The Feingold Program for ADHD - Our Story

Feingold Program for ADHD

The Feingold Program for ADHD - Our Story

I feel like I’ve gotten away from one of my original focuses for this blog, which is talking about ADHD, and eating dye-free and organics has made such a change in our life. I don’t know if I ever completely told my story about how it all began, so here it is.

When we went dye-free in 2009, I was at my wit’s end with my son. We were staring down a brand new diagnosis of ADHD and ODD (oppositional defiant disorder). My husband was deployed, and we were riding the ADHD medication roller coaster, playing games with dosages, rebounding, it was terrible. He was a mess, I was a mess… I don’t know which of us cried more. It wasn’t a way I wanted to live, and it certainly wasn’t the little boy I knew and loved. What I had always chalked up to being a “spirited child” was spiraling out of control.

When I originally heard about the Feingold Diet for ADHD, I was a bit skeptical. I mean, I was a total Mountain Dew addict (which is another post altogether on the subject of managing adult ADHD) and I never had any kind of behavioral problems because of it. However, we didn’t have anything to lose. I ordered the package from them (which I believe at the time was around $75) and waited.

It was a little bit overwhelming to begin with, because you’re hit with SO much information. Feingold encompasses cutting out a few other things besides just the dyes as an elimination process. While I didn’t notice any kind of reaction from the other things, the dye-free difference was noticeable almost the first day. I was waiting for the other shoe to drop, and it never did. My family wasn’t completely on board to begin with, but when they saw the difference they hopped right on the bandwagon.Feingold Program for ADHD

There were no more meltdowns, no more inconsolable crying fits, no unreasonable demands or tantrums. Slowly, he became the lovable (yet energetic, that has NEVER changed) child I knew he could be. His ODD diagnosis was dropped by his therapist. He graduated from therapy altogether because she didn’t see a need to see him anymore now that he was in control of himself. I have to say, I was smug with self-satisfaction that day, because she felt his “problems” were psychological and just couldn’t believe it could be diet related.

Over the years we’ve had some slip-ups, some members of the extended family who didn’t follow the diet, some goofs on my part when exhausted and not reading ingredients. We have found that even different colors cause different reactions in him - the reds turn him into an unreasonable maniac, and the yellows turn him into a sobbing mess. Blues don’t seem to effect him, but to be less confusing we make sure everyone knows it’s NO DYES at all. When we inquire about food ingredients in restaurants or functions, it’s just easier to explain it as an allergy than an intolerance. People hear “allergy” and want to cooperate, “intolerance” — not so much.

My son doesn’t have a problem with the diet. He has learned to instinctively read labels when I’m not with him. He doesn’t feel deprived, because much like a celiac will suffer from an unintentional “glutening” — he knows he’ll be very unhappy with an accidental ingestion of a dye. Even my youngest could pinpoint color numbers on an ingredient label before he could write his own name. We all keep our eyes open, but it really becomes second nature. Food companies have come SUCH a long way in the past few years, which makes it SO much easier. The kids automatically know when a food is labeled organic, they don’t even have to read the fine print.

I’ve spoken to people through this who have children with ADHD, ODD, Autism, or are “on the spectrum” and many have found success with this program as well. I have also spoken to people who refuse to take away their kids brightly colored food goodies to even attempt it. That bums me out, because I feel so strongly about the correlation between diet and behavior - and some people are just so closed-minded about even trying it. On the flip side, I probably would have thought the same thing had I not been at my complete wits end with my son. Maybe it just takes people hitting behavioral rock bottom to be willing to take away the brightly colored foods and see what happens.

He is still on his stimulant medication, but that is more for his focusing, where the dye issues are behavior. For us, it’s a total package that works. I know there are people out there who have found total success and have eliminated the medication - but that doesn’t work for us. It all depends on the child.

So, that’s our story. We are happier and healthier with our organic, dye-free life. You can find more information at the Feingold Diet Program for ADHD (I am in no way, shape, or form connected with them, just a happy mama for knowing about it.)

Knowledge is Power: ADHD Parenting with ADHD Kids

Knowledge is Power: ADHD Parenting with ADHD Kids

A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer. -Bruce Lee

When I was growing up, my dad always sprinkled all kinds of advice on me. One of my favorites was when he would tell me that I’d need to obtain a “personal financial statement” from any guy I was interested in dating. While financial security is always a good thing, I don’t think I ever actually used that particular gem. Also, “leave the gun, take the cannoli.” Although, now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure that’s a line from The Godfather.

I think the single most important advice my dad ever gave me was “knowledge is power.”

Now, I wasn’t really a great student. I was easily distracted, and bored by most of my classes even though I was with the AP/gifted kids. Math was torture for me, even with a tutor. I was finally diagnosed with ADHD when I was 30 years old, after my eldest son was diagnosed. Before his diagnosis, I would watch him struggle to pay attention and retain information. I knew what that felt like, to struggle to keep my eyes on a page I had no interest in reading. I also knew he was one smart cookie, sitting for hours developing his own levels in video games. It was like looking in a mirror.

After my initial “wait, what?” moment of diagnosis for myself, everything made sense. I don’t want to say I fell through the cracks, because my parents didn’t know. It wasn’t their fault. ADHD wasn’t as widely recognized as it is today. I recently found a copy of my IQ testing from 1987 (3rd grade) and could pinpoint all the comments that were red flags. One read, “she is very capable academically, but does not want to put forth the effort to succeed.” Mmmhmm. I see what you did there.

There are actually a few blessings that come with ADHD. One is the ability to block everything out and “hyperfocus” on something interesting or enjoyable. I spent hours poring over books, trying to learn about the best ways to teach my son (and ultimately myself). I learned to watch closely for indications that he was “zoning out” on me. I changed my thinking about his behavior, no longer finding it willful and obnoxious. I bend myself more to his quirks, because the outcome is awesome. Without this knowledge, he could have ended up just another kid “not putting forth the effort to succeed.”  No, not in my house.

What is a piece of advice that you’re glad you received?

The War on Artificial Food Coloring

The War on Artificial Food Coloring

Recently, there was a segment on Doctor Oz which made me aware of a food blogger named Vani Hari who runs a blog called Food Babe. She, along with another North Carolina blogger named Lisa Leake (who runs the awesome blog 100 Days of Real Food) are taking Kraft Foods to task over their use of dyes in their products, such as their popular mac & cheese. Did you know food dye is banned in most European countries? Why does the United States think it’s ok to use them here?

Food dyes are man-made in a lab with chemicals derived from petroleum (a crude oil product, which also happens to be used in gasoline, diesel fuel, asphalt, and tar). Why is it okay for the FDA to put them in our food? The answer is, it’s not.

Our Story:

My son Ian is 9 years old, and was diagnosed ADHD in March of 2010. It was wonderful to finally have SOMETHING to label his inattentive behavior with. Once we knew what we were “fighting” we could do something about it to help him. We went through an insane time with finding the right medication for him. Ritalin was a train wreck, and made him physically aggressive to the point that I was afraid he was going to hurt himself or someone else. When we finally had him responding positively to Concerta, it was like a totally different little boy moved into my whirlwind. Don’t get me wrong, he’s still a high-energy goofball, but he can finally focus and learn - and he loves learning.

In my travels on the internet researching support groups and resources, I found the Feingold Diet in April 2010. After reading all of the positive comments I figured we didn’t have anything to lose. It would either work or it wouldn’t, and if it didn’t we wouldn’t be in any worse of a position than we already were. So, we ran with it.

The Feingold Diet eliminates food dyes and salicylates from the diet. I will be honest, it was completely overwhelming at first to have to read every single ingredient on every box, bottle or package that went into our shopping cart. However, I stuck with it, and the results were amazing.

It’s not so much what happened when we removed the food dye, so much as what happened when he accidentally ingested some weeks or months later. You can think I’m crazy if you want, but I have witnesses to the entire situation - including parents and grandparents who thought I was completely off my rocker suggesting food dyes were the problem. They’ve seen the angry out-of-control child he becomes when he accidentally gets Red 40. They’ve seen the teary-eyed puddle of emotional crash-and-burn when he got Yellow 6. These effects have not varied over the years. We don’t get too overwhelming a reaction with blues, but I don’t push the issue. Our household has been dye-free for 3 years, and it will stay that way.

I have always been somewhat vocal about my findings, but again, I think people put me in the catagory of Avon and Tupperware salespeople. As in, “yes, how lovely for you, stop talking about it.” I’m glad to see some other moms are bringing awareness to this. Please support them by signing their petition, following their blogs, and helping raise awareness of this health issue. This is our children we’re talking about.

What do you think about artificial dyes? Do you believe they cause behavioral and/or health issues?


Photo credit: Nomadic Lass / / CC BY-SA

10 Things I Need to Say About Parenting an ADHD Child

(This is a reprint from my original blog, but it’s still true and I think it bears repeating.)

1. Do not tell me “boys will be boys” because frankly, the only thing I want to respond with is “rapists will be rapists” or “serial killers will be serial killers.” Do not chalk my child’s issues up to being a certain sex. It’s as absurd as what I just said.

2. When you see me in the grocery store and my kid is running up and down aisles screaming like a lunatic, don’t assume I don’t care. The most likely scenario is that unless we went to the store RIGHT THEN we’d have nothing to eat - and not feeding your children ranks higher on the list of bad parenting moves than letting them run amok.

3. Don’t pity me - listen to me. Whether or not you understand everything I’m going through, just be there so I can vent and steam before my head pops off. Alternatively, if we have a GOOD day (read: the kind of day you probably have every day) please listen to that too. If you’re my friend, you need to understand how my life really works.

4. If I say it’s not a good time to talk, I’m not blowing you off. It’s entirely possible that my child is doing something which is endangering either himself or someone else at that exact moment.

5. Don’t tell me that “drugging” him will “turn him into a zombie” unless you have a PhD, and even then I would choose your words very carefully. If you want to test this statement out, head on down to the pediatric wing at the hospital and tell some of those parents that their kids really don’t need dialysis, they just need to try harder.

6. Don’t say this is a discipline problem and that I don’t know how to raise my kids. If you think you can do better I’ll drop him off at your house for a few days. Oh, and I won’t give him his meds either.

7. Whether or not you agree with our decision to remove artificial coloring, etc. from his diet - do not feed him that crap. Please do not say “how can one little (whatever) hurt?” If you do this, see #6 because I will be dropping him off at your place until he comes down off the “one little” you gave him.

8. Sometimes I just want to be left alone. It doesn’t mean I hate you, it doesn’t mean I want to be left alone forever. Sometimes dealing with the stuff going on in my house is just too overwhelming to deal with anything from outside the house. Don’t take it personally.

9. Please don’t tell me he “doesn’t seem like he has ADHD” because he can sit and play his Nintendo DS for four hours at a clip without moving. This is called hyper focusing, and it’s actually one of the gifts of being ADHD.

10. Do not assume he is exactly like every other ADHD child you may have encountered or heard/read about. He has strengths and weaknesses, talents, likes and dislikes just like everyone else.