I haven’t blogged in a while, but I haven’t been far away. In fact, the last two weeks have found me inundated in internet research on – of all things – additives, preservatives and artificial colors.

It all started the second day of our staycation, when we met with the school counselor to discuss Victoria’s standardized test scores (which were fine, BTW) and learned that they (the counselor and teachers) feel that Vic displays ADHD tendencies.

You can imagine my state of mind once that was brought to my attention!

I suppressed my truest thoughts and attitudes for the limited duration of the meeting, not wanting to be in denial if a problem truly existed, but utterly convinced that nothing good had come of this entire year in Second Grade, and now we had wrapped it all up nicely and tied it with a big black bow. Let me assure you, suppressing my words and thoughts did me no good in the end. I was in my doctor’s office within the week convinced I was relapsing with shingles. I should have just let it all out in the counselor’s office.

Those who know me best will vouch for the fact that I am pretty much anti-medication. Unless I understand that a condition will WORSEN without meds, I can summon the strength to do without them. So I was intrigued by the school counselor’s mention of changes in diet that can sometimes subdue these ADHD symptoms.

I must say at this point, denial or not, that I am not in the least little bit convinced that my child has ADHD. I have researched it to the point of going blind! However, I have known her to demonstrate some behaviors that stress teachers out if they don’t have a handle on who the adult is in the classroom, and I have since learned that these behaviors are indeed attributable in many cases to our foods.

My mom says I went overboard. If that’s true, then I’m still in the water. Instantly upon my research quest, I stumbled upon the dangers of preservatives and certified artificial colors. Did you know that the “certified artificial colors” in our foods (like Yellow 6, Blue 1, Red 40 and so on) can trigger hyperactivity much more so than sugar? And look at the reputation we’ve given poor defenseless sugar over the years. In fact, Victoria even informed me several times this year, “Mommy, I shouldn’t eat that dessert because sugar makes me hyper!” to which I would casually respond, “That’s a load of bull,” and serve her the cake. All joking aside, any hyperactivity she displayed was more likely the result of the certified artificial colors in snack foods. The neon Goldfish crackers, the strawberry-flavored milk, the fruit roll-ups. They are everywhere! And not only will they increase the hyperactivity, but they are made from petroleum, and often contain amounts of lead, mercury and arsenic that can alter our DNA. Of course, you say, consumption would have to be pretty significant, right? When you consider that these colors are in about 90% of kid-friendly snack foods, just based on what was in my pantry, then I’d have to say the consumption factor is more than met. If you do the research, these “colors” make High Fructose Corn Syrup look like an angel. As it turns out, HFCS is just hyped-up sugar, and will just make us fat faster. Duhhh.

Did you further know that Australia, Canada and the UK insist on higher quality ingredients in their foods? McDonald’s strawberry sundae syrup, for instance, gets its color from Red 40 in the United States. In the UK, McD’s makes the syrup with real strawberries – NO Red 40 – all because the country insists on it. I feel incredibly duped as an American, and I attribute this disappointment to the FDA. Makes me want even more to join Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution!!!

It took under an hour to rid my pantry of every food with suspect ingredients. We can now, for the first time in probably 8 years, see 75% of the back wall of our pantry – that’s how much food I evicted. The top shelf is practically empty. And I am in serious need of a trip to the grocery store.

Which is what leads me to my “highest level of pissed-ivity” against the FDA. I noticed in my reading that the FDA’s stance is always that “there are no studies which concretely confirm” all the harm that these ingredients can cause us. Nothing to substantiate, eh? I suppose it wouldn’t do any good to substantiate the claims against these products when it would take a fortune to turn our consumerism around, to make the foods with higher quality (and more costly) ingredients, or to – at the very least – RESEARCH the long-term effects of this crap. So basically, if you never test it, then you can’t be held accountable for the damage it has caused? Is that not a noticeable trend in our society? Pardon me, but I’m of the mindset that if it MIGHT hurt me, then it probably WILL, so why go there?!! It’s the same reason I don’t consume anything with saccharin. “Causes cancer in laboratory animals.” And you want to put it in my food?!!!

But then again, people still smoke despite the warning on the package. I get it. I understand the “it’s too big for me to fight by myself” attitude. I have felt that way too at times during the past two weeks. It feels monstrously overwhelming. Until I look at my kids – these little humans that are my responsibility for the next decade. I can’t feed them that stuff anymore. Not knowing what I know now. I have not gotten much support from other moms in my crusade against these ingredients. I’ve heard everything from, “Well, something’s going to kill us, we might as well eat and be happy,” to “Maybe I’m a bad mom, but I just don’t care what’s in the food.” O……M……G…… Does it have to be only at the suggestion of a medical malfunction that we will admit the benefit of determined change? Isn’t it then too late??

And then…

Getting ready to go to the grocery store, I decided to do further research last night on the naughty-list preservatives, since my research had been so focused on the food colorings. But lo and behold, when I started my search on BHT I was directed to preservatives in cosmetics. WHAAAAA????????!!!!!! Turns out, all the crap I’m trying to avoid in our food is in my makeup, my shampoo, body lotions, sunscreens, and on and on and on… Not only are there preservatives to worry about, but parabens, known carcinogens and chemicals known to cause reproductive problems and hormonal imbalances lurk in literally every kind of product we use. I wash my hair every day with a shampoo containing carcinogenic ingredients. I’ve used this shampoo for five years. My daily facial regimen is even under attack, as my beloved Mary Kay products contain these awful ingredients.

I have to wonder…. Since you can’t go two degrees of separation without finding someone affected by cancer, since the miscarriage rate is so high, since so many of our friends have had fertility issues, since kids are popping up everywhere with ADD and ADHD…can you do any of this research and not see a connection? We comment all the time that our ancestors didn’t have all the ailments we have today. Are our products and our dependency on them killing us, killing our dreams??

There is hope. And help. I found three beneficial information sites and I am grateful they exist: The Center for Science in the Public Interest, Paraben-Free Princess, and Skin Deep, the Cosmetics Safety Database.

No, I can’t possibly undertake the job of stripping my entire home of these harmful chemical ingredients…not all at once. Food is my first step. After that I can focus on one beauty product at a time, finding a suitable replacement until I have eliminated to the best of my ability the ingredients that I deem unsafe for my family and our future. And maybe I’ll have the beauty products under control by the time Vic starts wearing makeup.

If you have travelled this road already, let me know.  If you have information that disputes the ideas I have shared here, let me know that too.  I am on a quest for truth…

…for all of us.