Food sensitivities are linked to skin issues like eczema, ADHD, bloating, IBS (and constipation), Autism, behavioral problems, developmental delay, epilepsy and more. So how do you figure out if and what foods are harming your child’s gut?
First, I must start with noting that there is a large difference between food allergies and food sensitivities. A true food allergy causes an immune system reaction that affects numerous organs in the body. It can cause a range of severe or life-threatening symptoms. Food intolerances (sensitivities) effect the gut and, in turn, can cause reactions throughout the body. Allergies can be found through IgE testing, and sensitivities can be found through elimination diet, food panels, and IgG testing. Let me clarify that this article is specific to food sensitivities.
35 years of research was studied to find that Artificial Food Colors, benzoate, and a laundry list of foods are all very much linked to causing ADHD, as well as the above mentioned challenges. It was found that a complete elimination diet was recommended to figure out the exact triggers for each child suffering. (For example, one study showed that after eliminating trigger foods, children who suffered from chronic eczema showed 100% signs of relief and improvement.)
What is an Elimination Diet?
The purpose of an elimination diet is to discover symptom-triggering foods. There are several well-known elimination diet, the most recommended (and extreme) being GAPS. ‘The Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS)’ is a wonderful book that I suggest you read as you journey through this challenging time. It will open your eyes to just how important it is to heal the gut, and how completely eliminating foods and beginning with a pure, whole foods’ bone broth aids to truly solving your chronic problems. While GAPS is extreme and very hard to stick to in the beginning, it is well worth the hard work.
Whole30, Feingold, FODMAP and many other elimination diets are slightly easier to follow and will also help pinpoint exact food intolerances. These diets will not heal the gut, but they are a great start and will give you answers.
The most common foods to cause reactions include:
- Dairy (lactose and casein)
- Corn (including corn meal and corn starch)
- Corn Syrup (in all forms and all names)
- Hydrogenated Oil
- Processed Foods
- All citrus fruits and juices
- Artificial sweeteners
Many of these foods are known to be highly inflammatory, which of course means they cause inflammation within the body and trigger chronic pain and problems that can be different in each individual.
An elimination diet is not instant relief. It takes weeks for foods to clear from the system. Once you are symptom free for 8-weeks, you begin to slowly reintroduce foods one at a time to look for reactions. When a reaction occurs, eliminate the trigger food and do not add in another until you are baseline again.
It is important to note:
- The offending foods can be your favorites, the foods you often crave.
- If you are affected by several foods, eliminating only one may make little difference with your symptoms.
- You may find that you can have a small amount of a trigger food without observing symptoms, while a larger amount causes a reaction. I call this the cup theory. Your gut is like an empty cup, it can only fill so full before overflowing and triggering symptoms.
- Your tolerance may be impacted by several factors; natural hormonal fluctuations may make you more sensitive.
- Your triggers can change over time.
October is Sensory Awareness Month. Sensory processing disorder is becoming a more well-known diagnosis among children, those on and off of the autism spectrum. The label is still not recognized by many medical professionals, but I can tell you that SPD exists. As a chiropractor, I work with many children (and adults) who struggle with processing their emotions. That is what SPD comes down to: sensory triggers that cause a spiral of emotions in which the individual cannot control.
Sensory Processing Disorder in simple terms is a misinterpretation of sensory information. We have 5 main senses: touch, taste, sound, smell, and sight. While any of these senses can become overwhelmed within the brain, an SPD child cannot figure out how to let go of the situation. The proprioceptive and vestibular systems play a huge role in regulating the incoming sensory information. The vestibular system is located from the base of the brain to the upper neck and inner ear. The proprioceptive system calls the entire spine and joints of the body home. This is why, when a sensory child is caught in an episode, he may seem to be in pain. His joints may hurt. His ears may ring. He may feel itchy like his skin is crawling. Even when not triggered, a child with SPD may feel constantly ‘off.’ They may not actually know ‘normal.’ This is why so many children may be misdiagnosed with ADD, ADHD, learning disabilities, etc.
A sensory child does not fit in a mold. A few common signs parents notice (this is not an exhaustive list by any means) include:
- Not handling things such as loud noises, being dirty, getting wet, wearing structured clothing, wearing loose clothing, wearing tight clothing, bright light, crowded spaces, having hair washed/brushed, getting fingernails or toenails cut, receiving an unexpected hug; walking barefoot, wearing shoes, getting buckled, or certain textures.
- Doesn’t notice when touched; almost always prefers sedentary activities to active ones; seems unaware of bodily sensations such as heat, cold, or hunger
- Needs to be touching someone, something, or everything he passes. Hugs too strongly and doesn’t know his own strength.
- Dislikes foods with certain textures.
- Cannot be anywhere without his primary caregiver.
- Often struggles with speech.
- Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.
- Is passive, quiet, slow to respond to directions.
- Is excessively cautious and afraid to try new things.
- Is upset by transitions or unexpected changes.
- Avoids group activities.
- Wants to spin, slide or swing excessiely, and is constantly moving.
- Is accident-prone and has difficulty with physical skills such as catching a ball.
Children with SPD experience their meltdowns due to one of three reasons:
- The brain not receiving messages due to a disconnection in the nerve cells
- Sensory messages received inconsistently
- Sensory messages received consistently, but not connecting properly with other sensory messages.
Enabling a functioning vestibular and proprioceptive systems are key to aiding a healthy sensory connection. Vertebral subluxations (misalignments) of the spine may cause a disconnect between the brain and these sensory systems. An irritation can cause this misalignments – birth position, birth trauma, a fall, stress, etc. Chiropractic care removes neurological imbalances by realigning the spine. Within weeks of proper adjustments, a SPD child’s spine may begin to heal. Improvements with sensory triggers should occur, meaning the meltdowns should improve quite a bit. Motor skills, social skills, even speech may see vast improvements throughout chiropractic care.
Along with seeing a chiropractor, a diet free of processed foods, dyes, and gluten will greatly benefit a child suffering with sensory processing disorder. There may be more specific foods that a child reacts to, and an elimination diet (such as the Feingold diet) can help pinpoint the exact triggers.
It is not easy parenting a child with sensory processing disorder. Many pass judgement and try to blame the behavior on parenting styles of lifestyle choices, but the truth is that SPD is real. Occupational therapy, chiropractic care, dietary and lifestyle changes will all improve a family’s daily happiness.
As you have read so far, the supplements we are consuming are full of fillers and sugars. There are other hidden dangers within these capsules, tablets, liquids, and even powders: DYES.
According to the FDA, in 2007 Americans were consuming five times more artificial food colorings than they were in 1955. That number in no way has decreased in the mast eight years. http://www.organicauthority.com/blog/organic/banned-in-europe-food-coloring-linked-to-behavior-problems/
Artificial colors are being added to our vitamins, supplements, and medicines (as well as our foods, skin products, bath products, etc.) at an alarming rate. Somehow the rate is increasing even though studies are linking these dyes to everything from cancer to hyperactivity in children. The risks can be deadly, and the benefits: a more appealing product to draw consumers in, to make a sale.
The Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of these dyes, even as they are band in other countries across the world due to their significant side effects. Countries throughout Europe have banned against food dyes and insisted on strong labeling with warnings including all health risks to these dyes. But yet, here in the United States we not only promote the use of dyes, but they are included as ingredients within our health-boosting supplementation and medications.
The seven FDA approved food dyes include: http://www.fda.gov/ForIndustry/ColorAdditives/
- FD&C Blue No. 1 – Brilliant Blue FCF, E133
- FD&C Blue No. 2 – Indigotine E132
- FD&C Green No. 3 – Fast Green FCF, E143
- FD&C Red No. 40 – Allura Red AC, E129
- FD&C Red No. 3 – Erythrosine, E127
- FD&C Yellow No. 5 – Tartrazine, E102
- FD&C Yellow No. 6 – Sunset Yellow FCF, E110
Some of these artificial colors (Yellow Dye 5 & 6) are derived from toxic coal tar. Coal tar is a mixture of many chemicals, derived from petroleum. It is recognized as a human carcinogen, with the main concern of using it for individual colors (whether produced from the coal tar or synthetically) is the potential to cause cancer. These colors may also be contaminated with low levels of heavy metals and even be combined with aluminum substrate. Aluminum compounds and many heavy metals are toxic to the brain. Coal tar is used for purposes such as: roofing, outdoor sealants, exterior paints, and heating. This should obviously NOT be ingested. http://www.davidsuzuki.org/issues/health/science/toxics/chemicals-in-your-cosmetics—coal-tar-dyes/
Current research is working towards providing the direct link from synthetic supplements and artificial dyes to autism, sleep disturbances and other chronic problems in children. Previous studies show links to artificial dyes and cancer, hyperactivity, ADHD, allergies, and sterility. http://melisann.hubpages.com/hub/Know-Which-of-Your-Vitamins-and-Medicines-Contain-Toxins
This research is eye opening, even for myself. I have a four year old son with sensory processing disorder, food allergies, food sensitivities, speech delays, and sleep troubles. We were told by wonderful natural-minded pediatric doctors and chiropractors to keep toxins away from him. This meant vaccines, chemicals, processed foods, etc. We learned of a wonderful diet that removed all dyes, fillers, and chemicals from the body to heal the gut. We have had great success on this diet, but hadn’t looked into the hidden details of his supplements (or ours!). While we have been making smart supplement decisions, there were a few with hidden dyes that have since been eliminated. I know that it sounds extreme to most people, but I am telling you from our personal four year journey that what you put into your body makes a world of difference.
Common ailments linked to these dyes include headaches, mood response, hyperactivity, skin rash, and swollen gut, trouble falling asleep, or breathing problems. An actual allergy to dyes may be difficult to diagnose. However, if removing dyes from the diet is linked to absence of symptoms, this may prove dye sensitivity. Allergy testing for dyes is not conclusive, but an IgG antibody test can be part of your investigation. (We had IgG testing done as early as 15 months of age with our son.)
Each dye can be traced to its own set of possible side effects: http://www.cspinet.org/reports/chemcuisine.htm
Blue Dye No. 1 can cause hyperactivity, skin rashes, bronchoconstriction – especially when combined with other artificial colors- and chromosomal damage. It may also cause issues with the gastrointestinal tract while inhibiting cell respiration and lead to ADHD, asthma, and other allergic reactions. (This dye is banned in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Norway Switzerland, and Sweden.) New studies show that Blue Dye is also absorbed through the skin. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23127598
Blue Dye No. 2 is a synthetic coal tar dye commonly added to pharmaceutical drugs and is also used as a medical diagnostic aid. The dye, which is banned in Norway, has been known to cause nausea, vomiting, high blood pressure, skin rashes, breathing problems, brain tumors and other allergic reactions.
Green Dye No. 3 is linked to tumors and gene mutations in test animals.
Red Dye No. 40 is a petroleum byproduct often used in medications and supplements that can cause allergy-like reactions, hyperactivity in children and potential cancer. Asthmatics and those intolerant to aspirin are at increased risk of a reaction to this dye, which is prohibited throughout Europe. http://www.npr.org/2011/03/30/134962888/fda-probes-link-between-food-dyes-kids-behavior
Red Dye No. 3 has been shown to cause cancer in lab animals.
Yellow Dye No. 5 is one of the most dangerous artificial colors. Derived from Coal Tar, the dye is linked to cancer and provokes asthma attacks, skin reactions, and hyperactivity in children. It has been banned in Norway, Austria, and Finland.
Yellow Dye No. 6 is linked to hyperactivity, allergic reactions, nausea, and nasal congestion. It is often used in medications and supplements Yellow Dye #6 is banned in Finland, Norway, and the UK.
Unfortunately, these reactions and their connections to artificial food dyes have largely been dismissed by the FDA. In 2004, an analysis of fifteen studies found evidence that artificial colors worsen the behavior of children with ADHD. Even after studies found that artificial dyes affect the behavior of children without behavioral disorders, the FDA continues to deny any significant link between food dyes and behavioral problems.
By eliminating food dyes and food additives, studies have continuously shown increased improvements in children’s behavior.
The FDA has approved a number of natural dyes for use in products. These dyes include:
- Beet Juice
- Grape Skin Extract
- Paprika Oleoresin
- Fruit and Vegetable Juices
Some natural dyes can still cause adverse reactions to those with sensitivities. My son, for example, reacts to annatto extract. Annatto, caramel, and cochineal extract (known as carmine) have all been traced to allergic reactions.
A partial list of popular vitamins with toxic dyes: http://www.vaclib.org/docs/ToxicDyesVitamins.doc
- One A Day – Red #40
- One A day for Women – Mixed Berry’s – Blue #1 Yellow #5, Yellow #6 and Red #40
- One A Day Scooby Doo – Blue #2, Yellow #6 and Red #40
- Flintstones (Children’s Vitamin) – Blue #1, Blue #2, Yellow #6, Red #40 and Aspartame Toxic Sweetener
- Centrum & Centrum Silver – Yellow #6 and Red #40
- Geritol – Blue #2, Yellow #6 and Red #40
- Prenatal from Nature’s Bounty – Blue #1, Yellow #6 and Red #40
- Tums – Blue #1, Yellow #5, Yellow #6 and Red #40
How Halloween Candy Affects Kids
It’s time to purchase ALL.THE.CANDY. I mean, it’s for the trick-or-treaters, right? Of course it is.
Whether your children dress in costumes and fill buckets with candy or you choose not to celebrate the holiday, inevitably, the candy somehow still ends up in your home. Before you allow your children “a few harmless pieces,” take the time to learn the consequences of your actions. I am not totally ruining candy for you. There are plenty of great premade, purchasable candies out there, and a plethora of healthier homemade recipes to meet every candy craving.
From Kit Kats and Reeses to Candy Corn and Candy Bars, I took the top purchased candies and broke down their ingredient lists. This is what I found. The most common ingredients are:
High Fructose Corn Syrup: Also labeled as corn syrup, maize syrup, glucose syrup, fructose syrup, tapioca syrup, dahlia syrup, fruit syrup, and crystalline fructose. Corn syrup is derived from genetically modified corn. It “is heavily processed, using enzymes to turn cornstarch into glucose and then fructose.” Even though glucose and fructose occur in nature, HFCS does not occur in nature. Cornstarch is converted to glucose, some of which is then converted to fructose. If a substance’s molecular structure has been changed in a factory, it can’t be considered natural.
A few documented reasons to stay away from HFCS include its links to obesity, diabetes, tooth decay, high cholesterol and increased risk of heart attack and heart disease. Additionally, regular consumption of corn syrup may lead to anemia, weakened immune system, fatigue, mood swing and suppressed metabolism. Particularly sensitive individuals may also experience light-headedness or headaches and bowel issues. (A safe, healthy option: look for honey as an ingredient. It is also known that consuming raw milk combates the side effects of HFCS. http://www.earthclinic.com/cures/corn-syrup-side-effects.html ) http://www.thebetterhealthstore.com/Newsletter/100110_High-Fructose_04.html
Natural or Artificial Flavors: “natural flavor” is the fourth most common ingredient listed on labels – not just in your candy. This is a BIG umbrella folks. Companies can label absolutely any ingredient, whether it is synthetic, chemical, etc as a “flavor” as long as it is generally regarded as safe by the FDA. The most common ingredients labeled as “Flavors” are as follows, and you may see some of these listed on their own on a label, but if you don’t, do not be surprised if they are in the product. http://www.livescience.com/ http://www.foodadditivesworld.com/
- MSG: Monosodium-glutamate is a brain neurotoxin. It is a slow poison. Known as flavor-enhancer 621, MSG is now labeled as a “Natural flavor.” Children are more vulnerable to MSG dangers than adults. In fact, MSG and other flavor enhancers are not permitted in foods produced specifically for infants and young children who are 12 months old or less. MSG can cause or exacerbate brain lesions, neuroendocrine disorders, learning disabilities, adverse reactions, neurodegenerative disease and more. The short of it: MSG kills brain cells. http://www.truthinlabeling.org/
- Aluminum Silicate
Insoluble and used as a refractory in glassmaking. It is used as coagulation in food.
- Amino Acid Compounds
- Amyl Acetate
A pear and banana oil. Many artificial flavors are made using amyl acetate. It may cause nervous system depression, indigestion, chest pain, headaches, fatigue, and irritate the mucus membranes.
- Amyl Alcohol
Closely related to Amyl Acetate and also known to be toxic.
- Annatto bixine (yellow orange): My sensitive child reacts to this! It is also called roucou, and is a natural plant extract used to dye an assortment of foods, textiles, and body care products. Primarily, it is used as red / orange in a wide assortment of foods. The food additive number for it is E160b, allowing consumers to identify it on a label even when it is not listed by name. Some children react to this just as they do other food colorings.
- Benzoates (including sodium benzoate)
Can trigger allergies such as skin rashes and asthma, and are believed to be linked brain damage.
Almond flavor, and when derived from nature, traces of hydrogen cyanide – a deadly poison – can be found in it. When made by mixing oil of clove and amyl acetate, no cyanide is produced. Nonetheless, both natural and artificial benzaldehyde can cause central nervous system depression and convulsions.
- Benzyl Acetate
Also related to Amyl Acetate and may cause gastrointestinal, bronchial, skin, and eye irritation.
Artificial flavoring that may cause gastrointestinal irritation, seizures, confusion, and dizziness.
Destroy the nutrients in the foods. It can give rise to nausea and diarrhea.
- Butryic Acid
Caused cancer in lab test with animals.
- Butyl Acetate
Related to Butryic Acid can be toxic in high quantities.
Responsible for high blood cholesterol levels as well as impaired liver and kidney function. Ex) Butylated Hydrozyttoluene (BHT), Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA)
Colorant and flavorant that has diuretic, stimulant properties. It can cause nervousness, heart palpitations and occasionally heart defects.
- Canthaxanthin: Other names – Canthaxanthine, Carophyll Red, CI Food Orange 8, Colour Index No. 40850, E161, Roxanthin Red 10.
Very common flavoring and coloring agent that can cause vitamin B6 deficiencies. It can cause certain genetic defects and even cancer.
Artificial flavoring that can lead to respiratory and circulatory depression as well as cardiac failure.
- Cinnamyl Formate
Also simply known as formic acid, (artificial cinnamon – it may simply say “cinnamon flavor” in the label) has caused cancer in mice and may affect our kidneys.
- Erythrosine (red)
See Red Dye below.
- Red Dye 40
Red dye is known to cause attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Also suspected to cause certain birth defects and possibly cancer.
- Mono and di-glycerides
Can cause birth defects, genetic changes and cancer.
- Potassium Bromate: banned from China, European Union, Canada, Brazil and elsewhere because it causes cancer in rats and mice.
- Potassium Sorbate: A synthetic preservative linked to allergies, nausea, eye irriation, and diarrhea
Causes toxic reactions and allergic response, affecting skin, gastrointestinal tract and heart. It may also cause tumors and bladder cancer.
- Sodium Benzoate
Also known as E211. Sodium benzonate is a common preservative. The FDA classifies it as safe. However, sodium benzoate forms a chemical known as benzene when in the presence of vitamin C.Also heat converts sodium benzoate to benzene. Fruit jellies, jams, and fruit juices which are made with high vitamin C fruits with heat applied in the manufacturing process can be particularly dangerous due to the conversion to benzene from sodium benzoate. Benzene damage DNA and seems to play a role in a variety of diseases due to DNA damaging capabilities. It’s also a known carcinogen.Some studies have shown that sodium benzoate in processed food along with artificial food colorings can cause children with ADHD to be more hyperactive.
- Sodium Chloride
Can lead to high blood pressure, kidney failure, stroke and heart attack.
- Sodium Nitrite
Can be carcinogenic and have other adverse effects on health.
- Salt (common table salt is refined salt)
Refined salt has depleted mineral and higher concentration of sodium then unrefined sundried sea salt.
- Sugar (common white sugar is refined sugar)
Most commonly used additive.
- Tartrazine (Azoic yellow): on ingredient labels as FD&C yellow 5, E102 or C.I. 19140. It is an artificial coloring that is used to make foods and other products more visually appealing or appetizing. It is also used in the printing, textile and paper-manufacturing industries as pH indicators or biological stains. Tartrazine is tied to anxiety, migraines, asthma attacks, blurred vision, eczema, other skin rashes, thyroid cancer, Eosinophilia (increase in specific forms of white blood cells), clinical depression, ADHD or hyperactivity, hives, permanent DNA damage, heart palpitations, rhinitis, sleep disturbances/insomnia, general all-over weakness, hot flushes and OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder). In severe cases, anaphylactic-like reactions. When fed to chickens it makes their egg yolks yellower – because, in our society, that is so important. (Sarcasm.) Tartrazine interferes with the metabolism of Vitamin B6 in the body.
(A great substitute: Tumeric!)
Artificial vanilla, can cause allergic reactions. It can limit the liver enzyme dopamine sulphotransferase by 50%. Its sources are the waste product of paper mills and petroleum.
Artificial Colors: (See above for specifics)
Emulsifiers: linked to irritable bowel syndrome, disruption of the gut, and obesity.
Nitrites (and nitrates): Synthetic and highly toxic. In fact, these ingredients have been highly linked with a number of deadly cancers.
Trans Fat: Trans fat is also synonymous with the common ingredient “hydrogenated oil.”
Hydrogenated palm kernel oil: Besides being linked to deforestation through the plantations creating this oil, palm oil was found to impair the digestive systems of mice during studies. http://humanfoodproject.com/
Soy Lechithin: Derived from genetically modified soy, lechithin is linked to increase risk of breast cancer, infertility, and impeded brain development in children.
Preservatives: There is no shortage to the amount or types of chemicals put in our food today, and one of the top things added to our food are preservatives. These chemical ingredients, such as TBHQ and/or BHT and BHA are man-made chemicals that do preserve food for longer, but at a great expense to our health. Preservatives have been linked with a number of problems such as allergies and sensitivities, digestion problems, mental problems such as ADHD and depression, as well as cancer.
TBHQ: The most common food preservative. Tertiary Butylhydroquinone is a petroleum-derived form of butane. It is commonly found in lighter fluid (Oh and Butterfingers… and other of your Halloween goodies.) 5 grams of TBHQ is lethal and the FDA ruled that quantities larger than 0.02% could not be used. (RUN AWAY FROM THIS!)
Alternative Sweeteners: For those who are diabetic or otherwise trying to cut down on their sugar intake, food manufacturers have created “sugar free” options that have no sugar. Instead of using sugar, they have replaced it with a non-nutritive, synthetic sweetener. These sugar replacements, such as aspartame, splenda, sucralose, and/or Ace-K act similarly to flavor enhancers in the body, in that they stimulate cells and cause cellular death. These artificial sweeteners wreak havoc in the body and can actually still lead to weight gain and cravings.
Shellac: The shiny coating on your candy labeled “confectioner’s glaze.”
Castoreum: An extract from beaver perineal glands and beaver urine typically considered a “natural flavoring.” You’ll find this in anything berry or vanilla flavored.
Gelatin: a thickening agent made from the protein collagen, which is extracted from animal skin and bones. You will find this in your gummies.
We need to shift our focus from specific harmful ingredients to the food itself: where is this food coming from, how is it being processed, and most importantly, is it even food?
The good news: There are companies providing high-quality candy. My personal favorite place to shop:
(I am not affiliated with the above site, I just have a child with gut issues, speech delay, sensory processing disorder, food allergies, and food sensitivities.)
Just for a chuckle: This is how we feel on Halloween