Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Controversy between Red Dye#40 and ADHD

Another issue floating around regarding ADHD has to do with the addition of Red Dye #40 into many of the food choices available for children.

The FDA recently concluded a study of children with ADHD trying to find a possible link between food dye and hyperactive behavior. The government sponsored advisory panel reached the conclusion that there is no direct link between food dyes and increased hyperactive behavior. However, it has been noted that many of the studies that were used to come to this conclusion were inherently flawed because the tests were either skewed due to the formula used or the quantity of dye in each test. Because there were no set levels or single dyes used in any of the tests, the panel was unable to come to a decision. (See Full Report HERE)

It should be noted, though, that the European Union decided to ban specific dyes from food imported from the United States or produced in the Union in 2007 and required products that included other food dyes to place a warning label in plain sight of the consumer.

So, what does that mean to us parents of kids with ADHD? Can we determine that hyperactivity is either exacerbated by food dye or that it can even cause ADHD symptoms in kids who don't have clinically diagnosed ADHD? Scientifically speaking- no, we can't determine that there is a direct and sure link between food dye and ADHD.

However, as a parent to a child who would become extremely violent within 20 minutes of eating something with Red Dye #40, I can tell you that I found a connection, one that was very disturbing and frightening to witness. Now, my child can be extremely hyperactive, I admit that in every way but he has never been violent towards me or intended to hurt me. I have never seen his eyes go from the bluest blue to full, black pupils except when he has eaten something with Red Dye #40. How do I know it is from the Red Dye? Because I didn't change anything else in his diet. And my son did not spontaneously decide to kick me and bite my arm that was around him for the hour prior to his "treat." Because I started keeping notes about what he ate and his reactions and noticed that a trend started to come through...anything with Red Dye #40 not only enhanced his hyperactive behavior, it even added an element of violence and determination to hurt those in his path of destruction.

I couldn't stop this behavior even though I tried everything in my arsenal of tricks and every possible calming method I knew. I put him in time outs, took away his toys, even had his father come home to physically hold him so he wouldn't hurt us, the animals, or himself. He didn't calm down until he physically exhausted himself and when we realized this, we would take him to the track and let him run it out. Sometimes this would take anywhere between 30 minutes to 2 hours of just running back and forth, helping him metabolize the dye in his body to where it didn't affect him as much.

Of course, some people did not believe me, especially my parents and in-laws and still gave him foods with red-dye...that is until they were watching him after giving him said food and had to handle the fall out themselves instead of just sending him back to us before the tornado hit. After they were able to see first-hand how it affected him, they agreed with me and honored our wishes to stop giving him food with added food dye.

For us, this meant changing the way we did things. Yes, it was hard to change what we ate, where we went out to dinner, saying "no" when he wanted that strawberry ice cream cone or yogurt from a friend's house. It meant packing his lunch with food that required greater preparation and close reading of items from the grocery store. In fact, it even meant that we needed to completely change the places we shopped and the dinners we made. Instead of popping into Vons or Ralphs and picking up a microwave entrée and rewarding him with McDonald's, we had to consciously plan our meals, looking through condiments and throwing away perfectly good food, declining party invitations, even bringing our own cupcakes to friend's birthday parties.

So, yes, it was hard.

But the effect was immediate. He stopped reacting so oddly after eating food, even food that are considered treats, such as candy or ice cream. He was able to feel better and although he realized that he was different than his peers, it didn't seem to bother him, especially after he ate a cupcake with Red Dye #40 by accident one day and went into crazy mode. After he came out of it and had some space, he actually told me he didn't like how he felt after eating the cupcake and he didn't like not having control over his actions or thoughts. I think he was about four and a half at this point and he hadn't had anything with Red Dye in about 6 months. It was the validation that I was looking for to prove to me the connection between Red Dye and ADHD.

Look, you can do what you want to do with your child, that goes without saying, but if there was a chance, even a small chance that you could help your child be more successful or less hyperactive, wouldn't you want to help him or her? If there was a chance to bring some calmness to your house and less chaos, isn't it worth it to try? Besides, it is not like you are completely changing every thing your child eats, you are just swapping their favorite foods with dyes with different brands of similar food that don't have these additives in them. Why not give it a chance?
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