We used to be just your average family, buying and consuming anything the 'average' family does, from Kool-Aid to popsicles, not much caring what was in it besides the typical "too much sugar". We always tried to limit the kids' consumption of that dreaded "too much sugar", but we never really gave too much thought about any other things we should potentially be avoiding. Until Jamie came along. Jamie is our challenging child. Not in a horribly bad way, she's just a challenge. Incredibly intelligent, but also incredibly HYPER. Jamie puts Mexican jumping beans to shame! Constant movement, sometimes really erratic and almost uncontrollable. There are times when Jamie seems like she's lost her hearing; she won't notice or even react to anything going on around her, and if she's in a particularly active mode, sometimes that's a dangerous thing.
I'm not overly fond of medical intervention (mostly because we have always had a lack of truly GOOD doctors), so when we started to see the signs a year or so ago of what would surely be diagnosed as ADHD, we began investigating natural treatments for it. One of the first things I came across was the research on artificial food dyes and the very apparent link they have to hyperactivity and what was labeled back in the 1950's as 'hyperkenesis'. I kind of like that term better than ADHD--Jamie is most certainly hyperkenetic! What absolutely floored me was that most European Union countries have actually BANNED the use of artificial food additives in products marketed to children. Banned. We're not talking about a suggestion to parents--these things were removed completely! One British Medical Journal report on the additive 'Red 40' likened it to rat poison for children. I wouldn't say I'd go THAT far, but that's how adamant people are in other countries about this stuff.
The more I read, the more convinced I was to at least try and see what would happen if we removed the artificial stuff from her diet. It was like night and day. Jamie's tasmanian devil days diminished, and she was more just a little dust devil than a full-blown human tornado. Her hyperactivity was more managable, and during the worst days, she can at least hear and respond now.
If we'd not had enough proof that there was something 'up' with the artificial dyes, Pete slipped one day when he had Morgan and Jamie out for a drive and we had our suspicions cemented. The girls got thirsty, and he stopped and got them what he thought was a semi-healthy drink--Tropicana Twister. Thing is, he didn't read the label and didn't think about the fact that the juice drink was bright red. Within twenty minutes, Jamie was doubled over in excruciating pain, and she continued to have pains like that for the following eight hours. The emergency room was a 45 minute drive, so as I asked the nurse on the hotline what I should do, she suggested that the sudden onset of the pain in an otherwise healthy child HAD to be something in the drink--especially since Jamie had consumed it on an empty stomach. I was told it was likely an allergic reaction and that we'd better find out what it was she was reacting to. Everything in the drink was pretty natural--apple and grape juices, some pineapple juice, corn syrup, you know, all the typical stuff. Except the Red 40. Oh, and the artificial dyes? Guess what? They have salicylates in them, which is what causes the reaction--it's an aspirin derivative that is also found (naturally, and in smaller amounts) in apples, grapes, and most berries. The Feingold Diet (named after the doctor who did the research on the reaction to food dyes in children) actually suggests eliminating these natural salicylates as well as the artificial ones.
For the most part, there aren't too many people who will believe us about the change in Jamie's behavior and attention span as it relates to us eliminating the artificial dyes from her diet. However, I now have some good, hard proof showing another of our children reacting to it. Danica's reaction to the skins of apples, cucumbers, grapes, and strawberries was odd to us. We'd not seen anything like it--she breaks out in a red, raised, blotchy 'rash' that is tender to the touch every time she eats something that has either the natural salicylates or the artificial dyes in them. We'd never documented it in pictures before until Friday. We weren't paying really close attention to what was in the sweet and sour sauce at Wendy's until Pete wiped Dani's face and realized that the red marks weren't coming off, and that they were darker than the sauce. What I've photographed below is NOT a stain. It's an allergic reaction. To a food dye. See the red marks around her mouth?
Upon further inspection, we realized that she also had the red marks above her mouth where Pete had smeared the sauce while wiping it off (to the right of her nose under her eye, you can see a light red reaction just starting to take shape), plus where the sauce had dripped onto her chest. This red mark on her chest, I assure you, is NOT a cut, a scrape, or a bug bite. It is from the sauce.
Sure enough, on the label (which I'll not show a picture of even though I do have it, because I don't feel like being sued for libel by Wendy's) was what we figured would be there--Red 40.
I think we'll stick to the honey mustard!