Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Tantrums. Bad Tantrums.

(this is not a picture of a tantrum:)

Personal story:

Ezra is my sweet boy, but he used to throw terrible, and I mean terrible tantrums from time to time. All kids misbehave and throw fits, either because they’re tired, have had too much sugar, need discipline... But these aren’t the type of fits I’m talking about.

How to describe them? It’s like for a few minutes, my sweet boy isn’t there. He turns into someone who is screaming and yelling at the top of his lungs; growling, throwing things, kicking the walls and crying uncontrollably. Then, after it’s all over and we’re talking, and I ask him why he threw such a fit? He will usually look bewildered and say very genuinely, “I don’t know” and then star down at the floor very sad.

For a while these outbursts seemed to happen all of the time. Anyone who’s experienced these kinds of tantrums knows, you seriously wonder what’s happened to your kid? We figured it was the “terrible two’s” carrying over into the three’s.

Then, one day we noticed that he hadn’t had a tantrum in a while. They began to happen less and less, until it was only one every week or two; then they seemed to pretty much stop... Interesting.

Around this time we’d changed up our disciplining techniques and cut out TV (except for “special occasions”). Those were the only reasons we’d accredited seeing such an improvement in Ezra’s overall wellbeing. It was so nice having our goofy, innocent crazy kid back! Yet, with all of the changes we’d made it didn’t make sense that every now and then one of these tantrums would pop back up. Granted, it wasn’t as big of a deal because we knew that they would pass and he’d be fine, but it was confusing.

It wasn’t until one night, after we’d been out celebrating with family, that Josiah and I connected the dots. When we got home Ezra was bonkeroos!! He wasn’t being “bad” necessarily, he was just bouncing off the walls and was going ninety to nothing in his eyes. At one point he ran up behind Johnny and just whacked him on the back of the head! “EZRA!!” I yelled. “Why did you do that?” Again, he looked down, and then back up at me and slowly and quietly said “I don’t know.” “Ezra” I said “No, WHY did you do that?? You could hurt Johnny...” And that’s when it clicked.

That night he’d had red ice cream.

No. This could not be it. I didn’t believe it. I went to Josiah and told him and we both just stared at each other. Food dye? That just seems too weird. I’ve heard about those people who are sensitive to food dyes and I think it’s a bunch of crap... at least, that’s what I thought.

Hello google.

I found stories of the kind of behavior that we were experiencing and the culprit was indeed, artificial food coloring.

Up to this point, I had never had a second thought about food dyes. If the word “food” is in the name, then it’s got to be safe to eat... But, these are a few of the things I learned about artificial food coloring:

Many of them contribute to hyperactivity, restlessness and attention problems in children.

Some of them are known carcinogens. In short, a carcinogen is a substance that is capable of causing cancer in humans or animals.

The FDA actually recommended that one of the Red dyes be banned because of it’s link to thyroid tumors; Yet, it is still being used today.

In Europe they have to put a warning label on products that contain certain food dyes.

So, besides coloring the food, what do the dyes do? NOTHING. Absolutely nothing. They add no nutritional benefit or flavor. Something else that’s interesting, it is completely possible to use natural food coloring, most companies just choose not to. For instance, in Europe (again) Kraft Foods uses natural food coloring in it’s Mac ‘n Cheese, but here? Nope.

Once we started entertaining the idea that food dye could be a huge culprit in Ezra’s tantrums, it clicked with us that the uncontrollable behavior began to lessen around the same time that we changed our diet to a more plant based, whole foods, natural way of eating. We would still let Ezra have cheats if we were out somewhere (hence random tantrums?), but the more real ingredient foods we ate, naturally we ate less processed artificial foods. Looking back it’s plain to see a direct correlation to our diet and Ezra’s behavior.

There are a lot of stories out there like ours. Your child doesn’t have to have an “allergy” to something for it to not be good for them. I encourage you to educate yourself and not assume, like I did, that things are safe just because they’re for sale to eat. Check labels out. I was shocked this Easter when I couldn’t find one jar of relish at the grocery store that didn’t have yellow dye in it. Really? Food dye in pickles?? I would never have thought.

Now, I still believe in fun foods and candy; I just want the real stuff, not something that was formulated in a lab. This is a link to a store that sells candy that is 100% natural and artificial dye free. Not only is it not harmful to you or your child, but there is no comparison to the taste. Hide your debut card before you click though. Trust me.