Saturday, August 25, 2012

Questions about the Feingold Diet for ADHD part 2

Aw man! Coal tar for breakfast again?!?

Q: I'm wondering about my own boys and if I should start some special diet for them? How soon after he eats something with the dye, or bad chemicals do you notice the bad behavior? Is it immediate? Does it make a difference in how much he eats? I often find myself thinking it can't really be that small piece of chocolate he had??

A:  I know it is hard to think that just one small piece of candy can affect a child so quickly. Think of it this way: if I drink a glass of wine, especially if I am stressed out or my stomach is empty, I can be tipsy before half the glass is gone. Alcohol is a chemical, and sometimes affects me instantly upon hitting my bloodstream. Dyes and artificial flavorings are chemicals, and they affect some children very quickly. You know how kids get all hyped up at birthday parties and everyone blames the sugar? It ain't the sugar, y'all. It's the red Elmo cake or the blue Thomas cookies or the pink lemonade (have you ever seen a pink lemon? Me neither.)

I read a blog once where the mom had realized that red dye affected her too, because every time she had a strawberry margarita at a restaurant, she ended up aggressive and cranky and inevitably picked a fight with her husband. Another mom's children pointed out to her that the flavored creamer she was treating herself to with her morning coffee made her instantly irritated at them. To a little 30 or 40 pound kid, one little peppermint can equal to one mom's very strong strawberry rita.

The good news is that once we got Ike detoxed, if he eats something now, the effects are there but bearable. At church last week they gave him a blue dumdum and he was fine. Who knows why? Before, that would have made for a hellish few days. It took him a full 36 hours to detox from the pickle incident.

Often when he is being annoying Eva Rose will come to me, hands on her hips, "Ike must have eaten something. He is ON MY NERVES." Usually, he's just got a case of peskybrotheritis.

But a couple of weeks ago, I noticed that Ikey was especially manic. His eyes were wide, he repeated things over and over, flapped his arms almost as though he were stimming, and very hyperactive. I thought, what on earth has he eaten? I couldn't think of any culprit I'd given him?

Our new next door neighbors have boys the same age as my boys so they go back and forth all day.  The next day the mom said to me, "I hope it's okay, Ike was over here yesterday and he said he was hungry, so I gave him a hot dog and some Doritos." AHA!!!! She didn't know it, but she'd served him a double strawberry margarita!

When he does get in some contraband, it seems to wear off now within about 24 hours. Epsom salt baths are a great way to expedite the detox, as well as Vitamin C (speaking of, check your children's vitamins for artificial dyes and flavors. Many have them, an irony that blows me away.)

Q: I'm wondering if you could give some examples of "good food" that might be negatively affecting kids without parents realizing it.

A: Now we come to the most depressing part of the Feingold Diet: salicylates.

Once I learned the nasty truth about artificial dyes, flavors, and preservatives such as TBHQ and BHT and BHA, and read the many many many studies that have proven that they can cause all sorts of behavioral problems in kids, I was sold. Easily. Don't want to give my money to companies who want to poison my babies for a buck.

Salicylates, though, make me very sad.

Salicylates are natural pesticides found in some fruits and vegetables. Read all about them here. For some reason, some people are sensitive to them and they cause the same negative behaviors, sleep issues, asthma, rashes, and learning disorders as petroleum products do.


The good news is that just because your kid reacts to, for instance, the salicylates in grapes, that doesn't mean that the salicylates in apples will phase her. And there are tons of fruits and veggies that are completely safe. For instance, apples are banned, but pears are okay, as are all melons and the staple of every toddler diet: bananas (whew.)

You must eliminate all the the fruits and veggies that Feingold lists in the beginning of the diet. Then, you add one back, and see what happens. I was OVER THE MOON to see that Ike could tolerate cooked tomatoes because I use them in half my recipes and y'all - salsa. But we had some bad reactions to apples, strawberries, and possibly oranges.

I told you this was the sad part of the story.

The good news is, after keeping away from them for months, I have just begun reintroducing berries this summer and he seems to do okay with them. And the other day I gave him an apple - held my breath, and - he was fine. Hallelujah!!

 I just read this on the website: "Salicylate sensitivity can change; frequently a person who avoids them for a year or so can later tolerate moderate amounts of them."  Maybe that's what's going on with him.

Today when I was putting sunscreen on Maggie I noticed a big eczema patch behind her knee. And she's been eating lots of berries lately. Hmmmmmm.

Q: I'm curious if the teacher and school have noticed this difference, and if they've noticed it enough to suggest it to other parents facing the same issues.

A: Yes, they noticed a difference. No, they never believed it was due to his diet change. Amazingly, no. The boy went from getting a bad report every stinking day to being (mostly) NORMAL. And yet, I could tell his teacher thought I was talking some crazy voodoo hippie language. She would never recommend it to other parents and, when I discussed his food with her, she still blamed "the sugar."

I look back now at the kids I used to teach and I know it could have helped them. In PreK I had a super bright kid named Justin, who just couldn't control his impulses. He was spazzy, occasionally aggressive, and would constantly get in trouble for it.

One time Justin called me into the bathroom, saying I had to see his poop! It was blue! Y'all, there in the toilet, was a big bright blue turd. Blue as the blue applesauce in his lunchbox. I used to think this story was funny, but now it just makes me sad.
Q. Do pediatricians and GP doctors ever recommend diet change to parents?

A: No pediatrician I've mentioned it to has acted even mildly interested, even though in 2008 the American Academy of Pediatrics stated that they 'must admit' that food dyes can lead to ADHD, and turns out the mommies actually weren't making it up! What? The moms knew better than the doctors?? Well I declare.

I wonder if my same pediatrician who didn't believe this mommy would prescribe ADD medication to Ike if I wanted her to?

Probably. But if thousands of kids could be helped by simply eating real food, then Big Pharma wouldn't make millions and billions of dollars from drugging them, and that would be just tragic, wouldn't it?

I am not blaming the doctors here, well not entirely. I'm blaming the medical schools that require the bare minimum in nutritional studies when everybody knows that we are what we eat. And I'm blaming the entire medical/pharmaceutical system that is fueled as much by money as it is by science. There is lots of money in drugs. There is very little money in diet change.

Q: How do I get my skeptical husband on board???

A: I suggest tears. And I don't mean it manipulatively. I just know that when you tell your husband how you are so at the end of your rope, you're so frustrated, you're even finding it hard to love your child, every day you feel like a failure as a mother and you lie awake at night wracked with guilt for losing your temper again and worried sick about your baby's future, and there is a possibility that something as simple as removing the FOOD MADE WITH COAL TAR from your diet might help, I know the tears are going to come naturally.

Tell him you'll let him have his Cheetos, he just has to hide them and wait till the kids are in bed. Ask him for three months. Just three months. If y'all have not seen any changes after three months, then fine.

If he'll read it, show him the article above from the AAP or any of the ones on the Feingold page. This isn't junk science, it's been proven. Plus it makes common sense that little brains just don't process coal tar so well. Tell him my wine analogy. Use your Wife Tricks, girlfriend, you know exactly what I'm talkin about. Whatever it takes!

Walker knew I was at my wit's end and he's pretty laid back anyway, he'll eat whatever I make him. But he still buys Gatorade sometimes. ORANGE, PURPLE, or TURQUOISE GATORADE. It irritates the heck out of me. What can I do?

Ike never knew he was even on a diet but Shep and Eva Rose were old enough to know that Things Had Changed. All it took for Eva Rose to become a Junior Feingold Spokeswoman was to show her a few nasty youtubes about processed foods and read her tidbits from the Feingold website.

Recently she and I were alone on a long stretch of I-10 and she was starving and there were no restaurants for miles. I found an old Quaker Oats granola bar in the bottom of a bag and gave it to her. Girl looked at the ingredients, said, "Mom! This has BHT in it! I'm not eating this!" and threw it down in disgust. I was so proud.

Shepherd has been a harder sell. Our biggest problem is cereal. I have yet to find any unorganic cereal he likes that doesn't contain food color or BHT, and the organic cereals have not impressed him. It's a constant whine. My mom's trying not to poison me! Wah!

Today the kids were offered a Starburst and I made them turn it down, but I let them have a Hershey's Kiss. I have to pick my battles.

Any more questions?

Part 1 here

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Questions Part 1

Click here for Part 2

A long time ago when I used to blog, I told you the story of Ike, our rascal of a four year old, who had a severe speech delay, serious defiance issues, and had already been 'perhaps-this-isn't-the-best-environment'-ed at two preschools and then, after (gobs of ) Halloween (candy), had started getting in trouble at his third school.

I told y'all about how, after a Hawaiian Punch binge, we had a moment at Kinko's where seriously, I had to pray not to beat him. He was climbing the furniture. I was mortified and frustrated and at my wit's end. A few times in my parenting career I've had a this-is-how-child-abuse-happens moment; this was probably my biggest.

After the Kinkos Episode, the lightbulb went off that maybe it's the food. I recalled my friend Linsey mentioning something or other about food making her girls crazy with ADD, and how the Feingold Diet had changed their lives. I wasn't sure, I had my doubts plus it seemed too good to be true - but I ordered the materials and we went full on Feingold last December.

So, it's been eight months since we radically changed the way that we eat.

How's the Ikester, you ask?

The short answer:  Great. He's a different kid than he was before we started the Feingold Diet

The long answer: Don't get me wrong, the kid is still a pistol. He has not spouted a unicorn horn and started tooting all naturally colored rainbows. He's still mischievous, strong willed and, um, you know, a little spoiled. But the difference is now Ike responds to discipline.

And I think that was the clue for me that something was wrong with my kid. He was my fourth four year old. I used to get paid to teach four year olds. I have a degree in four year olds! But no discipline I tried worked with this kid, until I changed the way I fed him.

Now, at five and a half, eight months on the diet: his speech has increased dramatically (on target in vocab, still some problems with articulation.) He only tantrums if it's way past bedtime, like all my kids do. He colors in the lines instead of scribbling. He doesn't wet his pants. He makes cool things with Legos. He can play normally with other kids. He's pre-reading and writing on track. He is - hallelujah - ready for kindergarten. 

The other kids have not shown huge improvements, but Shep was having headaches almost daily, and those have turned into rarities. Both Walker and I suffer from migraines so all our kids are kinda toast but Feingold does help prevent migraines. I learned this the hard way when I was at the Created for Care conference and thought "Muhaha! No children around!" and indulged in Cheetos and Doritos for lunch. Within twenty minutes, I had a pounding headache. Hm, which petroleum product might have triggered that? Was it the yellow #5, the yellow #6, the red #40, or the mysterious "artificial flavoring"? Or perhaps the MSG? I don't know, but I refuse to be Frito Lay's science project any more.

Many of you were intrigued and had many questions about the diet, and I still get emails a couple of times a month. So let's get to some of them:

Q: Do you have to order the materials in order to do the Diet?

A: Yeah. Sorry. It is kind of expensive, but when you get desperate, it seems like quite the bargain. Now that we are on the flip side, I consider it the best $80 I ever spent. Feingold also has scholarships and is determined that every child who needs this program should have access to it, so if you need financial aid, email them at fausmem @

When I got the big package of materials in the mail, I realized how much blood sweat and tears went into producing them and I understood the price. They try and research the ingredients of every item in your grocery store, then keep up with the products when they change them. Would you do that job for $80? Pshaw. I wouldn't/couldn't/wouldn't know where to begin.

Feingold is not some wealthy doctor (Dr. Feingold died in 1982) nor corporate conglomerate; it is basically a bunch of moms who saw big changes in their own children and now want to help other moms, and getting the materials to us costs money.

Q: Can you do the Diet without ordering the materials?

A: In order for the program to work, you have to completely detox your child of un-natural foods and some natural foods that cause reactions in some kids, and then re-introduce some foods to see if you see a reaction. You can't detox without the list of approved foods.  You can try and wing it on your own, but you'll never be sure if you eliminated the problem food, which defeats the point, and y'all, seriously, we just don't have time for that. Go big or go home.

Plus when you buy the program you can email the Feingold people whenever you need hand-holding. Which you might need.

Q: Did you do the Diet with just your target child, or the whole family?

A: The whole family. For two reasons.

First, I couldn't handle having food in the house that Ike could not eat, but everyone else could. That just seemed mean. (We can do that a little bit now - I'll get to that later. But not at first.) And I didn't want to risk him finding it and eating it and ruining all my efforts.

Second, y'all, once you find out the crap that is in the food that makes your target child wacko, trust me, you won't want to buy it anymore. I get offended when I walk down the chip aisle at the grocery store. I see it as poison now. I fantasize about sticking Mr. Yuck stickers on every stupid bag.

Q: Is it expensive?

A: Yes and no. At first, I had to throw out or give away a lot of food, because I had a big ole pantry and four kids and Hello, my name is Missy and I'm a food hoarder. So that was painful. But then we had The Horrible Pickle Incident and his behavior backslid so dramatically that I just wanted that crap out out of my house. Now.

The good news is, organic and natural foods have gotten so much more ubiquitous and less expensive that it is doable. My Kroger (oh, I miss Kroger so much) had developed a fantastic selection. Plus I had been making small changes for years, ie skipping the dirty dozen, so a lot did not change, I just became more committed.

In the beginning, it will cost a little more. Be prepared for that. Just remember the adage pay the farmer now or the doctor later. Van's frozen waffles are a little more expensive than Eggos. But ADHD medicine is more expensive than Van's, as are doctor visits, therapy appointments, and the unknown problems our son may have had in the future had he not learned to control his impulses and submit to authority. I shudder to think. I'll pay a dollar more for the Van's, thankyouverymuch. Can you put a price on your child's health or your sanity?

My mindset has changed so much since we started this. If a processed food is really cheap, you know why that is? BECAUSE IT'S NOT FOOD. It's a bunch of chemicals that will never spoil. Real food spoils, and costs money. Chemicals are cheap. And poisonous to little bodies.

The hardest thing in the beginning for me was the bread. We can easily go through a loaf a day and Rudi's organic bread was the only Feingold approved bread that I had access to, at almost five dollars a loaf (insert retching noise.)  Now we have found a cheaper bread that says it has no preservatives or artificial junk and it does not seem to affect him. But in the beginning, you have to do the program 100%. But you can make your own, so dust off the breadmaker, my friend.

If you have a Trader Joe's nearby, you'll be just fine. Say a prayer for the majority of us Texans who don't. Sniff.

Remember, almost anything homemade is going to be fine. You'll be cooking more. You'll lose weight. It's all good.

Q: Can you eat out at restaurants on the Diet?

A: Not in the beginning. In the beginning, Walker and I did some take-out/Netflix dates after the kids were in bed. But we tried to keep them away from restaurants. This was impossible since it was Christmas and birthday season at our house when we started, but we limited it as much as possible.

Our beautiful discovery was that restaurant food does not seem to affect Ike, because hello, it's fresh and homemade. And in your Feingold materials you will get a Fast Food Restaurant Guide.

But in the beginning, no eating out for the first month or so. The money you would have spent on restaurants will go towards groceries. You'll lose weight. It's all good.

Q: from the blog: What do you do about school snacks? Parents provide snacks at his preschool so I wouldn't have control over what is being brought in. Do you just send something special with him?

Ike's school provided snacks too. I made the teachers aware that he was to have no food that wasn't from home and I sent him snack. He was fine with this because there are plenty of good snacks on the Diet. Ike would rather have his special bag of Natural Cheetos over boring ole animal crackers any day. Other approved snacks he liked were Saltines, Fritos, and Annie's cheddar bunnies. Yes, all of those are approved. It's not as hard as you're fearing, I promise.


More questions next time. Please feel free to leave any questions you have in the comments! And remember you can read our whole story at my other blog, Coal Mine Canaries.