Fish oils, vitamins and vegetables

Fish oils
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1.  Fish Oils        

Q. Is it possible that a fish oil supplement could have caused an increase in my three year old Aspergers son’s behaviour problems? It may purely coincidence but it appears that his behaviour seriously deteriorated (started waking at night, stopped using the toilet and was doing almost all his wees and poos in his pants, generally out of control behaviour such as hyper, loud, aggressive, hitting, yelling, squealing) when we started giving him the fish oil and it improved - or rather went back to what is was before the fish oil- a couple of days after we stopped giving it to him.


A. Fish oil is thought to benefit about 30 per cent of children with learning or behaviour problems. Others can be badly affected due to the presence of natural salicylates (in ingredients such as thyme oil, evening primrose oil and lemon or lime flavouring) and natural amines in fish oils. Failsafers have reported adverse reactions including behaviour problems, depression and migraines to a range of fish oil products. See below for reader reports regarding children's reactions. Some families do a fish oil challenge for a week or more while keeping a careful food and symptom dairy - at the end of the time, parents can review the diary and decide whether their child is better or worse.

[454] 'Wanted to warn others' about fish oil capsules (August 2006)

Previous to the diet, on the recommendation of our pediatrician we tried fish oil capsules for 4 weeks with good results for concentration. We stopped using the fish oil supplement when we started the diet as we wanted a clear reading of what it would do. (We were very much non believers at this stage). The difference on the diet was amazing and we did the diet very successfully for over three months. We were into our second challenge when I reintroduced the fish oil thinking nothing of it as it was recommended along with diet by the pediatrician. We never got back to where we started even after four weeks of strict diet. We came off it thinking it was possibly a one off and his body had adjusted to the diet. We have paid heavily for it, forgetting what life was like before the diet. My son is unhappy and we even began Ritalin trials feeling that we had exhausted all avenues. Then a friend who is also a failsafer was told by a doctor at the RPA Allergy Clinic that there is a problem with fish oil and I just wanted to warn others who may fall into the same trap. We have begun the diet again today and my son is happy to go back on it even though he knows it means no McDonald parties and fruit and pizza which are his favourites. Thank you for giving us another option, and this fabulous website which makes the daunting task much easier.

[440] "my son had an horrific reaction to fish oil " (August 2006)

I complained to the Adverse Medications Events hotline (thru your website) about the fact that the label on a particular brand of fish oil supplements says free of salicylates and amines and they were most sympathetic and helpful. They asked the Queensland Nutrition Council to investigate and discovered that not only does the lemon and lime flavouring contain salicylates and amines, but so does the tuna, and how high depends on whether the tuna is fresh or canned. As I told you, my son had an horrific adverse reaction to it, and was waking up through the night on it - in fact, he asked me if he could stop taking it. I tried lowering the dose to a teaspoon in the morning only (two teaspoons recommended morning and night), and it made no difference, so I stopped it. The AME spokesperson told me she had written to the company involved asking them to justify their claim. She also told me the product has been withdrawn in the United States, but she didn’t know why. I’m still investigating, but it would appear from my research that the US Federal Trade Commission ruled that the company made unjustifiable claims that it helped kids with ADD. Later the company was ordered not to make these claims without scientific evidence. (Complaints after January 2006 to the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).- father of a six year old

[439] "Migraines due to amines including fish oil" (August 2006)

My daughter has had migraines since she was about three years old. We had no idea what they were for several years. She usually gets a fever with her migraines and because of the fever the doctor would always put it down to 'a virus', prescribing painkillers. I would often give her panadol for four days straight just to keep the headaches at bay. She goes limp and listless, her eyes droop, she lies there and sleeps for hours until the panadol wears off and then the pain and fever return. Most times she will scream and cry at me grabbing her forehead, pleading with me to take the pain away. “Mummmy Mummy my heads hurts, please stop it.”

A year after she started getting the migraines, we were referred to a paediatrician who could find no medical reason for them. He thought it may have been an attention grabber or perhaps the start of a cold. He was at a loss too. He asked me to diarise her migraines. The migraines continued on and off with no regular pattern that I could work out. Once a week, then maybe another in 6 weeks times, then two months. It varied greatly. Two years later we started taking a fish oil supplement [not the same brand as the one mentioned in the two stories above]. The migraines became more frequent and she started throwing up with them. She would go to sleep with a migraine, wake at 3 am and throw up in bed. This time her paediatrician ordered a CAT scan which was clear. He offered my 6 year old a daily dose of Betablockers or a trial using Riboflavins. He also suggested diet manipulation ... Guess which one we chose? ...

On the second day of the amine challenge, my daughter got a migraine, fever, droopy eyes and became listless. School rang and asked me to collect her, again. She stayed unwell for several days with the headache. Since the end of the amine challenge three months ago we haven’t had one migraine! So, no more amines for my daughter. It turns out that the fish oil supplement has amines in it which is why her migraines would have become so frequent and regular. I was giving her six capsules per day for three months as per instructions. - mother of a seven year old

See much more information about fish oils in the Vitamins and other supplements factsheet

2.  Vitamins        

The local Amcal pharmacist said that the Amcal One-a-Day tablet is only for adults and is not recommended for children. She said to check with my doctor before giving it to my daughter. She also said they have one for children but of course it is flavoured. Can you confirm that this multivitamin is okay for children or should I check with my doctor?

A. You can check with your dietitian or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for our list of supportive dietitians. For children, dietitians generally recommend half doses of Amcal One-a-Day, Elevit pregnancy supplements or Macro-M multivitamin and mineral supplements. Unlike megavitamins, all of these supplements contain low dose vitamins and minerals at the close to the recommended daily allowances. For example, there are 75 mg of Vitamin C in one tablet of Amcal One-a-Day, so the dose for children is 37.5 mg. Recommended daily allowances of vitamins vary slightly between countries. The current US recommended daily allowance for Vitamin C is:


30 mg for babies under 6 months

35 mg for babies 6-12 months

40 mg for children 1-3

45 mg for children aged 4-10

50 mg for children 11-14

60 mg for over 15


Other vitamins and minerals will be in roughly the same proportion, and these supplements are free of added preservatives, colours or flavours, unlike supplements designed specifically for children.

See much more information about vitamins in the Vitamins and other supplements factsheet

3. Vegetables        


Q. How will my child get enough Vitamin C without fruit juice?


A. Many fruit and vegetables including potatoes contain varying amounts of Vitamin C and other nutrients. When three year old Ethan from Newcastle went on his elimination diet, a nutritional analysis of his diet showed that Ethan's daily intakes of calcium, iron, A, B and C vitamins and other nutrients were all above the recommended intake, especially folate which was more than four times the recommended level. See below for Ethan’s menu. In particular, the hearty chicken noodle soup/stew (recipe in the Failsafe booklet) which was a mainstay of his diet - he ate a serve nearly every day - was found to be highly nutritious.

Before Ethan started on his elimination diet, he was such a fussy eater that his mother had worried about his nutrition. At the age of three, Ethan was diagnosed with autism and severe communication disorder (‘basically just a few words’). After five months on his new diet, Ethan’s language was age appropriate, he made good eye contact and his frequent tantrums had disappeared. ‘It was much easier than I expected,’ said his mother Darani, ‘and the improvements in Ethan have been huge. He’s a completely different child’.


Ethan’s Menu


Breakfast: Soy smoothie with soymilk, carob powder, pear and egg or gf toasted bread or rice flake porridge with pear puree and soymilk


Lunch at school: 4 rice cakes, home-made hummus or chickpeas and cashew with carob or gluten free sandwich with rissoles


Morning /afternoon tea: soy yoghurt or pear muffin (Margie's lunchbox muffins) or baked muesli slice or pureed pear icypole or packet plain crisps (only on treat days)


Dinner: hearty chicken noodle soup (see recipe below) or spaghetti with failsafe topping or baked dinner or rice crumbed chicken nuggets and chips or mince and potato casserole with hidden green vegies

Darani’s hearty chicken noodle soup/stew

This highly nutritious meal was 3 year old Ethan’s favourite during his elimination diet and he ate it nearly every day.


1 whole free-range chicken

1 leek (halved lengthways)

1 tsp salt

1 cup red lentils

12 brussel sprouts or approx 1/2 cabbage

1 swede

4-6 sticks celery

4-6 shallots

1 cup frozen green beans

375g pkt Orgran rice and corn (5%) spaghetti noodles or Fantastic rice noodles


Place chicken in pot with leek and enough water to cover, add salt, bring to the boil and simmer until cooked through, about 45 minutes. Remove chicken and allow to cool a little. Strain stock, return to pot and add red lentils, then washed and finely chopped vegetables. Gently simmer until well cooked, about one hour. Meanwhile, remove skin and bones from chicken, finely chop or process and return to pot with vegetables. Add noodles and cook for a further 10-15 minutes. This usually makes enough to fill about 8 rectangular Chinese take-away containers (2 serves in each for my son) which I then freeze and use as needed. Soup is very thick, more like stew really, and can be watered down a little if preferred.- Darani


Note that you can blend this soup (without the noodles) for extra fussy eaters.


Hiding the vegetables

Research shows that new vegetables need to be introduced to children about ten times, on average, before they will learn to eat them - so never give up. The best way to get vegetables into difficult kids is to hide them.


Mothers say the best hiding places are:

  • failsafe mince
  • home-made pies
  • blended vegetable soup
  • chopped small or blended in chicken noodle soup (see Darani’s hearty chicken noodle soup)
  • mashed potato
  • blended kidney bean sauce or Howard's bean paste - see below for nutrition considerations
  • savoury muffins - replace in the sugar in your usual muffin recipe by 1/2 tsp salt and add finely diced safe veggies such as chokoes, brussels sprouts, potato, green beans, etc

Kidney beans every day keep the doctor away


Fruits and vegetables are rich sources of beneficial natural antioxidants not to be confused with nasty synthetic antioxidants like BHA 320. Natural antioxidants can neutralise free radicals known to cause cancer. In 2004, researchers from the US Department of Agriculture rated 130 common foods for the antioxidant power. Three of the top five entries were failsafe. Beans and nuts scored particularly high and of those, red kidney beans are exceptionally good value. Coming in at number three, and as the only dried beans that don't cause wind, they contained more than three times the antioxidant power of apples. Most of the top 20 were beans, nuts or berries.





Antioxidant capacity

in TE units (tocopherol equivalents)









mexican red beans

red kidney beans

pinto beans

black beans

black-eyed peas

red delicious apples



14,920 failsafe

14,412 failsafe

12,358 failsafe

8,040 failsafe

4,342 failsafe

4,257 moderate in salicylates


Research shows that antioxidants such as Vitamin E, Vitamin C and betacarotene in supplements do not have the same beneficial properties of fruit and vegetables. More information: Lisa Melton, The Antioxidant Myth, New Scientist, 5/8/06, page 40-43


        More information


Introduction to food intolerance

You can see Darani and Ethan in the interviews on our DVD

Download Ethan’s recipes booklet

See more vegetable-hiding recipes in the Failsafe Cookbook

The information given is not intended as medical advice. Always consult with your doctor for underlying illness. Before beginning dietary investigation, consult a dietician with an interest in food intolerance. You can see our list of experienced and supportive dietitians 

© Sue Dengate update September 2021


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