Our family started the Feingold Diet in February,
2005 for my four year old son who showed signs of ADHD. We saw amazing results
within two days of following the diet. My son was a different child. Immediately
I wanted to share this information with the world. I was so thankful to have
stumbled upon it, and thought, “This shouldn’t be! This information should be
readily available to every parent! Why isn’t it?”
I told everyone who would listen about the
diet. Sadly, not everyone wanted to hear it, but there were parents who did. Those
were the parents who were dealing with a child with ADHD and did not want to
In 2009, I started the blog www.allnaturalmomof4.com. I wanted to share what I had learned and offer some
hope and encouragement to other parents. I wrote about topics other than the
Feingold Diet that pertained to our family such as the GFCF (gluten and casein
free) diet. I wrote about autism, vitamins, allergies, and other diets.
However, I got e-mail after e-mail from desperate parents inquiring about the
So, in 2012 I went back to my first love
(Feingold!) and decided to focus more on the Feingold Diet to help families who
want to learn how to treat ADHD naturally–thus the reason for this book. My web
site has many posts that talk about how to do the Feingold Diet. Feel free to
read about the diet there. I wanted to put something together that was more
organized and all-encompassing though. I also wanted something that explained
the diet that could be easily shared with friends and family.
This book is for those of you who would love
to do the Feingold Diet, but just can’t afford the membership. It is for those
who want to learn more before spending the money for the program. Finally, this
book is for those of you who do not have a child with any
kind of issues, but you want to make better and more informed choices for your
I want to raise more awareness of the health issues
caused by artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives. I want the concepts of
the Feingold Diet to be on every commercial on kids’ television programs. I
want every mother to know exactly what is in the foods she is feeding her
children. I want food companies to stop marketing junk to our children. I want
schools to ban additives from school lunches and class parties. I want the FDA
(Food and Drug Administration) to ban dyes and other dangerous chemicals from
our children’s foods as some other countries have already done. 1
I want to share what I have learned – often
the hard way. It’s not easy raising a child with ADHD or other behavioral
issues. It takes a toll on the entire family. It’s definitely not easy for your
child either. No child wants to misbehave, get into trouble at home or school, or
get bad grades. Eating a chemical-free diet is healthier for everyone, not just
kids with ADHD. I believe the Feingold Diet can radically change the dynamics
of your family for the better.
Lastly, the Feingold Diet is not about eating
completely natural in the sense that the food is in the original form that God
created it. It’s not the finest diet, it’s the Feingold Diet. Feingold members
use the term “natural” loosely to define a food that originated from a whole
food source. Feingold does not cut out processed foods. They do not endorse eating
all processed foods either though. I believe in the saying, “All things in
If you’re a mom in America, you know that
many of the foods our kids eat are processed. The Feingold program tells you which
processed foods are without the most harmful additives and they explain how
even some truly natural foods like apples and strawberries can cause ADHD-like
symptoms. Feingold also helps you avoid chemicals in other items such as
laundry detergent, soaps, and personal care items that can pose a problem for
Dr. Ben Feingold’s research showed that
people who avoided these particularly offensive additives (dyes, artificial
flavors, and preservatives) and also avoided high salicylates (explained in
chapter five), often found their unwanted symptoms disappeared. Dr. Feingold
found the diet to be particularly helpful for kids with ADHD-like symptoms. 2
Food can cause problems and food can cure
problems. If you truly want to restore health though, then you also need to add
in those foods that can heal the body like vegetables and other plant-based
foods. I do not go in to that in this book. This book is about helping families
take those first baby steps to better eating. Everyone has to start somewhere.
Feingold is a great first step for many because
the program offers guidance in helping you choose foods that are free of the
most detrimental additives, while helping your kids not feel deprived of their
favorite foods. After that, I hope you will continue to educate yourselves and ultimately
arrive at truly healthy eating. Many Feingold members do just that.
And for the record, I’m not a doctor, nutritionist,
professional writer, researcher, scientist, or expert. I’m a mom who has experience
with the Feingold Diet. I am simply sharing what I have learned. Talk with your
doctor first if you have a child on medication before taking them off or
starting a new diet. I am not giving medical, financial, or legal advice.
The Feingold Diet was an answer to prayer for
us. I hope eating a chemical-free diet will benefit your family as much as it
has benefited ours!
The Feingold Diet is best known as an ADHD
diet. However, it has also been shown to help a variety of other issues
including autism, learning disabilities, sleep disorders, allergies, asthma,
hives, eczema, bed wetting, and more. 3
On this diet, we eliminate all artificial
colors (dyes) like red #40, yellow #5, and blue #1 to name a few.
Feingold also eliminates artificial flavors and certain preservatives such as BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene), TBHQ (Tertiary Butylhydroquinone), and BHA (Butylated Hydroxyanisole). Feingold also addresses the issue of salicylates in stage one of the diet. Salicylates are the natural chemicals that plants produce to ward off bugs and diseases. They are found in many fruits and other foods and can cause many adverse reactions. (4) Stage one is the first six weeks on the diet. During this time, you will stay away from all high salicylate foods. After six weeks, you can add in one new stage two food at a time to see if your child reacts (more on this in chapter five).
The Feingold Association has compiled a
300-page food list (specific to several different regions of the country) that
details which foods are free of these chemicals. They contact manufacturers to
find out exactly what is in the foods. They also list out which foods are stage
one and stage two. They are constantly updating the shopping guide as new foods
come out and as food ingredients change. To receive the shopping guide and all
the information on how to follow the diet properly, there is an $85 membership
fee (more on this in chapter six).
Many Feingold members also choose to
eliminate corn syrup, as they have noticed it causes behavioral issues in their
kids. Corn syrup is not considered an “unaccepted” ingredient on the Feingold
Diet, but the organization does specify which foods in their shopping guide contain
corn syrup so it is easy to avoid. They also specify which foods contain MSG,
nitrates, and a few other things that some people may react to or choose to
avoid for health reasons.
The Feingold Diet opened my eyes to the fact
that food has a tremendous impact on our behavior and health. Since mastering
the Feingold Diet, we have done many diets for many reasons: food allergies,
autism, seizures, Tourette Syndrome, yeast overgrowth, meltdowns, and digestive
Currently, the main diets we follow are Feingold,
GFCF, and the low oxalate diet, which is similar to a Feingold stage one diet. We
also avoid a few other foods because of allergies or for health reasons. I have
researched and contemplated many more diets. I have looked into the SCD
(Specific Carb Diet), the GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) diet, a raw foods
diet (Dr. Bernard Jensen), the yeast free diet (Dr. William Crook), the Body
Ecology Diet (fermented foods), a digestive enzymes approach to diet, The
Maker’s Diet (eating according to Biblical guidelines), the blood type diet
(eating according to your blood type), the liver cleansing and gallbladder diet
(for me), a plant based diet (The China Study), a nutritarian diet (Dr. Joel
Fuhrman), and more.
Each diet promises to cure you of something
or to provide optimum health if you follow it. I have learned that there is no
one diet that is the cure for everyone. Each person is different and there may
be one diet that works well for one person, and another that works well for
another person. This is likely because many of the diets address and fix one
Feingold is best known for addressing the
issues of hyperactivity and the inability to concentrate, but it does not
address the problem of yeast overgrowth. GFCF is best known as a diet for
autism. 5 However, you could be following the GFCF diet correctly
and still be eating dyes. I have learned to glean and implement parts of the
above diets into our family’s diet, but the one thing that is constant among
any diet that is meant to restore health and eliminate unwanted behaviors and
symptoms is the avoidance of harmful additives.
Sometimes people ask me which diet they
should do for their child, GFCF or Feingold. I believe a chemical-free diet
(Feingold stage two) should be the foundation of any other diet. If you do not
remove these toxins, you are skipping a very important step in the process of
healing and health.
Do you have to purchase the Feingold program
and follow it 100 percent? Not everyone needs to, but I will discuss that more
in later chapters. However, I do believe that everyone can make better choices,
if they are informed.
I don’t believe we were created to eat
chemicals. Our bodies do not know what to do with these chemicals because they
are not food. These chemicals throw our bodies into confusion. The liver has to
work overtime eliminating toxic chemicals when it should be working on
eliminating viruses, bacteria, and precancerous cells. 6
I believe it shows honor to God to eat foods
that God provided for us, not man-made imitations. Eating a clean diet is not
always easy to do logistically. At times we are out on the road and we need to
eat or we are invited to someone’s house for dinner. God is not calling us to
perfection in our food choices, but I think he does call us to make wise
decisions with what we put into our bodies on a regular basis.
When we are informed and can make better
decisions, we should. For our family, that means the food we buy and keep in
our house is from natural, real food sources. It means we make the best choices
possible when eating out and socializing. It means we educate ourselves on what
is healthy for our bodies and we act upon that knowledge. It means we choose to
cook and eat at home for the majority of our meals. We’re not perfect but we
try to do our best to honor God with our food choices. Dyes, artificial flavors
and preservatives are a non-negotiable and my kids know it. We may occasionally
eat corn syrup or MSG but it’s not an every-day thing.
The Feingold Diet helps you identify which
foods contain natural ingredients, made from real food, not chemicals. There
are many processed foods that originate from whole foods, but you cannot always
tell by reading a label. Feingold helps you get through that maze of
uncertainty and know for sure which foods are safe and acceptable for your
family. If you don’t join Feingold, you can still make changes for the better.
What’s So Bad About Dyes, Artificial Flavors,
Lots! My son recently did a science project
on the effects of food dyes on plants. He learned a lot about the dangers of
In an article entitled “Food Dyes: A Rainbow
of Risks”, The Center for Science in the Public Interest states “In addition to
considerations of organ damage, cancer, birth defects, and allergic reactions,
mixtures of dyes (and Yellow 5 tested alone) cause hyperactivity and other behavioral
problems in some children. Because of that concern, the British government advised
companies to stop using most food dyes by the end of 2009, and the European
Union is requiring a warning notice on most dye-containing foods after July20,
Studies on rats and mice have been done on each dye individually, but what about the mixture of several dyes? Ever read the ingredients on a bag of Skittles or Lucky Charms? Blue, red, yellow dyes all mixed together in one food.
The CSPI study also showed that no long term studies have been done on the effects of ingesting dyes. Most of the studies recorded reactions over a two year period, and some dyes were tested for even shorter periods. Most people did not start eating larger amounts of dyes until recent decades. Fifty years ago, people would cook mostly from scratch and their kids were not eating dyes every day. The study also did not include an in utero phase, meaning we do not know the effect dyes have on an unborn baby.
The FDA has limits on the amount of carcinogens allowed to be used in one individual dye. (7) Those limits ensure that the carcinogens in the dyes will not pose a lifetime of risk greater than one cancer per one million people. However, there are no guidelines for consumers on the total amount of these products to consume each day. What amount of dyes can be “safely” ingested each day? What if your child is eating multiple dye-laden products each day and what if they do that for years? Is there a cumulative effect of eating all these dyes together over long periods of time?
Also worth noting that the FDA’s limits were set based on 1990’s dye usage data, when dye usage was 50 percent lower. The limits were also set based on an adult’s bodyweight, not a child’s.
Let’s take a look at a typical child’s day. For breakfast, they have a strawberry yogurt which has been artificially colored with red dye (this may or may not be listed on the ingredients because their supplier of strawberries may add it). They brush their teeth with brightly colored toothpaste. They go to school and get hot lunch where they have red-dye laden fruit punch containing red dye. After school they grab some Nacho Doritos ® which contain yellow and red dye. For dinner, your child has macaroni and cheese containing yellow dye. After dinner, your child goes to soccer practice and grabs their favorite brightly colored sports drink which contains blue dye. By the end of the day your child has consumed a rainbow of colors.
The warning labels on dyes in the United Kingdom say, “May have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.” (8) A parent reading this warning on a label is likely going to put that food back on the shelf. Instead of warning (and scaring off) consumers, big food companies like Mars and McDonald’s have chosen instead to use natural colorings in countries where the labels are now required (not in the U.S.). In Europe, Skittles, Starburst ®, and M&M’s ® are all colored from natural sources such as red cabbage or carrot juice instead of dyes. A strawberry sundae from a McDonald’s in the U.K. is colored red with strawberries instead of red dyes. (23)
In 2011, the Feingold Association and a few other agencies tried to convince the United States government to at least put warning labels on dyes. (9) It failed to pass by a couple of votes. I guess we’re getting there. Hopefully we’ll catch up to other countries one day and ban them altogether.
Certain dyes have already been banned in the United States. (10) I remember when they stopped making red M&M’s ® when I was little. Even when they reintroduced red M&M’s ® again, my friends and I would say, “Don’t eat the red ones! They cause cancer!”
In a June, 2010 article entitled “CSPI Says Dyes Pose Rainbow of Risks”, The Center for Science in the Public Interest states, “The three most widely used dyes, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6, are contaminated with known carcinogens, says CSPI. Another dye, Red 3, has been acknowledged for years by the Food and Drug Administration to be a carcinogen, yet is still in the food supply.” (11)
In March, 2011, Melanie Warner reported on the FDA hearings related to food dyes for CBS News. In the article, “FDA Hears From Critics on Artificial Food Dyes. Next Step: Ignore Them,” Warner reports, “There’s no good reason not to ban Red 3, something then-acting FDA commissioner Mark Novitch tried to do in 1984, saying the dye ‘has clearly been shown to induce cancer’ and was ‘of greatest public health concern.’ … Other dyes, namely Blue 1, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6, are known to cause allergic reactions in some people and have shown signs of causing cancer in lab animals.” (12)
And just what are dyes made of? “Artificial food dyes are made from
petroleum and approved for use by the FDA to enhance the color of processed
foods.” 13 That’s right, petroleum! It’s that stuff that
sometimes gets spilled in oceans and kills the ocean life. It is a crude oil product that is used in
our gasoline, diesel fuel, asphalt, and tar. Mmmm, give me some of that.
Some people don’t want to know the ill-effects of dyes because they want to keep enjoying their favorite foods. I can understand that and that’s why I like Feingold. There is often a natural substitute for a favorite food and if there isn’t, you can always make it. I don’t feel deprived at all by eating a chemical-free diet. I feel empowered.
We also need to teach all of this to our kids. Let kids learn in school what’s actually in those “fruit” snacks they are eating. When people (including kids) are informed, they are more likely to make better choices. When my son was little, he would tell his friends as they were eating brightly colored candy, “That causes cancer you know.” Of course they didn’t receive this very well. One girl told him her mother would never feed her something that would give her cancer. Well, dyes are carcinogenic. Most people just don’t know this.
In addition to being linked to cancer, dyes can also cause hyperactivity and behavior issues in many children. This information is more commonly known thanks to recent media coverage.
In 2008, Chicago CBS News came out to our
house and put together a three-minute segment entitled, “Food Additives Could Be Making Your Kids Hyper.” A new British study
had just been published linking food dyes to hyperactivity. Below is the
article that CBS News had posted on their web site. 14
“Food Additives Could Be Making
Your Kids Hyper”
Cody Davis’s behavior improved dramatically after his mother began restricting
the food additives he eats.
There’s something in our food that could be affecting your child’s behavior,
and could even be causing behavior problems in children who’ve never had them.
CBS 2 Medical Editor Mary Ann Childers reports there’s new research parents
need to know about some hyper ingredients.
In preschool, 3-year-old Cody Davis was in constant motion. He was hyperactive,
aggressive and a trouble-maker.
“One time they called me and just said he’s hurting other kids at school
just because he’s so wild, he can’t control himself,” said Cody’s mother,
On the Internet, Davis stumbled on something she didn’t expect: a link between
behavior and food dyes.
“And that’s when I started looking at what he was eating,” she said.
Now, a highly regarded British study says a variety of common food additives —
including yellow dyes 5 and 6 — can make kids hyper. And the findings are not
just in children who have been diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity
disorder. In the study, most of the 300 children exposed to artificial
colorings had some increased level of hyperactivity.
“It may impact actually the general population, not just ADHD persons, but
the average child,” said Dr. Thomas Blondis, M.D. of the pediatrics
department at the University of Chicago’s Comer Children’s Hospital.
The link between additives and behavior was first made in the 1970s by an
allergist named Dr. Benjamin Feingold. He developed a diet that many families
use and many doctors recommend to this day.
“It’s really just a difference of brands that you’re buying,” Davis
said. “For everything that you would normally eat, there’s always a
different brand that doesn’t have the dyes in it.”
Davis believes Cody was especially affected by red dye #40, and when she
eliminated it from his diet she noticed an almost immediate difference.
“Within two days hyperactivity was down 75 percent,” she said.
“It was just amazing, the difference.”
The hyper ingredients are found in everything from beverages to baked goods.
Davis shops now for more natural versions colored by fruit and vegetable
extracts so Cody can still eat foods he loves — even cheese curls.
Sugar, in moderation, is not a culprit for causing hyper behavior.
ADHD expert Dr. Mark Stein, Ph.D. says he thinks a hyperactivity reaction to
food dyes is not that common, but it’s not a bad idea to go for natural over
“You know, it certainly wouldn’t harm a child to reduce food dyes, and pay
attention to what they eat,” Stein said.
Now age 7, Cody is winning awards for his excellent behavior in school.
This latest research prompted the British equivalent of the Food and Drug
Administration to issue an advisory to parents that they should reduce foods
with additives if they see changes in their child’s behavior.
The FDA, which regulates additives in the U.S., has taken no action. However,
the Center for Science in the Public Interest recommends that parents avoid
food dyes, especially yellow 5 and 6.
© MMIX, CBS Broadcasting Inc.
While many parents are aware that dyes pose a
problem, many do not realize that artificial flavors are just as bad. My kids
react to artificial flavors just as much as dyes. There are no restrictions on
what companies can use to flavor a food. Artificial flavors are made from hundreds
of different combinations of chemicals. Food manufacturers may start with a
natural flavor, but in the end, there is nothing natural about it.
Vanillin is a popular artificial flavor. You’ll find vanillin in many chocolates and in foods that are vanilla flavored. Real vanilla is expensive so they came up with their own artificial form that was much cheaper to make. Note that vanillin occurs naturally in the lignins (a compound found in plants) of vanilla beans. However, due to a discovery in the 1950’s, some artificial vanillin is made from the waste products of paper mills. (15)
There are other ways to make vanillin as well. Some synthetic vanillin is made from guaiacol, which is a petrochemical, or petroleum. And then there’s the Japanese woman who figured out how to make vanillin from cow dung! She even won an Ig Nobel Prize for it in 2007. She found that lignins could be extracted from cow manure that has been heated and pressurized for one hour. I know we should recycle, but this is ridiculous. (16)
Rest assured this vanillin is not approved
for use in food. It is used in perfumes and other non-food items to produce a
What Are the Health Hazards of Artificial
Since there are so many different chemicals
used in artificial flavors, and companies do not even have to list each
chemical they’ve used, it is hard to test each and every one for ill side
effects. Below is a small sampling of what we do know.
“Borneol is an artificial
flavoring that may cause gastrointestional irritation, seizures, confusion, and
dizziness. Butryic acid has caused cancer in lab animals. Butyl acetate, a
related chemical, can be toxic in high quantities. Carvacrol is an artificial
flavoring that can lead to respiratory and circulatory depression as well as
cardiac failure. Cinnamyl formate or formic acid, which is artificial cinnamon,
has caused cancer in mice and may affect our kidneys.” 17
Some food critics say to avoid both
artificial and natural flavors. Some
natural flavors are derived from truly natural ingredients and some are not. Food
manufacturers are given a lot of liberty in using the term “natural flavors.”
“The term natural flavor or natural
flavoring means the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein
hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis,
which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit
juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf
or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or
fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring
rather than nutritional.” 18
This definition gives food manufacturers
a lot of room to add just about whatever they want and call it a natural
flavor. MSG is often hidden in natural flavors as are preservatives like BHA
and BHT. If I see natural flavors listed on a product, I make sure to check my
Feingold shopping guide to see if it truly is natural.
What About Preservatives?
Preservatives are just as problematic as dyes
and artificial flavors. Some are made from petroleum as well. Before writing
this book, I didn’t know very much about the dangers of preservatives. I just
knew that Feingold said they were bad and caused adverse reactions in kids. That
was enough for me. We avoided them.
The preservatives avoided on Feingold are BHA,
BHT, and TBHQ. They might be listed as antioxidants because they keep food,
particularly oils and fats, from going rancid. A chef I know said she wouldn’t
feed this stuff to her dogs – and rightly so. Researchers have done studies on
feeding BHT and BHA to animals and here is what one researcher had to say. In
an article entitled, “The Saga of BHT and BHA in Life Extension Myths”, Dr. JG
Llaurado states: “…information in the
bio-medical literature reveals that the recommended human dose of 2 grams per
day is simply one order of magnitude below the lethal dose in animals.
Obviously, these high dose levels, if not immediately lethal for humans, must
produce pathological effects.” 19
Sharla Race wrote a free PDF book entitled Antioxidants: The Truth About BHA, BHT, TBHQ and Other Antioxidants Used As Food
Additives. This book is a great
read. Here is a quote from the book: “A leading manufacturer of BHA has the
following caution on its product specification. “Warning! Possible cancer
hazard. May cause cancer based on animal data. Risk of cancer depends on
duration and level of exposure. Harmful if swallowed. Irritant. Causes eye,
skin and respiratory tract infection.” 20
The health issues associated with BHT, BHA,
and TBHQ are many including headache, stomach issues, skin irritation, ADHD
symptoms, eye irritation, tumors, asthma, and lung irritation. Pregnant mice that were given doses of these preservatives
had offspring that slept less, were more irritable, and showed slower learning.
BHA gives me a headache. I was buying some
GFCF cupcakes from the health food store that were made at a local bakery. The
ingredients read clean but every time I ate them, I got a headache the
following day. I thought maybe the eggs were giving me a headache. I decided to
contact the manufacturer to find out if the cupcakes contained any unacceptable
ingredients. Sure enough, they use oil on the pans that contain BHA. No more
cupcakes for me.
BHA and BHT were originally developed to
serve as a preservative for petroleum. In the 1950’s, BHA and BHT were approved
for use in food. 20 They are mostly used to preserve fats and oils
but are also used in cosmetics, toiletries, and medicines. It is best to buy cold pressed oils to try to
avoid these preservatives. BHT is also frequently added to animal feed. While
the BHT may not directly be in the meat that you buy, we choose to buy organic
meats for many reasons. Although Sharla Race states in her book, Antioxidants, that some beef has BHA
added to it to stabilize the “fresh” color of raw beef. 20
In a December, 2011 article entitled,
“”For Added Freshness” Label Claim Really Means “Added
Chemicals” When It Comes to BHA and BHT,” D. Wells from Natural News
reported, “BHT is banned in England because research shows it reacts with other
ingested substances to cause the formation of carcinogens. BHA is listed as a carcinogen by
the state of California because it causes cancer in humans. BHA has been banned
in Japan because studies found it causes cancerous tumors in rats’
stomachs. Both BHA and BHT are toxic to the liver and kidneys. Remember, humans are animals too.
Human lymph nodes absorb these toxins, and that’s why breast cancer numbers
have gone through the roof.” 21
TBHQ was approved for use in food in the
early 2000’s and is a chemical that is a form of butane. 22 It was a
sad day in our house when Feingold announced Eggo Buttermilk waffles which were
once approved were adding TBHQ. We went out and found all the remaining Eggos
we could find that still had the old ingredients.
TBHQ is being used more and more since states
started putting bans on trans-fats. 24 In order to preserve the
foods, manufacturers are often using TBHQ instead. Many restaurants like
McDonald’s are cooking their fries and other foods in oil preserved with TBHQ.
Many Feingold members report that TBHQ causes their kids to become extremely
angry, crabby, or weepy.
Industrial workers exposed to the vapors of
TBHQ suffered clouding of the eye lens. 20
article entitled, “TBHQ: Why This Preservative Should Be Avoided”, Shona Botes
from Natural News reported: “Consuming high doses (between 1 and 4 grams) of
TBHQ can cause nausea, delirium, collapse, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and
vomiting. There are also suggestions that it may lead to hyperactivity in
children as well as asthma, rhinitis and dermatitis. It may also further
aggravate ADHD symptoms and cause restlessness. Long term, high doses of TBHQ
in laboratory animals have shown a tendency for them to develop cancerous
precursors in their stomachs, as well as cause DNA damage to them.” 22
If I have piqued your interest in removing chemicals from your family’s diet,
keep reading. I’ll tell you why and how we started the Feingold Diet and how
you can avoid all these additives.
A Star Is Born
After 22 hours of labor and four hours of
pushing, my first child was born at home. He came out wide-eyed and alert,
looking for his first meal. Little did I know then that food would have a monumental
effect on his behavior.
He was a happy little guy, the joy of my
life. However, something told me he was going to be a handful. As soon as he
started walking, he started running…and never stopped. He ran everywhere, literally.
He was impulsive. He had no fear. He was “all boy.” He was naturally
athletic and full of energy. We nicknamed him “The Energizer Bunny”, as did
complete strangers. He just kept going and going. He could also throw a tantrum
that would put most two-year-olds to shame.
Putting him down for a nap or for the night was
incredibly hard. It was the part of the day I dreaded most. He loved to eat
Mickey cereal before bed (lots of dyes). It’s no wonder he had trouble getting
to sleep! He would stay up very late and I couldn’t get him to settle down. He
would literally be jumping up and down on his bed, laughing hysterically until
he would finally just collapse and go right to sleep.
To describe him as hyper was an
understatement. Every time I went to the store someone would have to make a
comment like, “Wow, I wish I had that much energy” or “You have
your hands full.” I read that kids with ADHD are often very cute with big
innocent eyes that say “What me? What did I do?” That was my son. It
was hard to stay mad at him for long because he was so darn cute. I think God
made these kids so cute because if he didn’t, millions of kids would be left on
strangers’ doorsteps. (OK, not really.)
This was my first child, so I figured that
was just how boys were. I was determined that my next child was going to be a
girl. I painted our spare bedroom pink in wishful thinking. I thought if this
is how boys are, I don’t want any more boys! I even read a book that explained
how to conceive the gender of your choice. It worked!
Off to Preschool
When my son was three, I enrolled him in
preschool, mainly because I needed a break. He was very smart. I expected him
to do well. It’s amazing how your children’s issues are suddenly magnified
tenfold as soon as they start school. He was just as wild at school as he was
For some reason I thought he was only acting that
way for me. Maybe I was too lenient with him, or didn’t discipline him enough. I
thought for sure he would listen to his teachers and behave in school. After
all, he wasn’t a bad kid.
One day, his teacher asked to talk to me
after school. I didn’t stay long enough to hear what she had to say because my
son had run out the door, smacking other kids’ backpacks on the way out, like
he often did. She made sure to call me later though. She explained that he had
dumped sand on a little girl’s head at recess and refused to go to time out. She
said he often would not listen to the teachers. He had a hard time sitting in
circle time. He was always touching the kids next to him and not paying
attention. She suggested giving him consequences for his actions. Ha – as if he
never had consequences.
My parents told me I needed to spank him and
discipline him more. They gave me the book by Dr. James Dobson, “Dare to
Discipline.” I read it and was even more depressed than I was before. I
tried everything Dr. Dobson said and nothing worked. I shoved it under my bed.
I would spank him, and he’d laugh, and turn
around and say “Spank me again!” or “That felt good!” I
figured that wasn’t going to work. It only made me feel worse. Time outs, when
I could get him to stay in one spot, didn’t work either. I read other books,
and nothing I tried made any difference in his behavior. I figured there wasn’t
a book out there that had my kid figured out.
Every day on the way to school, I would say,
“You’re going to listen to your teachers today, right?” “You’re
going to be nice to the other kids, right?” I thought if I reminded him,
he might actually behave. He always answered with the same reply, “I’ll
try.” I had butterflies in my stomach every day when I went to pick him
up, wondering what he might have done that day.
Trying to Cope
I was afraid his school was going to ask me
to take him out of class. I couldn’t handle the daily stress. I pulled him out
after the first semester. I told myself that kids his age didn’t need to be in
school. Maybe he just wasn’t ready for school, and what did he need preschool
for anyway? He was already academically ahead of all his peers. Did he need
socialization? This kid was a social butterfly. Shyness was not on his radar. I
do feel there is some validity to my thinking, but my real reason for keeping him
out of school in reality, was because of his inability to behave and control
I avoided going out and play dates just
weren’t happening. I knew he’d have a hard time controlling himself with the other
kids and honestly, no one was asking. It’s not that he was malicious in nature.
He just had a tendency to play too rough and too wild, and sometimes ended up
hurting other kids if I wasn’t watching him closely.
The terrible two’-s had turned in to the
horrible three’-s, and by four there was no slowing down. He was still out of
control. I tried to focus on his positive qualities. He had a lot. He was
extremely talkative and I imagined him being a pastor and winning people to
Christ. I thought about taking him to a nursing home and letting him get all of
his talking out with the elderly. They’d love him. He was quite entertaining. Who
was I to quench his free spirit?
The following fall, we had some missionary
friends from Africa come and stay with us. I was embarrassed at how out of
control he was, and how little I could do to stop him. I knew they must have been
praying for him after they left. Who wouldn’t?
Frustration Sets In
After another crazy Christmas party with
relatives (with lots of candy laying out on every end table), and the doom of
school approaching, I decided it was time to do something – but what? I
tolerated his behavior at home because I was used to it. Being my first child,
I didn’t have much to compare it with. I just figured this was how boys were. I
tried to handle it as best I could but I was exhausted, frustrated, and felt
like a terrible parent.
By this time, I also had another baby to take
care of – a baby girl who was a complete angel. She was the complete opposite
of her brother. She was quiet, content, and laid back. I didn’t even need to
entertain her because watching the constant activity of her brother was enough
entertainment. As she got a little older, it became more apparent how different
she was from my son. I started to question whether my son’s behavior was normal
for a child, boy or not.
I didn’t want him to get into trouble at
school. I knew I could not keep him out of school forever. I put him back into
a different preschool. I figured I needed to face the inevitable and get him prepared
for kindergarten. Maybe this time it would be different. After all, he was
older now, and maybe it was just the teacher.
He was placed in a class with all boys –
seven of them. I thought, great, a smaller class is just what he needs. The
class from the previous year was just too big and overwhelming for him. However,
he had the same behavior problems as before.
Searching for Answers
I started praying fervently for an answer to
why he was so hyper. Why couldn’t he behave? I knew his behavior was not
God-honoring. If he got extended time on this earth for obeying his parents, his
life was going to be very short-lived.
One day I was reading a post on www.babycenter.com
from a woman who was from Africa. She said her family moved to America and she noticed
a change in her boys when they started eating the typical American foods. In
Africa, they had no behavioral issues. All of sudden they were extremely hyper.
She said she had linked it to the red dyes in the American foods they were eating.
I did more research and discovered the
Feingold Diet. I stopped when I read that the program cost $75 (at the time). I
thought, “Why would I pay them when I could just do it myself?” I felt like
they just wanted my money. I knew how to read. I could avoid red dyes. I was
too cheap to pay for the membership even though I could afford it, and I was too
prideful. So, I put the Feingold Diet out of my mind.
The red dyes and the possible link to
hyperactivity got me thinking though. I wasn’t even sure what red dyes were. I
looked on some of our foods and drinks, and there it was. My son had been
drinking a pink grapefruit juice every day which had red dye in it. I removed
the juice and noticed he was a little calmer. My babysitter noticed too. I
tried to “limit” his consumption of red dyes.
I had already noticed that every time he had
candy or ice cream, he was terrible. I had tried to cut those out too. When he
did have candy, I tried to give him chocolate instead, thinking that would be
better than the dyes. However, he was still having problems. I asked my midwife
what would cause him to be so hyper and she said, “Sugar.”
I then took him to a holistic doctor and she told
me his problem was yeast (this was true). She also told me that he had a
hypersensitivity to light and a zinc deficiency. She then told me to feed him
less processed food. OK, could you be a little more specific? I left feeling I
had little direction on where to go from there. How exactly do I feed him less
processed food? What was I supposed to feed him?
His new preschool teacher started noticing
the same behaviors we had seen at the other school. In a parent-teacher
conference, she told me she saw red flags for ADHD and wrote that on his report
card. She said he couldn’t sit still. He had trouble concentrating and
listening to instructions. His report card was awful under the behavior section,
yet under the academic section, he had all high marks. I knew he was
intelligent. Why couldn’t he control himself?
I started thinking back to the African
woman’s post about red dyes. I remembered the changes I noticed when I did
remove the red dye laden juice. One day, I decided to look up the words “red
dye and hyperactivity” on the Internet. I came across the Feingold Diet again.
At this point, I needed help and was willing
to do whatever it took to help my son. At the end of January, I signed up and
ordered my Feingold membership materials which included a detailed food
shopping guide, a fast food restaurant guide, and a ton of reading materials.
I was very impatient. I had to wait about two weeks to get my materials.
After reading some information on the Feingold web site, I knew that what I was
feeding my child was causing him to be hyper and have difficulties in school,
and that it was unhealthy for him. I didn’t want to feed him this stuff one
more day. I couldn’t wait to get started!
Click here to buy the book!
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