Loosely Following Feingold

AKA – Our Red Food Coloring Story

Even though I shared my MSG story first, I really believe that this story is a more important message.  Why?  I see children every single day that are either out of control and their parents are at their wit’s end OR the parents have already lost hope and have put their children on a brain altering drug like Ritalin only to wonder if there’s a way out.

Let me back up for just a minute and say that I don’t intend to offend anyone who either is going or has gone the Ritalin (or some other medicine) route.  I’m in no way judging you, I promise.  I am only speaking because of the countless parents who have said to me, ” I wish there were a way to get him/her off this medicine.  My baby isn’t the same.”  I’m also not here to say that Ritalin is a bad drug or no one has true ADHD.  I don’t believe either thing for one second.  Again, I’m only telling my story and hoping that it might benefit someone.

First, let me introduce you to Mahayla.

She is truly one of the sweetest young ladies you will ever meet in your life.  She cares deeply for others, will do anything for anyone, can run a household by herself and gladly takes on most tasks set before her.  She is very bright, a wonderful friend, and generally a quiet and calm person.  She is extremely obedient and wants to please her parents.

Not so when she was three.  I found myself in the pediatrician’s office without Mahayla, but with my husband discussing with the doctor our options for my truly wild, loud and uncontrollable child.  Lucky for me, the doctor refused to label her as hyperactive at three.  Even though I could check off a “yes” for every single symptom of a child with ADHD, the doctor said there would be no way to start medicine in a child as young as her and we would have to wait until she were at least five.

Let me stop here and say that medicine is NOT my first choice for any situation.  It certainly wasn’t here either.  We were simply grasping for something, anything that would tame this wild child.

She wasn’t a wild baby.  In fact, she was a wonderful baby – happy, a great sleeper, a good eater.  By two, things started changing.  She was getting louder, harder to get to sit still, less obedient.  You might say, “That’s normal, Cindy!”  Yes, but by three, it wasn’t at all normal.  We would hear her screaming (for the fun of it) from her Sunday School class on a different floor of the church.  We would watch her literally climb walls at out house.  What was most apparent, though, was that she wasn’t ALWAYS like this.  Often, yes.  But always, no.

We would catch glimpses of a “normal” little girl in all her sweetness and then turn around a hour later and her eyes had almost glazed over as she turned into the Tasmanian devil and couldn’t be stopped.

After being sent home by the pediatrician and told we would just have to wait it out, I cried out to the Lord telling Him that I knew she needed some sort of help.  Her parents needed help, too!!  Just like with my MSG story, once I cried out to Him, low and behold, the answer was there almost immediately.

Again, the internet was where I turned.  All of the sudden, every search kept leading me to the same things – artificial food colorings, artificial flavorings, Feingold, artificial preservatives.  I didn’t know exactly where the answer was in the midst of everything I was reading, but I knew it was there.  Her problems didn’t start until she started eating “real people food” which made complete sense with all I was reading.

The word that kept popping out at me the most was RED food coloring.  So that’s where I started.  And, praise the Lord, that turned out to be the culprit.  We got rid of everything red, pink, purple, and orange.  As long as those colors were gone, we had a normal four year old again.  As soon as something “slipped” in, her eyes would glaze over within an hour’s time and she would be w-i-l-d, whiny and uncontrollable again.  The effects would last for hours.

Very few people believed that red food coloring was really the answer.  My family raised their eyebrows (until they saw the proof first hand!)  The pediatrician said she seriously doubted food coloring was the culprit and suggested we see and allergist for food allergy testing.  The allergist gave us some vague food allergies she had, but thought there wasn’t enough research to suggest food coloring allergies were real.  The Sunday School teachers scoffed when I asked them to run all snacks and drinks by me before feeding her.   But we KNEW it was real.  We lived with the proof daily!!  No red food coloring = a sweet little girl.  Red food coloring = someone else.  Someone else in attitude, stature, facial expression and action.  The scariest part was the change in her eyes – this child wasn’t my own.  I’ve heard other moms mention this change in the eyes, too.

As Mahayla’s gotten older, she is actually better able to handle red food coloring.  Mind you, not in large amounts.  If she happens to accidentally ingest a decent amount, she no longer goes wild, but she gets jittery, s-u-p-e-r cranky and v-e-r-y emotional.  And it takes a couple days to wear off completely.  I know you’re asking how an 11 year old accidentally eats or drinks red food coloring.  It’s really very easy.  Just like MSG, red food coloring is hidden in things you would never expect – blueberry muffin mix, prepared brownies, cereal….

I also ought to mention that it took a long time for Mahayla to understand that she had to make the choice to say no to foods and drinks with red food coloring.  I had to be the food police for several years before she was able to recognize the change in herself when she ingested it.  She prefers to stay as far away as possible now because she knows how awful it makes her feel.

Anyway, in trying to wrap this up….WE HAD A NEW CHILD!  A child that was set on the path to Ritalin and a lifetime label of ADHD was “cured”.  Of course, she never really had ADHD, but that’s where her path was headed if we hadn’t found the truth.

I read all I could from the Feingold site and in trying to get rid of red food coloring, we actually attempted to get rid of as much of the artificial colorings, flavorings and preservative as possible.  We’re not fanatical about this, but do our best.  If they (Caleb struggles with red coloring, too) are offered colored things at a church function or a party, I allow it as long as it isn’t red.  We typically don’t buy much with those ingredients at our house, though.

I’m passionate about sharing this info with parents who care to hear.  I’ll be happy to answer questions or tell more detail to our story if anyone is interested.  Just ask.

Here are some websites that might be helpful:


Allergic Child

All Natural

Nature Moms

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