To put what I’m about to say in context: my wife has a gluten intolerance (not full-blown Celiac’s, but close), so over the last few years we’ve done a significant amount of research on the subject.
There are a few things that a gluten sensitivity can effect. What’s been seen and researched on the most (long-term I mean) is how gluten can effect the gastrointestinal system. In particular, some people’s bodies can not absorb gluten, which causes the muscosa of the small intestine to become inflammed to various degrees. This inflammation causes the villi to degrade. The villi are what absorb nutrients out of food, so the worse your case of gluten sensitivity (Celiac’s being at the far-bad end of the spectrum), you’re going to have issues from chronic diarrhea to constant fatigue to much, much worse. You may remember an episode of House from the end of the 2nd season that featured a Celiac’s patient who wasn’t aware they were a Celiac’s patient, and ended up having the bad effects - which in House were presented as seizures and stomach cancer.
FTR, Celiac’s is considered an auto-immune disease and is currently not curable, though it is managable through a gluten-free diet.
During the research into Celiac’s above, some scientists came upon an interesting link between the GF diet and Autism. There is a lot of current research in this area, and the findings tend[\URL] [URL=“http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/maney/nns/2010/00000013/00000002/art00004”]to be split, but a lot of parents of autistic children anecdotally report that a gluten-free diet helps their children.
So what does that mean for ADD or other conditions? Well, the same sort of anecdotes that led to the possible Autism-GF diet connection are starting to lead towards a possible ADD/ADHD-GF diet connection. Researchis again inconclusive so far, but your mileage may vary.
Bottom Line: If your friend wants to try a GF diet to help with ADHD, then it might be worth trying. That being said, the mechanism that may link ADHD with gluten is not yet truly understood and your friend may or not see results.
Be forewarned of these three things, though (and I have a LOT of experience here):
[li]Gluten-Free diets are often much more expensive. For a simple example - here in NJ I can usually get a pound of pasta at your standard supermarket for about a buck - maybe like $.79 or something if you get it on sale. GF pasta (made of corn or rice) is usually in the $4 - $5 range.[/li]
[li]Gluten is in a lot. Think of anything that has wheat in it - and you have gluten. So, your standard staples of pasta, bread, cookies, pretzels, pizza, etc all need to be bought special. In addition, things like soups and BBQ sauce need to be label-checked as well because flour or modified food starch sneak into these items as thickeners or fillers. Note that this also means you’ll be making a LOT more meals at home since GF pre-prepared food (like pizza or TV dinners) are few-and-far between. They exist, but in a lot of cases they’re only so-so (according to my wife) and usually pricey.[/li]
The good news is a lot of supermarkets seem to be carrying at least a portion of GF stuff now. Even 5 years ago, it was very hard to find GF items outside of Whole Foods or other specialty stores (or mail order).
As a sub-note, keep in mind this also means that your friend needs to be very, VERY careful when eating out. Many restaurants use bread-crumbs as fillers in their hamburgers, for instance, so even a bun-free burger won’t avoid the GF filter - and this is even ignoring all the things you can get in a restaurant or fast-food joint that’s breaded. AND on top of that, even something like french fries from McDonald’s should be avoided because McD’s fries their fries in the same oil they use for their chicken nuggets (which are breaded), and there will be cross-contamination from the nuggets to the fries. Now someone who is only avoiding Gluten as a choice probably doesn’t have to worry about contamination or the like - but the science is thus far inconclusive, and therefore, we don’t know what the threshold to trigger the reaction (ADD, Autism, etc) is. My wife usually knows when she’s eaten something with gluten in it (even 5-8 years on, we still get surprised from time to time).
[li]Gluten-free diets need to be monitored closely because it’s very easy to be deficientin certain minerals and vitamins, especially for growing children.[/li][/ul]
Apologies on the novel, so I’ll end with this disclaimer: I am not a doctor, just a lay person who’s personally been dealing with this with his wife for a good 8 or so years now. I do highly advise you to advise your friend to consult with their child’s doctor first, to ensure there aren’t any other complications with medications or whatnot that I am not aware of.