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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Discovering Food Allergies Part 2




When I was 5 weeks pregnant with our second child we moved away from western PA to northern Massachusetts. There we attended Haverhill C&MA church and met our good friends Bea and John, who had three children, the youngest of which was 3 years older than Rachel. We started attending the small group that met at their house and became quick friends.

My husband was working away from home for the first time since we married so I spent a lot of time visiting Bea, who homeschooled her two girls (8 and 6) and boy (5). I watched and listened as she talked about her children's numerous food allergies, as she discussed the benefits of homeschooling, and all the other bits of wisdom she had gained in her 8 years of parenting.

She started noticing that my 2 year old (Rachel) would have moments of sweetened, and moments of absolute hyperactivity, with the added benefit of bright red cheeks and the inability to cope with anything. She, with her natural intuition in such things, started watching what she was eating at her house and mine. She asked if she ate a lot of foods with red dye. Well, yes, she did. She was finishing potty training and got a Twizzler every time she made it to the potty. Bea suggested we take her off anything with Red 40 and see how she did. We tried it and were amazed, until one day she had the same reaction and had had NO Red 40. We looked at what she had been eating. The culprit ended up being Blues Clues applesauce, dyed blue of course. We added Blue 1 to the list of no-nos.

After some research I found that Red 40 and Blue 1 both are known allergens as well as triggers for hyperactive behavior. We praised the Lord that we discovered them when we did. We later discovered that her siblings (and father) had the same reaction. My husband does not get hyperactive from Red 40 though we have found that it triggers depression and spells of irrational anger.

With Rachel and Issac we find head banging, intentional overstimulation, and hyperactivity. With their sister, Esther, we note repetitive verbal ticks, inappropriate laughter, and physical ticks. We have also learned that not only do enzymes not help with the digestion of chemicals, including Red 40 and Blue 1, but that watercolors, markers, play-doe, chalk, and other dye containing items can trigger reactions.

Just last week we were wondering what was wrong with Issac, who had spent the last few days running around the house, covering the entire living room--back and forth, back and forth, in moments, head banging, and other behaviors. This was while Rachel was in the hospital and only one of us at a time was home to observe the behavior. Finally, we realized that his grandmother had given him a play-doe set for his birthday. Normally this is fine as we avoid all but yellow play-doe. On this case he was not. It took several hours after playing with it for it to cause a reaction (his skin had to absorb it.) The same thing happened today at church. I went to pick him up and found him bouncing off the walls. I went into the familiar conversation with the teacher: "What did he eat,? What did he play with?" In this case the culprit was colored chalk.

Usually a dose of Benedryl does the trick. Sometimes a combination of bath and Benedryl are necessary. At least we know what to look for and can react appropriately.

Heather Young is a saved by grace, homeschooling, mother of three, wife of one, writer, artist, and web designer who drinks way too much coffee and spends too much time at her computer. She writes for Graced by Christ, Laced by Grace, Everyday Miracles, and Writer....Interrupted. Someday, God willing, she will finish one of her WIP and attempt to get it published, but not until God says the timing is right.

8 comments:

Milehimama said...

We put my oldest on this diet as well - no "colors" as we call 'em.
It has made a tremendous difference. He has probs with lots of things, esp. anger, and now he is learning to read, going to math class in a regular class, and has friends.
We do no MSG or fake sweeteners as well. I use Equal as ant poison for fire ants - now I won't eat it for any reason!

Tina said...

Wow Heather, thanks for bringing this topic up. Many of us would have never considered dyes as being a trigger for children.

mopsy said...

Here via Shannon...I can vouch for this allergy, as I am allergic to red dye. As an adult I break out in horrible hives if I consume foods or medications with red dye. According to my mom, as a child I would "go nuts" if I ate artificially colored red food.

Red dyes are often made from the crushed shells of certain cockroaches (yeah...gross).

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TinaW said...

Thank you to all parents expressing their concerns on artificial food coloring especially Red #40 (the worst). My daughter has all the same crazy reactions that alot of these other kids have. Anger, hyperness, depression that has her uncontrolable that can last up to 45min or more. As a 3 year old, two adults could not hold her down to get her buckled in her car seat. believe me, nothing works to sidetrack her or even come close to calming her down when she's had Red 40. I have expercienced so many extream tantroms I was in tears many times, wondering why this Beautiful little girl was so uncontrolable at times. My mom brought it to my attention that maybe it was a food allergy. She would be great & then after a drink of Red Gatoraide it happened immidiately, it took 45min for her to become herself again and she was exhausted. she gets so upset she has vomited more than once, banged her head on things, Kick or hit doors so hard that I thought she would put a hole in them. After going on line and hearing story after story about others going through this same kinda thing, I took away all the Red#40 and she is a completely differently child. Thank God I found out what the problem was! She still has episodes but not as often or sevear I'm wondering if lotions, markers, or anything that absorbs into the skin effects her. It's a sad guessing game & even if there are more than 1 color that effects her. More organic the better! We've found out the hard way.

Anonymous said...

Yellow #6 is very similar in its chemical construction and can have adverse affects on those with a Red #40 intolerance. Those of you trying to rule out other contributors to bad behavior, you might want to consider this culprit.

I have an intolerance to both dyes. As an adult, it took me years to figure out what caused the mood swings from nice to raging insane person. Red #40 caused the uncontrollable rages. Yellow #6 causes anxiety and nervousness in me.

It is a shame that these dyes are not better regulated and that they are in SO many products. Tell me, why does white frosting require Red #40?

Anonymous said...

uh...benedryl has red 40 in it....