Disclaimer: Neither the owner of this blog, nor the author of this post is a medical professional. The experience in this post is not meant to diagnose or treat a medical condition. This is only one family’s experience. Your experience may differ.
Today’s guest post is from Beth, a fellow homeschooling mom. In it, she describes how following the Feingold Diet helped her family.
I was a parent who struggled to get my children to generally behave and to even obey the simplest of instructions from time to time. My youngest was especially difficult but I didn’t think that my parenting (or lack of it) was the reason for his behavior. I’m strict – even my mother says so and if your mother says you’re strict, then you’ve got to believe it! But nothing would control him at times. It also seemed as if he couldn’t even control it – he would sometimes come out of tantrums and say he didn’t know what had happened.
I had heard about the Feingold diet several years ago, first from friend who put her two girls on it. She said that Feingold made them less grumpy. I knew my friend generally provided organic, whole foods to her girls and so I could only imagine that she was doing all sorts of nearly impossible things to implement the Feingold diet because I didn’t really know what it was. My imagination was incorrect in how difficult it would be. I later found out she needed to remove some of the salicylates, something commonly found in grapes and apples. I had no idea that healthy fruit could cause behavioral issues in some people.
Grumpiness, however, was not my problem. My problem was my 7-year-old who would fly into a rage over nothing. Two of our kids were crazy busy and crazy loud. They were (and still are) also very outgoing and very funny. So they had great personalities but sometimes they just went too far. Okay, a lot of times they went too far in their boisterousness, especially my youngest, my red-head.
All four of my kids are adopted and because they are adopted we have no family history either of behavior or medical conditions. We do know one was cocaine positive at birth, but while we have no indication that my youngest’s mom used drugs, she was jobless and homeless during her pregnancy so we can deduce her eating habits were not the best. I did just discover this: “Did you know there are over 200 synthetic chemicals found in the cord blood of newborns, influences of civilized society with unknown effects that our children are exposed to even before they are born?” But I have also come to believe, after being on the Feingold diet for nearly 3 years, that health and genetic history is not the biggest problem for our children. I believe that processed foods are, with the approval of the FDA, harming our children. When I see the difficulties that even a small amount of these chemicals have caused for my children, I am appalled that the Food and Drug Administration — an agency whose purpose is to protect us — would allow the food industry to use things they know are so harmful. The government regulators know how damaging they are; the food manufacturers know how damaging they are; and both know that additives like dyes can easily be replaced by natural colorings as they are doing in Europe. So even if you don’t have a family history of problems and even if you ate perfectly during your pregnancy (or didn’t), the blame often lies at the feet of our government which says they are protecting us when indeed they are not.
In addition to my loud and boisterous boys, my other kids have had their struggles. For my oldest son it was his inability to focus. He is extremely smart and would study and study but despite the effort he often did poorly academically. After we had been on Feingold for two weeks he got the highest test results he had ever received for a chapter quiz! My daughter had trouble learning to read as she could not really hear the phonemes.
As I pondered actually doing Feingold, I took my kids to their one-day-a-week enrichment program (we homeschool). The youngest was going to be 8 in a few days so I ran by a grocery store and bought cupcakes with brightly colored icing for his entire class to have at lunch. After I dropped them off, a voice in my head said, “Maybe that wasn’t such a good idea.” The voice was right. I got a call about an hour after lunch telling me that my son had a complete melt down. He tore his camouflage jeans with his bare hands and was banging his head on the wall. I thought of my friend Missy, who had been posting on Facebook and on her blog about her Feingold journey and how it helped her son’s rage. Rage — that described my youngest. It was pure rage that would just spill out!
When I went to pick him up, he got in the car and said, “I had a pretty good day.” I told him that when you are tearing your clothes and banging your head, that is not a good day. I immediately emailed Missy and she gave me enough ideas for meals and snacks to get me through the days until my membership materials arrived, so I started implementing Feingold the best I could. I also ordered natural food coloring for his birthday cake; I knew I just couldn’t do the fake stuff on his real birthday. I made a Buzz Lightyear cake for the family birthday party. It didn’t look quite as vibrant as in years past, but it did seem to taste better.
My youngest is a new child! Within two weeks of going on Feingold we were getting many comments about his changed behavior. At the enrichment program, people were commenting on how the circles under his eyes were gone. His piano teacher said he was a new child. Although, it’s not that we were problem-free after that, but I could look under his eyes and see circles and know he was having a reaction. He also gets bright red ears after he has eaten something off diet or that he is sensitive to. A food diary became my best friend as I worked to continue to solve the puzzle.
It eventually became evident that there were more issues and I was glad to find a doc tor who treats kids with autism and ADHD and who ran blood, saliva and urine tests. In addition to changing his behavior, Feingold helped to clear up some of his auditory processing issues, and eliminating gluten and dairy fixed the rest. My child who couldn’t read at 9 is now almost 11 and reading at grade level (and sometimes above)!
While, my first grocery shopping trip after getting my program materials took about 3 hours. The next week took less time and then I hit my rhythm and grocery shopping took no longer than it had before. I cook about as much as I did before, which is not every meal. We eat convenience foods and snacks, but they are the ones without artificial coloring, flavoring or preservatives added. My kids still eat candy, but not the ones with lots of fake stuff added. My youngest routinely turns down food he knows is bad for him.
He told me, “I don’t like this diet because of all the things I can’t eat, but I like the way I feel.” If an 8-year-old could understand, why can’t the Food and Drug Administration get it?
One day, were in a store where they had some left over, well-known, cookies from Christmastime with a brightly colored red center. The youngest was over in that section of the store with his siblings while I picked up something else. I walked over and heard him telling the woman, “Yes, they are poison. If I were to eat them, they would make me a crazy boy. They poison me.” I had never used that word with him. I just told him there were things that made him not feel his best. Apparently, he had wondered out loud why the store was selling poisoned food and while the lady had nicely explained to him that it wasn’t poison, he was telling her why he disagreed. He gladly takes his own cupcake to birthday parties and turns in candy prizes from Sunday School (which I always replace with acceptable treats). Everyone sees that my son is a new child, and I’m not just “out there.”
I believe the Feingold diet, and thus eliminating the consumption of petrochemicals from your diet, would be beneficial for any person but it is especially beneficial for children who struggle to control their emotions or to pay attention. The annual fee to get the material that the Feingold Association publishes, telling you which foods do not have artificial dyes, artificial flavorings and preservatives in them is some of the best money you can spend on your family’s health. Please visit their website for more information.
Beth has been married to the love of her life for 20 years. They have four children, 3 boys and a girl. She homeschools the children, and in their free time, the family loves to travel the United States on mega school field trips. She also blends traditional medicine with essential oils. Learn more here.