"Jessica was born a normal healthy 7lb baby. One of the first problems we had with her was with vomiting after breast-feeding. My sister, who came to stay with us when Jessica was 3 months old, asked me whether we had noted that she vomited after I had eaten certain foods e.g.chocolate cake one day meant that she was vomiting the next. We had noticed this.

We returned to NZ from Germany when Jessica was 5 months old and continued to have problems with her. She was very active, tiny and walking at 9 months. By the time she was one she was constantly wanting food but would eat very little of anything and would hide the rest round the house. She hardly ever slept through the night, crying for attention a lot. She seemed genuinely distressed. We were still concerned about the amount of times she vomited and the crying but were told that we were neurotic. It got to the stage that we thought, as there was nothing wrong according to the doctors that we must have hygiene problems. Her high chair was washed with hot water just before she sat in it (always using a clean cloth). The plates she ate from were rinsed with hot water before the food was put in them. But she still used to be difficult about eating and vomit a lot. Two things that we noticed her having difficulties with were yoghurt that her older sister loved - after two spoonfuls she became grizzly and refused food, and fish fingers that most children loved. Some nights my parents-in-law would keep her for the night just so that my husband and I could have a night's sleep.

By the time she was two I was expecting our third child and as I desperately needed rest we put Jessica into daycare three mornings a week asking them to give her lunch there as that removed the battle from me. This continued up until we left NZ even though she was so often sick during the afternoon when she came home from daycare. For me that bout of vomiting in the afternoon was worth it if I could have some rest in the mornings.

When Jessica was 27 months we borrowed my parents' caravan and took a holiday in the Bay of Islands. While we were there we took the children to visit a dairy farm we saw a cow being milked and Jessica drank some of the milk. Unfortunately being her she did pick up a bug from this and started vomiting and having diarrhoea. She very quickly started dehydrating and we took her to the local doctor who suggested that the best thing to give her would be Raro sachet drinks mixed up as that way she would get some energy and fluids. Over the next 18 hours we tried to get her to drink this but the more she drank it, the sicker she became, her temperature was so high that she seemed to be hallucinating and was having fearful screaming fits. We stopped the drinks and went back to plain water. The next day the doctor reluctantly agreed to prescribe stemetil to stop the vomiting and suggested we return to Auckland to be nearer a hospital if it was needed. The medication did work. We later realised that these Raro drinks were full of food colouring.

Over the next few months we settled back to our pattern of broken nights. The doctor did suggest to us that occasionally we should give her Junior Panadol to help her sleep. I told him that I thought she might not be able to have it, as she seemed to vomit it straight back after taking it. His reply was that she was difficult and we should hold her down and make her swallow it. Much to our shame we tried this and found that it did not matter how long we held her and made her keep her mouth shut for she would end up vomiting it back up within 20 minutes. Junior Panadol at this stage had the colouring E102 in it.

The weekend that our youngest daughter was born is one of our worst memories. Jessica had been quite difficult that week and on the Friday night David got up to her in the night as she was vomiting. At the same time I realized I was going to have the baby any minute. So we left her with my parents-in-law and dashed to the hospital. The next day she was still not at all well so David rang the doctor who said give her fluids but as she did not have diarrhoea as well they would not
see her. On Sunday afternoon David carried her into the hospital to see me and I was shocked as she looked all teeth as she was so dehydrated. I found out from my husband that his parents had said yoghurt was good for settling stomachs and given her yoghurt. I begged him to make sure his parents were very strict and careful about food and gave her fluids. My mother-in-law told me they found Jessica in the bathroom with her toothbrush getting water as she was so desperate for fluids and then she was sick afterwards. As happened many times she was vomiting mostly bile as there was nothing left to vomit. Finally on the Monday somebody suggested that she try lemonade ice blocks as a way of getting fluid in slowly enough and that was a big breakthrough.

Six weeks later we left NZ and shifted to Germany where we had some frustrating times with feeding Jessica but also made our biggest breakthrough. For our first year there Jessica's life went on as before - she was always on the go, always hungry but would not eat all sorts of things and was often sick. She was still not sleeping through the nights.

We had awful trouble keeping home help and babysitters as nobody could cope with her at nights or understand her eating patterns. She continued to gain reasonable amounts of weight during this time. By the time she was five she weighed 21 kilos and was still very difficult at nights while her older and younger sister slept calmly. The vomiting was starting to get worse and we were having to eliminate a lot of foods with cream or fat from her diet. She was also refusing to eat any of the sliced breads that could be bought in the supermarkets in Germany.

Christmas 1985 was a nightmare, she had not been well with a nasty cough and started vomiting but did not seem to get better. While she kept some foods down her weight was dropping and over three weeks her weight dropped to 18 kilos and she had vomited 21 days in a row, although she did keep some foods down.

By this stage we were with a new doctor who was very sympathetic to our plight and said that she could not continue like this and agreed that we start looking more deeply into the problems. We did find out that she was allergic to chocolate but as that was something that had been suggested to us by several people and Jessica was not eating it anyway as it made her sick. She eliminated many more obvious things with blood tests and then said that she thought the problem was
additives to which I replied " but we don't eat many additives." We were amazed when we took a closer look at everything and realised how many additives she was getting.

Our doctor first of all put Jessica on an elimination diet and within 2 weeks she was sleeping calmly through the nights. We all used to stand at her bedroom door in wonder and watch her stretched out calmly instead of being the tense little bundle we had had for years. It took no time at all to convince us that additives must have been our problem but I was not sure that I believed that you had to eliminate every additive from children's diets so I asked the doctor how we could find out which ones were the problem.

As our doctor knew of somebody else wanting to test additives for an adult patient of theirs they decided to approach one of the university hospitals and see if they could have capsules made up of different additives to use for testing. Once a week we would take Jessica down to the surgery with an empty stomach and they would feed her a capsule every hour and test pulse, blood pressure etc during the morning. It soon became clear that she showed no alteration in temperature, heart beat etc. and that there were three main causes of her problems.

The day she was given benzoic acid she stopped eating for several days because her tummy felt funny. The same thing occurred with a blue colouring. Two yellow colourings had no effect but tartrazine produced the most interesting reaction. After the first dose she became a little restless and would not play games with us or read. After the second dose she kept on taking her clothes off as well getting even more grumpy. By the time she had a third dose she was running round wildly and throwing things at the walls. We decided that a fourth dose was unnecessary. One of the foods we had noticed that was upsetting her was pre-packaged breads in the German supermarkets. These breads had a long shelf life. We cut these out and bought a bread fresh from the baker in our village. This was a plain loaf that would not keep longer than a day. We never had trouble with bread in NZ.

On reading some information that the doctor gave us we eliminated yoghurt, nutmeg and cinnamon from her diet as well as it was suggested that if she were intolerant of benzoic acid she would also have difficulties with them.

These tests made the most tremendous difference to her life and ours. We now eat many additives that we know she can tolerate. She leads a normal life, keeps healthy and active but sleeps well. Because she had vomited so much over the first few years she was having gall bladder problems and could not tolerate cream, milk fats etc. This is why she vomited so much before they started testing. Once she was on her additive free diet we were able to get her gall bladder back to normal too. Sometimes when we are out she will unknowingly have something she cannot tolerate and she is very quick to notice. There are occasions when two mouthfuls are enough for her to know that she needs to be careful." - Anonymous