We all know rainbows are beautiful. They are always a treasure to discover and a sight to behold. What is not beautiful is the rainbow of crap that we allow this country to feed to our children every single day. American children consume more chemicals in their food then you’d care to believe. Our young children whose bodies are most at risk during these important years of growth are inundated with processed foods that contain little to no nutritional value.
There was a point where I didn’t really care and I didn’t really see any harm in it. I grew up on eating boxed snacks and I got fruit snacks in my lunch and I enjoyed an occassional bowl of Lucky Charms or Captain Crunch. I knew they weren’t really good for me but I didn’t see them as being *bad* for me.
Once at a La Leche League meeting I overhead some mother’s discussing their child’s sensitivites to food dye. My daughter was about a year old at the time and I was a little floored by this conversation. This mother shared how she systematically discovered that many of her childrens behavioral problems had been caused by eating foods with artificial food coloring and most especially red #40. The whole thing sounded rather complicated and totally not fun. Who wouldn’t want to let their kids eat blue frosted cupcakes at a Birthday Party or enjoy Halloween candy? Who would want to spoil childhood?
But I am lucky that that conversation stayed in the back of my head, it saved my daughter a trip to the Emergency Room.
My daughter was 20 months old. Just before bed she became hysterical. It started small, not wanting to get pajamas on but quickly escalated into something I had never, ever witnessed from her and I know my daughter very well. She was screaming and crying and was completely inconsolable. She also became physically violent and was trying to hurt me – a first in her life. This went on for about an hour and she finally became delirious enough that she allowed me to nurse her to sleep. My head spun and I couldn’t quite figure out what that was all about. Little did I know that was just the beginning.
At 11:30 that night just when I was heading off to bed I heard Camden start crying hysterically in her room (not typical). The whole ordeal lasted until 1:30 in the morning. She was crying and screaming in pure hysteria. It was truly insane. As a mother that practices Attachment Parenting I had never witnessed anything like this from my child before. It was the most difficult thing to watch my child who was in utter chaos and be able to do nothing for her. She was in a state of panic and rage. She was afraid of me and would not let me near her. She ran from me and hid in mine and my husbands walk-in-closet. Her body literally shook all over as she cried. She was not asleep, she was not having a “night terror”. This was so beyond that. She would cry out to nurse and then as soon as I’d reach for her she’d scream and push me away. She started banging her head on the wall. I was ready to take her to the Emergency Room. I literally thought something had gone wrong in her brain. I finally forced my way into the closet with her and held her against her will. She kicked and clawed at me and screamed. I sobbed with her. I was a broken mother. I was helpless. I was scared. I finally convinced her to nurse but she only allowed me to support her head. She layed on the floor and nursed while trying to touch me the least amount possible. When she was finally in a deep sleep I was able to get her back to her bed.
During this whole process I had naggingly remembered the stories that mother had shared with another young mother at that LLL meeting almost a year before. I thought about what had happened before Camden went to bed and then it hit me. Camden had eaten cherry Yoplait yogurt before bed. Could it really be that? I walked to the kitchen and grabbed a container of yogurt and read the ingredients. Red #40 bounced blaringly back at me. I ran to the computer and googled red #40 and sensitivity. I buried myself in reading until the wee dawn of morning crept into the office. My daughter really was sensitive to dye.
It took many months and many more exposures before we truly believed that this was not a figment of our imagination. The second reaction was worse than the first. In fact, it was so bad that my husband had to leave the house – he couldn’t bare to be around it. She was foaming at the mouth and slamming her head into the kitchen cupboards. It lasted for several hours and in the end I had to hold her against her will as she kicked and hit me with all of her little might. I sobbed that night with my daughter again. I vowed to stop using her as a chemical experiment. I prayed for the attack to subside soon.
After that I started reading a lot. I read:
I also joined the Feingold organization. This is where I learned the most information and received the most help. They also have a Yahoo Group that is free to join and I highly suggest checking it out if you can’t afford to join the Feingold organization.
It has been a long journey forward from that first reaction. We have made slow and steady progress. Every once in awhile I am tempted to let Camden eat some licorice or enjoy a candy cane. Every once in awhile I am amazed and horrified at what kind of unnecessary things contain food dye – hot chocolate, white frosting, cheese. Every once in awhile I wonder how many of our children suffer from various learning disorders and extreme physical violence and other mental disorders simply because their bodies are literally a dumping ground for chemicals. And for what? To make it look better.
Sometimes I feel like a victim and I play the “why me” card. Why can’t my child be normal and eat this crap like every other kid? Why do I have to be that weird parent that won’t let her child eat regular m&m’s? But you know what, I’m happy it’s me. I’m happy I have learned more about this nations food industry and how awful it really is. I am happy that I am learning about the role that nutritious and whole foods play in the development of the brain and in producing a happy person, in general. I am happy that I am learning.
Someday we will tell Camden about her sensitivity to food dye. For now we avoid it and simply tell her that some foods just aren’t good for us. Or even better, maybe someday America will tell the food industry that we refuse to let our children be the recipients of harmful and pointless chemicals. Maybe we will learn to speak with our dollars and demand that our food be just that … food.
UPDATES: Since this post gets a lot of hits I thought I would centralize some of my other blog posts that address the artificial dye matter.
It’s About Time: A random, double blind, placebo controlled study that was published in the Lancet in November 2007. Finally a break that links dyes and preservatives to hyperactivity.
Bathing in a Rainbow: My daughters severe hive reaction to her first bubble bath which contained artificial dyes.
The Natural Dye Alternative: Information on natural dyes that can be used for baking, cooking and fun crafts.
Halloween in Crunchville – Dye Free Candy: A list of sites that sell natural, dye free candy. It’s delicious too!