Seeing Red and Going Green Aren’t Always What You Think – Our Journey Away From Food Dye: Guest Post By Kelly Cook

I’m Kelly, married to Tony and mom to one son we adopted through the foster care system.  We live in Arizona and raise chickens, ducks, goats, a steer for beef, and a pig for pork.  We have cats, a new puppy, two bunnies, and an emu.  We try to make most things from scratch and are moving to an organic diet.

I’m trying to remember if it was two or three years ago that I figured out my son’s issues were related to food dye.  In either case, I figured it out and we still have a hard time keeping chemicals out of his diet.  Here’s our story…

Our son was just two years old when he came to our home, and had what I’d call major behavioral issues.  Not that I was surprised, but when I figured out that the majority of it was food dye related, it was a classic “V8 moment” (anyone remember those commercials?)  We were already moving toward a less processed food diet, as I had learned that the reason I’m tired all the time is because of adrenal fatigue, so it wasn’t too big of a jump to start eliminating food dye also.

I wish I could say that our results were as good as those I’ve read about online, but they aren’t.  More subtle, and most obvious when there’s been a slip up…but learning that the affects can last for four days after ingestion makes it really hard to have a period of time with ZERO chemicals consumed.  I say chemicals because my research suggested that some kids who are sensitive to dye are also sensitive to artificial flavors, preservatives and well – all chemicals.  Did you know that even “natural flavoring” responds like artificials inside the body?

To most people observing my son, they’d probably quickly assume ADHD, but living with him, I knew otherwise.  He will get a stack of books and sit down to study them for long periods of time.  He can sit still during a long movie, something I’ve noticed many “normal” kids can’t or won’t do.  However, there’s definitely something different with my son. 

The summer I figured it out, he was going to two different vacation Bible schools- One in the morning and another in the evening. After the second night he was crazy bonkers.  They’d had blue jello for the snack at the evening VBS.  I don’t think I’d ever really heard much about dye sensitivity, but that thought jumped into my head, probably an answer to prayer.  I did a quick search online and was amazed at the list of symptoms that described my son to a T!  He had all of the symptoms listed under Compulsive Actions at the Feingold site, and many in the other categories.

I started looking for dye on food labels.  I was already an avid label reader, but dye and chemicals weren’t on my radar.  It’s easy enough to keep chemicals out of the food we eat at home, but we used to eat out a lot and it’s next to impossible under those circumstances.  It’s also not easy to monitor what he eats when he’s away from home.  We still don’t know if chemical residues on produce are an issue and we aren’t on a full organic diet yet, but we’ve seen improvements in the years we’ve been working on it.

The minute quantity that can set him off is what amazes me.  Not long after making this discovery, my husband was out of town for the night.  My son and I rented a movie and I decided to get us a treat.  Since ALL non candy bar type candy has dye, I got a candy bar for him, and my favorite, Hot Tamales for me.  I started in on my box on the way home and he wanted his.  It was warm and I didn’t want to open the candy bar until it had been in the fridge for a while, so I gave him three of the Hot Tamales.  Before we got home (and we’re less than two miles from the store) he was flipping out.  Kicking my seat, talking a mile a minute, repeating himself over and over – all those compulsive behaviors.  I learned that was my indicator as to “oopses” with dye.

Some people have suggested that it’s sugar.  It might be, but I’ve never seen the same response.  I can bake a batch of cookies and we can eat a few and I see no difference in his behavior.  He can use mouthwash to brush his teeth – and he’s once again flipping out!

I wish I could say he’s made a full recovery.  Perhaps he has from the effects of the dye and other chemicals, but there are still issues that could be a result of past experience in the foster care system and the reasons he was removed from his home to start with.  I’d like more people to become familiar with the negative effects of all food chemicals and processed foods, but to especially recognize the dangers in giving these things to children.  They’re more susceptible.  Thanks for letting me share!

Please leave a comment or question below for Kelly.  To submit your own story for a Guest Blogger spot, send an e-mail to admin[at]diefooddye[dot]com.

2 Responses to “Seeing Red and Going Green Aren’t Always What You Think – Our Journey Away From Food Dye: Guest Post By Kelly Cook”
  1. We switched to Tom’s of Maine fluoride rinse (and toothpaste) and my daughter loves them! We had to pretty much stop going out to eat, since most places we go are ethnic restaurants, and there’s a language barrier when asking to look at their labels, and her favorite foods were the fish eggs on sushi (we did discover the salmon eggs at one place seem okay for her,) and lemonade, most of which has fake red and/or yellow.

    And don’t let people tell you it could be sugar. The original “study” suggesting hyperactivity linked to sugar was proved false. Whereas studies linking dyes to behavior in kids whose brains are wired slightly differently than the “norm” are being taken so seriously in most countries that they’re working on banning fake colors! (US, Canada and Japan still behind the pack on that!)

    • Indie Mama says:

      Preach it! I mean when CHINA is considering banning over a dozen dyes, that just makes us look like our government doesn’t care or is inept. I wanted to add a side note that we just switched from Tom’s toothpaste to Jason, because of the carrageenan and sodium lauryl sulfate. We have specific sensitivities (msg sensitivity, exfoliative chelitis on my lips) that I suspect are being exacerbated by these two toothpaste additives, plus all the Carrageenan/cancer stories have put me off of it.

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