Just because you can, doesn't mean you should…

(This was originally published April 2010 on my old website.  I have done a couple of updates in it’s content.)

So, you’ve discovered you have the ability to do what?!?!

Okay, anyone who knows me really, really well knows it’s a bad idea to get me going on one of my hot topics. Well, food, or that stuff you walk around a grocery store and call food, just happens to be one of my really, really hot topics. So bare with me as I mash a few potatoes, cream a bit-o-corn, and can a few tomatoes.

Seriously though, do you know where your food comes from? About 10 years ago, my middle son was wacking out; literally, he would bang his head on the cement out of anger, frustration, you name it, and we didn’t know why…oh, and he wouldn’t cry. It was as if the child didn’t feel pain. He was a little over one year old, and we had a six year old, and a newborn, but what was going on with our one year old? We didn’t have a clue! We honestly did not think this was frustration with the newborn, from the day our middle child was born (seriously, he came into the world screaming red and I’ve got the pictures to prove it), was very, well…temperamental. Was something wrong? No, just off.

Well, as he began to be introduced to new foods, it seemed his temperamental tendencies increased, but it wasn’t until my husband’s cousin’s wife (say that 3times really fast…did you do it?), suggested it that we started to look at what our son was eating. They had just learned that their son was autistic, and they were learning about the relationship between food and autism. Yes folks, there is a link between the two. Anyhow, we didn’t think our son was autistic, but we began exploring and learned that he just fell onto the Ausberger spectrum. Thus began our adventure (or I should say my adventure, my husband grew up “organic”) in learning about food, or what I thought was food, and what wasn’t food, and what really was food, and….oh, never mind, I’m digressing. Read on…

My hubby’s cousin’s wife told me about a thing called Feingold. I was skeptical, and really not interested in spending nearly $80.00 on something that may not hold the answer we were looking for. Now, I must step back here, we had talked to our pediatrician and that went no where but one way…a serious disagreement as to what was normal behavior and what wasn’t. I already had one child, had been through the really funny one’s, the terrific (yes, you read that right, terrific) two’s, and the tumultuous three’s, not to mention the frightening four’s and famous five’s. Other than my oldest making it a point of doing strange things to get himself a free ride to the emergency room about once a year, he was for all intensive, and purely speculatively purposes, a normal child. Our middle child however,…his head banging scared me. So, back to Feingold, what did I have to lose? $80.00?! Which was more important? Well, that was a no-brainer. So, I bought the material and dove in with eyes wide open, mind wide open, and an exponential amount of hope. Then I discovered….the real ‘ouch’! I had to go out and buy all new foods…one’s without salicylates, without artificial colors and preservatives, without nitrates (bye-bye bacon!), and try to figure out what, if anything, was causing my son to behave this way.

After the detox period, we slowly began introducing “regular” foods back in, and WOW, it didn’t take long to figure out that he reacted to salicylates…or so we thought. For months, we had our son avoiding salicylates and things seemed to going smoothly, until…

He did what?!?! He hit our youngest with a golf club, a putter, in the head! Thank God the youngest was okay, but what on earth possessed our middle child to do that?!?! No salicylates, then what? We began the Feingold process all over again, we needed answers…and the answer would come a few months later in that seemingly innocuous additive in just about everything at the grocery store….artificial colors! Yes, you read that right, artificial colors cause my middle child to have random bouts of rage. No rhyme, no reason, just bang, he goes off.

Okay, I must digress again. I was not the greatest cook in the world. The running joke in our house was dinner was ready when the smoke alarm went off. To this day, I still do not have a smoke alarm in my kitchen. I’m a much better cook, but I detest those things, and they cause me to twitch. But to avoid salicylates and artificial color, one must learn how to cook…from scratch…no boxes…no mixes…no Betty Crocker!!

Now, avoiding salicylates, that was strange enough to family and friends, but avoid artificial color, well, I was dubbed the mean mommy, not letting my kids have the latest blue drink, or green candy. Oh, and Easter….well, the money bunny came to our house, not the candy bunny.

Over time, as people would give our middle son something and then having us flip out as we dealt with the consequences, they would stop. Now, ten years later, our son does great, he doesn’t react to artificial colors the way he did instantly, but now if he has a bag of M&M’s he gets super goofy, but if too much more is added then he’ll begin getting testy. He doesn’t like himself when he eats something with artificial colors in it, and he knows when he has sometimes even before we do and begins drinking even more water than he already does. And it turned out, that it wasn’t so much the salicylates, as it was the pesticides that are sprayed on just about every single fruit or vegetable. Today, he enjoys his apples, pears, and blueberries just like anyone else, but he’s learned to wash his fruits very well first, and he loves the apple orchard in the fall when he gets to just grab an apple and eat it…pesticide free.

It’s been a journey, and everyday we have to watch because not everything is labeled as yellow #5, red #3, or blue, sometimes it’s just artificial color, or natural flavoring. Yes, natural flavoring sometimes has artificial colors added. Sometimes, things are not labeled at all that they contain artificial colors, it may just say natural and artificial flavors added, or the most recent adventure has been with cheeses.

So, all of this to get back to my initial question, or statement, “so, you’ve discovered you have the ability to do what?!” Just because we can doesn’t mean we should. Just because we can make rainbow colored anything, does not mean that we should. Sure, it looks cool and makes your tongue turn the same color, but should we? We all have the ability to jump off a bridge, but should we? Food is meant to nourish our bodies, and I will never dispute that some foods just downright nourish the soul, such as homemade bread, fresh from the oven with butter….okay, I’m drooling now. But seriously, whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables….these are examples of real food. No, I’m not telling you that you can’t enjoy chicken or that perfect steak you just bought for dinner tonight, but my point is this…just because we can add chemicals to our food and make them look neat-o, or “enhance” their flavor, or make them “last” longer, doesn’t mean we should. Our bodies were meant to process food….not some obscure chemical that you can’t pronounce.

If you want a really fun adventure into food, I’d suggest a few movies and a website for you: “Super Size Me”, “Food, Inc.”, “Food Matters”, “King Corn” and http://www.feingold.org/ Just be prepared…it will make you angry, and you will re-evaluate how and what you eat.

Be Blessed!

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