Guest blog post author, Jane Hersey, National Director Feingold Association of the US
Jane Hersey joined us on March 8th for a live webinar. It has been archived here: https://youtu.be/yqIDUELoSlc
Empowering Parents to find Solutions
What is generally referred to as ADHD may be triggered by things as diverse as heavy metal exposure, allergies, a stressful environment, deficiencies in one or more nutrients, vision or sensory dysfunction, synthetic food additives, celiac disease, and lack of sleep, among others.
Although this list may appear to be daunting, identifying triggers is not as difficult as it may appear. An observant parent is often the best judge of what might be at the root of a child’s behavior, learning or health problems, and our volunteer organization provides a systematic approach to help them zero in on the most likely culprits.
This begins with the steps that are both the simplest and most likely to bring improvement; what’s more, they are things a parent can do on her own at a low cost. If the child’s symptoms diminish then it will become increasingly clear what deficits remain, what additional steps to take, or which professionals might be best able to help the child reach a new level.
An easy first step is to make some changes in your grocery list, buying foods that do not contain things like synthetic dyes or artificial flavors. Supermarkets have a huge array of products, both with and without these additives, and sometimes both the “good” ones and the “bad” ones are made by the same company!
Many of the food additives that have been shown to trigger learning and behavior problems are the same chemicals a growing number of health-conscious consumers are avoiding. There has recently been a great deal of media attention on the connection between food dyes and ADHD, as well as the harmful effects the additives can have on everyone. Synthetic dyes are derived from petroleum and are legally permitted to be contaminated with carcinogens like 4-aminoazobenzene, 4-aminobiphenyl, aniline, azobenzene, benzidine, and 1, 3, diphenyltriazene, as well as the more familiar arsenic, lead and mercury.
Natural food dyes can be created from plants and minerals and do not carry the same risk of behavior, learning or health problems. They are now widely used in Europe so the child who eats a bag of Skittles in England is not being exposed to the harmful petro-chemicals that are being consumed by the child in the US who eats them.
Why would companies like Kraft, Mars, General Mills, Kellogg and McDonald’s offer natural versions in Europe and still use synthetic ingredients in the US? Because they are cheaper than natural additives, enabling the mega-companies to increase their profits. But, unlike the U.S. authorities, the governments in Europe know these chemicals have harmful effects, especially on children, and have passed legislation restricting their use.
Happily, the consumer has the last word, and as a growing number of parents refuse to buy inferior products and Big Food sees their sales decline, they are finally removing some of the most offensive chemicals. The non-profit Feingold Association researches brand name foods to identify those that are free of the worst of the additives, so the consumer does not have to try to decipher ingredient labels or figure out where the company has hidden undesirable additives. See www.feingold.org for information.