When my son started on the elimination diet at first he wouldn't eat much and was drinking a lot of soymilk. After he had been drinking So Good soymilk for two years, he got very sick and suffered severe constipation for over 6 months. I couldn't get a straight answer from the manufacturer, at first they denied their product contained antioxidants. I was given the wrong information for two years until they agreed they were using an oil containing 319 (TBHQ). After I complained to the council they changed their labelling or was it just a coincidence? I don't think it's good enough. I switched my son to another brand of soymilk and he did much better but I'm just so angry about manufacturers getting away with making our children sick with what they put in their foods. – M....., NSW (Thanks to the dedication of this mother, Sanitarium So Good is now free of nasty antioxidants)

I have two young boys with autism and severe food intolerances. They become exceedingly ill when consuming any gluten, dairy or soy product, and I have kept these products from their diet successfully for the past 5 years. My children are also severely intolerant of various food additives, including BHA. Two days ago I purchased a carton of Rice Milk, and after one glass both of my children suffered stomach pains and diarrhoea; and the elder son suffered shaking, sweating, and fever. Both boys behaviour became extremely hyperactive and suffered erratic mood swings. (Thanks to this mother and the one below for contacting the manufacturer, the Vitasoy range is now free of nasty antioxidants) – N..., WA

My 11 year old asthmatic daughter is extremely sensitive to additives. After she reacted to some ricemilk recently, I emailed Vitasoy and expressed my disappointment with their company for not listing the BHA. Today I received a phone call from the manager to apologise for the unlisted BHA. What a turn around, the company were genuinely distressed that their health food had caused an asthmatic reaction and were willing to modify the product in due course. (Thanks to this mother and the one above for contacting the manufacturer, the Vitasoy range is now free of nasty antioxidants) – S...., NSW

We know that our 5 year old daughter is intolerant of all the nasty additives, colours, preservatives etc. I was very surprised in the 'Food Tables for People Sensitive to Ingredients or Allergens' (http://www.mcdonalds.com.au/PDFs/AllergenList.pdf) at what they are claiming - no additives in their nuggets or fries!! Certainly not what my daughter's additive radar indicates because last time she ate there, we had her up in the night screaming with "night terrors" and three days of ODD attitude. – K...., Vic

(Antioxidants are not regarded as preservatives so are not listed in the Ingredient and Allergen table. In the full ingredients list you can see that the fries are cooked in canola oil blend with BHA 320 http://www.mcdonalds.com.au/PDFs/IngredientListing.pdf)

I have always been sensitive to perfumes and cleaning products. Until I was 27, the worst allergy that I had suffered was to hair dye which resulted in an all over body rash and swollen lymph glands.

Then about two years ago I had an allergic reaction to some potato chips. This reaction caused my tongue to swell and slight breathing difficulties. However the swelling went down and my breathing went back to normal with antihistamines. Originally I suspected that flavour enhancers were responsible for my reactions. However I have since eaten food with these additives and have not had any reactions. I began avoiding dairy products believing that I had had an allergic reaction to some milk powder in flavouring on the chips. Following this incident, maybe a few weeks later, I went out to lunch with a work colleague to a fast food restaurant and ordered the chilli. As I was still under the impression it was dairy at this point, I felt it was a safe choice.However about 15 minutes after I had finished eating, I started to have difficulty breathing. This was a feeling of a tightening throat and heavy chest. I took antihistamines and could tell that it was not working. So I was driven to a doctor straight away. The doctor almost immediately gave me adrenaline. With this my breathing returned to normal and I was taken to hospital for observation overnight.

As a result of this reaction I was sent to see an immunologist. After discussing my reactions and having skin prick tests done for "standard" allergens (which were all negative), I was instructed to keep a food diary and cross reference the food ingredients that were in my "bad' foods to see if a process of elimination could determine the allergen that had given me my reactions. My immunologist contacted the fast food restaurant to obtain the recipe for me, so that I could begin to eliminate ingredients that had not caused my reaction.

The result was two food additives: 319 (in the oil the potato chips were cooked in) and 385 a preservative used in the beans of the chilli. My immunologist had never come across anyone with this type of reaction to 319 or 385, but agreed with my food diary analysis. Since I discovered this I read the label of everything that I eat. Unfortunately I have had one more serious reaction to food additive 319, due to a misunderstanding between myself and a relative who used oil with additive 319 to cook otherwise additive-free fresh meat. So I now avoid foods (mainly oils and foods cooked in oils) with these additives and have not had a reaction since. My sensitivity to perfumes and cleaning products has become worse since the development of my allergy. My sensitivity to perfumes and cleaning products has become worse since the development of my allergy and I was warned that since my allergy developed as an adult that there may be other additives that I can become sensitive/allergic too. – Caroline, by email (Presumably the original allergy to a hair dye was to 319 TBHQ, see LaCoz reference in 320 Synthetic Antioxidants Factsheet)

I am writing to thank you for all the help your book 'Fed up with Asthma' has given my family. My daughter is two and a half years old, and was diagnosed with asthma when she was 10 months old. She was hospitalized with croup and later we were told she has asthma. She was put on a steroid puffer and I was told she would need this for most of her childhood.

I knew that food additives were not safe and I tried not to buy anything with 'numbers' on the back of the packs, which proved to be difficult. Still this didn't seem to help, I also put her on goats milk and took her off all other dairy products.

I took her to an asthma pediatrician, three months ago. He gave her an allergy prick test which came back totally negative. She was allergic to nothing! The doctor assumed that food was not a cause of her asthma. I was told that the cold winter nights were triggering her asthma, to go home and put her back on her steroid puffer. This winter she seemed to get worse. As the cold nights set in, her coughing increased to the point that I was up every 20 minutes comforting her. I was desperately trying to keep her off the steroid puffer and I was about to give in, when I saw your book.

My daughter has now been on the elimination diet for three weeks with amazing results. By the end of the first day she coughed only once, same the second day and the next two days nothing. At the end of the second week I made a mistake. I bought a packet of plain rice crackers, the ingredients: rice, canola oil and salt. I thought they would be okay (I realised later they probably contain antioxidants in the oil), so my daughter had quite a lot as a snack. That night she was back to coughing every two minutes and using her ventolin puffer. After 24 hours she was okay again and back on the failsafe diet. I realise that we still need to discover her sensitivities but for now she can breath easy with no barking cough and we can both have a good nights sleep. If it hadn't been for your dedication to this cause I don't where we would be today. Thank you. - reader from WA

The food that I react to the worst is oil because of the 321 BHT manmade antioxidant and 320 BHA, and then I also react to all the foods that the oil is in. For example: most frozen pastries - like sausage rolls, party pies, family pies, pastry sheets, even some gelati/sorbet as well. Homebrand mint slice biscuits - they are shocking, having both 320 and 321! All margarines, and spreadable butters - if you can spread it, it's in there. Also as you know, because there is a limit on how much they can put in before they have to mention the additive - I get caught out easily with a lot of foods because I don't know if the 321 is in there and I might take the risk. Most foods just frustratingly say 'oil' but they never say what is in the flipping oil! Where I used to live, there were two different fish and chips shops, one I would get very sick from, the other I would be fine. I can only cook with a few brands of oil and pure butter, because even a teaspoon of a spreadable butter mixed into a huge pasta bake makes me very ill.

First thing that happens is I start to get an uncomfortable feeling in my gut, right across the middle. Sometimes, it's only gas, but it's chronic gas - the kind that gives you extreme abdominal discomfort until it's released and then it's foul smelling. And it's never just one, they go for hours. If I don't get extreme gas, I'll get the uncomfortable feeling in my stomach that feels like pain soaking into my gut trickling through like spidery fingers and within 20 minutes if I'm not on a toilet quick smart, I am in extreme pain. Pain that stabs through my guts and makes me intensely sensitive to the cold, so if the toilet is cold, which most usually are and I don't have a big jacket on I am in serious pain/trouble. While all that is happening on the toilet, I am experiencing extreme diarrhoea. - B....., Vic

At Christmas we went for a month's holiday to New Zealand. I got slack on avoiding preservatives so he was eating lots of peanut butter with BHA (320). The worst thing is that we didn't really think about what was causing his deteriorating behaviour, but just battled through our holiday trying to cope with it. We returned home but it wasn't until he returned to school and went from an average maths student at the end of 2003 to bottom of the class in a remedial group at the start of 2004, and looking back at the horrendous hour-long tantrums we were experiencing at home, that I seriously started questioning what was going on. Living with him was like treading on eggshells. At the end of one particularly distressing tantrum he said he hated himself and hated the way he felt. His teachers said he has NO concentration. I had noticed this myself at home during the holidays but STILL didn't think of diet! He had also totally lost interest in playing the piano which he was mad keen on before we went on holidays. He said it was too hard.

I phoned Woolworths to double check on the ingredients in their gluten free Kerry Formula bread. They told me they don't put preservatives in their bread. Then when I asked specifically about E320 she said, oh yes, it has that.

Anyway, apart from 320 being in the bread he was eating 2-3 times a day, I'm not sure of what other preservatives he's had, but for nearly 2 weeks now he's been off them all and his behaviour has become quite reasonable. He has again become excited about playing the piano, and I have my lovely little boy back. Even my husband who is a bit of a 'disbeliever' until he is thoroughly convinced has noticed a big difference.

I can't believe I let all of this happen. And when it was happening I can't believe I didn't see it earlier. It's scary that chemicals permitted in our foods can have such an extreme effect. My son avoids gluten because he hates being sick. There is no problem there. But preservatives are more difficult. I can keep him off them now, but when he's a teenager will he have to become antisocial and drop to the bottom of the class again and reach rock bottom before he is determined to avoid them, because at the moment he can't, or doesn't want to, understand the connection. It's very hard, but when I feel sorry for myself or him I just remind myself that at least we know what the problem is. Wouldn't it be awful having that sort of behaviour and not knowing why? – reader from NSW.

Our very aggressive five year old improved dramatically on the elimination diet. We were quite surprised and relieved that he passed most of his challenges except for a few additives such as artificial colours. However, after several weeks of excellent behaviour, he gradually deteriorated to the stage where he was uncontrollable, breaking windows and punching others. We were at a loss to explain the downturn. Eventually, we found the culprit - unlabelled BHA 320 in vegetable oil used in a gourmet garlic paste that we had started to use more frequently. There was no effect when it was eaten occasionally, but it caused catastrophic results when used every day. – reader from the NT

Over the years, I have had some quite serious reactions to foods containing the antioxidants BHA and BHT. I have been advised that the reason for my particular sensitivity is genetic deficiency of an important protease inhibitor protein. I have a 70 percent deficiency of Alpha1-protease inhibitor (aka alpha1-antitrypsin, alpha1-serpin).

PI deficiency is the most common genetic disorder, affecting about 15 percent of Australians (The pi gene is co-dominant, with about 1 in 400 Australians carrying the severe deficiency). The protease inhibitor is a down-regulator of inflammatory processes associated with a number of metabolic pathways, particularly the myeloperoxidase (MPO) pathway. Consequently, I have adverse reactions with exposure to a number of substances at levels that are generally considered to be safe for persons with the normal pi genotype.

I am very concerned about the wider use of these substances as food additives, particularly where the use of additive is not described on the product packaging. – reader from NSW.

Your website is a real life saver for all us FED UP with Doctors & Medical Industry & Food Manufacturers - Cher by email

I have a mast cell activation disorder that seems to result in amine and salicylate sensitivity, but I have felt much, much better since discovering failsafe eating – Monica by email.

I just want to say a huge thank you to yourself, Sue and your team of volunteers. 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. - Leonie, Sydney

The information and support I had from your food intolerance network changed my life incredibly at a time when I really couldn't see an end to the challenges I was experiencing ... and for this I will be forever indebted to you both ... I continually forward people onto your website and books for help – Tina by email

Thank you Sue, we are so blessed that you willingly share your knowledge ... and truly care about people. – Joy, by email

I knew I react to glutamates and I believed intolerance to gluten but I recently went on holiday and ate bread daily - I normally eat bread about once a week – and had very few fruit and vegetables and felt like a different person, looks like a lot more reading and strict elimination may have to be carried out now - Sharon, by email

From your fantastic website I have just found a local butcher who makes failsafe sausages! - by email

I am currently seeing a dietitian for my salicylate problem, which is helping me heaps. I am not on the full strict diet any more as we have worked out I can tolerate Low and a couple of Moderate level foods but if I have too many then the problems start up. I didn't know about medication and perfumes, so I am going to go through my cabinet and start to replace. The funny thing was I didn't link my problems with my daughter’s problems with behaviour until I was reading your website and now I see how it is all linked. - Fiona, Qld

Beaconsfield: P&F actively aims to have low additive foods: The parents and friends association at Beaconsfield Primary school in Victoria actively aims to have low additive foods in our canteen ... One of the products has artificial colour - flavoured milk  and this product was chosen because it had less additives than other flavours. Most of the other products are “nasty” free, and they even have 2 failsafe products! - Miriam, Vic

Our school seems intent on using "red light" days to the extreme with the selling of "spider drinks" – artificially coloured soft drinks and ice cream.

Sydney Metro school: My eldest has the biggest reactions to non-failsafe food, however my youngest son just started school this year. I have also increased my days at work and taken up tertiary study. With less spare time, I figured using the full canteen facilities at our school would help me out and save me some time. I can order and pay online, up to 1 week in advance, so this suited me. Unfortunately when I look at the menu, apart from sandwiches (cheese, salad, ham, chicken roll, vegemite, jam and honey!!) the other hot or substantial food and snacks are all foods they can't eat.

flavoured milk
fruit juices
dips with crackers
raisin toast
potato with cheese
Mrs Mac pies
Hokkien noodles
lasagne, Mac & Cheese & Spag Bol
flavoured chips

They go to a great school that does a wonderful job of looking after the children. The canteen is also very proud of the fact that they have rated very highly in the accreditation for Healthy Canteen program (mostly green lights, and only some orange, No red lights), however I too feel they have overlooked the fundamentals when it comes to ingredients.

The school is large with over 800 students, the canteen is very busy and has 1 full time paid staff member and on average of 3-6 parent helpers every day. With this number of student customers, I would like to think they would be very interested in settling them all down by introducing food that has a more beneficial impact on their classroom behaviour.

The school canteen at the Glen Huon Primary School is only open once a week and is run by volunteers. As part of the policy the canteen avoids the additives as listed on your website. There are products available on the shelf at the local supermarket, it is just a matter of reading the labels. Sometimes the products we purchase do cost more and do not last on the shelf as long but it is worth the little bit of extra effort. The changes at Glen Huon came about from the parents requesting 'no artificial flavours, colours and nasty preservatives'. So get other parents to let their school canteens know what they want. – by email

Our canteen at Warnervale Public School used to be "a healthy canteen" that met all the government requirements. It was stocked with every food known to man that was loaded with additives. With a push from a couple of parents and the full support of the Principal and Assistant Principal, the canteen has been slowly changed as foods were sourced to replace current ones, and finally we just deleted every food that didn't meet the no chemical additive requirement. The one exception being the bread, but we're working on that. This included not only colours, but preservatives and flavours as well. The weekly menu was completely overhauled and although it has been difficult at times with a couple of upset parents, we have had far more support for the changes than opposition. It's an ongoing education for parents, as there is so little true understanding of what 'healthy' actually is. What many parents consider healthy actually isn't. We have sourced sausages and meat patties which are additive free and contain 40% vegetables. We sell juice by the cup that is 100% additive free. The only milk for sale is plain milk. We have worked up a slushie recipe (as they are so popular) that is additive free. Anyway, you get the picture. – by email

I would like to mention that I recently purchased all of Sue's books so I could expand on our recipes. When I bought these my husband decided that we (as the parents) should go through the elimination diet. We are both diagnosed adult ADHD. We are on week 2. By the end of week 1, I was overjoyed with a diet response. I have suffered with a "mysterious unexplainable" skin disease since I was about 10. I have seen Chinese doctors, acupuncture, naturopaths, had biopsies taken of the sores, etc. Nobody could give me a diagnosis so we put it down to a stress trigger.   I would get a pussy looking pimple that got itchy. I would scratch it and it would blow open into an ulcer. Within 3 days I would have an ulcer the size of the top of my little finger. I had to keep cool bathing and in severe cases wash in Pinetarsol to heal the wound up. Right through primary school, high school - my whole life. First week on the diet and for the first time in my life (I am now 41), I don't have a sore on me. No pimple looking things, nothing. My skin has never been like this. My husband made a joke last night and said he looked forward to having a Christmas party this year where I could wear a sleeveless dress. During teenager years (when I was obviously eating most of the nasty foods) I could have up to 40 ulcers on my legs and arms at a time – Leona, ACT

I have suffered from severe asthma since I was 18 months (current age = 29). I have been completing the elimination diet with the supervision of my GP because there are no supportive dietitians here.

So far I have passed the following challenges: salicylates, amines, propionates, sorbates, benzoates, colours, nitrates and sulphites. I have failed: dairy, lactose free dairy, and MSG/natural glutamates. When I was little I use to react to milk with asthma after half a glass but always thought it was only milk that set me off, not all of the other dairy products too. I reacted to the milk challenge by day 2. With the lactose free milk, I actually woke up in the middle of the night with quite bad asthma. I have also found that my skin has improved, my post nasal drip has pretty much gone and my sinus pains have been almost nonexistent since beginning elimination.

I completed the MSG/natural glutamate challenge and failed on the 3rd day. Asthma became quite bad and I needed ventolin for next 3 days after. I had to use Buteyko breathing a lot to feel ok. Also found that I fell into a blubbering heap for 2 days after the challenge, not much fun!

I am doing it by myself and have found it extremely challenging socially but I am coping. I was so unwell last year that I just had to do something else. This was suggested by my homeopath. Thank you so much for spending the time on Fed Up.

My asthma has improved significantly, from 1600 mg pulmicort and an average of 8 puffs of ventolin a day (in the week before beginning elimination) to 800mg pulmicort a day and I haven't had any ventolin since failing the MSG/natural glutamate challenge so the last puff would have been a month ago. My doctor is hesitant to reduce this dosage of pulmicort as my asthma is also impacted through environmental factors such as weather changes. I have even been attending fitness classes again, which is so exciting and haven't needed ventolin so far. I have been able to just use my Buteyko breathing if feeling a bit of tightness. Feels like I'm getting control back on my life! - :) Jade, South Australia

We started the strict elimination diet a year ago and have been following it since then for my 6 year old son because he was diagnosed with encopresis, given drugs that didn't work and was soiling his pants every day at school. Horrible. When we started the diet we had amazing success. He started pooing in the toilet every day and the pants soiling stopped almost immediately. The only time that this happened again for all of last year was when he was reacting to something through challenges or by something that snuck into his diet.  – Toni

I am about to embark on the strict elimination diet for the 3rd time, but I am trying to pinpoint what went wrong the 2nd time round – I was consistently bloating but not as severely as normal - versus the 1st time round when I felt fantastic. Using your salicylate and amine mistakes information sheets and the product updates on the fed up site, I have so far picked up the following errors: Coles Pears in Syrup snackpacks (contained pear juice), Simply Wize Crusty Bread (maize flour), Dovedale Rice & Chia Bread (Chia seeds), and the wrong Cenovis multivitamin (Once Daily Women's Multi, contains evening primrose oil). Thanks for all of your help and detailed knowledge, I think I would have been doing many more things wrong in the diet without having the fed up site to look at. - Belinda, by email

I have been looking at the dog food section of your site. Many years ago my dog began fitting much like the dog story reported and he also broke out in blisters. I too removed all preservatives and followed an additive free diet set down by a herbalist and dog breeder.   He was fine for a while but then the grandchildren came to stay and as doggies do he was cleaning up after them ... he now has blisters on his skin again but no fitting. My daughter and I have just gone through our cupboard looking for all the additives etc and are astounded by what we found. We will be reading the labels in future to remove the likelihood of further damage to either the children or the dogs. Thanks for the help. Denise, by email

I haven't been back to see the dietitian again. I found that I knew more than she did, and while she was supportive, she needed to look up information in books that I already knew myself. She would probably be good for someone who hasn't done as much online research for themselves and wasn't as aware of nutrition. She did have some good suggestions, but her advice re: amines wasn't so great either - she said supermarket meat should be fine as long as it was in date, and was determined that my son couldn't be reacting as much as he was - to get me to try meat again (which I did, and got an awful reaction from him). – by email, (If you have found a really good dietitian or someone on our list isn’t good enough, please let us know so we can help others! Also, please email health professionals with feedback if possible; it is the only way they can learn by their mistakes. - S)

I haven't been back to see the dietitian again. I found that I knew more than she did, and while she was supportive, she needed to look up information in books that I already knew myself. She would probably be good for someone who hasn't done as much online research for themselves and wasn't as aware of nutrition. She did have some good suggestions, but her advice re: amines wasn't so great either - she said supermarket meat should be fine as long as it was in date, and was determined that my son couldn't be reacting as much as he was - to get me to try meat again (which I did, and got an awful reaction from him). – by email, (If you have found a really good dietitian or someone on our list isn’t good enough, please let us know so we can help others! Also, please email health professionals with feedback if possible; it is the only way they can learn by their mistakes. - S)

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 http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Iodine_explained). http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/consumer/safety/recalls/bonsoy/pages/default.aspx

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’ http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20091514).

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 www.allergy.net.au): ‘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

More Articles ...

  1. [991] Speech: Diet got rid of disfluency and stutter (March 2011)
  2. [990] Behaviour & diet: extraordinary tantrums gone (March 2011)
  3. [988] Annatto 160b: Head banging due to food causes nose bleeds and deformation of the skull (March 2011)
  4. [987] Annatto 160b: Annatto and years of constant diarrhoea (March 2011)
  5. [986] Annatto 160: headbanging, rage, trichotillomania (eyelash, eyebrow pulling) (March 2011)
  6. [985] Annatto 160b: head banging now headaches in a 6 yo (March 2011)
  7. [984] Annatto 160b: Severe delayed vomiting and diarrhea after annatto (March 2011)
  8. [983] Annatto 160b: yellow addiction, nightmare behaviour (March 2011)
  9. [989] Annatto 160b: eczema, tantrums and head banging (March 2011)
  10. [982] Sore vagina due to salicylates (February 2011)
  11. [981] Reflux and GI issues: dairy free probiotic made a huge difference (October 2010)
  12. [980] Probiotics seemed to change son’s behaviour and tolerance (October 2010)
  13. [979] Couldn’t tolerate probiotics due to amines (October 2010)
  14. [978] Probiotics for antibiotic-associated diarrhoea (October 2010)
  15. [977] Two brief reports: Stopped wetting her pants (October 2010)
  16. [976] Dry nights and baby’s less frequent dirty nappies on diet (July 2008)
  17. [975] Bedwetting and salicylates (July 2006)
  18. [974] Geographic tongue (October 2010)
  19. [973] Ulcerated tongue improves on diet (October 2010)
  20. [972] 160b: Annatto and IBS in a 3 yo (October 2010)
  21. [971] Fructose or salicylates? (October 2010) see update in [993]
  22. [970] Sneaky poos and severe constipation improve within a week (July 2005)
  23. [969] Sneaky poos and salicylates (October 2010)
  24. [968] Sneaky poos and salicylates (October 2010)
  25. [967] Sneaky poos and amines (October 2010)