When we went dye-free in 2009, I was at my wit’s end with my son. We were staring down a brand new diagnosis of ADHD and ODD (oppositional defiant disorder). My husband was deployed, and we were riding the ADHD medication roller coaster, playing games with dosages, rebounding, it was terrible. He was a mess, I was a mess… I don’t know which of us cried more. It wasn’t a way I wanted to live, and it certainly wasn’t the little boy I knew and loved. What I had always chalked up to being a “spirited child” was spiraling out of control.
When I originally heard about the Feingold Diet for ADHD, I was a bit skeptical. I mean, I was a total Mountain Dew addict (which is another post altogether on the subject of managing adult ADHD) and I never had any kind of behavioral problems because of it. However, we didn’t have anything to lose. I ordered the package from them (which I believe at the time was around $75) and waited.
It was a little bit overwhelming to begin with, because you’re hit with SO much information. Feingold encompasses cutting out a few other things besides just the dyes as an elimination process. While I didn’t notice any kind of reaction from the other things, the dye-free difference was noticeable almost the first day. I was waiting for the other shoe to drop, and it never did. My family wasn’t completely on board to begin with, but when they saw the difference they hopped right on the bandwagon.
There were no more meltdowns, no more inconsolable crying fits, no unreasonable demands or tantrums. Slowly, he became the lovable (yet energetic, that has NEVER changed) child I knew he could be. His ODD diagnosis was dropped by his therapist. He graduated from therapy altogether because she didn’t see a need to see him anymore now that he was in control of himself. I have to say, I was smug with self-satisfaction that day, because she felt his “problems” were psychological and just couldn’t believe it could be diet related.
Over the years we’ve had some slip-ups, some members of the extended family who didn’t follow the diet, some goofs on my part when exhausted and not reading ingredients. We have found that even different colors cause different reactions in him – the reds turn him into an unreasonable maniac, and the yellows turn him into a sobbing mess. Blues don’t seem to effect him, but to be less confusing we make sure everyone knows it’s NO DYES at all. When we inquire about food ingredients in restaurants or functions, it’s just easier to explain it as an allergy than an intolerance. People hear “allergy” and want to cooperate, “intolerance” — not so much.
My son doesn’t have a problem with the diet. He has learned to instinctively read labels when I’m not with him. He doesn’t feel deprived, because much like a celiac will suffer from an unintentional “glutening” — he knows he’ll be very unhappy with an accidental ingestion of a dye. Even my youngest could pinpoint color numbers on an ingredient label before he could write his own name. We all keep our eyes open, but it really becomes second nature. Food companies have come SUCH a long way in the past few years, which makes it SO much easier. The kids automatically know when a food is labeled organic, they don’t even have to read the fine print.
I’ve spoken to people through this who have children with ADHD, ODD, Autism, or are “on the spectrum” and many have found success with this program as well. I have also spoken to people who refuse to take away their kids brightly colored food goodies to even attempt it. That bums me out, because I feel so strongly about the correlation between diet and behavior – and some people are just so closed-minded about even trying it. On the flip side, I probably would have thought the same thing had I not been at my complete wits end with my son. Maybe it just takes people hitting behavioral rock bottom to be willing to take away the brightly colored foods and see what happens.
He is still on his stimulant medication, but that is more for his focusing, where the dye issues are behavior. For us, it’s a total package that works. I know there are people out there who have found total success and have eliminated the medication – but that doesn’t work for us. It all depends on the child.
So, that’s our story. We are happier and healthier with our organic, dye-free life. You can find more information at the Feingold Diet Program for ADHD (I am in no way, shape, or form connected with them, just a happy mama for knowing about it.)
(Originally posted at: http://www.onepunkymama.com/the-feingold-program-for-adhd-our-story/)
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