We already knew that our son was hyper-sensitive to food colourings, especially 160b. We first discovered this when his sister was born when our son was 2 - he was head-banging til he cut and bruised his forehead. His behaviour was always "full on", he was impulsive, always demanding attention, his speech was delayed, but he was a fabulous sleeper. Numerous people suggested we have him assessed for autism or Aspergers. We had speech and hearing assessments. We cut out 160b for a while, and then inadvertently when he was about 3 my husband bought the wrong custard. I gave it to him anyway thinking that the food colouring link was a bit tenuous. Within 30mins he was headbanging something he hadn't done for nearly a year. The remainder of the custard went in the bin! I was really strict at not buying anything with 160b - but not really with anything else.

Last year when he was 6 and in kindergarten, his behaviour became appalling again, to the point that his teacher told me that I needed to get some help from a child psychologist to help me be a "better parent". You can only imagine how distressing this was as I was already at my wits end with a difficult child. I went home and immediately went through the pantry and discovered that foods and brands that were previously free of 160b now had it in it. One product was the apricot bites you buy in the health food section. My kids saw me with them and asked if they could have them, so I decided to tempt fate and see what happened. Within 15mins Charlie was sitting in a chair gyrating arms and legs flapping and head going up and down. Then he started hitting his forehead. I asked him what was wrong, and now, unlike when he was 2, he could now explain the sensation. He said he had pins and needles in his head and they wouldn't go away. Banging his head helped temporarily. The next day he was frightful.

Once we eliminated 160b again, his behaviour improved considerably, but despite seeming to be a very intelligent little boy, he wasn't and still isn't doing well at school. His teacher has expressed concern that he has gone backwards this year, that he can't sit still in class, he finds it very difficult to concentrate and stay focused, he is easily distracted, and he hums all the time. At home he makes silly noises, is always stirring up his sister, gets upset very quickly, is incredibly impatient and cries and screams when he doesn't get his way.

I love my kids, but I'm exhausted by them. I already know he is sensitive and now after reading "Fed Up", know that I have to eliminate a lot more than I have. Interestingly, I feel so many of my health issues are related to additives as well. The most bothersome being severe IBS since I had my appendix out 18 months ago. I was given Flagyl while in hospital and then had 6 weeks of severe diarrhoea. As a one-on-one music teacher, I can't continue to work with the amount of gas my body seems to produce. I tend to laugh about it, but it is a real issue. Like so many others, my GP and the gastroenterologist I saw have said to me "Good news, nothing is wrong!" It makes me want to scream!  So, I am desperate to find someone who might help me do the elimination diet with my kids (my daughter, while pretty well behaved had awful eczema as a baby, doesn't sleep well, is often irritable after school and had constant chest infections and thus antibiotics when she was 2-3 yrs old). Their grandmother suffers horrible migraines that are definitely food induced. I know that they are both bright intelligent and adorable kids underneath the irritable and often badly behaved exteriors. I'm petrified that I'm going to do long term damage to them psychologically because I end up so strained and exhausted that I yell a lot. I hate myself for saying this, but I often feel that I wish I didn't have kids as it's so much harder being a parent than I thought it would be. In fact, I don't enjoy it at all - Helen (story reported in May 2011)

Update 4 years later: About a year after I wrote I found out I had a gut parasite (Dientamoeba fragilis). Our son had the parasite too, so we had various course of antibiotics and anti-parasitics and within weeks he was a different child. I didn’t tell the school what we were doing as I wanted to test whether there really was change - when he came home with a Principals award for “trying hard to be a more responsible learner” I burst into tears. Even so, he remained, and remains, sensitive to annatto, and indeed many other colours, additives, preservatives etc.

Jump forward to roughly now, and I am still struggling with my gut and my daughter in particular has been quite difficult. Three weeks ago I re-read “Fed Up” and decided to try removing all additives. I was strict for a week - and it was bliss. The kids were so different - calm, no fighting, arguing, whining, sleeping better, more focused etc. And I then decided to use up some topping (Cottees chocolate and caramel topping - preservative 202). The next morning they were horrible - so everything with anything on the bad list, was thrown in the bin. The kids are back to their beautiful selves - and I must say, for the first time in ages, I’ve actually enjoyed being a parent.

They’re both very intelligent kids, but the massive block to them achieving their potential has been food.

I’m in my third year of a Bachelor of Science (Nutrition) with the hope of becoming a dietitian. Much of what is written is obviously the motivation/inspiration - Helen

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