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Jonesin’ for Blue Sugar


We first wondered if Edward might have some food sensitivities after he ate a large piece of black forest cake at my inlaws and proceeded to bounce from carefully upholstered couch to silk-swathed chair like a ping-pong ball, his mouth bedecked with a cherry red ‘frostache.’

He was three.

Three-year-old boys being what they are, which is patently crazy, I didn’t think too much about it, but did decide to cut out all extraneous food dyes and flavorings.  (It’s also pretty easy to limit what a three-year-old consumes.)

During Pre-K, Edward spent most of the time busily studying the world map or reading books about black holes in the corner, but he would emerge occasionally into the Pre-K world with a promise of some sugary treat like Nerds or Starburst.  If offered a Tootsie Roll pop, he would slash a few marks on a “Letter A” coloring sheet or lacklusterly trace his name.  His teacher started to notice, however, that a few minutes after he consumed the sweet, he would begin to fret and jump and generally become increasingly hyperactive.

We found some alternatives, armed the school with those, and went on our way.  Of course that didn’t stop Edward from approaching perfect strangers at the grocery to warn them about food additives: “Did you know that product has Blue Lake #5 and Yellow Lake  #3?  They can make you hyper.”

Yes, they can.

A year later, we would embark upon the Gluten-Free/Casein-Free diet, but that is a whole other story for a different post.

What got me thinking about food sensitivities lately is how many people I meet don’t seem to realize that they exist, and that they can absolutely wreck a child’s behavior.  Since we are trying another run at public school, I decided to volunteer to help teach the after-school clubs.

Initially Edward planned to sign up for archery, and I found that a troubling and frightening combination.  Arrows, targets, Edward–it just seemed like a recipe for disaster and/or the wounding of others.

I was elated when a mother/physical therapist with a child on the spectrum decided to teach a Gross Motor Skills class. I figured after three years of sitting in on occupational therapy sessions, I qualified to be some sort of assistant, so I told her I would help.

She showed up the first day with a plethora of fabulous activities–scooter boards, bubbles, giant bouncy balls–you  name it and she had a van filled with it.

Yet she also spilled out a bag stuffed with the most gloriously colorful candies and treats that I have seen outside of Wonka.

(Edward, poor, jaded soul that he is when it comes to food, looked at me wryly and, without too much grumbling, shuffled over to the table to partake dutifully in his gluten-free pretzels and apple juice.)

One little girl, however, immediately seized a fistful of blue Sour Patch Kids and began stuffing them in her mouth with gleeful abandon.

I was sort of shocked.  I knew this child fairly well because she takes sensory breaks with Edward, and I knew her to be an exceedingly smart and relatively calm child.  I mean she is a MODEL for Edward during the school day.  But this child saw blue sugar and she could not stop.

She crammed “kid after kid” in her mouth until we feared she might choke.   Three minutes later, her face turned bright red and she began running up and down the hall, screaming and shrilling.  I had to run as fast as I could (which is not all that fast) to even hope to catch her, and when I did, she flailed and dodged me.  She was inconsolable–screaming for more candy at one moment and writhing in the floor the next.

The aide who was helping us with the group was baffled because she worked with this charming little girl on a daily basis and had never seen her react this way.  I went on to ask if it might be the food coloring in the candy, and after some interesting discussions on food sensitivities, we all agreed it must be.

So the next week, I bought a bag of vegetable dye gummy bears from Whole Foods and some pretzels for the snack.  This sweet girl entered the class, locked eyes with me, and demanded, “Where’s the blue stuff?  I need that blue candy!  Please!”  She whined and fussed for a minute, but contented herself with the gummy bears even though she sourly assured me they were not as tasty as the blue variety.

So later that week the mother/physical therapist teaching the club told me that she asked this little girl’s mother if she was sensitive or allergic to any foods.  The mother said she ate everything and they had never noticed any problems with foods.  The club teacher continued to tell the mother about the child’s reaction to the candy, and the mother was dumbfounded.

Another mother I met during a Sensory Connections parent support group was telling the group about her undiagnosed five-year-old whose Pre-K teacher was requesting she leave artificially colored and flavored foods out of his lunch to see if that helped with his behavior.  This mother had never heard of food additives affecting behavior but after we went around the group and told our various stories, she decided to try eliminating them.  We’ll hear at next month’s group how it went.

And then of course there is my dear friend whose son’s ADD was effectively cured by a regime of fish oil and eliminating red dye.

Would that it could always be that simple…

Anyway, if anyone else has a food sensitivity story they’d like to share, discuss it here, or write a blog post and I’ll be happy to link to it.

I’ll try to write something funny for tomorrow!

Posted on 10 March '10 by , under Autism Spectrum/Sensory Processing, GF/CF Diet/Food Reviews.

8 Comments to “Jonesin’ for Blue Sugar”

#1 Posted by Tari (10.03.10 at 17:32 )

I was shocked when the boys were in OT that the therapist rewarded everyone with Nerds, swizzle sticks, you name it. If it was sickeningly sweet and had artificial color in it, it was on her list. It seemed logical to me that you don’t give kids with “issues” candy with more sugar per ounce than, well, sugar itself (and of course the dye thing is a whole ‘nother problem) but she thought all that stuff was just super-duper. Odd.

Alternatively, my neighbor’s mom (now about 80) taught pre-school for 30+ years and her classroom was always a “dye and sugar free zone”. She’s always been convinced she saved herself and her students a lot of trouble that way.

I guess some people connect the dots and some don’t …
.-= Tari´s last blog ..Math for Mondays =-.

#2 Posted by kim (10.03.10 at 18:04 )

I totally agree – the sugars and dyes do make a diference and we do not allow it in our house
The boys know I have to go through the candy they get from school or parties before they can eat it 🙂
.-= kim´s last blog ..Before and After =-.

#3 Posted by Rachel (11.03.10 at 13:45 )

YES, I’ve noticed this! My daughter goes CRAZY hyper after eating certain foods, especially Fruit Loops (which I no longer buy because of how hyper she is after eating them).
.-= Rachel´s last blog ..Is It Ever "Right" To Have An Affair? =-.

#4 Posted by Mom of Many (12.03.10 at 13:20 )

I have heard lots of negative things about the dyes in food! I’m fortunate in that we haven’t experienced any problems YET. This was an incredible post!! Thank you for stopping by my place today and for the comment you left. It means alot to me!

#5 Posted by April (13.03.10 at 12:44 )

My kids have problems with artificial flavors and colors too. When my daughter was in the first grade the teacher wanted her diagnosed with ADD. We refused and started doing research. We found the Fiengold diet and started her on that. The results was a 95% improvement in her behavior at school. When my son has them he get extremely weepy and over emotional about every little thing.
.-= April´s last blog ..Small Animal Saturday =-.

#6 Posted by Patty (13.03.10 at 22:04 )

I have been getting migraines since about 2nd grade and my pediatrician put me on a stringent diet to see if it might be food-related. What we discovered (through trial and error, not a blood test, so we could be wrong) is that red dye seems to contribute to migraines for me. I don’t get them every time I have eaten the stuff, but every time I have a migraine, I can trace it back to red dye. I have tried eliminating it completely from my diet, but there are times I will eat it unknowingly, as in the case of chocolate Jello pudding and other treats.

So, since I am pretty sure I have problems with the dye, we have tried to get it out of the house. It’s hard though, because like that little girl, my kids act like heroin addicts when colored candy comes around.

I need to recommit to this though, so thanks for the thought-provoking post.
.-= Patty´s last blog ..sixth sense =-.

#7 Posted by Tito (02.10.15 at 13:21 )

Christi on I hate to be a bummer but if you read “Nourishing Traditions,” you’ll see how…Mary on Those look yummy! I will need to write this rciepe down. I am not…Janet on

#8 Posted by http://pilulesenligne.men/ (09.08.16 at 07:06 )

Gabe, good for you to have the heart to allow the sidestep if desired. Now I might have to visit your home page directly more often Then it is even more interesting to me. Why would they do this to Techmeme, but not others. Thanks for the quick comment. I’ll update the post.