How much thought do we put into the types of food we feed our children? More thought and attention may go into the clothes we wear. We look at clothing labels to see who made it, what the material is, and how to wash it. Yet we don’t always read the labels on the food we give our children. Foods kids eat can have a direct affect on their moods, their personalities and their ability to listen and learn; more so than you may think.
Children consume a tremendous amount of soda each year, or liquid candy, as it should be called. While the occasional soda wont harm them, it seems we may be unintentionally allowing soda to replace milk, water and natural fruit juices. Children and teenagers consume an average of sixty-four million gallons of soda each year. One food study done by the UDSA showed that every time a child decreases his/her milk consumption by one ounce they increased their soda intake by over four ounces.
We as a society have become so used to seeing soda everywhere; ads on public transportation, billboards, newspapers, and even in schools, that it has become the norm””and this norm is craziness. What seems to be forgotten is soda is full of caffeine. It stimulates the central nervous system; therefore, it is defined as a drug. Caffeine can interfere with a child’s sleep, cause anxiety, dizziness, and headaches. Caffeine is also addictive and may cause withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, temporary depression, irritability, and muscle aches if you suddenly stop consuming it.
When behavioral issues, let alone health issues, arise, we must first look at a child’s diet. Today our cupboards contain foods full of artificial colors, flavors, additives and preservatives. Before 1950 food was colored naturally by using other natural plants and vegetable based compounds. Beets were used if you wanted the color red, greens you got from chlorophyll, and yellows and orange were achieved through a number of other plants and spices. It was after World War II that the chemical industry grew at a rapid rate and now our food dyes are made with chemicals, such as petroleum, instead of natural ingredients. The color of your food has nothing to do with the flavor, so why is artificial coloring added to so many of the foods we eat. Could it be because we associate certain colors with certain flavors? When we see something red, we think of sweet, yellow makes us think of lemons, and so on. This great marketing ploy for the food industry is having a detrimental affect on some children. Numerous studies have shown conclusively that these dyes are causing immense emotional and behavioral problems in children.
We should be clear that sometimes behavioral issues can also be contributed to food allergies””even to healthy foods. Food allergies can cause severe mood swings; you may have an extremely happy child one moment and a roaring beast the next. Since not all allergy reactions result in hives, rashes, or swollen body parts, food allergies should not be ruled out if those symptoms aren’t present.
If you suspect your child’s behavior may be the result of food he eats, try the elimination diet. It excludes the allergens in your child’s diet that are most common and most likely to cause hyperactivity. These most common allergens are: artificial coloring, sugar, corn, wheat, eggs, grapes, apples, grains, cocoa, milk, preservatives, peanuts, peanut butter, food additives, banana, yeast, tomato, artificial flavoring, and oranges.
During the first week of the elimination diet, all the forbidden foods need to be excluded. Then introduce one food each day; eat a large amount and record any reactions. This is not a quick and easy solution to determine what foods are the causes of your child’s behavior problems. The elimination diet is just the starting point, and it can take months of careful dieting and record keeping, before all the questions are answered. (One thing that may be helpful is that the food you crave and eat the most, is the food you are most likely allergic to). Alternatively, a qualified nutritionist should be able to speedup this process through any one, of a variety of simpler tests.
The increase in ADD and ADHD over the last decade is the reason for the growing population of children being prescribed Ritalin. At one point it was rare to know someone taking it. Nowadays, its so normal for kids to be on it no one gives it a second thought. Instead of using drugs to control and mask behavioral issues, a change in diet should be tried first. Drugs can play a necessary and important role in a person’s life, but it should only be administered after all other avenues have been tried and failed.
Hashem created our bodies to withstand a great deal of abuse, but times are changing, and damage can be insidious. It is a commandment in the Torah to guard ones body. No more than ever, especially with our children we must be vigilant, because the rate of disease and emotional illness afflicting young people is simply scary.
Copyright © 2010 by D. Lieberman.