I told you I’d eventually explain why I fell off the face of the bloggy earth. It’s kind of wordy so I broke it up into two posts. It’s not the usual light hearted comedy you’ll find here at HAGAY, more like a tale of woe and despair. Don’t worry, happiness prevailed in the end. So far.
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Jamie and I often joke about writing a book to warn prospective parents. “Somebody needs to get the word out that kids will ruin your lives”. Of course we’re joking, but we’ve had several trying months around here that led us to doubt our abilities as parents. Admitting our parental shortfalls is not something I enjoy doing, especially since Jamie and I have gone to great lengths to be the best possible parents we can be. We have a strong relationship, we’re financially secure and I quit my job because I believed wholeheartedly that I could do great by my kids by staying home.

Several months back, our lives started to unravel. It all started with Graham, whose behavior started to worsen with each day. He became an angry mess; defiant, destructive and violent toward his sister. He couldn’t sit still, ever, and roamed the house all day looking for things to get into or destroy. He wasn’t able to stay focused on a task like doing an art project or playing with a toy, he would get frustrated and angry and immediately move onto something else.

There were days when just looking at Graham would cause him to throw himself on the floor in a tantrumy fit. Poor Elliot got the brunt of his anger, she couldn’t come within five feet of him without being hit or shoved to the ground. This wasn’t normal sibling rivalry and we had to keep constant watch of both kids because just taking our eyes off of Graham for a second meant that Elliot might get hurt. Graham wasn’t sleeping more than three or four hours a night and walked around with a permanent scowl and sunken, dead eyes. I wasn’t sure who this kid was but I missed my sweet, happy boy.

We had originally put Graham in school five mornings a week but feared that we overdid it and he was acting out because of it. So we moved him back to three days. We communicated back and forth with his teachers on discipline methods to make sure we were consistent at school and at home. Still, each day at pick up, his teachers would tell me how he was “completely unresponsive” and unable to discipline. He was the same way at home and time outs and loss of privileges didn’t work because he simply didn’t care.

By this point, Jamie and I were completely exhausted. We were walking around like zombies, having gotten no sleep at night and having to deal with Angry Graham during the day. Our patience was at an all time low and Jamie and I were even snapping at each other. Trips to the pediatrician and the ENT left me with no explanation for his sleep problems or his behavior.

Halloween weekend, the chaos peaked. The kids ate their fair share of formerly forbidden candy. Saturday afternoon rolled around and Graham became more distracted and belligerent. By Sunday, he was a tantrum a minute and couldn’t be controlled. We were all baffled and frustrated by his behavior.

Shortly after the Halloween Tantrumisode, I was scouring the internet for answers when I came across an article on artificial food dyes and their link to behavior problems in children. The site had testimonials from parents, describing the behavioral changes in their kids with food dye sensitivities. How their formerly sweet kids turned psychotic, kicking, screaming and spitting just from eating a single lolliopop or M&M. I literally teared up when I read through the stories because I felt like they were describing Graham. Up until this point, I felt like everyone thought I was exaggerating when I described our bad days with Graham an that people just chalked it up to normal toddler behavior. I finally found some validation that there was something going on with my kid and that I could do something to fix the situation.

We had previously noticed a change in Graham’s behavior every time he ate mac-n-cheese and banned it from our house. He would turn aggressive and defiant and stop sleeping for a few days after eating it. We thought it had something to do with the dairy but never once considered it was the coloring. Then at school, Graham’s teachers started giving the kids Skittles as potty training rewards. I knew about it and even provided the sweet treats from the class wish list. If someone was willing to potty train my kid for me, I wouldn’t care if they gave him an eight ball of coke as long as the poop made it in the toilet. I kid. Before school started this year, Graham had never eaten candy. The dye in the daily Skittles were shocking his little system and causing him to go apeshit.

Discovering the link between artificial food dye and Graham’s behavior was the key to getting things back on track. I’ll go into more detail on what we did  to change things in tomorrow’s post, I’ve rambled on enough for one day.

Continue on to part two.

See a list of dye-free foods.

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27 Comments

  1. Shangrila
    on
    1

    Oh my goodness! So glad that you prefaced this post with the promise of a happy ending! My middle kid has been acting out lately (my sister swears it’s a six-year-old-ick) but he has been sullen and tantrum-y and or the first time EVER I’m dealing with fighting siblings, so I know what you mean about hitting starting the second the kids have left your sight! Your description of your family’s lack of sleep sounded so like what we all go through during the first months with newborn babies-kinda ironic since Elliot is just old enough to leave those days behind, I’m guessing. Assuming that you’ve found a solution in eliminating food dyes (without yet reading part 2) you should feel PROUD for being an AWESOME MAMA, for researching and discovering the cause of your family’s pain. Seriously, Casey, your kids and husband are SO lucky to have you! I look forward to reading your happy ending *hugs* :)

    Reply to this Comment

  2. bessie.viola
    on
    2

    Wow. I’m so glad that you ID’d the problem and I’m looking forward to hearing what you did for him. All the CRAP in our food really scares me.

    Reply to this Comment

  3. Jenni
    on
    3

    Oh, Casey, I’m in tears just reading this. I could have written so much of it myself.

    Reply to this Comment

  4. Cat
    on
    4

    This is fascinating, Casey. My hat’s off to Detective Mom for sticking by your kid and never stopping or giving up on him!

    Reply to this Comment

  5. kys
    on
    5

    I’m glad you figured out the cause of his problems. I’ve thought about eliminating dyes from our diet, too. And hydrogenated oils, too.

    Reply to this Comment

  6. kyooty
    on
    6

    Yep! orange and blue are the worse for us! we cut out Mac and Cheese and buy a non brand for the boys if they want it. :)

    Reply to this Comment

  7. Andrea
    on
    7

    My neighbors daughter has the allergy to red dye. She noticed it after giving her Tylenol the red cherry flavor. She experimented with it to be sure and always the next day the behavior was crazy. So she stopped all dyes and she’s doing much better now.

    It’s not you. I wish I had thought to suggest the dye but with Thor being okay with dye I never thought about it.

    I hope everything is getting more normal and sleep and tantrum free episodes return tenfold.

    Reply to this Comment

  8. trifitmom
    on
    8

    food dye and the high fructose shit….i need to start getting out of the diet as well – i am sure my girls are reacting to ti.

    Reply to this Comment

  9. Sprite's Keeper
    on
    9

    No you haven’t. Post more now!!!!! I wanna hear more!
    (((hugs)))

    Reply to this Comment

  10. jen
    on
    10

    yay for you for identifying and then taking the steps to change it. makes me wonder how many other kids are roaming around feeling that out of control … when a change would help them considerably. can’t wait to hear more. i’m intrigued.

    Reply to this Comment

  11. Ginny Marie
    on
    11

    I was looking at the roast chicken I bought from the grocery store for dinner last night, and even IT had food dye rubbed into the skin for color! It’s crazy what we eat, and I try to stick to the outside perimeter of the grocery store…the non-processed, raw foods are the healthiest. But even then, we have to watch out for hormones in our milk and meats…it’s enough to drive a mother insane! I’m looking forward to reading “Part 2!”

    Reply to this Comment

  12. GreenJello
    on
    12

    I have a nephew that is allergic to food dyes. By the time he was 7, he knew how to read the ingredients on packages. Poor kid. Poor Graham! Poor you and Jamie and Elliot!

    Reply to this Comment

  13. Lisa
    on
    13

    Very, very interesting stuff. I don’t mean what was happening to you, but the possible link between the behavior and the dyes. And in your case the obvious link. I’d like to hear more about this as there are days Jonathan is very cranky (not to that point) and I wonder if it could be linked to how much candy or foods with dye in it that he’s had.

    Reply to this Comment

  14. Maureen@IslandRoar
    on
    14

    Oh my goodness! I think you are the best mother in the world for not dragging him to some neurologist to put him on meds during all this! And quite the detective besides. Some kids are just so sensitive to things they ingest. Wow, I’m gonna remember to pass this story along. Fricking skittles!
    I hope things are much better now?

    Reply to this Comment

  15. Peggy
    on
    15

    Jeez Casey…I fell horrible that you guys had to go through all this but I’m so glad you’ve got it covered now…can’t wait to hear the rest of the details!

    Reply to this Comment

  16. ck
    on
    16

    Wow. I’ve never heard of this before and am bummed you stopped the post where you did! I’ll be back tomorrow for the rest.

    Reply to this Comment

  17. jessica
    on
    17

    that is incredible. Many people would have put him on meds. I’m not at all against them, hell, I’m on them, but I think it’s amazing that you discovered this. Every parent should be told this by their pediatrician.

    Reply to this Comment

  18. Michele
    on
    18

    I think you are on the right track. Certain foods do weird things to certain people. I gave up meat because of how it made me feel. You need to do what works for you.

    Reply to this Comment

  19. Zip n Tizzy
    on
    19

    So glad you discovered this, and it’s so refreshing to read in the comments that people are recognizing this problem for what it is.
    I’ve had conversations with educators who work with ADD kids who’ve been offended when I’ve suggested that the surge of behavioral problems could be linked to diet. The thought was that I was dismissing the reality of ADD, but, the reality is that I have an ADD child and can link ADD to several family members including myself. I’m very aware of the reality of ADD, but I’ve also seen food additives wreck havoc on otherwise very wonderfully well behaved children. It really is like Dr. Jekel and Mr. Hyde.
    So glad you discovered the solution so soon and that you’ve had such great progress! Don’t doubt yourself. You are an awesome mom!

    Reply to this Comment

  20. Keely
    on
    20

    Yay! I’m so glad you nailed it. X has a much less violent reaction, but it’s definitely there. I’ve been looking forward to hearing the extended version of this journey.

    You guys should be SO proud of yourselves! It’s so hard to do!

    Reply to this Comment

  21. Captain Dumbass
    on
    21

    Thankfully you figured it out.

    Reply to this Comment

  22. Cellobella
    on
    22

    When I read the title of your post I thought you were going to be talking about hair dye!
    LOL.
    I had the same thing with food dye and my daughter… and also there was an additive to bread, a preservative or something… 282 maybe that caused her to go a bit uncontrollable.

    Reply to this Comment

  23. Stacy (the Random Cool Chick)
    on
    23

    A friend of mine has kids that are dye-sensitive, too – it is amazing the difference in their personalities when they eat dye-laced foods vs. keeping dye-free. I’m so glad you were persistent on your search for answers. You ROCK! :)

    Reply to this Comment

  24. Mama Badger
    on
    24

    It no longer surprises me when someone tells me their kids behavior was liked to something they ate, or a detergent they used or something that was completely benign to everyone else. I’m really glad you guys figured out what it was, though. (once we figured out that little o was allergic to milk protein and cut it from his diet he was a completely different baby!) I shall now go read the next post…

    Reply to this Comment

  25. K
    on
    25

    I’m so glad there is a happy ending to this tale.

    I’ve heard about food coloring issues before and I’m pretty careful about what my son eats, but he is just starting to get candy and the other “junk” stuff.

    Thanks for the reminder to be mindful.

    Reply to this Comment

  26. Jessica
    on
    26

    First off, I am so excited to find this writeup. My eldest (5) is a highly sensitive kid as is and I have frequently wondered if we were missing something. My youngest (3) has been my Miss Happypants. Grandma started plying them with those craptastic gummies that are anything but fruit – I was worried about the sugar content – but I think it tipped the dye scale. Total sociopaths for four months! I have been gathering all sorts of info to convince the family to go dye free.

    Reply to this Comment

  27. Gina
    on
    27

    We have the power to make changes!

    1. Write to the FDA. Also write to you legislators and ask them to ban synthetic food dyes.
    http://www.healthobservatory.org/library.cfm?refid=107304

    2. Report your child’s food dye sensitivity to the CSPI (Center for Science in the Public Interest) They are using the data to pressure the FDA to ban food dyes.
    http://www.cspinet.org/fooddyes/

    3. Inform yourself. There are lots of articles online. Just do a search on food dyes and start surfing. Here are a few to get you started…
    http://www.cspinet.org/new/200806022.html
    http://www.newsinferno.com/archives/3202
    http://halfasgoodasyou.com/?p=5789
    http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-500803_162-4151130-500803.html

    5. Spread the word. Tell anyone who will listen that food dyes are harmful. Send them links to articles. When people start boycotting items with synthetic food dyes, the big companies will start using natural dyes in the US, as they are already doing in the United Kingdom where they recently banned food dyes.

    Reply to this Comment

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