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Monday, April 4, 2011

Food Dye

The other day I read an article about the FDA studying the effects of food dye and it's relationship to ADHD. I completely believe there is a correlation between all of the dyes and preservatives we put in our foods and ADHD.

Lucas was diagnosed with ADHD when he was six years old. We had him tested outside of school by a licensed child pyshchologist. The school was pushing and pushing us to get the test done but we pushed back just as hard. I felt the school thought Lucas was hard to handle and they were looking for a quick fix to make him easier to control so I made sure to take him far away from school to have him tested. I didn't want his school anywhere near Lucas when he was tested because I was afraid they would skew the test to force us to either leave the school or heavily medicate Lucas so he was easier to handle. I didn't believe Lucas had ADHD. I thought he was a six year old little boy who was rambunctious, curious and full of energy.

The test results came back and it was a shock to both Stan and me. Lucas scores were off the charts in every single area of the test. Normally, I would be singing from the roof if my child's scores were off the charts but I was mortified. How could I over look all of the signs of ADHD? When I saw Lucas' behavior in the psychologist's office, I understood. Lucas was a completely different child outside of our house and when we weren't in charge. It was summer so Lucas was in a basketball jersey and shorts. When the psychologist tried to engage Lucas in a conversation he sat in the chair, pulled his arms into his jersey and then he pulled his head into his jersey. He looked like a turtle trying to hide from the world. If this is what Lucas behaved like outside of our world it was no wonder the school was after me to have him tested. We didn't see this behavior at home.

After the shock wore off I started doing research on the best way to help Lucas without medication. At this point, I was on the fence about medication but Stan was firmly against it so I sought alternatives. One of the first pieces of information I found was about food dyes. Back then our pantry and freezer were stocked with all of the convenient foods kids love. We had Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, Kid Cuisine, Lunchables...all full of yellow dye #5. I started re-evaluating what foods went into my kids bodies. It was no longer a matter of convenience, it was a matter of doing the right thing for Lucas. I pulled all of those foods out of my pantry and freezer and started checking food labels for dyes. I saw a slight change in behavior after the foods with dyes left the house but it was enough of a change for me to work to keep food dyes out of the house permanently.

We eventually decided to medicate Lucas after months of trying every other conceivable option and hours talking to the pediatrician and pschychologist. I cried when we decided to medicate Lucas. It broke my heart thinking we were caving to medication. I thought we would lose Lucas and his free spirited personality. He did OK at home, under our rules but it wasn't a question of whether Lucas could function at home and with our rules, it was a question of how he functioned at school. He couldn't function at school. He was a struggling "C" student who had no friends. The pediatrician was patient with me as I sat on the examination table and bawled my eyes out. He explained ADHD so I could understand it was a medical condition and not just a label we were throwing on Lucas. "If Lucas had high blood pressure you wouldn't hesitate to put him on medicine to control his blood pressure," the doctor said. He gently asked, "why would you hesitate to help him with his ADHD through medicine?" The medicine works but only on the weekdays. Weekends, Thanksgiving, Christmas and summer Lucas takes a "medical holiday."

I can see a huge difference in the boys when they stay away from food dye. I can also see a huge difference in them when they eat something with dye in it. Zach has more freedom of choice with his food and I can tell when he gets a hold of something with dye in it. He is impulsive and hard to reason with. Lucas is a bit more conscientious when it comes to food because he knows how it affects him so he tries to avoid the dyes. Zach's ADD is not nearly as severe as Lucas'. Zach hasn't had quite the same row to hoe Lucas has so he is not as concerned about food dyes. (He is also a teenager and completely invincible, in his mind, so he thinks he doesn't need to worry.) In Zach's defense, though, food dye is everywhere. It's in foods we eat when we think we are being healthy. Life Cereal. I always thought it was a good choice. Healthy, whole grain ~ with food dye. The kids love it but I won't buy Life Cereal anymore because of Yellow Dye #5 and #6. I want to give them every advantage I can so when they leave the house they can focus on school and not focus on how their breakfast is affecting their work. The food dye seems to counteract all the good the medicine does for them.

I hope someday to not have to worry about dye in our foods but until then I will buy as close to natural as I can and keep the dyes out of the house for the love of my children...

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