The Feingold Diet and Failsafe Diet

The Feingold Diet removes phenols and salicylates.  Another low salicylate diet, the Failsafe Diet, removes salicylates, as well as amines and glutamates (other related food chemicals).

One type of phenols are artificial ingredients such as artificial coloring, artificial flavoring, and artificial preservatives such as BHA, BHT, TBHQ are made from a petroleum base. Salicylates, are a type of phenols, that occur naturally in plants – particularly in many fruits such as apples, grapes, and berries.

For some children, their bodies have difficulty processing phenols. Build up of phenols in the system can affect behavior and the body’s physical condition. This was first discovered by Dr. Ben Feingold, when he noticed that these phenols created hyperactivity in some children. Phenols can have negative effect on the brain when our chemistry can’t processes these phenols and they build up in the body. Although phenols and salicylates do occur naturally in healthy foods, children who are sensitive to these chemicals can have significant reactions.


Many children with autism, ADHD and other neurological and immune system disorders commonly have faulty sulfation systems and cannot process phenols and salicylates (and sometimes amines and glutamates) well.  Common physical signs of phenol sensitivity in children include dark circles under eyes, red cheeks/ears, ear infections, asthma, sinus problems, diarrhea, hyperactivity, impulsivity, aggression, headache, head banging/self-injury, impatience, short attention span, difficulty falling asleep, night walking for several hours, inappropriate laughter, hives, stomach aches, bed wetting and day wetting, dyslexia, sensitivity to noise/lights/touch, speech difficulties, tics and some forms of seizures.

While the Feingold and Failsafe diet have different food lists and implementations, generally speaking they both involve removing food chemicals and then trial them through reintroduction to determine the individual needs.  These substances and foods include: FD & C colors, artificial flavors, preservatives, vanillin, aspirin, almonds, peanuts, oranges, apples, apricots, all berries, cherries, chili powder, cider and cider vinegar, cocoa, cloves, coffee, cucumbers, pickles, currants, red grapes, raisins, plums, prunes tangerines, tea, tomatoes, wine and wine vinegar and oil of wintergreen, most herbs/spices, and more.

You can learn more about these diets, and an extensive explanation of the chemistry in Nourishing Hope for Autism.