In 1995 I gradually developed CFS and was invalided out of work a year later. In late 1999 I began the RPAH elimination diet. Ten days later my brain fog and fatigue were greatly diminished. Challenges confirmed intolerance to dairy and gluten – which I had eliminated years previously – and indicated intolerances to salicylates, amines and glutamates.

In the following years I had a few relapses, usually lasting for no longer than a couple of weeks. The exception was a six months relapse, which ceased five days after I decreased my intake of vegetable oil and changed from canola to sunflower. (Both oils had no additives listed on the label)

In January 2007 I was feeling quite well and had no significant CFS relapse for a couple of years. At the beginning of February my energy plummeted. I needed to spend at least twelve hours a day lying down, instead of eight hours. Physical fatigue and brain fog returned in force. Six weeks later I bounced back, and was quite well for a few weeks, then I plummeted again. These irregular fluctuations continued throughout the year, but the highs got lower and the lows got lower. I became much more sensitive to amines.

In early February 2008 I went to Woolworths for grocery shopping. I picked up a bottle of sunflower oil and glanced automatically at the contents. In a way, I was not really looking because I ‘knew’ that nobody put additives into sunflower oil in Australia. But there it was: ‘Sunflower Oil, Antioxidants E319, E320’. I squeezed my eyes tight, reopened them, and read the same thing. Then I grinned and imagined myself leaping into the air and clicking my heels. Yes!

I phoned Woolworths and was told that their sunflower oil had E319 and E320 since the beginning of 2007. But sometimes my wife bought sunflower oil from Coles. No, Coles had never put antioxidants into their sunflower oil. We take about six weeks to consume a one litre bottle of sunflower oil. I looked back in my diary and found that the length of my ups and downs were in multiples of six weeks. We swapped to Coles sunflower oil. Eighteen days later I was fully well again. – Ian, by email

My daughter Victoria is now 13 years old. When she was five she became very unwell with a gastro bug and was quite ill for three weeks (vomiting, diarrhoea, nausea). The sensation of nausea did not go away after she recovered. After some weeks we were referred to a paediatrician who diagnosed nervous dyspepsia. I knew this was not right and asked to be referred to a gastroenterologist. The GP reluctantly did so. The paed gastro specialist did an endoscopy and found a helicobacter ulcer which was then treated with antibiotics. Unfortunately the nausea remained, and diarrhoea started to become more of problem.

We were referred to a dietitian who dealt with intolerances and followed her elimination diet to the letter with very little improvement. I understand now that this dietitian’s diet was quite relaxed and included many foods in the moderate category (yoghurt, mangoes, just ripe bananas, Colby cheese etc). We abandoned the diet after three months and just ate home-cooked plainish food with no artificial additives (this did include a range of organic fruit and veg).

For the next six or so years we battled with Victoria’s health. The tummy problems continued (nausea, diarrhoea). Her immune system was poor (she caught everything going around). She was irritable, impatient and not affectionate. She constantly had dark circles under her eyes. And then about three years ago she began to suffer frequent headaches mainly sinus ones. She was just never well.

We went everywhere and did everything to try to help her (blood tests, acupuncturist, paediatric allergist, naturopath, eye tests, physiotherapist, ear/nose/throat specialist you name it we did it with no improvement).

Now it is relevant to talk about myself for a moment. For 20 years I have had turns where after eating out I would become really unwell. This was usually at a restaurant. First I get nausea, then feel faint and break out in a cold sweat followed by vomiting or diarrhoea or both. Sometimes I do actually faint. Even though we had not had any success with the early (relaxed) elimination diet I did learn about food chemicals at this time, and realised that it was ultra high-amine foods that I was reacting to (e.g. camembert cheese followed by aged beef with wine gravy etc).

Now cut back to mid last year one evening I prepared a meal of very fresh roast organic chicken (with skin) and homemade gravy, potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower and peas. After eating some of her meal, Victoria had a similar reaction to the ones I described above. This was the first time she had had the same type of turn as me. I recognised that this meal was high in amines (but not too high for me) and realised that amines were a problem for her.

So then I read your books and went to a new dietitian (dealing with intolerances) and discovered that Victoria needs to eat a diet low in all food chemicals. If she does stay absolutely strict she is reasonably well. The nausea problem has reduced dramatically, as has the diarrhoea. She is less irritable and more affectionate. Her headaches have reduced. Her immunity is better. We have seen a real improvement!

Her diet is very limited. (Unfortunately, she is also intolerant to raffinose, so she can’t even eat all the vegies in the low category!) We have to get our meat from a butcher who phones me the day the beef arrives from the abattoir, and I go that day and buy (and freeze) meat for the next month. She is very sensitive.

Victoria’s sinus headache problem is certainly affected by food chemicals - it has improved quite a lot on the elimination diet, but a whole range of environmental allergens seem to trigger it too. The grass being cut affects her. Walking through the detergent isle in the supermarket affects her. The smell of perfume and cosmetics affects her. Household chemicals affect her. Some particular irritants:

  • Hairspray and other spray-on hair products: She feels an urgent need to remove herself from the smell of these products. She feels she can taste them and they cause her a serious headache. We can’t go to a normal hairdressing salon - she says they are toxic. We have our hair cut at a home salon and the hairdresser doesnt use any products on us.
  • Dust: she is aware of dust if it is around and finds it unpleasant because it irritates her nose, but it is not until later that she develops a sinus headache. These headaches can be quite bad and last for many days.
  • Perfumes/aromatherapy scents: these smells are all really distasteful to her. She feels nauseous and headachy in environments that are scented. She has a strong feeling that she needs to leave.
  • Garden smells and pollens: she is very aware of them - they make her nose feel sneezy and occasionally she develops a headache.
  • The smell of clothes washing detergent and other cleaners are most distasteful to Victoria. The skin on her face flushes and feels irritated, and she develops a headache if exposed to the smell for more than a couple of minutes. For washing sheets and pillow cases I often just use a hot water cycle with no detergent and dry them in the sun. They look and smell clean to us. For washing clothes I use the skin care cycle on our machine which uses more water and does an extra rinse, and just use a little OMO Sensitive or Earth Choice Sensitive. Once again, things come out clean, even with less detergent. We can’t detect a fragrance after washing and drying in the sun.
  • If we happen to wear a garment that has been washed in normal fragrant powder for whatever reason, we both feel unwell and get a headache. I developed a very severe headache that lasted for days once (years ago) as I had lent a shirt to someone and they returned it after washing it in normal detergent and using Fabulon during the ironing process. I foolishly wore it to work and became so unwell and dizzy that I had to go home sick! We ourselves use Mitchum unscented deodorant, QV non soap alternative, Bod ultrasensitive fragrance free shampoo and conditioner purchased online from Biome or Simple shampoo and Conditioner ordered in by our local pharmacy.
  • Victoria notices and dislikes the smell of petrol, cigarette smoke and basically anything else with a strong smell.
  • Oppressive humid weather gives Victoria (and her grandmother) a sinus headache.

I suffer from sinus headaches too, and all of the above affect me, but I am not nearly as sensitive. Victoria and I both have a fantastic sense of smell. We can both smell cigarette smoke from a neighbour smoking in his back yard four big house blocks away. We are both super sensitive to food smells as well, especially protein foods (which of course comes in very handy with catering for an amine responder!)

One of the many specialists we have taken Victoria to is a paediatric allergist. She took one look at Victoria and commented that she looked like an allergy sufferer. She noticed (amongst other things) the dark circles under Victoria’s eyes and a wrinkle or line across her nose that indicated constant rubbing of her nose. Victoria was tested for a wide range of commons allergens, but the skin prick tests did not reveal allergy. The specialist said that she was surprised, and recommended Victoria use a saline nasal spray (which she does) and use antihistamines when needed as she may be allergic to things other than what she was tested for.

The whole body load issue is certainly relevant for Victoria. How badly she responds to irritating food and smells certainly varies according to the load on her body school stress, PMT, illness etc. She is definitely doing better on a diet of all low chemical foods, but it does not take much to upset her balance.

When Victoria is not doing well she feels overstimulated very easily by light, noise, smells (of course) and other stimulants. She also has poor volume control at such times, even though she is usually a quiet girl. Another recurring problem is urinary tract irritation not pain or burning just a constant feeling of needing to dash to the loo.

I have two other things I wanted to mention (for what they are worth):

  • Victoria is gifted. She was accelerated a whole grade in primary school and excels academically. I nearly choked on my tea when I read in one of your books that we ‘should not blame bad behaviour on giftedness’ - I had been blaming her prickliness, impatience and irritability with others on giftedness to some degree.
  • We have very recently discovered that Victoria’s blood levels of Vitamin D are in the normal range (55), but only barely. Our dietitian (from the failsafe list) says that in her opinion the bare minimum should be 75 and we should be aiming for 100. She says that recent overseas research indicates that there is a link between intolerances and low vitamin D levels. We are trying to get Victoria into the sun for safe periods every day to improve this, and will test again in 3 months …

Update 3 months later: We have actually been faring better over the last month or so. We had a re-test for vitamin D levels and to our surprise discovered that despite trying to increase sun-exposure, Victoria’s levels were still at the low-normal level of 55 (normal range is 50-300). Our dietitian had suggested previously that we should aim for higher than 100. So I decided to try a failsafe vitamin D capsule. I don’t know if that has helped, or it is just a co-incidence, but after a couple of weeks Victoria seems to be back to faring quite well on the low-chemical diet. I am cautiously optimistic.

What a long story - and this is only a small part of it! Thanks very much for your wonderful work. Your books and website are fantastic. I am very grateful. - Carol, by email

You actually brought tears to my eyes when l read, you don’t need fruit, vegetables are best!!!! You know before l knew my problem was food, l used to eat soooo many fruits and vegetables l was sooo sick all of the time, but the sicker l got the more fruit and vegies l would eat. I do know l feel better without FRUIT, it’s just lovely to have someone to talk to that doesn’t think lm over the top! – Helen, Vic

Recently I purchased a quality fresh homemade style chicken and leek family pie. On reading the ingredients I was overjoyed that here was a fast food that had failsafe ingredients, listing salt but no stock. Anyway I was hit with severe tiredness, heavy eyes, thirst and unusual (for me) bad mood within one hour of eating it that lasted over 24 hours. My breastfed 10-month old baby had a bit of an unsettled night, bit of a cough and some red blotchy rash on her torso. I knew for sure that there must be an ingredient unlisted like stock or flavour enhancer. I rang the company (who said) there is no stock, just a bit of chicken salt! - chicken salt is often ordinary table salt with added MSG type flavour enhancers such as 621 or 635. – Angela, by email (We would like to hear from anyone who has noticed a similar reaction to flavor enhancers in a baby under 12 months, and whether your baby subsequently developed a peanut, egg, milk or other food allergy: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

There is no doubt at all in my mind about the great effect that foods have on my children although it has taken me about 3 years to accept it. But I still cannot get my head around why dairy foods cause such a behavioural response with my daughter. When eating dairy foods, she gets dark rings around her eyes, and is not just bad, she is impossible to live with. I just can not understand how a food can affect her in this way. Her oppositional defiance is incredible. It is also as if she is completely deaf. Her voice becomes so loud it makes me cringe and it also becomes a lot higher in pitch. She is not affectionate at all and is very serious as well. It is as if she has complete focus, driven, locked in, intense, not able to snap out of her bad behaviour. It is only now (she is 5 1/2 years of age) that I am starting to bond with my daughter in a calm and loving way, before this it has been a desperate, lost love.

Since she has been dairy-free she listens, talks more quietly and without intensity, she lets me cuddle her, she does not get locked into bad behaviour and we can negotiate together. She has always been strong willed and very smart but now I can enjoy it. I am so happy now. I guess if there was a logical explanation for this huge behavioural response I would stop questioning my judgement so much. Because it is just behavioural, you can tell our peer group think it is our parenting and they also question the failsafe food idea as a bit odd. I guess what I am trying to ask is how can food affect the voice, make you deaf, fearless, and completely oppositional? - reader, Qld

I am an 18 year old student. The diet has been immeasurably useful for me. I can now think better, clearer, and I can reason logically where before an idea would just revolve around in my head. I can now do household chores! This might not seem too momentous, but just ask anyone in my household. I actually have fun cleaning up the kitchen now!

I have ventured forth from the den of my room, and have spent less time skulking around the Net and more time socialising ... Thanks to the diet, I am going to try again to pass Year 12 next year, so I can go to university.

It's quite interesting to trace the time in my life when I started doing badly in school. It was the exact time that I moved to the city, and started eating more junk food like meat pies, ham etc. I continued to do worse and worse in school until I dropped out of Year 13 last semester. Now, I can be confident of having my old powerhouse brain back again. – Russell, by email

My girls were on elimination for 3 weeks. Our eldest - we did it for her - was a new calm tolerant child. We were thrilled. We did the salicylate challenge and after 4 days we had to abort it as she had enormous stomach cramps, diarrhoea and bad behaviour. Since then she has gone downhill and we have not been able to do another challenge yet (3 weeks). Her behaviour and concentration have plummeted and even the netball coach commented this week. The only thing we have done differently is that we have a new hairspray, my husband feels that must be problem and I am getting suspicious too. Even though her diet is true elimination could one small spray of this hairspray each morning be the culprit??? She is miserable and we are back to being exhausted with her. I feel sorry for our eldest as she had been making such progress. Update a few days later: Well, our daughter has already settled down after about 2-3 days. She even said this morning gosh I feel better. – Nic, by email

Why do manufacturers have to put 160b in their yoghurts? I am really disgusted and disappointed that they can't see what this harmful colour does to children and adults alike. Before I knew of its harmful side effects I would gladly give my 2 year old a tub of yoghurt thinking I was doing the right thing, little did I know at the time that I was giving my child a dose of crazy and irrational behaviour that bordered on vicious and just plain heartbreaking to watch. Now that I know that this colour is detrimental to my child’s well-being - I will never ever purchase something with it in. Why is it not banned in Australia? For a supposed first world country with brains and intelligence - we have made some really bad decisions when it comes to food additives and artificial colours - we are poisoning our children - yoghurt can definitely shoulder some of this blame. Make the right choice, take this colour out of yoghurt! – Tiffany, by email

A few weeks I thought my son decided to kick start the terrible two's early and begin to show me his quite advanced tantrum throwing. Out of nowhere he would start banging his head! on the floor, wall, me or what ever was in close range. And as most mothers would do I would either kneel down to him and talk with him, place my hand under his little forehead to stop him from hitting the hard tiles, carry him away, distract him, ignored him, you name it, but it continued and got worse! Then started the slapping and hair pulling, he would constantly slap the sides of his head with either one or both palms of his hand and or pull his hair to the point he would cry. His face would frown as he would moan and continue to slap himself.

It wasn't just the physical actions either, he was again constantly irritable. Now for those mums who have intolerant children, irritable behavior can vary when affected. With my son, it's a continuous grizzle along with constant disruptive behavior. Again, I know this sounds quite normal for toddlers to behave in this way occasionally, but it was daily and for most part of the day. And it only got more constant as time went on. I would look at him and think "this can't be just a behavioral issue I have on my hands" my baby was clearly distressed and as I sat in a familiar field of not knowing what to do and at times on the verge of tears I would begin to question myself, what am I doing wrong? What kind of mother am I if I can't settle my baby....again! Maybe I just have an unsettled, quick tempered emotional child on my hands! I then reassured myself that this wasn't the first time I had been here, the lonely field of what to do and where to go, this place was no longer unfamiliar, I knew there was an answer I just have to find it and as time went on I did and it wasn't him, it was Annatto!

Having already established that my son was dairy and food chemical intolerant, I began to sit back and re access his diet. He was still following the recommended RPA Strict Elimination Diet in exception of one or two extra side dishes and began to suspect extra dish 1, the 'Soy Life' vanilla soy yoghurt. It was literally the same day when I found a great Australian website where there was story after story of the effect that natural coloring 160b had on children, and what was the most common reaction you ask?........head banging, and where was the coloring? In the soy yoghurt!

I immediately stopped feeding him the yoghurt and just short of a week I began seeing dramatic improvements. My son didn't show any reactions to the yoghurt the first time he tried it, and it did take quite some time before his change in behavior took place, however as he began teething and his desire for soft cold solids increased over time, it was the constant high intake of the yoghurt that did in fact cause the adverse reaction. - from Happy Tummies blog.

I'm quite shocked by the food options in our school canteen, especially considering the schools push for healthy food choices and the term long curriculum unit for grades 1 and 2 about healthy eating - any suggestions, support or information would be much appreciated. - thanks to Hannah

I have been concerned about my kids school and their food policies and have been gathering info so I could show the school the link, but yesterday I got a pleasant surprise.

In the weekly newsletter there was information from your Fed Up website informing parents of the risks of food chemicals and preservatives and the symptoms associated with them plus info about what parents can do and suggested foods to buy.

I almost fell off my chair - I am so happy that finally the school is recognising the important factor that food has on kids behaviour.

I am hoping that this will translate in better food at the tuckshop and lessen the push by teachers for dried fruit and cheese sticks (with preservatives) for the kid's brain food (ie snack food). I am writing the principal a "thank you" email for putting this info in the newsletter, hopefully some parents will take note. I thought I would let you know that the word is spreading, even up here in Nth Qld, and I think it is great! - Fiona, by email

I work as a relief teacher (primary) and I am appalled by the food kids eat during breaks. Sometime I just want to throw up when I see their brightly coloured muesli bars, yogurt snacks and prepackaged "whatever is on the market". I have often come back from morning break to a totally different class of kids. It's like they went from angels to little devils. It can only be what they ate that has turned them so crazy! I think it is outrageous what they are doing to our food. There is hardly anything left to buy that is prepackaged in the supermarket that is safe to eat! - teacher, Qld

A few years ago my son's health was declining with eczema attacks lasting several hours, and hives breaking out without us knowing the reason. He was already on a restricted diet but he was awake for 2-4 hrs every night, screaming "please help me, Mummy", and his legs were sometimes so scabbed up that he could not straighten them enough to walk. He was five. Eventually, we found the problem was dust mites. We knew he was sensitive to them because he had been allergy tested by a doctor, but I had "relaxed" a little with the vigilance I had previously had. And then I realised that the whole time, he had a big tear in the dustmite cover on his mattress.

So I went back to using the dust mite wash from the supermarket, and washing his sheets four times in clear water after that, and hanging them on the line all day, every six weeks. And washing his sheets in hot water every three days. And clearing his bedroom of everything except a bed, and wet-dusting once a week. he difference was amazing. The first night, he actually slept through. And now, a year and a bit later, his legs, which were just big scabs from bum to ankle, are beautiful creamy soft smooth skin. And a much happier boy. The emotional scars are still there, and taking time to heal. We got a book about eczema by a dermatologist that discusses the emotional toll on the family, and it is so true.

When our daughter first developed a rash our GP diagnosed it as pityriasis rosea, which is uncommon but not unheard of in babies and resolves itself after about 6 weeks. Two months on the rash was still there, so since then we have been trying to figure out the cause via the GP, naturopath, paediatrician, etc. Then one day I took my daughter to see the clinic sister who has seen her rash LOTS of times and mentioned to me almost in passing that some people can be "allergic" to sorbolene. Apparently people can build up a sensitivity to it over time and we've been slathering it on our poor daughter for months! I stopped putting it on and within a day her rash started improving. [Sensitivity to Sorbolene can be to the ingredient TEA which is used in the Redwin soap, above]

I just want to say a huge thank you. We have managed to keep both our children off all medication for hyperactivity and ADHD diagnosis through your diet and recommendations. Whilst it is hard and we slip up - it is worth it. - Leona, NSW

I have been reading the personal accounts of other desperate people who have already put into practice your failsafe plan and I have barely been able to read them without bawling like a baby!! - father of a difficult 5 yo

We have been following Sue's advice for our family for the last 13 years and really appreciate the time and effort you put into keeping us safe from additives!! - Lynelle by email.

Your Failsafe Cookbook has been a fantastic assistance in helping with meal planning. We are 2 days into the diet and already noticing big changes with our 3 yo e.g extended lengths of happiness, co-operation, fewer tantrums and accepting instructions. - Eleanor, NSW

Having followed Failsafe for a week, and being astounded by the loving, fun, happy, laughing 6 year old that came home on Thursday, I am a full convert. (Gone is the angry, aggressive, resentful, contradictory, unhappy, destructive child I have had!). – Karen, by email

I still live by my Failsafe Cookbook we found in a bookshop when my son was 3 – six years ago. It's very well loved by now! – by email

We appreciate your continued dedication to the cause. Generations from now (if we're lucky), may look back to this era as when the human race continually found ways to chemically self-destruct. – Judy, by email

Your Failsafe Cookbook is brill if you're on a weightloss diet - it doesn't have a lot of those fatty sauces!! - love the lamb stew! - Caroline, UK

Our naturopath commented that failsafe eating is very nutritious – Jackie, by email.

I just wanted thank you!!! My 9 year old son has ADHD, ODD, OCD, anxiety and a learning disability. He was denied enrolment at 2 schools because they feared his ADHD would disrupt other children. He was constantly in trouble at school and has been suspended. He was frustrated and upset every morning and every night, at times he couldn't sit at the dinner table without crying from the stress he felt, he found it very difficult to cope from day to day. From when he was a very young age, my husband and I worked very hard at managing his problems and saw numerous specialists. Originally we took him off bread with preservatives when he was 2 years old. It wasn't until we were at our wits’ end a year ago, with schools and counsellors telling us to 'medicate him' - that I decided to buy your book.

A year on, our son avoids salicylates and additives and I have to say I have had a recent comment from a friend who hasn't seen him for a year and she said 'we were so impressed with your son’s politeness, his impeccable table manners, you two have done so well with him!, even my sister commented on what a lovely boy he is!'

We managed to get him into a new school, one that I believed would work with us to 'manage' his issues better. Then his new school teacher rang me to say 'I have had a beautiful week with your son, he is very respectful, very caring towards the other children, has lovely manners and we haven't had one episode of hyperactivity or disruptive behaviour, he has a lot to offer and is doing very well'

I have near cried with pure relief and excitement that the little boy I got glimpses off occasionally over the last 9 years is now that nice little boy all day EVERY DAY! and other people can see it.

As a parent who had tried everything to avoid medication, I finally feel we have found the answer to successfully managing a child with behavioural issues. I now tell people – Failsafe, Structure, Management, and above all: Understanding. Your book is gold to us. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. – Leonie, NSW

I’ve become increasing sensitive to perfumes and fragrances. For me it triggers an intense, immediate burning headache, dizziness, nausea, and a reflexive instinct to want to get away. The longer I’m exposed to the smell, I find it hard to look up, hard to make eye contact with people, my heart rate speeds up and I feel hot and a bit shivery. I feel like I have to keep an eye on the ground to know where it is, have trouble telling where objects are around me, and kind of lose my sense of where I am in space.

Background noise seems to become louder as well, and I feel a rising panic and need to escape. I had a ‘brain episode’ about 3-4 yrs ago, some kind of massive seizure that had symptoms similar to a stroke. Since then, my problems with perfumes have increased dramatically, though I think I’ve always had a slight problem with scents. In March 2009 I was prescribed Methotrexate (an immuno-suppressant) as my psoriasis had become so severe it almost landed me in hospital with a life-threatening version. This has side effects of nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and dizziness, which have gradually lessened over time, but still rear up at least a couple of times each week. Since being on this drug I find it particularly difficult to cope with perfumes. From what my two ASD boys have been able to tell me, I think their responses are fairly similar, but they have difficulty describing the sensations, and they tend to go into Autistic withdrawal / blocking behaviours.

A couple of weeks ago we took the boys to a cinema to watch Despicable Me. A teenage girl entered with a small group of friends and sat in the row in front of us. The perfume smell was so strong I had to shift the four of us back 3 rows to escape it, and still left the cinema with a headache.

The worst places for the boys and I to enter are public toilets with automatic fragrance sprayers. One was introduced to our local shopping centre, and we were caught unawares. I sat down on the toilet, and was suddenly sprayed by a fountain of this horrible scent – it triggered of a bout of vomiting which meant I was stuck in there with the scent. When I finally escaped, I found that hubby had encountered the same problem on taking the boys into the Men’s toilet. The elder was biting his hands and pulling his hair, and the younger was bouncing and squirming uncontrollably. We abandoned the idea of grocery shopping and went home to recover. Now we make sure we go to the toilet at home before we leave.

Windex and whiteboard cleaning spray have an appalling effect on my elder son, trigger out of control behaviours, self harm, high temperatures, headaches, vomiting and diarrhoea. Perfumes and body sprays such as Impulse are awful, incense sticks are a nightmare, car and toilet deodorizing products are the worst, possibly due to the confined, airless space. – by email

A couple of months ago I decided to put an airfreshener in my 6 yo autistic’s room because it smelt like urine due to him wetting the bed a lot. The next day he turned from a calm placid little boy to an angry, tantrumy boy who would constantly punch himself in the head causing big bruises, crying and screaming like there was something in his head and he couldn't get it out. He also didn't sleep much while the air freshener was in his room. It took two days to figure out what I had done to my beautiful boy and once I removed the offender and aired his room out naturally, within a 2-3 hour period he was his calm self again. I hope this can help someone. - Jackie, by email

I can’t tell you how much I love your work!! We came across FAILSAFE after months of my infant son suffering from such a terrible nappy rash that he was quite raw. I wasn’t helping matters by using baby wipes & soothing creams that had orange juice etc in them (Gaia brand). The Dr wouldn’t believe that I was using the steroid cream he’d prescribed, & made me tell him exactly how I was using it - is there another way to use it? Finally, through our local Child & Family Health Clinic, one of the Nurses mentioned salicylates. My journey was far from over, however, going through the public health paediatric dietitian (who recommended that I feed my son rockmelon you should have seen him after I took that advice!! Poor little tyke!) & several other Drs & nurses before I stumbled onto a Dr who, when walking past us to her next patient in the waiting room (we were there to see another Dr), looked at my son & remarked Looks like he might have a reaction to salicylates those rosy cheeks that everyone kept telling me was teething was really a dead giveaway!!

From there, our lives improved so much, thanks to a supportive & knowledgeable Dr, dietitian & your Failsafe Cookbook. Our son could finally sleep, and his pesky colic disappeared after only a few days! All that we had been told was normal in a baby, and that we were made to feel like whingers for bringing up, were anything but normal when we got his food right (& mine, as I was breastfeeding).

He’s now 3 years old, and it’s so easy to tell when he’s had something to eat that he shouldn’t! He’s very sensitive, even reacting to red delicious apples. We’ve now got another bub, a little girl, who has been so lucky that she has never had any real food issues, as I was Failsafe the whole time when breastfeeding her & of course feeding her solids. Still makes me feel guilty that my son had to go through almost a year with such pain, but at least we’re all better off now, knowing about this issue. We still get funny looks from people who seem to think we’re on some kind of fad diet, but we know what happens when we don’t follow it. My main problem is that our family, and even myself, think of ordinary food as being a treat so we do give him non-Failsafe foods occasionally. What I need to remember, and I think I’m getting there, is that even if he enjoys eating the food, the way he then feels & acts for the next 3 days is definitely not a good thing. Making my son feel sick, irritable or aggressive is not a treat for him, or any of us. I am getting there, but I wish my family would stop asking me when he’ll grow out of it and suggesting that he’s getting better (only because he’s eating Failsafe!! He wouldn’t be if he wasn’t!) and tempting my son with offers of when I’m babysitting you we’ll go out & get some REAL food chiko rolls and hot dogs & coke . Real food indeed!! Grrr!!

Thanks again, Sue, for everything you’ve done, and continue to do. It must bring you such a feeling of vindication & joy when you read through the many different stories people have I’m often amazed at the different ways people react to various things. Without you, our lives would all be much harder and I thank you sincerely from all of our family. – Lyn, by email

I went through the RPAH elimination diet about 3 years ago. The dietician confirmed I was intolerant to dairy, wheat, salicylates, amines and glutamates. Despite following a strict regime I have not been able to reintroduce any of the foods that caused an intolerance reaction. My symptoms I have now as a result of low exposure are: IBS, sinus pain, fluid buildup around my eyes, feet and ankles swelling, sleep disturbance, severe cramps in feet and legs. I am asthmatic. ... Update 3 weeks later: I cleaned up my diet (herbs, coffee and some vegies that I had included are now gone) and immediately had migraine type headaches. But since then it has all been much better. So this is the first summer in 20 years that I have been able to wear short trousers and not needed to hide my huge ankles. - Fiona, NSW

My son’s reaction to amine foods is always the same: depression, crying for nothing, being angry, seeking conflicts, ODD like behaviour and many attacks of night terrors (like 5 times in a 2-week-period). He had very strong reactions to pork meat and to chocolate, and the effects to those foods lasted for almost 3 weeks even after stopping the challenge. His reaction to salicylates is the usual hyperactive, silly behaviour, talking too much/too loud and having more little accidents.- by email, Europe

Was just reading your article on Atrial Fibrillation from additives and I am certainly one who suffers from this, especially with MSG. The latest attack was as recent as Friday last week. I tried out a new Thai restaurant and that night was awake until 2am (after going to bed at 10pm) with a pounding heart. It is an issue for me and the worst is definitely MSG. I have been having these symptoms for 8 years that I know of (I am 39), ever since I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I think the symptoms were present before this but I didn't recognise them.

I realised it was due to MSG, firstly when it seemed to happen whenever I ate Chinese or some Asian foods. Then it was a process of isolating those foods with MSG and without to see if symptoms occurred. I get such a strong reaction that there is no doubt it is related to food. I also experience bloating symptoms along with the heart palpitations. I haven't tried this with other additives but I just generally stay away from all processed/packaged foods and feel a lot better for it. If I do eat the occasional packaged food I make sure there are next to no numbers in the ingredient list!

I have spoken to a doctor about these symptoms in the past but when I realised they were a reaction to additives I didn't pursue it any further. - Georgina, by email

I've had a long-term salicylate intolerance and avoid salicylates as much as possible in my diet. Last year I was diagnosed with an under-active thyroid and found once I was started on the medication that a lot of my allergic rhinitis disappeared. I was still having reactions to salicylates but not nearly as bad. Thyroid problems are apparently very common and as mine was under-active my metabolism wasn't processing things as it should making my symptoms worse – Caroline, UK

(Note that one cause of underactive thyroid could be iodine deficiency. This has become more common as iodine intake has dropped in industrialised countries over the last two decades due to less (iodised) salt being added to meals. Too much iodine can be as bad as not enough. Failsafe sources of iodine include seafood (2-3 times a week), dairy foods and eggs but not seaweed such as kelp or nori. Dietitians now recommend iodised salt for the RPAH Elimination Diet. Recommended Multivitamins also contain iodine. If in doubt, consult your dietitian.)

More information

When I have MSG or other flavour enhancers I get heart palpitations. It feels like my heart is pounding really hard and fast in my chest and will last for about 15 seconds at a time. It's quite scary. I wasn't sure what caused it initially but over a couple of years it established a pattern. A few hours after I'd eaten MSG or other enhancers - Chinese foods, BBQ flavoured chips, red rock deli honey soy flavoured chips, maggi chicken flavour 2 minute noodles, cheese flavoured CCs, 635, 621 are the ones I have noticed on packaging.

I'm 38 and didn't realise until my son was in kindergarten (born 1998) what had been making me so sick and still I was silly enough to give into my craving for these foods some times. He had terrible problems with reflux, even though breastfed and there was no formed poo. He screamed all day every day but they told me I was a bad mother. By kindergarten, he had over 50 days off school with diarrhoea and then was referred to a dietician who hit the nail on the head and that was when I realised how foods were affecting me too. I no longer touch these foods and it hasn't happened since. – Sharyn, by email

I am in my sixties. I can tell if a product has sorbates by the sore spots that develop in the mouth and then develop into mouth ulcers. With margarine (the RPA recommended challenge) it tends to build up over several meals. I have also worked out the preservatives in meats, particularly bacon and silverside, give a disturbed alimentary canal showing signs at the rear end. - Trevor, by email

I am writing to give feedback regarding the recent Today Tonight story in Sydney about artificial food colours.

I can't believe there is still doubt about the effects these additives have on behaviour! I have had experience with the effects of these additives with my own children and can refer you to many other people who agree.

If there is a natural alternative without any suspected side effects why are we using additives that DO have suspected side effects? Additives that have been BANNED in other countries! Why are we not travelling the safer route? This is simple logic.

We avoid these additives as much as possible in our foods, but more and more products have more and more additives. One of the best resources for information and studies I have found is Sue Dengate and her Fed Up books and website. Sue has been looking into the problems with these additives for years and I really feel it is time for further attention and action on this issue. These additives do affect our health!

I hope the government is allowing for increased medical costs associated with the effects of these additives in the future, as the numbers will only keep increasing. The increase in the number of food additives since the 70’s correlates with the increase in health issues such as asthma, eczema and behavioural problems. Information on this can be found in Sue Dengate’s work.

This page on Sue’s site lists some of the letters she has already sent asking for change. How many more will it take?

Banning these products has far reaching benefits. Not only for the health and temperament of the people who consume them (in particular children) but also for the stress levels of the parents, teachers and carers who look after these children, would likely lead to reduced medical costs to the government and could possibly even reduce juvenile crime statistics.

The General Manager of Food Standards Australia doesn't think food colourings have an 'impact' on behaviour?? Maybe you need me to send my daughter over with a pack of red frogs! – Fiona, NSW (with permission to reprint this letter)

23 years ago, at the age of 30, I was hospitalised for asthma at Frankston Hospital in Victoria; I recovered quickly with intravenous Theophylline and inhaled Ventolin via a pump. The specialist would not discharge me until I learned what he ironically called The Catechism:

Q: What do you do in the event of an asthma attack in a remote area if there is no puffer?

A: Give them coffee until they shake (lots): this will save them. Decaf coffee will not work.

As it happens, Theophylline is similar to caffeine; the side effects and benefits are similar. – Jonathon, Vic (A Cochrane Database Review, Caffeine for Asthma 2010, agrees: ‘Caffeine appears to improve airways function modestly, for up to four hours, in people with asthma’

First, I have to thank you for the work you have done. It is just over 3 years since I first picked up a copy of Fed Up with Asthma after my then 16 month old son was diagnosed. The medication did not seem to be working as it should, and I knew there was something else going on. He has major difficulties with sulphites, MSG and flavour enhancers (and natural glutamates) and benzoates (although we still avoid all preservatives and artificial colours because we are used to it now!), and after seeing an allergist and finding a nut allergy as well, all the pieces fit together. He is now a happy and healthy little boy about to start pre-school, whose nut allergies have been decreasing over the last two years - in fact his peanut allergy is totally gone - and has gone from one hospital admission a week to one every 8-12 months. We truly thank you, because it was your book that put us on the right track. Clare, NSW

Just purchased my Xmas prawns and thinking to avoid any additives, I always buy 'Australian' uncooked prawns. As I purchased 2Kg they came in the original box and shock, horror, I see preservative ticked, and then 223 (sodium metabisulphite). This product was labelled 'Wild caught Australian frozen prawns' from Hervey Bay - all sounds so pristine!

I rang the fish man morning and he informs me that all prawns are treated with 223 to prevent discolouring. This is common practice across the industry, the only difference being that imported prawns may not declare the preservative on the packaging. I phoned the Health department who were completely unaware of this practice. I suggested that as processed foods have to have labelling of ingredients what of the 'fresh' product?

An asthmatic with sensitivities to the sulphur group of preservatives may well react to prawns and then assume this is a seafood allergy, as preservative would not be considered a factor. Imagine if all those wonderful sea food displays at this time of the year were labelled 'contains sulphur metabisulphite'! – Judy, Vic

I recently went to see an ENT specialist as I have nasal polyps that have bothered me since my 20s and I was due to have surgery to have them removed. The doctor told me that as our town was having problems with the privately owned base hospital I would have to go to the private hospital at a cost of $2400. He did also say when I said I used to have asthma that people who have asthma and nasal polyps are usually salicylate sensitive.

As we didn't fancy paying the exorbitant fee, I got your book Fed Up out of the library, remembering you had said about salicylates. To cut a long story short we cut salicylates out of my diet and one week later I was able to breathe through my nose. THANK YOU Sue. We have since purchased Fed Up and plan to loan it out to anyone we can help. - Geoff, NSW

I have Samter’s Syndrome (consisting of asthma, aspirin sensitivity and nasal polyps) also known as Samter’s Triad or aspirin-induced asthma. For the last 29 years I have been taking medications and trying to stay alive. When I found the Australian salicylate lists I was so excited, I could finally understand what was happening. I was inadvertently eating salicylates every day. – by email, USA (There are numerous less-than-accurate salicylate lists on the internet. The only figures we support are the updated lists from RPAH; ask for our salicylate mistakes information sheet: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

My 4 year old son’ behaviour has always been challenging, but has been particularly bad in recent weeks. After complaining of bloating, diarrhoea etc a breath test revealed that he was fructose intolerant (Note: about 50% of people have a positive breath test, so it is not very useful - Fructose malabsorption factsheet). So we started on the strict fructose elimination diet. My GP asked me a couple of weeks later how the diet was going. I responded that it was going well and that my son had not complained of bloating, stomach pains, etc since. However the thing I had noticed the most was his improved behaviour. I'm sure my GP thought I was a little odd, and commented that it wasn't something he'd heard of before but perhaps my son's behaviour is better because he doesn't have tummy pains. I wasn't convinced.

After a few weeks, we started a challenge by reintroducing the high fructose foods. He seemed to tolerate them well as long as he doesn't eat too much fruit each day. However, his behaviour has been foul! He seems more angry than ever, and last week I was wondering if he may be ODD. The Magic 123 which worked well for so long, now has no impact as he is just so defiant.

So, I started FAILSAFE eating 6 days ago. We haven't done it perfectly as his diet is very restricted due to food allergies and the fructose intolerance. But I've removed the high salicylate items, particularly tomatoes, strawberries and cantelope; and we're really just having the good ol meat and 3 veg for tea every night. I've cut his fruit intake to 1 serve every 2-3 days.

Day 1 perfect behaviour although it was still like walking on egg shells.

Day 2 bad morning, good afternoon.

Day 3 good behaviour a little less eggshells!

Day 4, 5, 6 great behaviour.

When things are good he is the perfect gentleman, well-mannered a real angel. But when things aren't going his way he still gets grumpy but most of the time he can now control the anger. A week or more ago, he just couldn't.

Update 3 months later after doing the elimination diet with a dietitian: Things went really well for some time. However, my son was desperate for some of the non-failsafe foods, particularly tomato sauce and jam. So I gradually caved in, and allowed him to have some. Initially it was a little bit every few days, then a little each daily. Although I'm still careful with his diet, he mustn't be able to tolerate even these quantities as we've started to notice some of the same old behaviour. The salicylates seem to have a cumulative effect on him. Whilst his behaviour hasn't been as aggressive or defiant, I'm certainly noticing that he is loud and unsettled. He can't concentrate on playing with his toys, but instead races around the house and jumps on the furniture! So this week were back on failsafe - strictly! – Carly, by email.

What the researchers say: (See page 14 of the RPAH Elimination Diet Handbook 2009 available from ‘Having excessive amounts of fruit especially fruit juice and dried fruit can cause symptoms such as bloating, reflux, abdominal discomfort, wind and diarrhoea. Although incomplete fructose absorption can cause stomach and bowel symptoms, it does not cause other symptoms such as headaches, fatigue or skin rashes … improvement of symptoms after going onto a low fructose diet is most likely to be due to the simultaneous reduction of intake of natural chemicals in fruits and vegetables’.

I am trying to find the words that will express exactly how thankful I am for the work you do and for the information you make available to parents everywhere.

You really have changed our lives and the life of my 4yr old son whom we were afraid was showing signs of being ODD and even Aspergers. He also was exhibiting symptoms that suggested irritable bowel and gluten intolerance. Since making the switch to fresh food made from scratch we cannot believe the complete change in our son. I had hoped to see positive results but had no idea that ALL of our problems with his behavioural and emotional development would be solved simply by eliminating all processed foods. I have cried so many times these past few weeks which to my family and friends would seem normal as I am often reduced to tears over my son s behaviour. However, I now cry true tears of joy... the change in him is that dramatic!

We suspect that 282, BHA 320, 160b and the major artificial food colourings as well as MSG were the main culprits. However, we decided that the risks with these chemicals are too great and that rather than read the labels and get tricked time and again it is far easier to just cook from scratch the old fashioned way. Being in the kitchen all day is a very small price to pay for a happy family environment!

I have attached a couple of images that summarise how things have turned out for us... a picture tells a thousand words!!! – Carley, by email.

<before, and after>

Update May 2011: Prior to implementing the diet in our home my 4yr old had never picked up a pencil other than to angrily scribble swiftly on a page before abandoning the task. This image was taken at preschool only one week after being on the diet. I cried. I couldn't believe it, not only was he writing and persisting and trying hard to perfect his attempt at the first letter of his name... he was proud. Proud of himself for achieving something. That meant so much to me, having not really seen that look, that emotion in him ever before." - Carley by email

My 5 year old son has suffered from disfluency in his speech since he started to speak! He was an early speaker, and was putting sentences together very early, but would always talk in a very monotone evenly paced voice, a trait we are now told is quite common with kids who have auditory processing issues. We have recently had him diagnosed with a 'severe' figure ground problem. [the louder the background noise, the more trouble he has in processing what he hears - his actual hearing is perfect] I put 'severe' in italics, because he was tested at a time where he was not baseline; at a time where other factors were in play. Both the audiologist and the speech pathologist had other explanations for the stutter, which was most common at the beginning of sentences. Once he got started, the speech was more fluent, but still monotone.

The speech pathologist said his brain was moving faster than his tongue. He had an amazing grasp of language at an early age and his tongue would catch up with time. We discussed techniques in 'smooth talking' and 'bumpy talking', but aside from that the advice was that he would grow out of it.

The audiologist said that the processing difficulty could be linked to the stuttering as a delaying tactic while the rest of the information becomes accessible.

I don't disagree with these experts, but as time has gone on, I am convinced that other factors are more responsible for these symptoms than either of the explanations above.

We noticed, over time, that sometimes his stutter was worse than other times. A noisy environment always made things worse, supporting the figure ground hearing assessment, but at other times there seemed to be no obvious contributor. Tiredness, we thought? Perhaps new developmental stages?

We had already suspected that colours and preservatives made him 'high' and had eliminated all of those anyway. I made most things from scratch and bought very little processed food.

In about April of this year, we happened upon the 'Fed Up' information. We had just had about 3-4 weeks of hell at home. I was tearing my hair out and the tension in our house with the behavioural problems was unbelievable. His stutter was so bad, that it would take him 3-4 minutes to get through a simple sentence. I was trying to be patient and not draw attention to it as the speech pathologist had told us, but it was not only driving me mad, but for the first time, it was really bothering him. " Mu..Mu...Mu...Mu...Mum..... I....I ....I....I...I.... wa....wa. wa...wa..... Uh, what was I saying mum? " If I'd put in every stutter, it would take up more than a page! Upon reading various fact sheets on the website, I had an epiphany! I had put dried apricots in his lunchboxes for the 2 kinder days and 1 day care day a week for about the last 3-4 weeks. Just 3-4 each time, but I cut them out immediately while I kept researching.

Within 4-5 days of removing apricots [and no other changes], the stutter had improved, but was still apparent. After another week, other people started noticing the improvement.

That was the beginning. While the stutter had not vanished at this point, it was enough to make me convinced that there was something to all this 'intolerance stuff'. We got more serious, and finally started to see the gorgeous little boy that we knew was in there somewhere. The aggression all but disappeared, the frustration and the stutter were much improved but there were still times where things would go downhill again.

After hearing Sue talk, I decided to get much more serious, and undertook the complete elimination diet, including the elimination of dairy and wheat. Prior to starting, I spent about 2 weeks trying recipes, building up my pantry items, stocking the freezer etc. I believe that if I had not done that, I might have given up, fallen in a heap and put it all in the too hard basket. The changes in the household were amazing. I was spending a couple of hours extra in the kitchen every day, but with the elimination of wheat [I am convinced] I had the extra energy to do it. A week in, and his stutter had all but disappeared. It was as if he had suddenly grown up an extra year or two. He took adversity in his stride, he shrugged his shoulders instead of clenching his fists, and any remaining disfluency in speech I felt was because of habit rather than anything else. His voice became more interesting, his pitch patters varied and I am sure that he coped with noisy situations better. All of the 'autistic' tendencies which we had seen for years were improved. He read social cues better, spent much less time with his fingers in his mouth, coped with loud noises better; generally it was an amazing difference. His kinder teacher, who has watched this process with interest, remarked that it almost looked as if we had sedated him!

We are lucky in a way, to have a son who reacts so quickly and obviously to things. It makes identifying problems a lot easier. During our salicylate challenge, he went off the chart for silliness, and the stutter got worse. During a course of antibiotics for a bad bacterial skin infection, he got aggressive, angry ... and the stutter got worse. Every time we have slipped up with food, the stutter gets worse. It is our main indicator that something is amiss.

I have no absolute proof. I am not a scientist. I am not a speech pathologist. I am a mum - plain and simple. But I know my boy. I know who he is and who he isn't and these past 7 months I have watched him like a hawk. I know when he is up and I know when he is down. And I am absolutely convinced that his disfluency is directly connected with his diet. I am not saying that the diet is fully responsible, but added to other issues that he has, the diet is what has made the difference for him. A year ago, I was so worried that when he starts school next year, he would be teased because of his stutter. Now, I know that while we will always face issues with diet and behaviour, at least at baseline, he won’t be that different from any other child.

And of course, I will be eternally grateful to Sue, and all who contribute to the Fed Up website. Without it, life would be a great deal more difficult. The one thing I am thankful for, is that I never let things go. If I had just listened to the experts and not used my brain and my intuition, then who knows....- Kylie, by email

First of all thank you for being my saviour!! My 4 year old little boy had been getting increasingly worse in his behaviour and we had pretty much become isolated due to his extraordinary tantrums that lasted anything up to 2 hours 3 or 4 times a week. I never knew when they would happen and it was normally as soon as we met up with friends in a play centre he would become aggressive, loud, uncontrollable and impossible to calm. Many times I have left a shop or playcentre with him folded under my arm, kicking and screaming, biting anyone or anything that came in his way.

We had already been seeing a paediatrician as he was also under weight and under height for his age. They hadn't found anything wrong but his blood tests were not quite right either. I was getting desperate and he is starting school next Thursday and I couldn't imagine what they were going to say!!

Until 'Fed Up'...... We have been following the elimination diet (mostly) for the last 2 weeks with dramatic results. We have not had any tantrums for 10 days. He is a pleasure to be around and he is sleeping much better. We are not there yet, but so much better. I can’t quite believe he's the same child!! - Fay, UK.

From introduction of solids when my baby daughter was 4 months old, she banged her head more or less continually, to the point of making her nose bleed constantly and causing deformation of the skull. She was always covered in big bruises and it was so bad we could never go out, I couldn’t even leave her alone to go to the toilet. After 18 months of this, we discovered your website 3 weeks ago (when she was nearly 2) and found she was eating heaps of annatto 160b in yoghurt and Kraft cheese as well as some other suspect foods. Although she improved, removing annatto alone was not enough. After a drastic change of diet (we switched to unhomogenised milk only), the head banging stopped completely and we are now slowly reintroducing foods. We cannot thank you enough. No one else mentioned diet. – parents at Launceston talk, Tas

It took me a LONG time to pinpoint Annatto as the cause of my problems. For years I just lived with constant diarrhea. It was at the end of 2009 and beginning of 2010 I started to develop new problems. I started getting severe abdominal pain (like nothing I had before) and then a few months later I started getting extremely bloated. The bloating caused me to have unusual belching fits which just added to the embarrassment of my situation. In Feb 2010, my wife and I took a week long cruise... most of the food on the cruise didn't bother me; for the most part I was symptom-free that week!

When we returned from our trip all my problems returned (much like your story). Then in March a new symptom ... I started to get some very unusual and severe pain in my nether regions to the point that it was uncomfortable to sit down. I went to go see my PCP about the burping, abdominal pain, and my "new" problem.

He diagnosed me as having celiac sprue disease and hemorrhoids. A few weeks went by; the problems continued even with a new diet. The pain in my bottom came and went. Then finally in March, I ended up finding out one of my problems was not hemorrhoids but a perianal cyst that I had to have lanced.

After speaking with the proctologist following my surgery and telling him about all my recent problems he decided to perform a colonscopy to rule out colitis and Crohns. Colonscopy was clean but the only thing they could tell me was that they thought I had IBS.

Finally, in August I went to go see an Allergist. The allergist performed a scratch test and put me on a BRAT (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast!) diet. I spent the next three months slowly adding unprocessed food back into my diet. When it was time to add dairy I began having problems again. It was only after speaking with my older sister that she told me she had problems with food dyes. Her problems were skin related (rashes / eczema). She explained to me that yellow cheese has a dye in it (little did I know at the time).

So, I decided to "re-challenge" dairy but this time with just milk--no problems! I then added yellow cheese to my diet--problems again! Finally, tested white cheese--no problems! It was a eureka moment! :)

I still make a few mistakes from time to time but I have been mostly symptom free since making that discovery. I now have no doubt that ALL my problems (including my cyst) were due to my intake of annatto in all the foods I ate. – by email, USA (we would like to hear from others who are affected by annatto with these symptoms or others: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

When my daughter was 12 months old she had a headbanging reaction to annatto in yoghurt. The next week she had another episode of screaming, tantrums and banging her head repeatedly on the metal frame of her bed. The very next day my mum saw a story on ACA or similar program with yourself mentioned, and thought the 4 year old kids on the segment sounded like what we had with our 12 month old ... so we looked up your website. I looked back at food she ate and I had given her a kids Heinz apricot bar and sure enough it had annatto too. This was all I needed to prompt me to look at what she, and we, were actually eating!

My daughter is now 6 1/2 and we still have the occasional uncontrollable outburst and know she's had something. We actually had an incident last weekend with her and the wicked 160b. She was at a friend’s place Saturday night and they thought they were doing the right thing when they gave her jelly snakes 'preservative free, no artificial colours'. I didn't know about the snakes but Sunday saw her at her worst. She woke in a rage and was lashing out, hitting, biting, screaming, indecisive about trivial little things and completely and utterly beside herself. When in this state (the worst lasts for about 4-6 hours) she cannot control any aspect of her being. She even goes as far as plucking all her eyelashes and eyebrows out with her fingers (trichotillomania) if left alone. I went to the friend’s house and began quizzing them! A peek at the ingredients on the snakes proved me right yet again when I saw the number 160b. (fyi they were Aldi brand).

After an annatto reaction is somewhat over, she 'sleeps it off' and will often then sleep up to 15 hours (say 6pm til 9am!!). She had a horrific day and finally fell asleep at 11pm Sunday night. She slept it off and woke close to 10.30am Monday morning. She was fine Monday and Tuesday ... But Wednesday evening saw her showing (relatively mild this time) annatto signs again. I asked her about school (started back on Tuesday) and she was hesitant to tell me her little friend had bought a lemonade 'spider'. I went to the canteen today and sure enough... Annatto in the ice cream!!!!

I'd also be willing to bet my husband reacts to annatto... he gets very moody at times and also his sleep patterns are all over the place. Some nights he will be up all night on the computer and just not tired, then other days/nights he too will sleep for 15+ hours. - Skye, NSW

My son started head banging at 6 months old with the introduction of solids (an all natural yoghurt with ‘no artificial colours or preservatives’ – but it did contain annatto). He has grown out of head banging but if he eats annatto by mistake now he suffers from headaches. – Jo, ACT

I'm a 40 year old physician who has a severe reaction to consuming annatto. If I eat any significant amount, I have the onset of severe vomiting and diarrhea roughly 12 hours later, which then persists for 12-24 hours. I don't have any classic "type I hypersensitivity" symptoms such as hives, just a severe delayed gastrointestinal symptoms. I've managed to effectively avoid annatto since the age of 4 or 5, except for rare exposures every 3-10 years since the age of 4 or 5. I've only recently learned about annatto and concluded that it is the additive that explains my intolerance to certain foods.

Here's my brief story. At a very early age, about age 5, I refused to eat cheese since I insisted it made me sick. My mother tells a story that she didn't believe this, had me eat some, and recalls "sure enough, he threw up!" However, I could drink milk and other dairy products without problem. As a teen, I figured out (the hard way) that white cheese like mozzarella didn't cause a problem, but yellow cheese did. So I continued to avoid yellow cheese, knowing that it made me ill. Everyone around me thought my aversion was odd, and I suspect many people thought it was my imagination. I would accidentally eat something with yellow cheese added every 5-10 years, get severe symptoms, and this would reinforce my belief that I really did have a "physical" intolerance.

I learned of annatto a year ago, and finally my reaction made sense. This connection was reinforced when I got sick a couple of weeks ago, and I assumed it was the flu since I had not eaten cheese. My wife looked in our refrigerator, and sure enough we had some orange yogurt with annatto added. I had eaten two the night before.

I'll also mention that at baseline, with no annatto exposure, I tend to have symptoms consistent with mild irritable bowel syndrome. I've never bothered to ask for a diagnosis, and am used to living with it. So, my pattern hasn't been chronic IBS symptoms with chronic annatto exposure, but severe reactions when I get exposed very rarely. – Physician, USA

After reading on your website the letter from Helen in NSW titled ‘Yellow Addiction’ I felt compelled to write to you.

I realised the adverse effect 160b had on my family approx 3 years ago when my now 6 year old son was about 3. Even at the age of three he was very good at sitting and concentrating at a task, be it drawing, lego or watching tv – except that was if he had consumed 160b within 24 hours. He became a completely different child. He couldn’t sit still, he couldn’t concentrate on anything and authority meant nothing to him – he was literally a nightmare. With hindsight prior to taking 160b out of my son’s diet, yellow was absolutely positively his favourite colour. I can’t remember him being attracted to only yellow foods – he has always been a fairly good eater but definitely yellow “things”. He always had to have the yellow cup and the yellow plate and if he didn’t there would be hell to pay. If you asked him back then what his favourite colour was it was most definitely yellow. His favourite colour today is unknown – it seems to be different every day. Until I read Helen’s letter I hadn’t made the link but who knows maybe it was linked to his 160b intolerance.

Today, obviously I keep 160b out of the house but I can tell straight away if my son has consumed it whilst at a play date! If I personally consume 160b I generally have a terrible night’s sleep and/or are very restless during the day. As you’ve mentioned on your website, 160b does seem to be creeping further into our food supply lately and it is driving me crazy. Aldi in particular seems to be extremely guilty of this. Sue, what can I do to try and get this revolting colouring out. (Contact manufacturers and see our Now Targeting section - S). Obviously we don’t eat a lot of processed food but just being able to let the kids select an icecream treat every now and again has turned into a nightmare. – Donna, by email

My son William had eczema behind his knees when he was 6 months old and then it went away. In October this year it reappeared (just before his 2nd birthday) with a vengeance! It was behind his knees and then spread to his legs, patches on his arms and his entire chest was rough. Fortunately we got onto it quickly and he didn't suffer with any broken skin, however the key things I took out were vegemite and grapes. He had only had vegemite for a few weeks but it took ages to get the eczema to go again. After spending a weekend with my mum, William had eczema behind his knees again. The only thing she gave him which I never do was Vaalia yoghurt (160b) so I took that out and double checked EVERYTHING he was eating for 160b and bingo! No eczema since, with the added bonus of far fewer tantrums. When I realised he had yoghurt with annatto at my mum’s house (and had a little eczema again) I threw out everything that had annatto in it (Heinz kids muesli bars which I was giving him occasionally). The other reason, apart from eczema that had me throw out annatto was his tantrums. William was headbanging again, which he hadn't done in a while. That day I took out annatto and that was the last time I saw him headbang, and that was in November!

He still gets frustrated and chucks a wobbly every now and again, but there's been a big big change since removing annatto. If a normal tantrum for William is a 3/10, they were 8/10 before I eliminated annatto. – Margaret, by email

I react to salicylates with pain in my joints, also I get very tender, raw skin in my genital area and intercourse becomes very painful. I saw you mention sore vagina in children - makes me happy to know I'm not the only one - I have always felt like a freak - so thank you for your books - they have helped me tremendously! - by email

I was just reading in your newsletter a reference to probiotics and thought I would share my daughter's story briefly. In short, she was diagnosed with dairy allergy at 8 weeks, and was finally skin prick tested at 12 months (after Dr's said it would never show up). She had a huge reaction to the skin prick and was promptly issued with an epipen etc. She is also allergic to soy. Her very understanding and experienced gastroenterologist (she has reflux and GI issues as well) suggested that Lactobacillus GG (available in Aust in Vaalia Yoghurt only) had been shown to assist resolution to food allergy. We imported some from the US (called Culturelle there) and she tolerated it very poorly. Her Dr found out that there was a tiny trace of dairy and this reacted with my daughter.

At the end of last year, in desperation because my daughter's quality of life was so poor, we thought we would give Inner Health Plus dairy free a go. It made an enormous difference to her- she started eating again and was not in constant pain. Today she was skin prick tested again with no reaction to dairy. We are about to do patch tests to look for non IG-E allergies- but this is at least a step in the right direction. As dairy allergy is largely outgrown by the age of four, it could just be a natural resolution, but I wonder if the probiotics helped, because it certainly made a huge difference to her life in many other ways. – Sara, by email

The introduction of VSL#3 probiotic seems to have changed my 6 yo son’s behaviour and tolerance. The teachers noticed the difference in his learning at school and we too noticed his improvement at home. - by email, NSW

I am using the RPA diet for management of chronic UTI pain and have found I am extremely sensitive to everything. I used the VSL#3 (probiotic) again) and bammm - burning pain. I think I have learnt my lesson. Just the diet nothing else. - by email, Sydney

After a course of antibiotics I had diarrhoea for weeks but probiotics (Inner Health) sorted me out in a week. - by email, Qld

A week after starting failsafe my eldest (3 1/2yr old) stopped wetting her pants which was nothing short of a miracle and has now gone to bed two nights in a row without a nappy!! – Anna, Vic

My 5 year old has a bladder problem. When she has to go toilet, she has to go NOW or she will leak and wet her pants. We saw a dietitian and started the diet 3 weeks ago. We are dairy free and are going into our 4th week now. We have seen great changes, in all three children. I'm doing the diet too and feel better, less stressed, more patience. Our daughter has had 7 dry nights in a row ... Wendy, Perth

We saw a dietitian and started the elimination diet (including dairy free) 3 weeks ago. We have seen great changes in our children. Our daughter has had 7 dry nights in a row, she is less hyper, less defiant, eczema looks better, no runny nose. Our baby is having less frequent dirty nappies (yeah!). So as you can see it is working for us so far. – Wendy, WA

I have got a 10 yo who is hyperactive and an 8 yo who wets the bed. I recently browsed your website and was astounded with what I found. I was feeding my children with additives just in their sandwiches every day from the bread to the cheese without even realising. I recently changed their toothpaste to a mint one and couldn't understand why one of my children was off this planet with behavioural problems and the other was wetting the bed a lot more. I would never have linked the problems to the toothpaste. I read about salicylates in the mint toothpaste and stopped immediately. The bed wetter has improved already. We have cut additives out of our diet and it seems that as long as we limit the amount of salicylates in fruit and vegetables that he eats, he doesn't wet the bed. – Tania, by email

We have noticed our 3 yo has geographic tongue when he is at the Dr for his ears - which is related to dairy. - by email, Tas

My son (aged 4) is very food intolerant. His symptoms include nose bleeds, ulcerated tongue, grumpyness, headaches, oppositional defiance symptoms and the list goes on. My daughter (aged 7) suffers from stomach aches, headaches and ulcerated tongue - although not as bad. We have followed the elimination diet in the past and have had success. But after being off the diet for 6 months both children's tongues are ulcerated again …

I first noticed the annatto/IBS connection (bad smelling gas, diarrhea, loose stools) with my 3 year old son specifically with processed cheese singles, so I try to keep him away from those and generally don't have a problem, or if so, it is only small. Recently, we were away for almost a week, and when we came back, he started taking these "gummy vites" children's vitamins ("all natural" and sure enough colored with all natural annatto) he hadn't had for some time, and it was like a switch went off and the symptoms were back full force. - Anna, US

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