When we started this journey several years ago, I found it extremely frustrating to find others who shared the same story as us. No one seemed to have gone through the same experiences we had. If they had, they sure didn’t want to admit it or talk about it. It seemed, most of the time, that we were alone in our fight. I guess it’s a combination of lack of knowledge and inhibitions. I always found that people have a hard time admitting their children have a problem, whether it be big or small. Somehow I guess it makes them seem “less of a parent”.
That thought never crossed my mind, I told anyone who would listen (or pretended to listen) our story. Anyone who questioned us at a restaurant or a store, got an earful. I walked away a few times from people who thanked me for educating them, but more often than not, I walked away from blank stares or rolled eyes.
Fast forward 6 years.
Dye allergy and intolerance awareness is so much more prevalent. It’s not as popular of a topic as I had hoped it would be at this point in the game, but we’re getting there. More people are willing to share their stories in the hopes that it’ll help others. We’ve all had different experiences and our kids have run the gamut with side effects. We’ve all encountered situations at school, daycare, home, and even out in public that we’d love to share.
I was lucky enough to have several fellow food dye families willing to share their stories with us. My first response was from a super sweet lady in Florida named Jessica. She has 2 kids and they’ve been dye free for 4 years. Here’s her story.
1. How many kids do you have that are dye free? 1 exclusively. 1 mostly (except what she might get from school meals).
2. How long have you been dye free? 4 years
3. Have you or your child ever been diagnosed with a food allergy? My daughter has a medical note from her doctor stating she has sensitivities to artificial food dyes.
4. Where do you live? FL
5. How do you shop? Specialty stores? Online? Everyday grocery stores? What’s your favorite place to find dye free items? We shop a variety of places. Mostly Publix and Aldi. We prefer Publix.
6. How do you handle special events like Halloween or birthdays? Our children collect candy on Halloween and get to trade their bags for a prize. Often a coloring book or something of similar value. As far as birthdays my children know and advocate for themselves. They don’t really get disappointed that they can’t have cake anymore. For school events where kids bring something for the class I have provided special organic candies that the teachers can give them in leu of the cupcakes or other foods.
7. Do you find friends and family members supportive? Mostly. I think some of my family had to experience my daughter (one in particular) after she had dyes to see what it does to her.
8. If your kids are school age, how do you handle school parties,etc? See above 🙂
9. What health/behavior issues were your children experiencing? My oldest daughter (7) had behavioral issues at daycare. That’s when we started trying dye free. It was a learning curve. Now she can mostly control her behavior but has a really tough time focusing on school work and homework. Her grade suffer if she eats trigger foods.
10. Have these issues gone away? If she remains dye free, then yes.
11. What’s the one thing you wish people knew about taking the plunge and going dye free? It’s not impossible! There has been a recent awareness of it and more and more companies and going dye free, and advertising it.
12. MOST IMPORTANTLY: Tell me your story in a few paragraphs.
My daughter, Jadyn, was having a really tough time at daycare with her behavior. She was constantly getting in trouble, would hurt her friends, do the hints she knew was wrong. She’d seem like a zombie sometimes when you’d talk to her about it. I began looking into things to help her. I came across some sensory processing information and she definitely had some behavior tendencies that met the criteria. I was also reading an article related to sensory issues that mentioned diet. That’s when I first began looking into food dyes as the culprit.
I asked some friends their opinions and one in particular said her daughter was very reactive. And it was a night and day difference. I discussed it with my husband and we began our journey into the dye free world. I have learned (am still learning) so much. I never realized that food dyes were in so many things. It still baffles me why they use food dyes in white products! Regardless we had to do a lot of internet searching as we discovered some dyes have hidden names. After several months we got a familiar shopping list and it got much easier.
Once school age we were able to control her diet more. She was doing pretty well behaviorally in school which was our biggest concern. In first grade she discovered she could trade food. We would notice this when she came home and seemed off, or would sometimes seem wired. Every time we suspected she ate a trigger food we’d ask, sure enough she “traded” lunch with a friend. She is now in 2nd grade and was eating school lunches. She knows what kinds of foods to avoid and we wanted her to make her own choices. She began having bad grades (she was an honor roll student the year prior). She’d come home with incomplete work, D’s and F’s. We pointed this out to her and asked about her food choices. Sure enough, she was eating other foods she knew were triggers. She made he choice to pack her own lunch from home and almost immediately she came home with A’s and B’s. Night and day difference. She correlates how she feels to what she eats. In fact, this week she came home telling me about her perfect score on a test. The next sentence was “and I didn’t eat anything I was t supposed to!”.
There are days (sometimes weeks) that are challenges. But seeing her meet her full potential is worth it. My children are young, but being dye free has created a learning environment and challenges our family to really read labels and identify what goes in our bodies. Overall it has forced us to live a healthier lifestyle.
Here is a picture of my daughter holding the stuffed animal she won for her perfect score on her test.
Thanks so much Jessica for sharing your story!
If you’d like to be part of my dye free story series, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear from you!