Sunday, August 12, 2012

I've Been a Neglectful Bloggess

Hey! I'm still here! Don't worry, we're all fine.

I am going to start writing again. I need to get some stuff out of my brain and onto my blog. It feels so therapeutic!

<----- See that baby? She keeps growing and no matter what I say, she won't stop. Sigh, she is so beautiful.

I think I'm going to have a little bloggy-shift soon. I have other things I want to talk about, and the dye-free stuff is kinda boring. I need to talk about our recent adventures in being gluten-free, all of my recent work in the lactation world, and the funny shit my kids say. So, stay tuned friends.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Major milestone!

Happy, healthy baby with a proud Nana!
A year ago my family went to a family wedding and after my son ate his weight in terrible food choices, we had an epiphany, of sorts.

Food affects behavior. 

Now, I can see why some of you are skeptical. It doesn't make any sense: we live in a first world country with government organizations in place to protect us from toxins and poisons on our food. We can trust the FDA... right? Well, in my humble opinion, no we can not. My beautiful, happy, intelligent, fun little boy who turns into an out of control little monster who can't control one ounce of his emotions when he eats those artificial colors would probably agree with me.

In the past year, we've survived major holidays (quite happily, I might add), had some tears and hurt feelings over some brightly colored birthday cupcakes, and spent a lot of time trying to convince friends, family, and medical professionals that we are not insane.

But, the highlight of all of this has been seeing my friends and their families find relief from sleep and behavioral issues as a result of that path our family has been clearing. It makes me feel as though I'm not crazy, like we're not just doing this as an experiment anymore.

This is our life.

My friend sent me this message on Facebook (I have her permission to share):

"3 weeks totally dye free!!! As far as I know he's had no artificial food colorings...
He's still "J" in all the full glory. Waking too often and too early, very tantrum prone too.
I have noticed a few changes. He's suddenly more verbal. I can't understand a word of what he says but he is chattering a lot more. I think the tantrums are *slightly* decreased, usually just 2 bad episodes a day now. The biggest thing I noticed is that he now eats meals. He eats a ton actually and it's impossible to tell if this is at all connected to the dietary change. He sits down to a meal and eats more than I do! He snacks all the time in between meals too- and the best news is that he's not puking it back up. I have no idea how or why this change occured but I welcome it. He had a big milestone of sorts yesterday- 5 hours without nursing! Being able to eat and keep down food is so nice. Thanks for pointing us on this path..."
I might have cried a little when I read this- I mean, wouldn't you? To know that another family is happier just makes me feel so good.

I know that this way of eating is not without its challenges... I know that. And I wish more of our family was respectful of the things we choose [not] to eat. Maybe someday it won't be this hard. Maybe they'll change their eating habits, too.

I'm just so pleased with the way this year has gone. I've learned a lot about what I put into my body, and how to nourish my children so they can be the best they can be.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Happy Birthday!

Wanna know what happens when the boy gets invited to a party? Or something else social happens? I panic. There's been a lot of that lately. I might be getting ulcers.

Birthday parties are basically guaranteed to cause Eli to have a reaction. Some helpful suggestions I've gotten: Just scrape the frosting off the cupcake and he can eat it! (Are you aware that to most kids, cake is just a vehicle for frosting? It's amazing, and many adults agree.) He doesn't have to help with the pinata! (Really? You tell him that.)

I'm at a loss as to what to do when we go to parties. Avoiding them would be wonderful, but he's at the age where he's making real friends. He talks about his friends constantly and keeping them apart on special days like birthdays seems cruel. But so does allowing him to watch kids gorge themselves with rainbow colored sugar while he just sits on the sidelines.

This summer, we tried to go with the flow, once. Eli ate a delicious chocolate cupcake piled high with yellow icing. It took about 10-12 hours for the reaction to start, but once it did, he wasn't himself for a couple of days. We were pretty sure this would happen, but since he hadn't had any artificially colored food in quite awhile, we weren't sure what his threshold was. Some kids can tolerate it now and then, others can't.

But things are starting to look up. Now we're able to tell him, "That red and green cupcake is going to make your tummy hurt. Maybe we can have some ice cream instead!" He's trying so hard, and I'm so proud of him.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

the kids get wacky...

Yesterday I took the kids to their doctor's office since they've both had this ominous cough. The Boy is now on antibiotics and even though I specifically asked for nothing with dyes in it, the doctor prescribed zithromax, which has Red #40. The pharmacy looked in the insert for me, and when I called the on-call number it was suddenly MY job to research which drugs were safe for him and which pharmacy carries them. 87 phone calls and Google searches later, I located a pharmacy that carried dye free amoxicillin, which was free (cool!) but EVERY other drug has dyes.

I realize it's my job to do everything in my power to take care of my kids, so I don't really mind doing the calling and Googling, but the doctor actually said to me- (paraphrasing) 'I know some kids get wacky when they have dyes, even though all of the research says otherwise, other parents have said the same thing.'

my happy, sweet boy
Well then. I guess she got to sneak her opinion in there after all! Good for you, Dr. Julie. (this is the same pediatrician who accused me of doing a horrible job of breastfeeding the baby Girl in the hospital, which is ludicrous. My blood boils when I see this woman.)

So, if "all of the research" says there's no reason to worry about dyes in our food (bangs head on desk) lets just challenge Dr. Knows Everything. I plan on writing her a bitchy polite note informing her that this isn't some sort of off the cuff, hippie mom experiment, but was so surprised by reading this information, I thought I'd share some compelling links with you guys, too:

CSPI Urges FDA to Ban Artificial Food Dyes Linked to Behavior Problems

Banned in the U.K., food dyes are U.S. staple

A Parent's Guide to Diet, ADHD, and Behavior

Petition to Ban the Use of Yellow 5 and Other Food Dyes  "It is medically and ethically unwise to burden hyperactive children and their parents with concerns about foods with synthetic dyes. After all, parents (and pediatricians) first would have to know about the potential risk and then figure out if their children were adversely affected by dyes. Then they would have to protect their children from packaged and restaurant foods with dyes and from dyed foods served at friends’ parties, school events, picnics, and elsewhere. Parents (and children) should not be burdened with having to fend off the almost ubiquitous risks" (from the petition above)

F.D.A. Panel to Consider Warnings for Artificial Food Colorings

The Hidden Health Risks of Food Dyes  "The three most widely used culprits—Yellow 5, Yellow 6 and Red 40—contain compounds, including benzidine and 4-aminobiphenyl, that research has linked with cancer."

This awesome blog  had this information compiled from CSPI information on an existing post:

"Here is what the CSPI writes about existing artificial dyes:
Caution: BLUE 1 (found in beverages, candy and baked goods.)
One (unpublished) animal test suggested a small cancer risk, and a test-tube study indicated the dye might affect neurons. Blue 1 might be safe, but it should be better tested.
Avoid: BLUE 2 (found in pet food, beverages and candy.)
Animal studies found some—but not conclusive—evidence that Blue 2 causes brain cancer in male rats, but the Food and Drug Administration concluded that there is "reasonable certainty of no harm.”
Caution: CITRUS RED 2 (found in the skin of some Florida oranges only.)
The amounts of this rarely used dye that one might consume, even from eating marmalade, are so small that the risk is not worth worrying about.
Avoid: GREEN 3 (found in candy and beverages.)
A 1981 industry-sponsored study gave hints of bladder and testes tumors in male rats, but FDA re-analyzed the data using other statistical tests and concluded that the dye was safe. Fortunately, this possibly carcinogenic dye is not widely used.
Avoid: ORANGE B (found in sausage.)
Approved for use only in sausage casings, high doses of this dye are harmful to the liver and bile duct. However, that is not worrisome because Orange B has not been used for many years.
Avoid: RED 3 (found in candy and baked goods.)
The evidence that this dye caused thyroid tumors in rats is "convincing," according to a 1983 review committee report requested by FDA. FDA's recommendation that the dye be banned was overruled by pressure from elsewhere in the Reagan Administration. Red 3 used to color maraschino cherries, but it has been replaced there by the less controversial Red 40 dye. It is still used in a smattering of foods ranging from cake icing to fruit roll-ups to chewing gum.
Caution: RED 40 (found in soda pop, candy, gelatin desserts, pastries, pet food, and sausage.)
The most widely used food dye. While this is one of the most-tested food dyes, the key mouse tests were flawed and inconclusive. An FDA review committee acknowledged problems, but said evidence of harm was not "consistent" or "substantial." Red 40 can cause allergy-like reactions. Like other dyes, Red 40 is used mainly in junk foods.
Avoid: YELLOW 5 (found in gelatin dessert, candy, pet food, and baked goods.)
The second-most-widely used coloring causes allergy-like hypersensitivity reactions, primarily in aspirin-sensitive persons, and triggers hyperactivity in some children. It may be contaminated with such cancer-causing substances as benzidine and 4-aminobiphenyl (or chemicals that the body converts to those substances).
Avoid: YELLOW 6 (found in beverages, candy, and baked goods.)
Industry-sponsored animal tests indicated that this dye, the third most widely used, causes tumors of the adrenal gland and kidney. In addition, small amounts of several carcinogens, such as 4-aminobiphenyl and benzidine (or chemicals that the body converts to those substances), contaminate Yellow 6. However, the FDA reviewed those data and found reasons to conclude that Yellow 6 does not pose a significant cancer risk to humans. Yellow 6 may cause occasional, but sometimes-severe hypersensitivity reactions."  Read more here.

So, I'm just a little miffed that a pediatrician doesn't take any of this seriously. I can't imagine my son trying to recover from an illness while simultaneously feeling as crappy as he feels when he's ingested Red #40. The kid puts up with enough as it is!

Monday, November 28, 2011

The nightmare that is Thanksgiving (or, you'd think I'd learn...)

I should know by now how there are dyes in everything, but there are still things that sneak up on me. I should know to read the labels on everything, regardless of if it doesn't seem like something that could be stuffed chemicals....

I gave myself a pretty decent guilt trip about the pumpkin pie from Walmart that had Yellow #5 in it. Then I felt even worse once I found out that the Boy had a slice. He didn't seem to be affected the way he usually is. He's been a little lethargic since Saturday, and it's unusual for him. It's Monday, and he was still sleepy and snuggly today. Who knows if he's getting sick or if he's actually reacting to the pie, but why on earth would someone put Yellow in a pumpkin pie? It's main ingredient is orange, and it's full of delicious yellow-ish ingredients. Seems like a no brainer. A naturally made pie is perfectly beautiful and appetizing, and this Walmart pie has basically just pissed me off. 

Here's another Thanksgiving horror story: Marshmallows have blue dye. Actually, wanna know *exactly* what's in them? The ingredients in Kraft marshmallows are: corn syrup, sugar, modified food starch, dextrose, water, pork-skin gelatin, tetrasodium pyrophosphate, artificial flavor, natural flavor, and blue #1.  As a reference, I'm including Smitten Kitchen's recipe for springy, fluffy marshmallows- her list of ingredients are confectioner's sugar, unflavored gelatin, granulated sugar, corn syrup, salt, egg whites, and vanilla. Big diff, eh? They put Brilliant Blue #1 in there just to make my blood boil.

Oh, and we got to do something really awesome this holiday weekend with our family- we went to the Shrine Circus! It was super fun, and I was impressed with the quality of the acts, but that place was oozing with red sno-cones, blue cotton candy, lollipops, sodas, nacho cheese... well, you know, circus food. No surprises there, but still evidence to the pervasiveness of food colorants marketed toward children. 

I know there was a lot of bitching in this post about a holiday that's supposed to be about thankfulness and gratitude, so here's my attempt to win you over and make you think I'm a human... with a beating heart. 
  • I'm grateful for the health of my family, for two healthy, happy kids and a husband whose only health affliction is stubbornness (but there doesn't seem to be any remedy for that.)
  • I'm thankful for the opportunity to raise my kids in the comfort of my own home, and am grateful that as a result, I have two happy, well adjusted and securely attached babes. 
  • Obviously, the internet, chocolate, and wine. 

I'll let you know how my homemade marshmallows turn out, and if I win the war on food dyes as Christmas approaches!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Dye Free Food, Meal by Meal:

If you're considering making some changes in the way your family eats, let me throw you a bone and give ya' some tips (i.e. very basic info.)

There's usually a dye-free version of anything you want to eat. Just because you're craving jellybeans doesn't mean you have to go without, you just have to look a little harder. This Easter, I found the most delicious jellybeans at Trader Joe's, and they tasted so much better than my usual favorites. They actually had flavor. I didn't feel like I was popping pure sugar in my mouth (and I saw them yesterday- apparently they aren't just seasonal!) I think an added benefit of eliminating artificial dyes is the surge of flavor that inevitably comes with better, higher quality food.

So, I think the best way to grocery shop is to make a list. Go through your week and make a meal plan, including breakfast and lunch, and list each ingredient you'll need. This makes it easier to see where dyes are sneaking up on you.
  • Some common breakfast offenders are yogurt and cereal. Oatmeal that comes already flavored and cereal bars often have dyes. In general, you can purchase deceivingly unhealthy yogurt, cereal, and breakfast bars, so buying ones without dyes will probably ensure that you are eating whole grains, fiber, fruits, and generally less processed food. Juice can have hidden additives as well, so be careful. The Boy likes Berry Berry Kix- I was surprised it was dye free. We buy Simply GoGurt, although there are several other dye-free brands. If you like canned cinnamon rolls (and who doesn't!) just a warning that Pillsbury puts red dye #40 in theirs- it makes me so sad, because I believe that cinnamon rolls look beautiful and delicious without the added chemicals.
  • Hot dogs can contain red dyes too- and lunch meats have ridiculous amounts of additives, so avoiding those are usually a good idea. Jellies and jams sometimes have extra dyes, so we buy All Fruit brand jelly usually. So many chips and snack foods have dyes- Doritos and Cheetos are common offenders, but oddly enough Fritos have a surprisingly noble list of ingredients (much healthier than Rold Gold Pretzels, for example.) Avoid Jell-O (but we LOVE these SmartGels from Kozy Shack. They're really good and I am a fan of the ingredients list.) Macaroni and cheese can create some major hurdles, but we like Annie's Homegrown products
  • Dinner food seem to have fewer issues with dyes, since savory foods are often colored with spices instead. Although, one that I forget pretty frequently (because it doesn't make sense!) is Pillsbury brand items- you know, crescent rolls, stuff like that. I bought some garlic bread that comes pre-schmeared with garlic butter, and had my oven pre-heated before I realized it had yellow #5. I gave it to a neighbor but I still felt guilty for giving her chemical-laden food to feed her kids. I know not everyone has a problem with it, but I do, and it weighs heavy on my mind most days. 
  • There are obvious snacky offenders, but I feel that I should list a few in case you don't know about them yet- foods like brownies, cake mixes, frosting in a can, sodas, candies, fruit snacks, and chips sometimes have dyes, but do you see a common thread here? They're all fake, crappy foods. Make your own cake and frosting (it's easy!) and in general, make better choices about what you put in your shopping cart. I enjoy lemon curd with gingerbread cake, and can't buy it from the regular supermarket anymore. Lucky for me, I found it at TJ's recently!
  • Here's a shocker- I had to throw out my kid's toothpaste because it was full of blue dye! We switched to Burt's Bees toothpaste, and we've been very happy with it- the boy loves to brush!
  • Most medications contain harmful colors as well- Benadryl, Advil/ibuprofen, and  Tylenol/acetaminophen all make dye-free versions. One time I looked at the Tylenol website to see if they made chewables that were dye free (they don't), and they seemed to think that parents choose their dye-free products to avoid messes and stains on children's clothing. They're clueless! I've heard that you can get dye-free amoxicillin from a compounding pharmacy but I've not tried that yet. 

Alright, those were just a few... I have lots more to tell you but I don't want your brain to explode just yet. Have you ever been shocked by the ingredients of something you frequently buy?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Twitter- I'm kind of a big deal

Hey y'all, I made a Twitter to keep up with the allergic, food sensitive world: follow me @dyefreefam !!!