Saturday, November 29, 2008

dye free Thanksgiving--almost

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. We enjoyed a wonderful meal with family. We tried very hard to stay natural and chemical free. The only exception was one grandma came with a cherry pie and cranberry jello, both of which had red dye. (sigh) Does anyone else have relatives that can't seem to remember what you are doing, despite numerous lengthy discussions about how badly the kids react to dyes? Luckily, neither item appealed much to the kids so it wasn't a big deal. There were plenty of other great things to eat. We had a lot of reasons to be thankful this year so we focussed on that and let the rest go.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

can food dyes make your child look bipolar?

Well, it sure did for my son. There aren't any studies that have looked at this issue, so I'm kind of going out on a limb here. But I got to thinking seriously about this after listening to Dr. Greg Keck speak at a dinner conference last night. He said how much it bothers him that people think their kids are Bipolar or ADHD when they are really still behaving normally for their age. It made me decide it's time to share more specifics about what effect food dyes really had on my son, Ben.

Ben has always been a smart, friendly, creative child. Teachers love him, he makes friends easily, and he really is an all around great kid. But he used to have a much darker side too. He used to have unpredictable bouts of anger, tantrums, rages, insults, defiance, the list went on and on. His behavior used to get really ugly some days, but only at home, never at school or anywhere with other people. He even once shouted that he wanted to blow up the house with me in it. It was really scary, even for me, and I'm trained to work with explosive children. It's a whole different thing when it's your own child going nuts.

Then I started limiting the dyes because I thought they made his brother hyper. Well, here's where it gets interesting. Ben's rages, tantrums and all that yuck, it just stopped happening. He's been off dyes completely for more than a year. Guess when the only tantrums have happened... when he's eaten food dyes. I'm serious about this. The only major outbursts (and I can count them on one hand) happened when he ate something at school or when we slipped and didn't realize there was a food dye.

The worst one was when he ate a whole plate of banana peppers. He even thought he was seeing things. I still am putting that one in the category of over-active imagination for Ben, because his "make believe" world is very real to him. I realize that's a serious psychiatric symptom, but how bizarre is it that the only 2 times he has ever complained of that, he has had big doses of food dye within 24 hours?! I've seen articles about food dyes having a neuro-toxic affect on the brain. Well there you go. I don't want to go any further down that kind of path if changing my diet is all it takes to avoid it.

I don't want to minimize Bipolar Disorder and the fact that it is a real disorder. I've worked with truly bipolar children. I think when there is a clear family history of such a disorder, that is something that needs to be assessed by a professional.

I also encourage parents to consider their child's trauma history. (I feel compelled to mention that as I'm spending 2 days at a conference on trauma and attachment.) If anything scary or dangerous has ever happened to your child, whether they remember it or not, it can affect their later behavior for years.

Ben had pieces of this too. He had too many babysitters when he as 0-2 years old. My friends kept moving and then military families were moving left and right after 911. It meant I had to keep finding new sitters for my part time work schedule. It took it's toll on Ben as an abandonment issue, even though he only went to those sitters once a week. A big part of his problem was that when I put him in his room, he freaked out because he felt like I was leaving him again. After reading Beyond Consequences by Bryan Post and Heather Forbes, I started talking to Ben and explaining what was happening. I would say things like, "I think you get scared that I'm going to leave you again and that's what makes you get so upset." This approach helped him tremendously. He really gained insight into why his feelings got overwhelming and can talk about it better without freaking out. But I still think the main freak out was food dye related, and the progress we made is largely because he is no longer experiencing toxic effects of petrochemicals. Here's a good artificial on that: How food companies fool consumers with food coloring ingredients made from petrochemicals

But the bottom line is, I feel like I rescued the great kid that Ben is, and got rid of the screaming, demon defiant mess, all by getting food dyes out of the diet. You don't have to believe me. You don't have to try it yourself. If you would rather get prescription for a stimulant, mood stabilizer, or anti-psychotic there are plenty of doctors who will oblige you in 5 minutes or less. But if it really is the fake foods we feed our kids that contribute to this, don't our children deserve to have their parents figure it out and fix it?

Please share your own stories if you have seen anything similar.

Monday, November 24, 2008

question about apples and grapes

I got an email asking why I am now looking at apples and grapes as a source of reaction. From reading the information from the Feingold Association, I've been learning about salicylates. Some foods produce similar chemicals to aspirin which can cause sensitivities. I noticed all of my kids being somewhat worse (moody, hyperactive, etc) last week when I had grapes out for snacking and they had apple juice a few times. In other reading, I've found these same foods to be at the top of the list of foods affected the most by pesticides. I've started buying organic on lots of things.

For more info on salicylates check out the Feingold site information on salicylates.

They also have a story of a family who found the diet helpful click here for more on that. Jane Hersey has more information in both of her books.

Friday, November 21, 2008

considering full Feingold

I'm trying to figure out how and when to start a full scale attempt at Feingold. We've gotten rid of the dyes and most of the preservatives for a while. We've drastically reduced high fructose corn syrup. I've recently suspected apples and grapes may be a problem as well. I guess I'm still a little hung up on the fact that fruit is supposed to be healthy and how could it really be such a problem. It's that, and the fact that I want to cook normal for Thanksgiving, but then I guess that went out the window when I figured out Crescent rolls have food coloring.

I had hoped that were going "over kill" by keeping Alex off wheat and dairy, but now it seems that he's once again much better off both. He can think better, behave better, write better, and the rash and bowel problems both cleared back up.

So, if it seems I'm not posting as much, it's mostly due to lots of appointments this week and trying to read the rest of Jane Hersey's book, "Why Can't my Child Behave." It's been very enlightening.

Monday, November 17, 2008

threw out the blue toothpaste

Well, that should have been a "no brainer" but I was still letting the boys use a blue toothpaste. We'll see if the natural one makes any difference. While I was at it I took out the orange hand soap and the purple body wash. Not sure why I didn't do that sooner, but better late than never. It's so hard to think of everything.

Friday, November 14, 2008

suspecting food dye is sneaking in somewhere

It's been a crazy week. Lindsey has been more emotional, defiant and temperamental. I keep wondering if some food dyes snuck in somewhere, but it could also be she's pining for Daddy who has not been home in daylight hours much at all due to lots of work demands. I keep telling myself to enjoy the threes, but I remember 4 being so much calmer than 3 with the boys.

We had taken a few weeks off the Gluten Free, Casein/Dairy Free diet for Alex and he's back to having a rash and bowel problems, so back out with the wheat. We knew milk has to stay out of the equation since he's lactose intolerant, but I was hopeful we could introduce some wheat. Oh well. I want to get closer to a Feingold diet for all three of my kids, but when we are already GFCF, it's tough. I guess salicylates are next on my list.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

ups and downs at preschool

This week I found a note from the teacher that had gotten pushed way to the back of our mailbox. She apologized that Lindsey ate their cheese crackers with food dye (either yellow #5 or #6). It was dated 2 weeks ago. I couldn't recall noticing much, but with Lindsey it seems every once in a while whe goes on a steak of worse than usual behavior and I find myself wondering what she's been eating when I'm not around. Maybe it is just being 3, maybe not.

I have to give the preschool credit though. The teacher told me this morning that she had already checked the donuts they were serving for the fall harvest party and they were free of dye. I really appreciate their effort.

the dreaded school meeting

There I was today, with the team of school staff and somehow the topic of food dyes came up. I made sure the speech therapist still has a stash of organic candy. The teacher politely smiles, saying nothing (which probably translates to "we know she's out in left field on this one folks"), a few others nod, the school psychologist actually said, "Hmm maybe I should pay more attention to that." I tell them I have a blog. They change the subject and I try to act like I'm not some mutant Mom who just grew a second head.

I guess I need to get over worrying about what they think of me and focus on what's best for my kids. Sometimes it takes more than just a little courage though. It's hard when my food rules for my children are so different than main stream beliefs. I might as well have started a new religion. But one day with my kids when food dyes are in effect and anyone would be a believer.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

dye free Halloween a success

I think we did it. I think we actually managed all three classroom parties, trick-or-treating, and even the big Fun Fest at our church without any food coloring. There was no shortage of candy as we've had our fill of chocolate and white Nerds. We were almost hyper-vigilant at times, but now we can enjoy our weekend without all three kids falling apart all over the place.

It was hard at Fun Fest. They really wanted the popcorn (coated with yellow), especially since Ed was eating it. But I stood my ground and said "No". Then they got candy from every game. People were nice and let them pick chocolate or tootsie rolls (one of Ben's favorites) or I found someone with a whole barrel of candy and tossed back the stuff they couldn't eat. They let me pick extra stuff as trade and Alex was more than happy to get Peanut Butter Cups from the deal.

My Mom also supported the cause and sent Halloween cards with Barnes and Noble gift cards rather than candy or other stuff. The kids were so happy to go pick out books today. What a sweet grandma!