Does Anyone Know Much About Sensitivity to Food Preservatives and Dyes?

Updated on February 11, 2008
C.E. asks from Beaverton, OR
17 answers

Hi everyone~ I am wondering if anyone out there has any experience with sensitivity to food dyes and preservatives? I have a 2 year old and after doing some research we feel pretty certain that he is sensitive to these (hyperactivity and somewhat aggressive behavior seems to occur.) Has anyone else dealt with this? We fortunately don't eat a lot of processed foods and are already pretty careful with his diet, but I am wondering if anyone has any ideas what to look for as we do our grocery shopping? Also any ideas about eating in restaurants (we don't do fast food). Thanks so much!!!

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B.L.

answers from Bellingham on

I have 5 children (4-19) and all of them and I are very sensitive to colors, preservatives and flavorings in food. The vast majority of them are made from petroleum and as there are over 3200 of them allowed in our food in the USA, they are causing much unnecessary misery to countless people. There is an organization started by a doctor that can give you a great deal of background and coping techniques on this. It can be found at www.feingold.com I struggled with it on my own for years before I finally found them by accident. SO many people researching and reporting reactions and issues with this,and alternatives,has been a life saver for me! Fortunately, there are more and more organic and chemical free products produced every year so ... that has helped a lot. I wish more people knew for their poor children and for themselves. The additives make people disconnected and/or very reactive (aggression or crying) depending on the chemical and their own reaction. Very difficult. It's very dramatically obvious when any of us are "under the influence" of these chemicals. Good luck. Hang in there! It will get much better with more info for you.

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L.T.

answers from Medford on

My eight year old is sensitive to food colorings, flavorings and/or preservatives. I haven't taken the time to investigate exactly what triggers her (though I agree that's a great idea), but we eat little enough processed food that I notice the difference when she does have some. It seems to be mostly the artificial coloring- Something seems to take over her body that she can't control and she'll get very upset about the littlest dissapointments. She used to ahve a lot of kicking and screaming fits- very terrible behavior at those times, now she'll generally take herself to her room, rest for a while and come out much better...Or I ask her to go outside if the weather's ok. Oh, and her reaction is not to sugar because she doesn't have the same thing happen when she eats baked goods without coloring and preservatives, such as homemade cookies or cake.

When I do my grocery shopping I look for products without artificial coloring or MSG or anything I can't pronounce or don't understand. I also don't usually buy it if it lists "coloring" or "flavors" as an ingredient, even if it claims to have "natural" coloring or flavoring. Those terms are a way for the food manufacturer to get around listing all their ingredients. If the manufacturer doesn't want me to know what's in there, I have to presume it's something I don't want my family to eat.

As far as eating out, there are a lot of local independent restaurants that have excellent natural and wholesome foods in my area and probably in yours, too. Look for soup and sandwich shops, maybe a taqueria or indian food restaurant in your area and you can ask them whether they use MSG or colorings, or prepared foods that have those ingredients. Another good place to start is the deli counter at your local natural food store or co-op.

I hope that helps.

Oh, and it could be very helpful to make sure your son is getting enough omega-3 fatty acids in his diet. There is some evidence that lack of Omega-3 fatty acids can lead to aggression, hyperactivity and depression, though these links haven't been studied thoroughly. Omega-3s are found primarily in fish, and also in flax seed, green vegetables, some nuts (especially walnuts) and some whole grains. You can buy flavored fish oils in your local health food store.

And.....I agree with the mama that wrote about the terrible twos. remember that your son is two. His brain is still developing, especially his concious self-control. It is pretty normal for kids that age to get frustrated when they can't communicate or are prevented from doing something they want, and to have lots of energy, which will come out in unpleasant ways if he doesn't have plenty of healthy outlets for excercise and exploring his environment.

Best wishes,
-L. T

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J.H.

answers from Spokane on

Hi C.! I'm J.! Yeah...when my son was little he used to bounce off the walls and his doctor wanted to put him on drugs.
I didn't like that idea at all, so I read up on approaching the
problem naturally, with a healthier diet, avoiding RED DYES in ANY food (my son LOVED the raspberry jello, a real NO NO), getting him to exercise a LOT by taking him to the local park
every day, and getting rid of the chemical cleaners in my home. Did you know that kids can have an allergic reaction to the fumes left over from you cleaning your home with chemicals (go to www.backtonatural.fourpointmoms.com to request more info). Anyway, it was the BEST thing for him! His allergies cleared up and I followed all that up with teaching him at
home because the schools undid everything I was trying to do with him and THEY were insisting on the drugs, too!!! Hope
this helps. Stay drug free with your kids, and learn more
about what you can do naturally to help your two-year-old.
Good luck and hope to hear from you!
:>) J.

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D.S.

answers from Seattle on

When my oldest daughter was little. We had times when it was like demons taking control of her little body. We charted her food and drink intake and found that "APPLE JUICE" was the problem. She also had problems with certain cough medicines. Dyes and preservatives where my guess. None of the doctors would agree that this was the problem, but once we stopped the apple juice she did great. Keep a record of everything he eats and drinks. You may be surprised what you find.

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C.T.

answers from Seattle on

Hi C.,
I've been dealing with this since my daughter was a wee one of about 12 months. My baby sister dealt with it as well so I was on the lookout for it.

I highly recommend you start shopping at PCC or Whole Foods or the like depending on what area your in as that will make it a lot easier on you. i.e. I know anything w/food color in it at Whole Foods uses natural sources no artifical colors.

Also, I can buy sprinkles and food coloring at Whole Foods for special occassions that are safe for my daughter because the colors are sourced from food. (though be forewarned they're pricey so you may want to start well in advance of a holiday baking session and buy one here and there as they're over $5 each)

My DD is allergic to artificial sweetners, preservatives, artifical colors, formaldehyde (Q-15 aka Quaternium-15), almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios, milk (goat & cow), cheddar, parmesan & cottage cheese, mustard, coconut, and sugar.

I had her tested through a naturopath with a lab on the East Coast (Great Smokies Diagnostics) it was expensive (and insurance didn't pay for it) but it was so worth it. It identified exactly what we were dealing with so we could get past it and move on.

That said eliminating my sister's food allergens (to the things you describe) helped with the behaviors you describe. My mom also used to take her to the track and let her run a bunch of energy out.

If you're dealing with those things, you may want to watch for other sensitivities. My DD developed eczema but when she was 11 months old and that's when we did the elimination diets and blood allergy test but they didn't get rid of the eczema. What we found finally worked for that was getting rid of the chemicals in our home (esp. the Q-15) found in her personal care and laundry products. I found a store to shop at online that has safer products and we've been eczema free ever since.

I hope this helps, let me know if you have any questions.
C.
BeHappierAtHome.com

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J.H.

answers from Eugene on

GlutenFreeEugene.org
My web site may help you.

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T.Y.

answers from Anchorage on

I worked with children with Autism and some parents found out that cheese made their son hyperactive and aggressive. Further studies showed milk and wheat causing negative effects as well.

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S.C.

answers from Seattle on

Hi C., I have a now 11 yr old son that has multable frontal lobe disabilities like sevear ADHD. He is also BiPolar and can be very emotioanl and aggressive. Before I would even think about meds we had blood test checking for lead and other chemicals and put Dakota on a food Diet to see if this was his problem. In the end we ruled out everything, but we did find that some food and addives made him more aggressive but he was not allegic to them. Sorry about my slepping, not to good at it! Anyway, under a docotrs direction, we took him off all dairy, wheat, whey, glutten and food colorings. The only thing that got him going was the food coloring! Red and yellow are the worse, I have noticed as he has gotten older it is not so bad. But it is nice to know. There are different diets for this, talk to your childs doctor first and he/she will know which is best for yor child. Keep up the good work. Let me know if this helps.

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S.C.

answers from Spokane on

Hello C....I am a grandmother now, but we went through the same thing with my son when he started eating baby foods..long story short!! it turned out to be the red dyes and hidden sugars in canned and boxed food I was buying at the market..I still read labels!! have 3 beautiful grandaughters now..have noticed, not so much red dyes,but they are still out there..even the Dimetap they were perscribing to heal him had a red dye in it and a fair amount of sugar!!! Best Wishes.

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C.M.

answers from Medford on

I have to say that I don't professionally know much but I was allergic to things with red dye until I was an adult. My parents discovered this with red hots... not a good thing to feed a child because I was wired for two days, bouncing off the walls (literally trying to climb them at times, my mom tells me). I had to be careful with the candy that I ate as a child or I would react like this and make my parents crazy. Now as an adult I'm not near as bad. I hope you are able to find a solution for all of you to be happy and healthy.

Congrats on working on your MSW, I currently have mine and love having it! Keep up the good work.

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C.I.

answers from Medford on

Most preservatives are not usually linked to allergies. As a nurse I have never come accross this. As far as hyperactivity and agressive behaviors, these are not usually chemically induced problems. Fructose, glucose and other sugar products are some times a contributary factor but not for aggresive behavior. Agressive behavior is sometimes called the (terrible two"s), but are a social behavior that starts when a child is not able to articulate and manipulate thier wants and needs. Allergy testing can be done, but is also misleading in young children, as their chemistry is changing with growth. Hope this helps

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M.G.

answers from Portland on

Hi C.: I work in the nutrition and health area and can tell you that many children are highly sensitive to food dyes and preservatives. Red food dye has been associated with many behavioral issues as well. All of my reading would suggest that you make every attempt to do two things: Eliminate all foods that have any contents that you don't know what it is. Eat as close to the earth as possible, in other words fresh foods that you have gathered from the outside of the grocery store (not the inside aisles) and finally, if at all possible, give nothing but organic foods to your child. These little bodies are very sensitive to additives and pesticides. It is more expensive, but certainly is worth it.
So not rule out any products that might be on the skin, such as detergents and soaps. The skin absorbs everything put on it and is the largest organ of the body. See the book "Healthy Living in a Toxic World" by Cynthia Fincher PhD. I hope this helps.
Martha
[email protected]____.com.

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A.D.

answers from Portland on

Hi C.,
I have sensitivities to both, especially nitrates and red dyes. I look for a product that either is organic or has the fewest ingredients, but I ALWAYS read and compare ingredients first. I look for food dyes which are listed as D&C red #5, Etc. I also look for products that have nitrates. Products like packaged gravies, canned soups and canned tuna have this. Some pre-packaged meats like lunch meats and hot dogs have nitrates. I like the convenience of canned tuna, so I purchase the ones canned in water. I rinse the tuna very well with running tap water. I don't seem to have any reactions with that. Also some packaged products have nitrate free varieties like soups and gravies. When I purchase cold medication like Benedryl for my 4 year old, they have a dye free version. Look for those types of products. Usually the generic products have less ingredients and there are fewer chemicals. I would rather purchase canned fruit that has sugar added than ones that are packaged with high fructose corn syrup. The preservatives, dyes and especially foreign chemicals that I can't pronounce bother me the most and also affect my 4 year old. I purchase organic, natural and generic products and don't have trouble. I shop at New Seasons and Winco. New Seasons is expensive for meats and specialty items, but my health is worth it. I wish you and your child well. A.

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E.G.

answers from Portland on

That's pretty common. Both my sons tested sensitive to nitrates/trites, benzoates, Hexameth tet and sulfites. We are also allergic to gluten, dairy, eggs and on and on. What I do is make our own breads and almost exclusively eat non-processed foods. Enjoy Life is a brand that caters to folks who want to avoid many common allergens. Sometimes even "healthy" foods like dried fruit contain preservatives, so reading labels is really useful. Our family really likes the Just Tomatoes brand of freeze dried fruits and vegetables. Good luck!

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P.M.

answers from Portland on

A very well designed British study recently showed "that a variety of COMMON FOOD DYES and the preservative SODIUM BENZOATE … causes some children to become more hyperactive and distractible than usual." You can google the whole story. Here's one very well-written summary (of many): http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,###-###-...

This study doesn't surprise me. Certain food additives make me feel jumpy and moody, and speed my heart rate. As do exposure to other airborne chemicals (from cleaning and laundry products, auto exhaust, the smell of new plastics, scented toiletries, etc.). I'm glad you are looking at possible physical triggers for your little boy's behavior. It would be sad if he's branded as "trouble" if some of his mood swings are simply beyond his control.

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A.C.

answers from Portland on

We have some sensitivities but I haven't been able to pinpoint it. Your sons symptoms sound typical from what I've read. I wish people were as aware as you! We don't eat any processed foods either and definately NO sugar or white flour. We rarely eat out but we do like Olive Garden, but even there...I've heard of natural "fast" food places. We have Baja Fresh in Salem that's pretty good. Grocery shopping--I buy very little through local stores. I order alot through Azure Standard, a co-op which delivers here. There are also lots of natural, organic stores around here and other places. Anyway, I know some books you might be interested in: Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon; Chemical-Free Kids by Allan Magaziner, Linda Bonvie and Anthony Zolezzi--this one particularly you would be interested in I'm sure as it talks about living without chemicals. I personally am absolutely shocked at the junk in food and wish it wasn't such a battle to fight. I am looked at as the "over reacting mom" with my boys, but I am sticking to my "guns".

Anyway, if you want to talk more or need numbers or anything feel free to email me!
A.

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