Removing colors from your family food routine is not an easy task, but one that needed to be done in our home. Sophia’s behavior was awful to say the least. We could not control her tantrums and outbursts. She would be happy one minute and upset another. These were not normal toddler tantrums these were so much more. It was as if she could not control her emotions and would have outbursts that were caused by something internal. She was also experiencing horrific night terrors. We were having these nightly and they were lasting weeks at a time. I will explain the night terrors in another blog post because they are something all on their own.
We dealt with Sophia’s behavior and tantrums like most parents would. We would discipline with time out and consequences. None of these things would work. At times Sophia’s rage would be so intense all we could do was just hold her in our arms until the screaming stopped. As parents we were scared. I talked with her doctor and tried to figure out what could be wrong. We searched for answers ranging from behavior to chemical to even PANDAS. Nothing seemed to fit what Sophia was going through. We started to look at ourselves as parents and took the blame. We felt we failed as parents and needed to do better.
We had a play date for the girls in October with crafts and treats. Sophia was so excited for the play date because all of her friends best were coming over. After eating dessert, a few cupcakes and cookies, Sophia’s behavior changed. She couldn’t control her emotions and was so misbehaved it ended the party. We were so embarrassed and it triggered a doctor visit the next day. The doctor told us it was rare but maybe strep was to blame. We were on board to move forward with testing and even a sleep study for the night terrors. As parents seeing what we saw the day before in front of friends and Sophia’s peers… we knew something needed to be done.
Move forward a month to Disney World. We were on vacation in the happiest place on earth during Christmas and Sophia was on a roller coaster of emotions. The thoughts of her being over tired went through my mind. It was not until after she ate cotton candy that it clicked. She was so happy, ate the blue sugar, and became a different person. I started to document these events.
When we got home from Disney it was officially Christmas time in our home. We got our tree and we started to decorate. My mom came over to make our annual Christmas cake. Sophia was eating marshmallows, sprinkles, and licking some green frosting. After decorating she had her worst meltdown ever. She could not control herself at all. She was crying and telling us she needed us to help her. My heart broke. It was so bad I could not even discipline. All I could do was hold her. I read the marshmallow bag and saw there was blue food dye. That night Sophia had another round of night terrors. We were up all night long. She was screaming, thrashing, crying for us as we were holding her. The night terror lasted from 10 till 3. I was helpless. I started to look up anything I could find on the internet and came across food dye allergy. I was shocked at how these parents stories were identical to ours. Sophia was allergic to food dye. The colors react in a chemical way in her brain and cause her to have behavior issues, feel sick, and have night terrors. It was that night that I said we are done. I will no longer feed our family colors. As I did more research I was shocked and disgusted to see what these colors really were. They are not allowed in other countries but given freely to our children and widely marketed in the U.S..
I woke up the next morning and cleared out the pantry, refrigerator, toothpaste, and everything else I could think of. We started with a clean slate. Within a few days Sophia’s uncontrollable tantrums were completely gone. Her night terrors were completely gone. Her anxiety started to improve. Her behavior is now night and day. When she has food dye by accident these behaviors come back instantly. It is scary to see. She is 5 and we do the best we can to avoid all triggers. At home we have zero food dye. We tell all family and friends there is no food dyes allowed. When she is at a birthday party she knows her limits and does the best she can to avoid the dyes. If she accidentally ingests them her behavior reflects this within thirty minutes.
We have found great products to keep her life as normal as possible. I bake goodies at home and offer to bring our own to parties. I will follow up with a blog post to include some of our favorite no- dye brands. Keeping our family happy and healthy is my number one priority.