You think that there is something that is causing your child an allergic reaction, yet you can’t figure out what it is. He is able to eat nuts and peanuts; eggs don’t bother him, nor does wheat or shellfish. Even milk is agreeable to him. So what could it be? Did you ever consider that the dyes in food could be causing your child allergies? If not, you may want to think about this one.
According to this article, food dye allergies are not uncommon, but are usually undiagnosed, so only a small percentage is definitively allergic. However, many cases go undiagnosed. The most common dyes that cause allergies are reds and yellows (especially yellow #5). Think about all that your child eats, from popsicles to fruit punch, to candy to birthday cake frosting, even crackers and yogurt. It’s hard to steer clear of it, but it may be just what your child needs.
The symptoms of a food dye allergy can be just as severe as other food allergies, in extreme cases, anaphylaxis can occur. In other cases, symptoms can range from hives to eczema to runny nose and congestion. It can be immediate or take place several hours after ingestion, and just like other food allergies, all it needs sometimes is a very tiny quantity to produce symptoms.
Even ADHD like symptoms can result from a food dye allergy, especially to the red dye. Many parents of children diagnosed with ADHD have taken all food colorings out of their children’s diets and seen remarkable improvements in behavior. Studies have shown that there is a firm link between food dyes, allergies and ADHD like behavior (see Food Dye can cause Severe Allergic Reactions). I remember a boy in my daughter’s kindergarten class who had an allergy to red food dye. It was clear that when he ingested it, he exhibited ADHD like behaviors. This can be very difficult for children, as schools are prone to seek labeling and perhaps special services, when all they need is a modification in their diet.
If you suspect a food dye allergy, what should you do? Since it is difficult to test these allergies in traditional ways (i.e. a scratch or blood test), an elimination diet is a good idea. Take all foods with dyes out of your child’s diet and monitor how his symptoms behave. If there is a significant change, you may have found your culprit. If you don’t see a change (and be patient as well as diligent) there may be some other factor responsible.
The Feingold diet
The Feingold diet is based on the theory that certain foods and food additives should be eliminated from an individual’s diet to improve overall health and behavioral patterns as well as their learning abilities. Such effects of food additives can cause behavioral conditions such as ADD/ADHD, oppositional defiance disorders, as well as physical illnesses like Asthma.
Specifically, the Feingold diet starts by removing foods which contain synthetic dyes, artificial flavoring and common preservatives from the diet. Foods containing salicylate (natural plant chemical that helps it resist pests and diseases) found in common herbs, fruits, and in some drugs and personal care products. Food additives, flavor enhancers, and artificial colorings in particular have a neuotoxic effect on the human nervous system. Afterwards, each food will slowly be introduced into the diet to check for any reactions.
The place to get up to date and accurate information about the Feingold diet is from the Feingold Association, a parent support group that continues the work of Ben F. Feingold, MD http://www.feingold.org
As with any other allergy, if your child does have a food dye allergy, you will have to adhere to avoidance for best results and to maintain your safest measures. If reactions are severe (and even if they aren’t), you should obtain an Epipen from your doctor in case of emergency.