basis for these variations that could significantly affect diagnosis and treatment of ADHD2.

Conventional treatments usually include a combination of pharmacotherapy and behaviour management; though behaviour management often tends to be more of an afterthought likely due to the “convenience” of pharmacotherapy.  Multiple studies show the associated medications are effective in reducing ADHD symptoms in the short term, but there are few longer-term studies3.  An increased understand is emerging showing that better outcomes  are often achieved when more importance is placed on the role of integrative treatments such as diet and nutrition, behavioural therapy and natural supplementation .

Studies show finding and removing food sensitivities (not food allergies!) is a key part of integrative ADHD management.

A common way of identifying food sensitivities is by running specific tests and following comprehensive diet and lifestyle changes.  A very common food sensitivity, especially in north America, is Gluten sensitivity. There are several studies confirming the efficacy of a gluten free diet in this population4.

Gluten-free Gingerbread

Gluten free eating does not always have to be boring and tasteless! Here is a gluten-free gingerbread recipe that you can make with your kids for Christmas! Hope you like it:  Gluten free gingerbread cookies.

I hope you enjoyed this article.

Please let me know if you need help or have additional questions.

Sarah Tayebi
Naturopathic Medicine Graduate



  1. Fayyad J, Sampson NA, Hwang I, et al. The descriptive epidemiology of DSM-IV Adult ADHD in the World Health Organization World Mental Health Surveys. Atten Defic Hyperact Disord 2017; 9: 47-65.
  2. Findings (statcan.gc.ca)
  3. Jensen PS, Arnold LE, Swanson JM, Vitiello B, Abikoff HB, Greenhill LL, Hechtman L, Hinshaw SP, Pelham WE, Wells KC, Conners CK, Elliott GR, Epstein JN, Hoza B, March JS, Molina BS, Newcorn JH, Severe JB, Wigal T, Gibbons RD, Hur K. 3-year follow-up of the NIMH MTA study. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 46(8):989-1002 Aug,2007
  4. Truths, Myths and Needs of Special Diets: Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Autism, Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity, and Vegetarianism – PubMed (nih.gov)
  5. Bakery photo created by karlyukav – https://www.freepik.com/photos/bakery

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