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How Food Dyes Almost Ruined Our Lives

My story on how food dyes almost ruined our lives. And how I fixed the problem. Plus, how to make natural food dyes.

A few years ago, I wrote an article about how I felt like I was failing as a mother. Although these days were the norm in our house. I was tired, worn out and emotionally a mess. So was my daughter.

You see for a good part of her 4 years on this planet, she didn’t sleep. If she was sleeping, she was attached to me in our bed. It was never a peaceful sleep. It included kicking, flailing, screaming, night terrors, hallucinations and more. It was scary.

Our pediatrician recommended her to a sleep clinic to do a sleep study twice. Our insurance did not cover the costs. Deep inside I knew there was nothing medically wrong with her.

But what WAS wrong?

On top of not sleeping, we spent most of the day bouncing off of the walls. I would tell her to calm down. She would tell me she just couldn’t.

How could she not?!

The hyperactivity, followed by the extreme emotional fall out was mind blowing.

Someone recommended I look at my daughter’s diet and what was in the food she was eating. Thinking back, our roughest time at that moment came after a birthday party that included a Tie-Dye themed cake with rainbow frosting.

rainbow cupcake

Ingredients in the cake included:

FD & C Blue No. 1 & 2
FD & C Red No. 40,
FD & C Yellow No. 5 & 6

In short, FOOD DYE.

Made sense. Being how these ingredients are banned in different the majority of the world, except the United States there had to be some validation.

In case you didn’t know, food coloring is basically chemicals that have been added to your food to add or enhance color.

Day 1, was full of tantrums over getting used to not being able to have the lollipops we used as rewards, the cotton candy flavored ice cream she liked, the Eggo waffles she ate for breakfast. 

That night, she said “good night mommy” and was fast asleep in her own bed. Read that again. HER. OWN. BED.

Day 2 was calmer. It wasn’t like living with the Tasmanian devil.

People have asked me, how long did it take for you to notice a difference. Immediately. It was noticeable by everyone, friends and family immediately.

My husband wasn’t a believer at first. Until he filled our grocery cart with food dye filled foods my daughter loved that she conned him into buying. Within 10 minutes she was completely hyperactive and he understood.

After a few days the whole family was on board, including my daughter who at just 4 years old declared she felt so good and her belly no longer hurt. You could imagine how that hit me when I realized that 1) She could NOT control the behavior and 2) That she had been living with a stomach ache this whole time.

I do my best not give her Food Dyes. But unfortunately, it’s very difficult. It isn’t just candy and sweets. Food dyes can be found in things like bread, frozen waffles, an assortment of baked goods and cake mixes, sauces, fruit cups, cold cuts, canned vegetables, soups, chewing gum, condiments like relish, mustard and ketchup, even in fish like salmon. Even in things like the over-the-counter fever medicines your doctor prescribes, vitamins, cold & flu tablets, Metamucil and cosmetics.

It’s hard when we are in situations like birthday parties, road trips, and honestly, times when I just forget. It’s the moments when I forget that are the hardest. I am unprepared for the fallout. The times I have to think back to what my daughter ate that caused the hyperactivity, followed by the emotional fallout.

The only way to usually remedy these situations are by sleeping it off.

It’s amazing to think our children’s doctors, the ones who should have their best interests in mind, never even think to bring this up to parents like myself who are at their wits end. Instead, ADHD medicines are shoved down their throats.

Food dyes are known to be carcinogens, they cause chromosome damage, tumors, allergies, asthma, and hives. In children, they cause behavior disorders, ADHD, hyperactivity and learning issues.

macarons on a plate

If you are looking for ideas for natural food dyes, be sure to read my natural food dye guide here where I share a ton of natural food dyes and recipes!

Share your experiences with Food Dye in the comments! I’d love to connect with you! 

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Monday 6th of June 2022

I have ADHD (Inattentive) and I have had horrible headaches and pains from this. American food hurts me and I have almost no other options since it is in almost everything and foods without it can be expensive. I have noticed the differences when I am able to avoid them, and there is just one correction I would make.

These food dyes do not cause ADHD, since ADHD/ADD is a neurological difference, not a disease. However, these dyes can make symptoms worse in people with ADHD/ADD and other neurodivergency, and they can cause ADHD-like symptoms in people without it. But nothing CAUSES ADHD. It’s just a different brain function, not an illness.

And, I want to be clear. Yes, people with ADHD, like me, struggle and are considered disabled in this modern world, but it is not because we have a disease. It is because our brains, the way they developed over time, and our form of neurodivergence, which is the minority compared to neurotypicals, doesn’t fit the bill of what society wants from people. We don’t fit the environment, and the environment doesn’t fit us, and that is something we have to, unfortunately, deal with and we cannot change to just not have a neurodivergent brain.

Other than that, great piece! I assume you don’t think of ADHD as a disease and perhaps it was a typo or uninformed choice of phrasing. Thank you for the information and experiences you shared.


Thursday 25th of November 2021

My daughter was taking tantrums from the age of 2-10. I was at my wits end and also felt like I was failing as a mother. I had one doctor tell me that I was the problem. I felt hopeless. One day a friend of mine said that she heard that red40 could cause aggressive behavior. I immediately eliminated it from her diet. Within a few days she was so much calmer. We also found that yellow and blue also cause similar behavior and headaches. I often think of all the kids that are being medicated for their behavior that may only need to adjust their diet. Why don’t pediatricians suggest that dyes may be the culprit? Anyway, There are some countries that ban red40. I wish companies would start to use a healthier alternative!


Friday 12th of February 2021

I know what you feel. I am 11 years ild and allergic to Red#40. Its hard I cant live like a normal kid. I cant buy food without having to check the ingredients. Half of my halloween candy goes to my brother. Even white frosting can have red#40. Its hard to live like this my old kindergarden teacher almost killed me twice. Which is why I changed schools. So yeah I know what you and your daughter have to go through.

momma lew

Saturday 13th of February 2021

I am sorry you are going through this. My daughter is now 10 and still suffers from food dyes. Thank you for opening up on my post about food dyes.


Friday 11th of September 2020

People should be aware that these same reactions to artifical colors happen with adults as well. Like ADD/ADHD, it is not always something that children outgrow. I'm 46 and discovered only 3 years ago that Red 40 has been the lifelong culprit of my rage episodes. The day we figured it out, I was so unreasonably angry that I'm pretty sure my head spun all the way around like I was possessed. The reason I'm commenting here is because kids can't express to you what it does to them, so please understand that they really cannot control what is happening. While I looked like a awful child/adult when dosed, I felt worse on the inside because I couldn't stop the reaction. I thought I was crazy and felt as if someone else had taken control and I could only watch the episodes happen. It's a very difficult thing to explain, but just be vigilant about removing any trace of the dyes and it will get so much better. I just wish I hadn't lost so many years being unaware of the food dye sensitivity.

I have found safe replacements for nearly all of my favorite foods and as long as I always read the ingredients and avoid food with unknown ingredients, I'm just fine.

The Potentially Harmful Effects of Artificial Food Colors in Ice Cream | Nature's Organic Ice Cream

Thursday 16th of July 2020

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