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What is the Feingold Diet?

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  • Written By: Allison Boelcke
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 30 November 2016
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The Feingold Diet, also referred to as the Feingold Program, is a nutritional test to discover which particular food additives may trigger or worsen symptoms of behavioral disorders in individuals. It is based on the idea that certain behavioral disorders, such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and Tourette Syndrome, may be linked to a diet containing artificial additives. The program's main objective is to systematically eliminate foods with artificial colors, preservatives, and sweeteners and then monitor the effects the dietary changes have on an individual’s behavioral disorder symptoms. It is primarily used for children with behavioral problems.

During the 1960s Dr. Benjamin Feingold, a pediatric allergist, began advising his patients to reduce their intakes of foods containing additives to help with their allergies. He found that the parents of many of his patients reported decreases in their children’s hyperactivity. In 1973, Feingold officially introduced the KP Diet, later renamed the Feingold Diet, to the American Medical Association.

The Feingold Diet is based on Dr. Feingold’s notion that behavioral disorders became more prevalent in the United States as more people began eating foods and using products containing artificial ingredients. The program promotes regressing to the ways people ate in the United States prior to the 1940s, such as eating more foods made from scratch and less artificially processed foods. It also calls for reducing the use of colored household products, such as colored toothpaste and children’s vitamins.

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There are two stages of the Feingold Diet. In Stage One, all additives, such as preservatives, colors, flavorings, and sweeteners, are eliminated from a patient’s diet. Certain fruits and vegetables containing the chemical salicylate, such as blackberries, oranges, cucumbers, and radishes, are also eliminated during Stage One. During Stage One, patients are not permitted to consume aspirin. This period of the program is conducted until a patient sees positive results in behavior for at least four to six weeks.

If positive changes continue during Stage One, a patient will move on to Stage Two of the program. During this stage, the chemical salicylate that was eliminated during Stage One will be reintroduced into a patient’s diet to determine if he or she can tolerate it. The other additives are not reintroduced. If a patient’s behavioral disorder symptoms do not reappear, he or she will be allowed to continue consuming fruits and vegetables containing salicylate.

The Feingold Diet is promoted as an elimination diet to get rid of foods causing symptoms rather than simply treating symptoms. It is intended as a means of discovering any dietary causes behind behavioral problems. The program does not oppose the use of medication to treat behavioral disorders if changes in diet do not yield positive results.

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