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Keywords: stammer, stutter, speech delay, tic, loud voice, selective mutism, 'silly noises'



This Factsheet covers stuttering, also known as stammering, and other speech anomalies such as delay, tic, loud voice, selective mutism, and silly noises.

Stuttering is speech disorder in which speech is frequently disrupted by pauses and involuntary repetitions of certain sounds, syllables, words or phases.

Stuttering can be developmental, that is develops in childhood, or acquired due to brain injury. It has also been induced by medications, most commonly antidepressants. One study showed stuttering started within 2-21 days after starting medication and stopped 2-5 days after ceasing medication.

Children generally start to stutter between the ages of three to three and a half. About 60 percent will recover spontaneously and the rest will stutter as adults. Of the children who recover spontaneously, about half will recover within 18 months of the development of their stutter. Developmental stuttering tends to run in families. Stuttering is thought to affect about 5 percent of preschoolers, just over one percent of school aged children and under one percent of adults. Boys are more affected than girls. The speech pathologists’ dilemma is that although the majority of preschoolers will recover spontaneously, those who continue to stutter will get better results if they receive therapy very early and there is currently no way to identify which children will recover.

Since stuttering can be a side-effect of drugs, you would expect some recognition that food chemicals have the same effect, but the connection between stuttering and food intolerance is not recognized in the medical literature.

Food Intolerance Network members report that stuttering in some children is related to certain food chemicals. As with any food intolerance symptom, children respond differently. Reader reports suggest that stuttering can be related to any one or all of the likely suspects (additives especially preservatives, salicylates, amines, dairy foods and wheat).

Parents who are undertaking the low chemical elimination diet with challenges to discover exactly which food chemicals affect their children can identify the effects precisely. Others report that stuttering clears up when they start the diet. Many of these parents never bother to carry out additive challenges, saying ‘why would we want to eat that rubbish anyway’.

Other speech-related symptoms associated with food chemicals include loud voice, verbal tics, speech delay.

    Some typical readers’ stories:

See a 6 page collection of success stories about stuttering

[1380] Stuttering due to paint fumes at school (February 2016)

My 8 year old son, who was very close to baseline on the diet, came home one evening stuttering so badly my husband took him to the ER, fearing maybe he'd gotten a bump on his head at tae kwon do, although he denied this (we had to have him write his answers because he couldn't get two words out in more than 3 minutes.) He'd never stuttered before.

I called the headmaster and the school, and two panels in his classroom had been painted the same day. The kid came home after 10 hours in hospital, all tests normal. Since then he's been stuttering on and off (I believe the Israeli craziness for repainting walls, "nice smelling" floor cleaners, laundry powders and fabric softeners plays a role here)... I've learnt the hard way to keep the kids at home when repainting is going on at school. - Emma from Israel

from story [1246] Just realised my 3 year old has stopped stuttering since starting fs nearly 7 weeks ago!  

from story [1288] Sulphites (220-228) send my 17 yo into a complete ODD asshole, more than typical teenager shit and attitude, he has had it all his life and only cottoned onto food intolerances when he was 15.  Since cutting out the crap that sends him loopy, from depression, out of control anger, tears and stuttering and almost like Tourette type syndromes, he has gone from a failing student all his life to one getting A's and B's in most subjects and doing uni pathway for year 12 next year ....

[396] Nitrates (249-252) used in preserved meats such as ham, bacon and hotdogs affect stuttering (March 2006)

Our two and a half year old son had difficulty with stuttering for a few months. After my sister-in-law, a nurse, told us about the potential dangers of nitrates for children, especially contributions to developmental delays, we removed all nitrates from our son's diet and within about a week the stuttering was gone. Yesterday, our son went on an outing to the zoo with my mother. Strangely, his stuttering returned full-force today. I called my mother to ask what he had ingested for lunch and dinner yesterday. The glaring answer: a HOTDOG.

[395] Mashed potato challenge and stutter (March 2006)

Sulphites (220-228) are used in a wide range of foods including dried fruit, fruit drinks, sausages (not in meat in the USA) and potato products such as hot chips and dried potato. We did the sulphite challenge with Deb mashed potato. My son was stuttering slightly before the challenge but by day 3 of eating ½ cup of Deb mashed potato per day, his stuttering was so bad that he would not talk at all. His stuttering continued for 4 months after the challenge stopped. Two years later he has had no sulphites and no speech difficulties.

[394] Benzoates in medication and stutter (March 2006)

My daughter is allergic to mosquitoes and while we were doing the elimination diet she was badly bitten. Our doctor recommended daily double doses of claratyne liquid. On the second day my daughter started to talk incessantly and stutter a little (this had previously been a problem months ago). Then on day 3 at daycare she became drunkish, socially withdrawn and stopped talking (selective mutism, although not gone, had improved on failsafe). The staff at daycare had been amazed to say the least about her improvement on the diet, so this was obvious. When my husband came home, he picked up the bottle of antihistamine and read the label, to my dismay it contained sodium benzoate! Well, that went in the bin, we got claratyne tablets, she had a half, and the next day at daycare she was back to normal.

[393] All of the common suspects affect stutter (March 2006)

My son becomes hyper and stutters as a result of reactions to salicylates, amines, wheat, dairy, preservatives, colours and flavours. His older sister also stutters when reacting but she is more tolerant of foods and other reactions are milder.

[392] Stuttering and behaviour are different reactions to the same foods (March 2006)

My 7 year old son has been failsafe for a couple of years now with great results. My 5 year old daughter has quite a bad stutter and it has just dawned on me that diet may make it worse. I have often noticed that her speech is worse when my son’s behaviour is at its worst. Her speech therapist pointed out that it may be due to diet and that his hyperactivity is the symptom but her symptom is stuttering. Given that they both generally eat the same thing this makes sense. I tend to be more lax with her diet though.

[391] 282: Speech delay due to the bread preservative (calcium propionate 282) (March 2006)

My son had been assessed by a speech therapist at the preschool. She diagnosed, as best she could - we couldn't really keep Jack in the room much less anything like on-task - a severe expressive language delay and a moderate receptive language delay. Six weeks, later when off wheat products, he was reassessed by the same speech pathologist, using the part of the test that Jack had not done due to being non-cooperative. This time he seemed to have no significant receptive language delay and was only mildly delayed in his expressive language. She said she had never seen a child change so dramatically within such a short period of time. … It took this family another year to discover that their child’s problem was not the wheat in bread, but the preservative calcium propionate.

[352] ‘So much calmer’ (Nov 2004)

First of all let me tell you how wonderful it was to find your website and help our 4 1/2 year old son (and the rest of us) lead a much more ‘normal’ life. He's had horrible symptoms of terrible mood swings, off and on stuttering, biting, spitting, banging his head against the wall, excessive bedwetting, an extremely loud voice that he couldn't control, big ‘saucer’ eyes with clenched teeth while running at me to kick and bite me, would go into hysterics when I would ask him to do the simplest of tasks such as dressing himself, pulling his hair hard enough to yank it out of head (and his 14 month old sister's), screaming every name at me he knew, running behind me from across the room gaining momentum to head butt me as hard as he could in the back and spine and as we give him a much needed nap during the day he can't fall asleep until 11:00 pm or midnight!

I’ve ordered your book but until it arrives I've been making some really wonderful meals and snacks for my son just from the info on your website… Since introducing the new diet, he's been basically a new, happier little boy and the mood around the house is SO MUCH CALMER. - USA

[397] Stuttering related to preservatives and salicylates (March 2006)

My 9 year old son started stuttering when he was around 4 years old. He seemed to be sensitive to preservatives especially 211 and I have steered clear of this preservative, but a few weeks ago his stuttering came back in full force, around the same time I had apple juice in the house. He is a big juice addict, and thinking back, has always had juice, either straight or diluted. I have always watched out for the preservatives in juice, and bread, but I now think he is intolerant to salicylates as well. I have changed all of his foods to failsafe foods, and his speech is now good. He has calmed down a bit as well.

[230] Loud voice, vocal tics, word and phrase repetition, chicken and duck noises due to salicylates and additives (February 2003)

When Chris was born he was a big, boofy boy. For the first six month of his life he was a placid, calm, happy child. At six months, he changed to being very, very active, fidgety and demanding. Looking back at that time, three things changed: he started long daycare, solids and formula. I also remember very clearly that his face changed as big dark circles and creases formed under his eyes. He was labelled ‘naughty, disruptive, hyperactive and violent’ by daycare when he was only 10 months old. He was walking at that stage and continued to escape from the childproof room, or to snatch toys from non-mobile babies.

Since that time he has been variously diagnosed by health professionals as having Tourette’s Syndrome, the hyperactive type of ADHD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder and others. Whatever the term, the symptoms are the same, including unmanageable behaviour, poor impulse control, loud voice, vocal tics, word and phrase repetition and lack of empathy.

Coupled with the behaviour has also been a range of other medical problems including croup, asthma, headaches and stomach aches, unexplained temperatures and eczema. Chris also suffers from glue ear and for the last four years has had grommets inserted every winter to enable him to hear clearly. (As I know now, these are all indicative of food intolerance.)

Last year I took Chris to a paediatrician, looking for a solution to his constant illness rather than his behaviour. The doctor took one look at him he was making duck noises and running in circles around the waiting room and diagnosed food intolerances.

We went home with a complex list of foods to avoid. Although his health improved, his behaviour seemed to become worse, as it always has in summer. Just before Christmas, I found the low chemical elimination diet for food intolerance. This diet was stricter but far more logical than the one we were using. It worked by identifying the chemicals that people react to, then the foods that contain them. Interestingly, the research showed that most people with food intolerance react to the salicylates in fruit. I had been loading Chris up with cherries and nectarines in term 4. No wonder his teacher was ready to send him to Alcatraz late last year.

I switched the family to the low chemical diet during the holidays. Gradually, as we removed foods from the diet and found acceptable replacements, Chris' behaviour improved. Living with him became easier, there were less sibling fights, and when he did misbehave it was easy to use normal parenting techniques to modify behaviour - something that had never worked before.

By the end of the summer holidays, I finally had a calm, reasonable, sensitive child, who was able to play at other children’s places without causing mayhem, would look at people when talking, and would allow other people to talk without interrupting. Amazingly, Chris was keen to stick to the diet, having realised how good he felt.

First day back at school and I had lots of positive comments about how calm or grown-up Jon seemed. A good start to the year. However, as I write this, I am back to having a child who runs around making chicken noises, uses a loud voice, is prone to crying and is violent and aggressive. What happened? He got to school and started to cheat. See the rest of this story in the Factsheet Please don't feed my child . – reader, Sydney.

    More information

Introduction to food intolerance

Factsheet on speech delay

'Will they grow out of it?' Spontaneous recovery and the therapists' dilemma, by Robert Sedgley, reporting on a on a research presentation by Roberta Lees, a specialist in stammering at Strathclyde University,search

The information given is not intended as medical advice. Always consult with your doctor for underlying illness. Before beginning dietary investigation, consult a dietician with an interest in food intolerance. You can see our list of experienced and supportive dietitians 

© Sue Dengate update February 2016