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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.

The most common food dyes are Red 40, Blue 1 and Yellow 5. They are used in a wide variety of foods, including soft drinks, sports drinks, Kool-Aid, Jell-O, cake mixes, icings, yogurt, cereal and candy.

What Are Red Dye 40 Side Effects?

Red dye 40 is a common food dye that is known to cause a number of side effects, including asthma, hives, and hypersensitivity. While it is approved by the FDA for use in food, there are some concerns about its safety. Critics say that red dye 40 can be contaminated with cancer-causing chemicals and that it may also trigger behavioral problems in children.

Food Dye Detox

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.

How Long Does it Take for Food Dye to Leave Your System?

There’s no definitive answer to this question since it depends on a number of factors, including the type of food dye used, the amount consumed, and an individual’s own metabolism. In general, however, it is believed that food dyes are typically excreted from the body within 24-48 hours.

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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Wednesday 13th of December 2023

I'm wanting to start I wish I had started sooner I've had my son full time since Thanksgiving. I split 50/50 custody with my children's dad. My son has a lot of behavior issues and his dad blames me but the Dr. said he has ADHD. I really thank this will be great for him


Friday 1st of December 2023

We went through the same thing. Add to all of the symptoms our daughter gets hives. Blistering hives! Even on her face! The doctors had no clue. So a friend of mine who had a nutritional background suggested an elimination diet and it worked. I am so passed the point where people think I'm nuts, but my daughter is relieved that she has relief from all the symptoms. Food allergies are not something that can be played with. It means extra work in the kitchen but we are all healthier for the change because her dad and I decided to avoid food dyes as well.

I found your site mostly because my daughter (who is now 8yr) asked if there is a way to make Christmas tree cookies without food dyes and I did a search and landed here. Thank you for your time in researching this information. I praise the Lord for it!

momma lew

Friday 1st of December 2023

You're welcome! Did you see my post on natural food dyes?


Wednesday 11th of October 2023

I have reactions to yellow dye, both when I eat it and when i apply it to my skin ( shampoos and conditioner, skin lotions). When I eat it, my lips swell and chap within minutes. On my skin? My eyelids swell and blister, hives everywhere.

Amazingly, no dr could tell me to check this although I had been going to several for skin issues since I was a child. I had a really bad skin reaction one day and went through everything new I had used. Hair conditioner was the only thing and comparing ingredients, yellow dye was the only difference. So, I started reading labels on everything and it was stunning how many things contained dye. My home became an ingredient home for cooking, no prepackaged anything and I can find dye free for health and beauty aids like no one else.

And along with no more constant chapped lips I also no longer have migraines, eczema, or other rashes. I sleep better. My daughter and I both feel amazing and do everything we can without artificial food dyes. For example,we had a great time during Easter eggs with foods!!!


Monday 31st of July 2023

This completely matches our experience. Thank you. “Experts” don’t believe their eyes and ears, it has to be in a peer reviewed paper.


Thursday 20th of July 2023

I knew food dyes were bad but I had no idea I would see such a difference in my son’s behavior so quickly. I don’t usually give him food with dyes but my sister brought her kids over with candy and juices all containing blue 1, yellow 5, and red 40! I thought a little bit wouldn’t hurt surely…. Only a few hours later my son was having fits of anger and frustration screaming and tensing up his whole body- something I’d never seen him do before! He was so agitated! This occurred a few more times throughout the day. I hope it’s out of his system tomorrow and my baby is back to his happy self.