Bread and ADHD behaviours

Is bread really the staff of life for all people?    The answer is almost certainly that it might have been once but in our modern times, the preservatives that are used to keep it fresh for longer might be underlying the difficult behaviours associated with ADHD.


These days there is a lot written about how diet affects learning and behaviour.  Some families try to avoid certain foods – sugar and highly coloured foods are examples.  But if you have a child who is struggling with really challenging mood swings, fatigue, defiant attitudes, eczema, asthma, poor progress at school, perhaps you need to look more closely at bread.


One of the major preservatives in bread is Proprionate.  If you take this post seriously and read the labels on the breads your family eats daily, you’ll see that it is added to virtually all commercially available bread and rolls.  The official name is Calcium Proprionate and it is a mould inhibitor, also found in various cheeses. The food scientists claim that it is harmless and they base this opinion on the fact that it occurs naturally in the human body.  That may be so, but there is limited evidence as to how much is tolerated by our body and how high doses may affect the body.


Many South African families rely on bread for meals and snacks throughout the day.  Breakfast, school lunches and afternoon snacks are often based on bread.  It is an easy, relatively cheap and quick hunger satisfier.  But this high intake of bread is accompanied by a high intake of proprionate.


One person who realised the link between proprionate and a myriad of mental and health problems is Sue Dengate.  She is an Australian researcher and writer who spent years trying to understand the underlying reasons for her own children’s extreme behaviour and learning challenges.  Her efforts have resulted in her founding the FAILSAFE eating approach which is widely followed in Australia and elsewhere.  Her website is a font of knowledge about how intolerances to food and food additives – including proprionate – affect both brain and body.


For example, she mentions how some breastfed babies stopped their constant screaming when their mothers switched to preservative-free bread; how children were able to first reduce and then stop their ADHD medication after giving up preserved bread, even how high-functioning adults suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome regained their energy after excluding certain breads.


Bread preservative may not be the only additive causing problems but this post focuses on it because it is probably the additive eaten most often by people who think they are eating a healthy diet.  So many of us can cope with preservatives, colourants and flavourants but that isn’t an argument for closing our minds to the possibility that the challenging ADHD-type behaviours that we struggle with daily might be caused by or at least worsened by modern foods. The children that we’re focusing on are more vulnerable to many of the potential offenders found in our environment, including foods. The fact that other children are not affected by these things is not an excuse to ignore the possibility that one or many more potential offenders are affecting the brain, immune system and other bodily systems in an ‘ADHD’ child.


So what bread can be eaten?  I don’t have a list of breads free of Calcium Proprionate but recently found a brand at Pick ‘n Pay that was free of it.  Otherwise, ciabatta is a bread that is proprionate free.  The reason is that the preservative would kill the micro-organisms that produce the gas that form the holes in the bread.   Artisanal breads available at the increasingly popular farmer’s markets may also be free of preservatives but you would be wise to check on this before buying.  Investing in a bread making machine would be another option. 


For more information about Sue Dengate’s amazing work, and full instructions as to how to follow her FAILSAFE diet, visit her website at www.fedup.com.au


Integrated Learning Therapy (ILT) tries hard to ensure that every possible avenue is explored when unravelling the causes of learning difficulties and puzzling behaviours.  You might be interested in learning more by taking our Parent’s course, which aims to share with parents many of the reasons why your child is not thriving in and out of school.  Find out more about this correspondence course by writing to us at info@ilt.co.za.  We are pleased to offer the course at a special parent’s discount for the months of July and August.


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