Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Starting to see results...removing Food Dyes from my Son's diet. Behavior problems are improving!

I'm a mom.  I have an almost 5-yr old little boy and a 2 1/2 yr old little girl.  Both are precious, of course.  Smart, funny, beautiful.  They are both very creative, can entertain themselves, are great sleepers, and picky eaters (ok so are 90% of kids!), and watch very little TV.

Jack has always had issues with his temper.  He would have a COMPLETE melt down if he missed running to the mailbox to greet the mailman (I'm talking HORRIBLE screaming and crying...and of course the mailman always came right at nap time!)  If he didn't get to play with his little buddy next door, again- MAJOR melt down.

These outrageous reactions would happen everywhere - at the beach, at grandpa's house, on play dates, and at school.  School was the biggest problem.  He's been going 2-5 half days a week since he was 18 months old, and has been thru 4 different schools.  At every school, he ended up spending many days in the office because he couldn't control himself.

Our County stepped in to observe him in class, suggest "behavior modification techniques" (ooh- stickers! now I'll behave!) and try to "help" by placing him in a special school.  Long story short - the county didn't accomplish anything.  Stickers, charts, etc. didn't help Jack correct his behavior.  It was almost like it was BEYOND his control.  He couldn't stop himself from having these breakdowns.  He tested normally in everything - language, intelligence, etc.  This problem was un-defined by their tests.

Finally, I really started to look at what else could be causing these issues.  He obviously wasn't growing out of it, and he was about to get kicked out of his 4th school.  We had just experienced an exceptionally difficult weekend with Jack - he cried and wailed for almost 48 hours straight - he COULD NOT stop.  He was physically unable to stop himself from crying.  I made a connection - on Friday, he had 2 icees at a school festival - basically ice with a bunch of colored syrup.   I did a little research on-line and discovered that Food Coloring effects a lot of kids this same way - major behavior problems.

Two weeks after the icee incident, he had birthday cake at a party - frosting was SO colored even his BM was bright green for 2 days.  And - again - he had horrible behavior for 2 days.  So, I made a decission.  ELIMINATE as much artificial food coloring as possible from his diet.  I replaced his Flintstone's chewable vitamins with Yummi bears (no artificial coloring), threw out the bright blue Spiderman toothpaste and bought some Tom's of Maine, started buying different toaster sticks and pancakes for his breakfast (lots of waffles have yellow food dyes), and stopped making some of the usual treats - crescent rolls, chocolate brownies, etc.  All of our snacks, cookies, mac 'n cheese, etc are now dye-free.

Jack has had very few behavior problems since this new diet began.  He got 5 days in a row of good behavior at school, he says "yes mam" and "yes sir" with more frequency, shrugs and says "whatever" more than gets upset, helps with his little sister whenever I ask, and just...relaxes.  He cuddles with me more, he sleeps better, he WANTS to engage with his friends more.

Now, he may have also turned a corner due to the fact that he is also taking Tae Kwan Doe, and spending lots more one-on-one time with his Daddy.  But I am really excited to finally see consistent behavior improvements, and I really think it has to do with eliminating food coloring in his diet.

I keep thinking back to how the little suckers in my purse for those tough moments in the grocery store, or the frozen popsicles on had every day in the summer, or how even the healthy things - like brushing his teeth with blue toothpaste or chewing his daily dye-filled vitamin - could have been preventing him from controlling his emotions.  I wish, oh how I wish, that any one of his doctors had said at some point "you may consider changing his diet - beyond reducing his sugar intake or adding more vegetables.  There are TOXINS that could be effecting your son".

For now, I'm sticking with this diet as much as possible.  It's not that hard to fact today we made some delicious Pupkin bread that he devoured faster than he would have a piece of cake!  So to all you moms out there who have a child who sometimes just CAN'T seem to control himself, talk to your doctor about Food dyes and the possible connection.  And try eliminating them from your child's diet! What's the worse thing that could happen? You'll be eating a little healthier.

I love you, Jack.  You are such a smart, funny, caring, handsome little man who makes me smile every day.  I will do everything I can to help you be the happiest little man you can be :)

There are a lot  of great websites out there...I'll add a few of the ones that helped me later.


lauren gray | the haunted hollow tree said...

Glad to hear that your changes are making an easier go of things for you and little Jack. Way to be proactive!

Victoria Webb said...

What a great post Kristina! Leave it to the Moms to figure out the problems with their own kids. Even for adults, diet is a reality in terms of mood swings. When I eat any kind of junk food- which is rare- I feel terrible. If I swim and eat fruit instead of sugar, my energy levels are moderated and there's no big shift.

I think Michael Pollan has it right when he says eat from the outer edges of the grocery store, where all the fresh food is.

My mother had a doctor give her 'mood' stabilizers for my brother when he was a child. She took one herself.... and flushed the rest down the toilet. And he grew out of that phase.

Andrew said...

congratulations on discovering the source of the problem!

Kathryn Lantz said...

Thats so good to hear! I've read up on a lot of studies with food dyes.. I was curious as to why there's so many cases of children having ADHD then when I was growing up. Ya, a lot of people told me that's because it went undiagnosed, but I didn't believe that.
Turns out red food colouring is linked to ADHD.
When I have kids, I'm definitely controlling which snacks and foods they're having.
It's crazy what's in food these days just to make it "look better". My husband and I have made more concious decisions to go more 'natural' in our food selections.
One thing I did a lot of research on was Splenda. Since being diagnosed with diabetes, splenda has been pushed on me from all the dietitians and doctors. But it's chemicals! Ya, it'll keep your blood sugar down, but it messes up so many other chemicals in your body.
Good for you!! Congrats on the amazing results :)

Lrc said...

That is really interesting...I don't have kids of my own but I used to teach kids art and some kids were soo hard to deal with. I would agree with Victoria that eating as much natural-based foods instead of high sugar processed ones definately has an effect on me too. I have heard of parents of autistic children adjusting their diet with good effect. I think they eliminated wheat from their diet...I love Michael Pollan!

Kathi Fly said...

That's awesome, Kristina. I'd love the links, I work at the library and have many moms asking for help on this subject. Happy Holidays!

Krystyna81 said...

Thank you everyone for sharing your support and your own experiences. It is sad to see so many kids labeled as "problem" kids or forced to try drugs, when we should first look at what we are putting in our bodies as a source of the problem.

I was definitly add another post with some great blogs, websites and products that helped me out!

Thank you again :)

Dora Sislian Themelis said...

When my 22yr old son was 3 he was diagnosed with Auditory Processing disability with language and sensory issues. Thank God I didn't put him on the Ritalin the teachers wanted him to take. With my pediatrician's support we eliminated food dyes, sugar, exposure to noisy, big spaces and placed him in special ed at school. It all worked out in the end, so keep it up and good luck!

Harold said...

Less processed food, more natural food, which means more natural sugars instead of the bleached sugar cane. Eat organic whenever possible. Sounds like Jack would also benefit from less sugar and prcessed flours. Glad to hear that what you are doing is working. It's funny to me how we need to learn, as a society, to eat. We shouldn't have an epiphany that eating unprocessed foods is good for us. We have lost touch with reality in North America. This is a great post for mothers, fathers, and the rest of us.


Krystyna81 said...

Harold - the way you summed that up really hits home - we should not have an epiphany that eating processed foods is bad for us! I SO wish I had paid more attention to what I was putting in my body and my son's body long before this. I shall have to share my experience with dairy as well.

Dora - I'm so glad you had the support of your pediatrician when it came to diet! I hope that your experience inspires others to look at diet and environment rather than add another chemical to the bodies' mix. Thank you :)

pegi said...

Wow, what a great blog. I worked with a little boy who was diagnosed with ADHD at 6. Doctors play an important part in all of this. If they in any way blow off your hunches get rid of them. You know when something isn't right, as a mom, you just DO!! Sometimes it's hard to describe but that should be when you can speak with a doctor and together get to the answers. They should never just prescribe.
Happy for you, Kristina, and proud you followed your instincts!! Again, Great Blog!!

Anne Cherubim said...

wow, i just stopped by as I am a new artist on Etsy, and wanted to take a look at what other artists on Etsy have in their shops. saw that u had a blog, and thought i'd take a look. haven't gotten very far, but such an interesting post already. as a mom of two, this food colouring thing has got me thinking... can't wait to come back and read more.

oh! love, love, love your work, btw!

ajpeters said...

Interesting post. I'd heard a while back that a number of European countries have banned many of the food dyes we (U.S) use or at least keep the food dyes out of foods at schools. They saw a drop in behavior problems. Whole and natural foods tend cost more, but I think our children are worth it.
Best of luck,

PS - the artwork looks great.