Thursday, January 28, 2010

Be your child's detective - the clues may be on your dinner plate

Be your children’s detective. They can’t do it on their own and they need your help.

I often get stuck in the trap when my kids are misbehaving or acting out in some way of thinking that they are just trying to torture me. It will get me all riled. Often, this leads to just exacerbating an already stressful situation. BUT, I have come to realize over the years that when one of them starts getting out of sorts in a seemingly irrational way, there is often rationality behind it. And it often starts with what they have or have not eaten.

It is here where my detective skills come in handy.

I start searching for clues.

For my son, clues include red hot ears, irritability over seemingly small things, irrationality, dark circles under his eyes, and moaning.

What I have learned is he really isn't trying to torture me, but instead he is actually having a physical reaction to something.

For my son, that something is often some artificial additive in food that sends him into a tail spin. We like to pretend that he will grow out of such sensitivities, but as time goes on, we have come to realize that he has a “smart body” that simply rejects these chemical additives that pose as foods. We test our theory every so often relaxing the rules of what he can eat. And, each test often lands on its face, with a miserable child and frustrated parents.

For example, we decided to get some ice cream the other day. No big deal, right? Wrong! I was in a hurry and did not go to Maple’s the organic ice cream shop in Portland. Instead, we went to a well known shop, but one that uses artificial additives in its ingredient list. He enjoyed the ice cream thoroughly, but what followed was not so enjoyable. He was trying to do a simple homework assignment and his brain literally locked up. This “A” student couldn’t draft a simple sentence and then he became increasingly frustrated, being brought to tears. Panic starting setting in. It actually became scary.

Having been through this before, I knew what was happening and I knew he needed my patience. I was reassuring him that he was having a reaction to something he ate and to cooperate with me as we tried to work through it. I gave him water and some digestive enzymes, and then I started loading him with a real meal: homemade chicken on the grill, salad, and rice. He started to calm. His look of relief was apparent. His eyes brightened. He said, “thank you, Mom, you know what I mean; thank you in many ways.” He got on with his homework, finished it with ease, and we both said, “this is it, no more experiments.” Only real food for him.

We had a similar reaction just a few weeks earlier, but that time, it was because of a protein low. Again, my son became increasingly irrational over what seemed to be a very small issue. We were driving out of state so I could not bring him home. I stopped the car and called my husband in somewhat of a panic. He reminded me that our son had been going non stop with summer vacation trips and visitors at home and that we had not monitored his diet. Sure enough, he concluded that our son had not had sufficient protein in his diet for several days. We stopped in a real restaurant (no fast food for this family), got him a burger with a salad, and as he was eating, the panic started to fade. His body was no longer deprived. He looked at me and said “Mom, can we just forget this happened.”

For the rest of the trip, he was well fed and a charm.

It is easy in this world of fast food and boxed meals to forgot that our kids need real nourishment, not just convenience. Next time your kid acts up, do a little detective work, you just might find the answer on your dinner plate.

For a good source on the connection between diet and behavior, check out the Feingold Association website


  1. Oh my word! You are describing my daughter. I knew she was sensitive to certain foods and additives but now wondering if I literally removed them all what kind of child she could be.
    I can't wait to read more of your blog. Thank you.

  2. You should check out the Feingold Association on the connection between diet and behavior You can also check out our website for more information on our experiences with diet change

  3. I posted something before...I am really noticing more signs with my daughter. I have checked out the Feingold Assoc and am trying to incorporiate it more in our diets. I was wondering what is the best food option/s to choose when I can tell my daughter is acting 'wild, over emotional, non-compliant'?

  4. Hello B Breck,

    This is what we did. I can't say it will work for everyone, but I know that some things simply shouldn't be in the human diet.

    We removed common wheat (triticum aestivum)from our son's diet and replaced it with the ancient grain spelt (triticum spelta). Although the FDA require spelt to be labeled as wheat, it is definitely a different grain. Wheat made my son sick, Spelt made him well. We hear stories like this all of the time. Spelt is not gluten free, but the gluten breaks down more easily than the gluten in common wheat. Some people can handle regular wheat, but many people are finding that when they remove it from their diets, so many unexplained ailments (sore joints, headaches, stomach aches, skin issues) go away.

    We use other grains as well for substitutes - brown rice pasta, quinoa in soups, buckwheat in baking (mixed with spelt), and we are going to start experimenting with millet, amaranth and other ancient grains.

    2) We removed all highly processed and artificial ingredients. Here's a list:

    *high fructose corn syrup (makes my son hyperactive)
    *artificial colors and flavors, watch out for vanillin (it's fake vanilla in most chocolate products and its made from byproducts of the paper industry)(he gets red hot ears and very irritable when he eats these ingredients)
    artificial preservatives, look out for BHA, BHT, TBHQ, sodium benzoate, sodium nitrate, sodium nitrite....If you can't read it, don't eat it.
    *Hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils=close cousin of plastic, not meant to be eaten, reeks havoc on the digestive and vascular systems
    *MSG and MSG clones like hydrolyzed yeast protein.
    It depends upon where you live in the country if you are able to access foods without these ingredients pretty readily.

    Go to the Feingold Association website for more information on additives. Also, please check out our website for more information

    It takes time; results don't happen overnight, but they will over time. Stick to it!

    Hope this helps. Stay in touch