Saturday, July 14, 2012

You Are What You Eat

I've decided to do a series of blogs on the special needs of our children, in hopes it might help someone out. Here is our story about ADD and food sensitivities.
You Are What You Eat
About 7 years ago (Sheesh, has it been THAT long?!) I was homeschooling my precious number one son. And he was beginning to drive me absolutely bonkers. He very easily caught on to many things and was a cinch to teach to read, but could not focus, to save his life. I was used to scenarios like: asking him to go upstairs and get dressed, waiting 30 minutes, calling up after him, only to have him still not dressed coming down the stairs sincerely asking "What was it you wanted again Mom?" On things like Handwriting and Math, he would sit there for hours, sometimes tracing over the same letter or number, repeatedly. "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!!" I would ask, exasperated. I had no way of knowing he was struggling with ADD symptoms.

I did know, something wasn't right, and I asked for advice from my homeschool support group, and got it. There were alot of "Oh he's just being a boy!" and "you are probably doing too much." (which was partially true) but I knew there was something more to it. Then one mom responded to me, and got my attention. She said she could totally relate, but that she had been using a nutritional program for her son, that had totally changed their life. It was called Feingold. I went to their website and began consuming all the information they had available. I ordered my books, joined the online support group (which is a MUST if you do it) and began purging our pantry of preservative packed goodies, and most prepackaged food. There's alot more to it than that, you have to consider everything that makes contact with the senses, food, cleaners, soaps, fragrances, even markers. It is definitely an overhaul. With their guidelines and support however, it was doable.

I was told it would take a while for it to take effect, sometimes even a couple of months. I remember vividly the morning I saw a difference. I sent him upstairs to brush his teeth. 5 minutes later he was running back down the stairs. I looked incredulously at him. "What are you doing?" "I brushed my teeth." He said very matter-of-factly. He left the room. I turned towards the counter to brace myself, stood there dumbfounded, and even teared up a little. I couldn't believe it. I continued to see improvement in his ability to concentrate, all day school days until 5:00 p.m. began to shrink back to half days (sounds more normal for Kindergarten right?).

The other side of this is my 5 yr. old son whom we now know, has SPD.  At first, we didn't put all the kids on this diet, just my oldest. But somehow I knew, it was necessary. I had read in Feingold materials that the sensitivity in one child was most likely to show up in others as it was genetic. My now 5 yr. old, "The Little Guy" is difficult to deal with sometimes. Because of his issues, he is very physical with things and people. This is nothing, however, compared to how he acted before we put him on Feingold. As much as I love him, he was just mean and unpleasant, most of the time. He would grunt at everyone, pout about everything, and didn't seem to be happy. One day, he was eating a cookie. It had red sprinkles all over it and they were getting on his face. (I now know, red sprinkles=red dye=red 40=big trouble) I noticed he had red splotches on his face where the red sprinkles were. I pointed this out to my husband and he replied, "You want everyone to go on it, don't you." So we decided to make it a family affair.

Another aspect of Feingold, besides the artificial dyes, flavors, and preservatives, is something called salicylates. There are actually naturally occuring salicylates in some fruits, vegetables, spices, and nuts. You have to determine which ones your child is sensitive to. I have discovered that some of my children can handle more salycilates than others. The 2 boys mentioned above are pretty sensitive. My two girls, not as much but sensitivity is still there.

It is not a complete answer to your problems. There were some on the Feingold Message Board that chose to follow the program AND use ADD meds. After reading about side effects of ADD medications though, I just felt it wasn't for us. This was another option for me.

My oldest can still be spacey, but not NEARLY as bad as it was before. My 5 year old can still be very difficult, but I think it is easy for us to forget how different he was before Feingold. One of the first things my mom noticed about him after we started the diet was "It's like he has a different personality, he smiles alot now."

We don't follow it as closely as we did in the beginning, you can start to take risks here and there after you see what your child can handle. But it has taught me as a mother, that it does indeed matter what your child puts in his mouth.   

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