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


  1. Hey Missy!

    Have you guys ever had Moms Best Cereals?

    We love them and they are THE CHEAPEST I've found of the natural cereals. The "frosted mini wheats" taste so close to the Kellogg's brand it's crazy...but without te crap. My fav is the honey Graham kind. Thy don't use artificial anything and though I don't know the specifics of everything that's on your list of things to avoid, if these cereals passed the test your boy would LOVE them :)

  2. Yes! And here is what is so sad! After trying a dozen cereals, I found those Mom's Best 'golden grahams' at Kroger, and they were cheap, and all was right with the world.

    Then we moved. Austin has no Kroger. And I have looked at about five grocery stores and can't find those!

    1. they have other Mom's Best, just not the grahams. I haven't tried the mini wheats yet.

    2. The mini-wheats are fabulous...I eat them every other day. My favorite is their fake Lucky Charms, which I haven't been able to find in months. What's up with that?? I can usually find Mom's Best at Walmart, too, for like $2.98 a box.

  3. Missy, I am not sure if you have a Big Lots near you, but I have found the Mom's Best Cereals there. It is hit or miss, but worth a try!

    1. Ah! I'll try! I've found lots of CHEAP organic stuff at Big Lots - crazy!

  4. I just checked and you can buy them on Amazon! Thanks so much for telling us more about this.

  5. Okay, I want your part three of this series to be about how you find the time (read: energy) to enact all this, and what you guys usually eat. (Esp what you send to school, since obviously cafeteria food is going to be out.) I really want to do this, you know I have had all the materials for a year, but with everything else on our plate the distraction/inertia is just killing me.

  6. Literally sobbing as I read this.

    My precious 13 year old has suffered since she was 8 months old with the worst eczema,a llergies and behavior issues. I have always believed her skin was affected by petroleum, it was the only thing that ever made sense to me. I would never have dreamed it was in food, but I feel like my prayers are being answered through this information. I'm so eager to learn more.

  7. I feel just like the momma you described asking her hubby to jump on board.....I feel exactly that way about my 6 yr old I know has ADHd. It is exhausting and heartbreaking. Thank you so muuch for all this info, can't wait to start with my family!

  8. I'm pumped about starting this! I feel like since we survived gfcf this will be cake (or maybe not if we have to give up berries?!)

    Thank you for giving me hope and letting me pick your brain on this at the pool.

  9. I am amazed that Ike's teacher was not receptive to the change in his diet causing his improved behavior. I am not surprised that she would not share the diet with other parents. As a teacher, I have to be very careful that I do not recommend certain things to parents. The parents can use a teacher's recommendation to try to make a school district pay for treatment, services, etc. I refer kids to our school nurse and let her handle it. I have never discussed the Feingold diet with our nurse but I plan to do this as soon as school starts and the beginning of the year chaos settles. She may very well know about it already.
    One of the misconceptions I work very hard to undo with my kids is the idea that sugar makes anyone hyper. Seriously,how can so many educated people still believe this nonsense?
    I am thrilled that Ike is doing so well.

    1. Thanks. This was a private church pre-school though, not a public school. She just didn't buy it.

  10. I was interested to read this since I have used the Feingold diet for about a year with one of my children. I too, have had great success with the diet and definitely think it is a significant part of several things that have helped her. Thankfully, her doctor is supportive of this diet and my family as well. What is much much more difficult is when she is at school or any place away from home! She is constantly given food or treats as a reward at school or church! For one, NONE of these kids needs all this unhealthy food! Two, she is already insecure and would never want to be noticed as different, so she would never not accept the food and draw attention to herself. So, as a parent of an elementary age child, this is a constant battle, since she is not with me all the time at this age.
    Lastly, I love Feingold, but I get this sense from you and those at Feingold that every one is out to hurt our children... I am a nurse (someone in the dreaded medical field!) and it has not been my experience that all doctors only want to prescribe medicine. Actually, the inverse is very true, most patients want to walk out of the office with a prescription in hand. I tend to look at it in this way, people are uninformed. Thankfully, most will not have to deal with a child as sensitive to processed/colored foods... BUT, if they did, I am sure they would be much more understanding. I will allow them some grace, just as I would hope that they would give me!

  11. I haven't had any of these issues with either of my kids (thankfully), but one time I had to give my daughter a prescription antihistamine and she had a crazy town reaction. Her pediatrician said, "I promise. It is not the meds. It is the dye. Let's try dye free." I'm too scared to try anything now, but this lets me know that he would listen if I ever had the concern.

  12. Wonderful blog. Our family, too, is a Feingold family -- for the past 36+ years! Be sure to tell your readers that there is a hugely helpful support organization that was formed by Feingold moms: The Feingold Association

  13. Hi Missy,

    I'm Jen's BF from childhood and was taken to your blog from her's. We do Feingold too, and thankfully we can be more lenient at this point!


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  15. I love reading of your success with Feingold. We introduced this wonderful option to our family about 15 years ago. My son's 2nd grade school administrators convinced us to test him for ADHD. We did - and the results were very conflicting. Ultimately, our physician recommended the Feingold diet. About six months after diving in, the school called to commend us for "medicating" our son. I was oh so pleased to correct them and kindly explain that we did NOT medicate but made some serious food changes.
    One last thing, one of our daughters was having horrible stuttering episodes before changing the diet. It was a matter of only a few days on Feingold and all the stuttering was gone. Again, this was about 15 years ago. You've done a remarkable job explaining the diets and its effect!

  16. I know this post is old, but I thought I'd try asking anyways. Does it work if you only follow it most of the time? My foster daughter is 22 months old and has eczema and really dry skin. She also really fights bedtime and doesn't respond normally to discipline compared to the other children I have dealt with. She isn't a terror or anything, but everything is a fight or tantrum. But since she is only our foster daughter she goes to visits twice a week with her mom. She actually feeds her pretty well compared to most bio parents (from what I have heard), but still gives her junk sometimes. Would doing the diet 5 full days a week be enough or would it be a waste of money?



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