Sunday, January 19, 2014

Happy To Be Dye-Free

January 20, 2013-I made a decision to go "dye-free" in our home. With our one year dye-free anniversary being tomorrow I thought I'd share some of how I came about making the change. My friend Crystal told us to just aim to be dye-free 80% of the time and leave the other 20% for when being wasn't an option (like at Grandma's house or at a friend's house). I'm very pleased to say 99.9% of the time we remained dye free. There were some occasions were we "snuck" something with dye such as a fun size pack of nerds at Halloween or Cotton Candy at the church picnic. I was much easier than I thought to stay dye-free after getting the "other junk" out of the house. There was a bit of a transition for the grandparents in the beginning, but they were on board and soon had plenty of non-artificially dye goodies on hand for when we came to visit. Most of our friends know we are dye-free and don't take offense to when we turn down a treat that's offered.

It's pretty much second nature now to look before buying something. Also we now know which brands and products we prefer to buy. I know that my boys are remaining dye-free while at school and while spending time with friends or at scouts. My kids are great advocates and have no problem explaining to other students (or even people in the store buying tie-dye cupcake mix).

Here's a guest post I wrote about what were the deciding factors for our family.

Before this past January I really never gave much thought to artificial food dyes or the effect they had on our bodies. I had heard tid bits about red 40 and yellow 5 & 6. The brighter and more colors, the more likely my kids would eat it, and they did.

I chose to try dye free for a week to see if it would help with some behavioral problems I was having with my son. He had been having an increasing hard time focusing in school, almost no impulse control, extreme mood swings, and was only getting 3-5 hours of restless sleep a night (which probably contributed to his mood swings). Many of his problems were possible side effects to his ADHD medication. He was diagnosed in kindergarten (4 years ago) with ADHD and promptly put on medication. The medication worked wonders, and when it didn't then his dosage or medication was switched. However it seemed the meds have stopped working and his doctor had started talking about my son having more than ADHD going on, because he was out of ideas of what other meds to try.
I had shared with Crystal some of what was going on and how I was at a lose for what to try next. I really didn't want my child diagnosed with a life altering label. She challenged me to try removing artificial food dyes for a week and to look into how food dyes effect behavior. Over the weekend, I looked into it and was first shocked then angry. There was so much research about the link between ADHD and dyes and hundreds of testimonies from parents. How could I never heard about this?! I couldn't believe there was a alternative to medication, and how could our doctor never offer this as alternative before he had me give my 6 year old pills. I decided it was worth a try, at this point I felt I had nothing to lose.

That Monday school was closed due to extremely cold temperatures. I told me kids we were doing an experiment and that we weren't going to have anything that had a number in the ingredients for one week. I didn't tell them what results I was hoping to see. They helped me box up all the foods that had dyes. We went shopping to restock our cupboards and they actually had fun reading labels and finding new foods to try. We were all surprised my how much stuff has dyes.
I was nervous about how they would do at school when I wasn't there to monitor what they were eating and about them feeling left out at snack time. The teachers were very supportive and had dye free alterative that I sent in. 

Three days into the challenge I saw the first sign of improvement! My insomniac child fell asleep only after and hour of being sent to bed and slept all the way to morning!! I was so excited, but still cautious that it may have been a fluke. The following days he continued to fall asleep easier and slept through the night. His teacher told me that he was more on track than he had been in a long time. At home little things that would have sent him into a tailspin didn't seem to phase him. The other boys had also calmed down, had more impulse control, and better ability to handle their emotions resulting in less arguing amongst them. My son's eczema had started clearing up. The changes weren't only with the kids; my migraines were gone, I had more energy. When I slipped up and had a Mt. Dew, I would get a killer headache and would be more irritable and short with the kids.

Seeing the results removing dyes has made for us, we have chosen to stick with it. It didn't turn me boys into perfect little gentlemen. They still bicker and argue, the still run through my house and are loud; but they aren't completely out of control anymore. We have been dye free for just over 3 months.

While there are many reason health wise to avoid artificial dyes getting my kids' behavior back on track was enough for us. When we've had something containing artificial dyes you can tell within minutes. When my kids "on dye" will literally be bouncing in their seats and instigating each other. I'm not a very pleasant mom when I'm on dye, very short tempered and jittery. Within the last year we have consumed dye less than 15 times and only in small amounts.