• Dr. Caroline Ricker

Dyeing for some candy? This might get you thinking twice about those brightly colored sweets!

Halloween has finally happened. The countless hours perfecting tiny costumes, tramping through damp leaves in the cold and wind. Covering said awesome costume with a coat because it’s too cold outside. Yelling “stay off the lawn” 300 times. Holding little hands, towing kids in wagons, everyone having the time of their lives.

Then you get home and it’s the big candy dump! I still remember getting to dump out that bag of candy every year, my eyes bugging out of my head at the sight of so many treats, trading with my siblings for stuff I didn’t like.

It’s such a fun holiday, and it’s hard to want to break any of that tradition; but as I became a parent myself I realized just how unhealthy this holiday can be. If you missed our post earlier this month of the sugary effects of Halloween you can read it here.

This week I’d like to talk about artificial food dyes. Use of these has increased 500% in the last 50 years! These food dyes are derived from petroleum and have been linked to quite a few health issues.

The biggest issue for parents around these food dyes is their connection to hyperactivity and disorders like ADHD. This connection was first noticed in the early 1970s but has since been supported by plenty of research.

With ADD and ADHD continually on the rise, it is more important than ever to be aware of what we are putting into our kiddo’s bodies and how it effects them. Considering the amount of distractions available through technology like tablets, phones, video games etc. our children are already at a disadvantage when it comes to concentration.

Imagine someone gave you a little dropper bottle and said “here, add a couple of drops of this to your kid’s lunch, it’ll make them really hyper for afternoon classes. If you give them a few more drops later, they’ll be crazy and crabby right before bed.” There is absolutely no way you’d sign up for that. Except that you do every time you give your little one something with food dyes!

Now not all children respond the same way to food dyes, so some may be less susceptible to the hyperactive effects, but that doesn’t make them better for their systems. And for the kids that are already struggling, either diagnosed with ADHD or somewhere on the borderline, we’re making it much more difficult for them to win the concentration battle.

I get that it’s really tough. These food dyes are in nearly everything! 90% of the dyes used in the US are Red 40, Yellow 5 and Yellow 6. The research has linked these dyes to hyperactivity, irritability, restlessness, depression and trouble sleeping. To make matters worse, a few of these artificial colors have also been linked to cancer formation.

OK, so before you go and burn your whole pantry down, let’s talk this through to make this as painless as possible.

While eventually eliminating as many sources of artificial food color/dye as you can for your family is a great idea, you don’t have to do it all at once. For parents of kiddos with hyperactivity/behavioral issues it will be more important to get rid of as many sources as possible more quickly. For others, it might be just paying more attention to the new purchases made in next week’s shopping. Swap out the brightly colored breakfast cereal for something without that number of dyes. Trade your fruit snacks out for something organically colored with natural colors.

But seriously, let’s get back to Halloween. SOOOO much artificial color going on here!! If you don’t want to be dealing with your children turning into parkour experts in your living room at 11pm and getting phone calls from school about their sudden issues with paying attention, then it might be a good idea to take some proactive measures.

1. Take away the candies with more colors –you can tell just visually where there are more food dye issues with the fruity candies over the chocolate ones. Simply cutting down the number of these particular candies they can have per day is a good way to at least limit the dye.

2. Try to time the consumption – a little candy time right after school or on weekends in the early afternoon will ensure that it has less effect on their schoolwork as well as bedtime by avoiding candy too close to these times. Giving a “few pieces” of dye laden fruit candy right before bed might just be the recipe for a long night.

3. Help their bodies detox – the mineral molybdenum can actually help break down some of the more problematic parts of the dyes so that they cause fewer behavioral issues. Check in with your local chiropractor or functional medicine doctor and ask them what the best way of getting this into your kiddos on days when there’s a lot of dye consumption like the week following Halloween and around Christmas/Birthdays.

I hope everyone enjoyed a safe and happy Halloween, and I also want parents to still like their kids in the weeks that follow! Once we know better, we can do better for our babes. It’s not about eliminating everything and making their lives miserable, but understanding that sometimes allowing too much indulgence will also make their lives miserable. You got this parents!

Dr. Caroline Ricker has been passionately helping people avoid unnecessary medications and surgeries since 2009. She combines a very logical functional medicine approach to digestive disorders and more using a more alternative holistic approach, utilizing standard lab tests and in-office evaluations as well as nutrition, acupuncture and homeopathy.

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