We’ve recently learned that the core of Boe’s spirited-ness is his diet. Being that he eats mostly whole, organic, or non-food-dye foods, it took us 2 years to realize that his healthy diet was actually the cause of Boe being B.O.E. – our Bundle of Energy was whacked out on some of his foods.
I learned all this from a book entitled, Why Can’t My Child Behave?: Why Can’t She Cope? Why Can’t He Learn? by Jane Hersey which talks about chemical sensitivity to artificial food dyes (yellow, red, etc) and artificial flavorings (BHT, TBHQ, vanillin, etc)and, as in Boe’s case, salicylates. I found this book as I began researching ADHD. The behavior problems we were having with Mr. Active were not going away (“Oh, he’ll outgrow it” and “You know, those terrible twos”) and his social interactions were much different than other boys his age (“Boys will be boys”). I know that we’re not supposed to compare our kids but I did have to gauge and he was way out of range of others.
Boe could not focus, he did not play well with others, every negative reaction was way over the top and explosive, he seemed angry most of his waking hours. It was extremely frustrating for him, his daddy, and me. Towards the end of the “dark time”, I began to feel that he simply could not control his actions when he was angry. He was of the age that he was aware that he wanted to react differently and could express this to me. I began to feel bad for putting him in time-out b/c of this but I had no choice. He had done something wrong and there had to be a consequence.
One reason that it took me 2 years to figure this all out was that my expertise was with 3-yr-olds. I did not know what was normal behavior for a 2 yr old (and we continually received the comments above) so we dealt with it as best we could. When he reached 3 years old and things were not getting better, I knew I had to begin researching.
In addition to my own “gut instinct”, I received some validation from a pediatric ENT who observed mine and Boe’s interactions during an exam. She said, “Something’s not right. His reactions to your parenting are not on target.” I was thrilled! Yes, someone who saw kids every day could see the difference. I let her know that I am a blame-the-parent person and if his behavior was caused by something I was doing, I’d be glad to change it. She said, “No, this is something different” and referred us to a specialist. As it turned out, we were not able to get in to see this specialist before Boe’s upcoming surgery so I continued to research.
That’s when I found and ordered the Hersey book. However, b/c I did not think that his diet could be the problem (since he was eating healthy) and I knew the book was pertaining to poor diet, I set it aside while we dealt with Boe’s upcoming tonsillectomy and adenoid removal.
His behavior improved dramatically during his recovery period. So, we were convinced that sleep deprivation had been the root of his behavioral problems. As the 2-week recovery came to a close and he began eating his regular diet, the bad behaviors returned. I was confused and disappointed b/c I thought we had figured out the problem. One afternoon while we were having snack, I noticed the Hersey book in a pile of stuff and took it out. As I was looking it over, I saw an excerpt on the back cover that stated something to the effect of “my child eats healthy, whole foods, why is this happening?” DING!
I began reading the book immediately! This is what I learned: there are naturally-occurring chemicals in some fruits and vegetables – called salicylates – that can cause all sorts of problems with people who are chemically sensitive. I was feeding Boe four of those fruits daily and topping them off with cinnamon toast (cinnamon is another trigger for some chemically-sensitive people)!
We immediately dropped those fruits and substituted with others. We, also, removed cinnamon from his diet and within two days had a brand new kid! It was amazing!!
The deal with the Feingold plan is that you remove common trigger foods and ingredients (mostly petroleum-based additives) for a certain period of time and then slowly reintroduce those that you want in order to learn which ingredients the person is reactive to and to what extent.
Being that I found substitutes for the fruits that Boe liked and being that his behavior had improved 100%, we saw no need to bring those back into the picture. Why mess with a good thing? And I have had no problems finding snacks and treats that are good for us (no artificial dyes or flavors).
We now have a normally behaved 3 year old; who has normal 3 year old reactions to situations including normal 3 yr old tantrums. No longer the Damien Omen kid we had been dealing with. It has been terrific! If I had not found this book, he most certainly would have been diagnosed ADHD or ADD and had tons of problems in school.
Now, I am a skeptic by nature so when his bad behaviors were gone even after 3 weeks of eliminating those trigger foods, I still was willing to chalk it up to coincidence. What if he had matured (in 2 days), what if 3.5 years old was a turning point for him, what if he had decided to behave after 2 years of craziness? My skepticism was answered one month after we began with the plan. We had not seen “the old Boe” during that month and I was thrilled. We were at a playdate and he was sharing snack with a boy whose mother only fed him healthy foods. So when he began chomping away on the kid’s raisins, I thought “Well, let’s just see”. Soon they were munching on a cereal (again, I knew it was healthy b/c of the source so not too worried) and the little boy says, “Do you like my cinnamon cereal?” I tensed. Oh, great – 2 trigger foods on an empty stomach. To add to this, I allowed Boe to have typical sunscreen (containing sodium benzoate – another trigger for some) put on b/c I had forgotten ours. On the way home from the playdate, “old Boe” was back – with a vengeance!! I hadn’t seen him for a month and I didn’t miss him one bit!
We have been on the plan for almost seven months. In that time, we have had 2 other occurrences that have confirmed my belief that my son is salicylate sensitive. After the 3rd occurrence, I realized that I have to step up to the plate, grow some cajones, and tell people that my son cannot have certain foods when the situation arises. If they think it’s ridiculous, so what. They aren’t having to deal with a wild, angry kid who can’t control his actions. Until Boe can verbalize what and how he’s feeling when he has these foods, we’ll do what we can to keep them from affecting his behavior.
I know how crappy I feel when I eat Cheetos or how sleepy I get from consuming anything with powdered sugar in it or on it. So I know that what we put in our mouths affects us more than calorically. Our kids are just too young and inexperienced to know this for themselves.
During my 15 years of working with children, I had a handful of kids that were like my son – negatively affected by some of the foods they ate. I just didn’t have this knowledge to give to the parents. I know that one of them became a Ritalin zombie. I’m so glad that I found this book and was able to remove Boe’s trigger foods from his diet. He is a happy, happy kid now.
Thank you – Dr. Feingold and the Feingold Association!!
We are a Feingold Family now.
*It may seem conflicting to own a website that features restaurants and still follow the Feingold plan. But it actually isn’t. Restaurant dining is not banned while on this plan b/c the issue is not necessarily heart-healthy eating (although not ingesting crude oil based ingredients is healthy) or weight loss (removing high fructose from your diet could take off a few pounds), it’s more about avoiding trigger ingredients. The Feingold Association even has a booklet that lists menu items from numerous fast-food restaurants that are well tolerated by chemically sensitive people.