Thursday, September 8, 2011

Down the Feingold Hole

I'm chasing a white rabbit researching foods in the hopes it solves my son's behavior issues.

It isn't anything major. He just seems destined for an ADHD diagnosis but something about that seems a little off. I've wondered if he's on the autism spectrum despite the fact that his pediatrician assures me he's too verbal and affectionate for me to be looking for an autism diagnosis. When it is just me and the kiddo, everything seems normal — because he is my normal, even when he's repeating the same phrase over and over or I'm once again looking up the signs of Oppositional Defiance Disorder. When I see him around his K-4 peers, I realize it just seems harder for him to do what is expected of him. On some days. Other days, he's status quo. He's bright. It is just the concentration and ability to cooperate are missing sometimes. We were considering testing for who knows what, but I decided to look a little more closely at the Feingold diet before we go down that road.

I looked into the diet a little in January when Jenn the Greenmom wrote "Food to Dye For." At the time, I dismissed the idea. We buy mostly organic and I've been aware of behavior problems caused by food dyes for some time, so we eliminated them long ago. I couldn't conceive of eliminating salicylates when the child loves apples and he's so picky that I can't get him to eat many fruits and vegetables.

But when the kid had a meltdown the second day of preschool — and coincidentally the day after we ate a restaurant with seemingly healthy choices — I had to consider the diet. (If this is the ticket to my son's issues, I'll be forever grateful to Jenn for the post and Marcia's note about the Feingold Association in the comments.)

In the meantime, I'm fascinated by the examples of children helped by the diet in the packet I received in the mail and in the book Why Can't My Child Behave? And there are examples of artwork or handwriting by children on and off the diet. There are days by just-turned-5-years-old son colors beautifully in the lines and other days where he scribbles madly. Could it really be that preservatives or apple juice addle his brain?

His behavior is dramatically affected by red dye. He definitely can't have have candies, tattoos, anything with red dye. But apples and grapes? This is really tough for me to swallow. And a six-week elimination diet to see if it makes a difference seems daunting.

Have any of you tried the Feingold program? What was your experience?

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to cross-referencing my grocery list...


Jenn said...

Only asking just in case you haven't looked in this direction, but have you looked at all into Sensory Processing Disorder, or SPD? That some children have difficulty regulating certain types of sensory input and processing them through the brain?

As long as you're researching anyway. :-) Try the SPD Blogger Network for really good resources--

My own quiet little SPD blog, barely posted on any more, is here:

No one really knows what it is, or how it works, and it's so different in every child, and the diet thing layered on top of everything else just complicates getting any kind of answer. But it's something to consider, given the dramatic back-and-forth you seem to be experiencing; sounds a lot like my daughter, actually.

SustainaMom said...

Jenn, We do have to deal with sensory issues, too. His biggest issue is food textures, which makes him extremely picky and will complicate any diet changes. We did occupational therapy for the feeding issue for a while, but even the therapist suggested we take a break because he became so contradictory that it was not productive. I implemented what she taught me and we have made progress at home.

Other sensory issues are much better. When he started school two years ago, he was terrified of fingerpaint and play-doh, which he now loves (but which I've just learned could be causing problems because of dyes) and he could not stand to keep his shoes on. Last year, he was obviously overwhelmed by music class early in the year, but he enjoyed it by the end of the year. He's come so far, but there still seems to be something amiss. He's definitely sensory seeking, which makes it hard for him to sit still, but when he gets in his contrary moods, it just feels like there is some trigger I am missing.

I realize it could be external factors related to SPD that trigger his behavior: smells in the classroom, sounds, etc. At his birthday party earlier this week, he got really upset because he didn't like the smell of pizza (which his friends were eating). This was a huge breakthrough b/c it was the first time I can remember him telling me why he was getting so upset. Sometimes I can guess and other times, it is a mystery.

But it drives teachers crazy that he's great one day and all over the place the next. I'm desperate to find the trigger, and the coloring/handwriting examples on the Feingold site were so eye-opening for me that I thought this diet is worth a try.

However, I do appreciate the SPD links. I've always tended to read SPD info (mostly books) from the perspective of solving his feeding issue and I need to do a better job of looking at all of the possible SPD issues. Thank you for sharing.

By the way, in reference to the last post at your blog, I think sharing the story is important, whether you blog anonymously or under your own name. The people who are looking for information will be grateful for the help. (I know I was grateful for SPD/feeding issue blogs!) I also realize a need to respect a spouse's wishes for privacy. I think for me, the most important question would be whether it benefits my child to have others know of her challenges. I tell people all the time about my son's sensory issues because I want some understanding for his hyperactive behavior and for my parenting decisions. I want my family to know that he has trouble eating in big family situations because he is overwhelmed by all the people and the foods that scare him. So it is okay that he gets a little loud and hyper and I'm not a bad parent for letting him leave the table early, without eating much or for not punishing him when he outright refuses to eat.

It is never easy, is it?

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

We've already talked about my own failed attempts to help my son's behavioral problems by trying an elimination diet, but I will add that the older he gets, the better he gets. For a long time, I debated whether or not to get him tested and diagnosed, and now I'm glad I didn't because he has grown out of many of the problems he used to have. I think he'll always have some anxiety issues, but for the most part, his aggression is under control and I think he'll continue to improve as he gets older. (Ironically, as I'm typing this, he just blew up at me, so there's definitely still more we can do!)

On the other hand, I know several people who got their children diagnosed, and it was a huge breakthrough for them - mainly because they were able to get support from other parents and teachers.

I'm interested to hear how the feingold diet works for you. Hope you'll update us!

Betsy (Eco-Novice) said...

I first read about the Feingold diet when I wrote a post about artificial colors. I have no experience with it personally, but I know it would be hard for me to eliminate grapes and apples, esp. now that both are in season where I am! And esp. with a child who is already a picky eater. Good luck with whatever you try -- it sounds very frustrating for your son and your family.

Anonymous said...

I'm not familiar with the Feingold diet, but my parents did take me to a dietitian when I was a kid. Along with the usual preservatives and colourings, we found that certain apples and most milk products triggered my hyperactivity... so the idea doesn't sound too far fetched to me. Taking them out of my diet made a HUGE difference, and I eventually grew out of the intolerances.

Best of luck with your research; I hope everything works out for your family soon.


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