Dye Free

Going Dye Free: Real Life Stories – Pat R from South Carolina

Sorry for the brief hiatus between posts, but we’ve been battling a round of illness in our house. We just moved to Nashville from Texas and I’m afraid we weren’t used to all this cold weather!

Here’s another story in my Going Dye Free: Real Life Stories series. This story comes from Pat in South Carolina, she’s originally from England where artificial dyes aren’t as prevalent as they are here in the States. She’s got lots of experience! She’s been dye free for over 13 years!

Check out her story and if you want to be a part of my series, please email me at boudreauxh72@gmail.com. I would love to hear your journey, as I know others would as well!

1. How many kids do you have that are dye free?
– all grown now. Eldest had reactions to dyes, so avoided them for all 3 kids (the other 2 did not have the same sensitivity.)

2. How long have you been dye free?
– became aware of the problem with dyes in 1986. Actively tried to avoid them because of problems for maybe 13+ years. Still can’t bring myself to buy brightly coloured foods!

3. Have you or your child ever been diagnosed with a food allergy?
– no

4. Where do you live?
– from England. 2 kids – including the one who reacts – born there. Moved to US in 1989. Have lived in Maine. Currently in SC.

5. How do you shop? Specialty stores? Online? Everyday grocery stores? What’s your favorite place to find dye free items?
– no longer buying for my kids (all adults!) But I still read packaging and avoid artificial dyes because they can’t be good for you.

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6. How do you handle special events like Halloween or birthdays?
– chocolate candy. Or just knew to expect hyper behaviour, and plan for it.

7.Do you find friends and family members supportive?
– mostly yes, they were. People in UK were more understanding as the effect of dyes was accepted there, whereas in the US it wasn’t (still isn’t) a widely known thing.

8. If your kids are school age, how do you handle school parties,etc?
– the teachers had been told to expect hyper behaviour if she got colours. Usually she got them. Her behaviour wasn’t so awful to stop her having them. The teachers had to deal with her (unless treats were at the end of the day.)

9. What health/behavior issues were your children experiencing?
– Hyperactivity, constantly moving (when younger.) Loud. Somewhat aggressive. Pushy. Argumentative (when older.)

10. Have these issues gone away?
– I think by beginning 6th grade (age 11), which was the first year I DIDN’T fill in the ‘Is there anything else we should know about your child?’ section on her school papers. She still reacted slightly, but was able to control herself.

11. What’s the one thing you wish people knew about taking the plunge and going dye free?
– it gets easier, and it’s worth it for your child – and your own sanity.

12. MOST IMPORTANTLY: Tell me your story in a few paragraphs.
– We’re English. First child born 1985. A good sleeper, 7.30 p.m. – 6.45 a.m. But sometimes, from around 9 months old, she would wake up, either around 9.30p.m. or 12.30/1a.m. and be wide awake for an hour, hour and a half, before winding down, when I’d give her a bottle and settle her back in bed. I remember lying on the living room floor, in front of the gas fire, 1 in the morning, watching this wide eyed 11 month old crawling up and down the room, pulling all her toys out on to the floor. And I came up with a theory.
Not sure if I just worked it out, or if I’d heard a news story, but food dyes were a likely culprit. So we tested it. And it fit. She reacted, but with a 6-8 hour delay. Something with lunch (2 p.m. ish) and she’d be up about 9.30. Something with dinner (5.30ish) and it would be midnight-ish. Even just 2 Smarties (M&M type candies) caused it. It wasn’t sugar – I tested it, gave her apple slices with sugar dip, and no reaction.
So we watched her food. By the time #2 was born in 1987, the UK and Europe were aware of problems with dyes, and many food manufacturers were using natural dyes. She started to understand what she couldn’t have – we called the dyes Wakey Colours, because they woke her up!
In early 1989, we moved to the US. Artificial dyes were in everything. Shopping was difficult – I brought a lot of English foods back after visits! Also, her reaction time gradually decreased, till by about age 8 it was almost immediate. She got loud, boistrous, argumentative. Not awful, but not her usual self. I warned teachers. They didn’t understand until they saw it.
As she got older, she understood more what happened to her and why, and she learnt to control herself. By about age 11 or 12, dyes didn’t affect her as noticeably, though we still tried to avoid them.

You might also be interested in   How Our Dye Free Journey Began: The Day Things Got Messy

In the early days, my ‘bible’ was the book ‘E for Additives’ by Maurice Hanssen. It didn’t help so much in the US unless I could translate the US ingredients to the corresponding E number. (2 photos attached.)


I LOVE Pat’s story. It gives hope to those of us parents who think their world will always be dye free. Much like Pat’s daughter, my oldest (she’s 16) seems to have also grown out of most of her reactions and the ones she hasn’t, she now has the ability to handle them. I love that Pat still avoids dyes just like I do. Even as an adult, you can still react. It affects my mood and sleep if I have artificial dyes too close to bedtime.

THANKS SO much Pat for sharing your story!



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