Update: Now available on Amazon!
The intro and chapters below have been edited since I originally posted this last year. You will find a slightly different version in the completed book. You can view the intro and first two chapters for free on Amazon.
All Natural Mom’s Guide to the Feingold Diet: A Natural Approach to ADHD and Other Related Disorders
@ 2014 Sheri Davis
All Rights Reserved
Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, New International Version (NIV) copyright @ 1978 by New York International Bible Society. Published by permission.
Edited by Cody Davis
Photographs by Maple Valley Photography
Portions of the proceeds of this book will go to Children With Hope and Destiny (CHAD) in Malawi, Africa, a non-profit Christian organization that helps orphaned children. www.chad.org.mw
For more information about the Feingold Diet visit www.allnaturalmomof4.com or www.feingold.org.
For practical tips and Feingold recipes, like All Natural Mom on Facebook at www.facebook.com/allnaturalmom.
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 medicate.
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 Feingold Diet.
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 family.
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 moderation.”
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 many kids.
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!
What is the Feingold Diet?
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 problems.
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 main problem.
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, and Preservatives?
Lots! My son recently did a science project on the effects of food dyes on plants. He learned a lot about the dangers of dyes.
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, 2010.” 7
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, Sheri Davis.
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 artificial.
"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.
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 vanilla scent.
What Are the Health Hazards of Artificial Flavors?
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. 20
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
In February, 2011, in an 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.
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.
Help! Why We Started the Feingold Diet
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 at home.
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 himself.
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!
Read Chapter 3 here!
....Thanks for reading! Look here for the completed e-book coming August 21st, 2014 to Amazon!
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