Over and over again, I’ve been shocked at how something as simple and basic as food could affect my kids’ behavior or physical issues. At first I was shocked. How could something so seemingly insignificant like dyes or artificial flavors cause such drastic changes in my child’s behavior? But it did. Dyes were just the first “food” that brought about this realization.
In 2005, I stumbled upon the Feingold Diet for my then 4-year-old who showed classic signs of ADHD. The Feingold Diet removes dyes, artificial flavors, the preservatives BHT, BHA, and TBHQ, and restricts certain foods high in salicylates like berries, tomatoes, almonds, oranges, apples, and grapes to name a few in stage one of the diet.
The change in my son was dramatic! No more running around constantly. No more fidgeting. No more horrible tantrums. No more incessant talking. He made eye contact. He made friends. We were ecstatic! And so was he. He wasn’t getting into trouble any more. He was much calmer and he was eager to please us.
In 2008, my third child suffered a grand mal febrile seizure at the age of 12 ½ months. Coincidentally, right around the same time I started introducing more dairy products and table foods like pasta and breads. Luckily he was in my arms nursing at the time of his seizure. I called 911 and they took him to the hospital and ran tests. Everything came back normal. They told me it was probably just a fluke.
Four months later, he suffered another grand mal seizure. Both times, my son was not sick but after the seizure ended up with a high fever for about 5 days which we had to try to contain by alternating Tylenol and Advil to try to prevent another seizure. We took him to the doctor and again I was told there was no rhyme or reason for his seizures and that it was now more likely to continue. I was not OK with this answer. I was not going to sit at home and wait for this next seizure.
I remembered seeing Jenny McCarthy on Oprah talking about how her son had seizures and how the seizures stopped when she started him on a gluten and dairy free (GFCF) diet. I went out and bought Jenny’s first book and read it that night. The next day I started my middle two children on the GFCF diet cold turkey with whatever we had in the house. My son’s seizures stopped. So did the mysterious fevers and illnesses.
Two years later, we decided to test back in small amounts of gluten and dairy to see if it affected him. After a couple weeks of eating only a small amount of these foods, my son came down with a slight fever, and then started to have another grand mal febrile seizure. This time, we knew what to do and cooled him down quickly before an ambulance needed to be called. Another two years later, same thing happened. He was given gluten and dairy (out of my supervision) over a period of a couple of weeks and he started to have another grand mal febrile seizure out of nowhere.
When we started my son on the GFCF diet, we started my second child on the diet as well for suspected autism. I knew it might help but could never commit to it because I didn’t think there would be anything left for her to eat. Within 3 days of starting the diet, my daughter (then 4), came alive. She started noticing the world around her. Her speech improved and she was talking more. She had a huge surge in energy. She had previously been diagnosed with hypotonia (low muscle tone). Prior to going GFCF, she could barely make it to the park 5 houses down from us without needing to sit in the stroller. She needed to be carried up the stairs every night because she lacked the energy. She always had to sit in the cart at the grocery store.
After starting the diet, I took her to the store, and she was running down the aisles. Running! I couldn’t believe it! I’ve never been so happy to almost lose my child in a grocery store! At school in Early Childhood, instead of scribbling in her weekend journal like she had been doing every week for the last year and a half, she colored an actual picture! With the proper colors and everything! A sunflower, grass, a sun, and clouds. I was shocked! If I knew removing gluten and dairy would have such a profound impact on her, I would have started it much earlier! Her digestive issues also improved greatly and gone were the tummy aches.
By the time I had my fourth child in 2010, I myself was both Feingold and GFCF (due to the many improvements I noticed in myself by going GFCF along with my kids). My fourth child has no issues (knock on wood!). She has been both Feingold and GFCF since birth. We are now looking at reducing and ultimately eliminating all GMO foods from our diet as well. We buy organic as much as possible and look for the “Non-GMO Project” label on foods.
So, if you ask me if food affects behavior and physical symptoms…I would have to say a resounding YES!!!
Sheri Davis is the mother of 4 children, from a preschooler to a high schooler. She discovered the Feingold Diet 10 years ago for her oldest child, and since then has never looked back! She blogs about Feingold, the gluten and dairy free (GFCF) diet, supplements, biomed, and all things natural at www.allnaturalmomof4.comand she’s written a book on the Feingold Diet called “All Natural Mom’s Guide to the Feingold Diet – A Natural Approach to ADHD and Other Related Disorders.”