FAUS Pure Facts, May, 1988
Mother's Day...sentimental ...nostalgic. This is the time for presents and thanks - unless you're the mother of a hyperactive child.
Jacob and Jason are not twins, not even related. But their moms are both veterans of the guilt trip which goes along with being the parent of a child with behavior or learning problems. Both boys have younger brothers with none of the same symptoms but somehow this is forgotten while Mom's "shortcomings" are inspected. One more similarity -- both women are fantastic Feingold volunteers who have helped more families than they can possibly remember.
"All babies take naps," my mother-in-law explained as I desperately tried to deal with my difficult firstborn. "If he doesn't take a nap it's your fault."
Jacob never walked. He just got up and ran. Sherry Lebowitz thought she was seeing the terrible twos, but it didn't show any signs of stopping.
Before she went for counseling a teacher friend had warned her, "I want you to know, going in, that they're going to blame you as a mother. They have no one else to blame; the child's only three years old." Sure enough, Sherry had harmed him, the counselor decided. She had traumatized her son by going back to work.
She took Jacob in for an evaluation when he was four. "It's sad how quickly they make a judgement. They observed him for ten minutes and slapped the label 'hyperactive' on him."
That was a label Sherry found hard to understand. Her son had a long attention span and played well by himself; it was the stress of a group that triggered the behavior problems.
At four and a half, Jacob tested out to be very bright, with a great vocabulary, but he had poor motor skills. A string of advisors contributed to Sherry's rapidly diminishing self esteem. "He is environmentally hyperactive, caused by his home life." (There was one counselor who didn't seem to join the chorus of accusers. But then, he didn't have much insight either. A long-haired hippie-type, his contributions were, "Oh, wow!", "Gee", "Man", and "Wow".)
"I gave him Ritalin and, unlike most children, it increased his appetite." Sherry found the medication also drastically increased Jacob's activity level ("about ten-fold"). "He went beserk! From the time he came home from school, he ate, jumped from one piece of furniture to another, and talked constantly until 10 pm. "I called the doctor and asked him, 'What do we do now?' His response: 'Call me next week and we'll talk."
When her son was five Sherry learned about the Feingold diet, and the change in Jacob has been remarkable. Today, at age 7 1/2, the child who had had very poor motor skills ("He tripped on air.") is above average athletically and receives a "B' in physical education--and "A's" in the rest of his subjects.
What does Sherry's mother-in-law say about the change in her grandson? "She thinks he's perfect and has always thought so," Sherry told Pure Facts. 'The woman is 80 years old and not about to find a flaw in the little boy who bears the name of her late husband. She just figures I was a 'hysterical mother.' Actually, before we got Jacob on the diet, I think I was!"
"I think you're being very unfair to Jason." The learning disabilities specialist made Suzanne Crossley feel guilty for not wanting to put her son on Ritalin. Although he had been on the Feingold Program for several years, and had improved dramatically, the teacher was dissatisfied with Jason's school performance.
After conducting neurological testing, the doctor felt there was no serious problem. Jason had a mild learning disability, but nothing requiring a recourse to drugs.
She thoroughly disliked the idea, but Suzanne finally agreed to try Ritalin in the event it could help Jason with his schoolwork.
"I gave him one (10 mg) pill, and within 45 minutes his activity level increased noticeably. He was playing with his younger brother and I saw Jason pick up a toy gun. Aiming the gun at his brother, he said, 'If this was real I'd blow your head off.'
Jason's reaction to one Ritalin was severe.
"This sort of behavior was completely out of character for Jason and of course it frightened me. Then he held his hand to the back of his head and began screaming in pain. He said his head was 'exploding'. This, too, was something Jason had never done.
"Amid the screaming, I called the doctor and told him what had happened. (He could hear it for himself!) He asked me how many of the Ritalin I had given Jason, and when I told him "only one" he told me to "throw the damn things away and tell the school you tried."
It's been four years since this episode and Jason gets along very well with his current teacher. They have a lot in common because his 6th grade teacher is on the Feingold diet too!"
by Margaret Strate, Virginia Beach, VA
FAWA Fine Prints, May, 1988
It was a sunny afternoon, you know, one of those long, lazy, hot days where everyone is out and enjoying life. I was sitting in my front yard, drinking in the wonderful atmosphere of children playing. And then I noticed something very strange. My neighbor from across the street was pulling his son in a wagon. They progressed slowly up one side of the street, turned in the culde-sac, and came down the other side. I was very carefully watching the whole innocent journey in amazement. This seemed so very odd to me because I knew that if it were my son in that wagon, he would never have been able to sit still for any length of time, and this child was very content to sit and enjoy the ride. Well, my curiosity was getting to me at this point, so I got up out of my lawn chair, and headed across the street to where my neighbor and his wife, and some of the other mothers on the street had gathered. They were talking about summer camp - a typical summer topic - but it had quite an impact on me for which I will be ever grateful.
As it turned out, my neighbor's son had been going to summer camp, and one of the camp counselors had suggested trying the Feingold diet for him because he had difficulty in concentrating, sitting still, short attention span, and aggressive behavior. His mother had noticed difficulty at home, so she thought if a diet could help, why not give it a try? She found the books she needed readily available at our local library. She told me it was not very hard getting started, mostly because she followed the menu plan already outlined in the cookbook. But I asked her just what made it so special? I had always heard about staying away from artificial colorings, flavorings, and preservatives, and had already incorporated that into my family's daily meals, but my son was still very difficult to handle. She told me that in addition to those, Feingolder's stayed away from foods containing salicylates! That was news to me - so I decided to investigate things further. She was so pleased that she had already returned the library books, and bought her own. My next stop was the library!
I remember the drive so clearly. I had renewed hope that maybe things could be better now. Maybe I won't have to make excuses anymore for his behavior around other children and adults. Maybe I won't have to stay home so much, hiding away because I have no control over my son. You have to realize, it is not because of lack of discipline that my son literally ran from day to day. Oh no! I knew my son was different when other mothers could make their children sit in a "time-out" chair for unruly behavior and I finally asked, "Well, just how DO you get them to SIT in the chair?" I was almost laughed right out of the room until they realized that I was very serious.
Another clue that told me my son was different, was the exhausting fact that he never slept more than 45 minutes at a time. Incredible, but true. I had gotten so used to it, that I had adjusted to his own sleep pattern, but I remember questioning this problem early on. When my son was about two months old, I took him for a routine check-up, and the pediatrician asked me if I had any questions. I really didn't have any problems, but one concern was that when the baby was sleeping, he would jerk all of a sudden, then wake up. Many of us have done this I am sure, but this was consistently 45 minutes after falling asleep. The doctor told me it was due to an immature nervous system, and that the child would soon outgrow it. Sounded logical to me - however, now he was 3 1/2 years old, and still doing it - even through the night.
So I arrived at the library, the books were there just as my neighbor had said! I checked them out, and couldn't wait to start reading. When I got home, I explained it all to my husband, and said I'd be reading in the den if he needed me.
I was truly amazed at what I found. Within those pages were the possible answers to all my questions, fears, and concerns, about my child and his behavior. But I had to try some diet changes first before I could be really sure. I cross-checked what my son had eaten for breakfast a couple of days ago -- on a day that was particularly difficult for him. Breakfast consisted of the following wholesome items: blueberry muffins made from scratch, home-made applesauce (low in sugar), and orange juice. This is what I felt was very nutritious, but I came to find out that everything contained salicylates, and that this was just fuel for the fire! This was absolutely unbelievable. I almost felt cheated that no one had told me about this before, but now was not the time to feel sorry, now was the time to act.
I took my son aside and explained to him that we were going to try to eat special foods to help him stop fighting. He was very willing to try because wasn't happy with his behavior either! We cleared a spot in the refrigerator for him - so he knew exactly what snacks he could have. Only one more thing to do - a trip to the grocery store. I took him with me so that he could choose the snacks that were approved, and also appealing to him. We made a grand ceremony of arriving home and carefully placing items in the frig.
And so it began, my husband and I anxiously awaiting the results, my son desperate for a solution to his restlessness, his fighting, his crying fits with no reason. The books said it could take a week, maybe more, to notice improvement. It took us one day. That's right! Within 24 hours he was able to take a four hour nap! And that was his sleeping pattern for more than a week! The poor child had to catch up on 3 1/2 years of sleep. From there we saw the cheerful, happy person we knew our son wanted to be, and it made such an impact on him that he called it his "Happy Diet" - and we couldn't agree more. We told everyone about it - we were ecstatic! And even our skeptical friends couldn't believe their eyes.
It has been over two years now since that wonderful, summer day. We have learned a lot about nutrition, and making wise choices, and the whole family feels much better for it. Johnthan can still remember what it use to be like before the diet. And when one of his classmates has a particularly bad day, he says, "Mommy, I think they need to be on a Happy Diet!" Maybe someday mothers everywhere will know the joy of a truly happy child through good nutrition and "The Happy Diet!". Until then, we are going to let everyone we know that we have a lot to smile about these days.
FAUS Pure Facts, May, 1988
"My little boy became hyperactive after eating a candy bar," the father wrote to a psychologist whose syndicated column appears in many newspapers. The columnist's response was that "recent studies indicate sugar doesn't cause hyperactivity". This reflects the common misconception that a candy bar and sugar are the same.
And at FAWS, the following letter, sent by a mother in Alabama, is fairly typical of the mail we receive:
In our culture, these two words are frequently used interchangably, but there is an enormous difference between them.
While sugar is a fairly simple substance, candy is generally composed of many compounds, both natural and synthetic. In addition to sugar, some candies contain synthetic dyes, artificial flavorings and one or more of the antioxidant preservatives eliminated by the Feingold Program. Glazes, gums, emulsifiers, etc. are often used as well.
To equate "sugar' with "candy" is like saying a string bean is the same as vegetable soup.
Not only does the quantity of sugars tolerated vary from one Feingold member to the next, the type of sugars vary as well. Many successfully use white granulated or confectioner's sugar, while others do best with honey. The salicylate-sensitive member may be likely to have problems with one or more varieties of honey.
Corn sweetners and corn syrup are widely used in foods because they are less expensive than sugar. Unfortunately, they cause problems for many Feingold members, especially those who are new to the Program. Since these people can generally tolerate corn in other forms, it is not believed to be an allergic reaction.
Food chemists are working on the development of several new synthetic sweeteners: acesulfame K, sucrolose, alitame and Lactitol. Abbott Laboratories, which manufactures cyclamate, has petitioned the Food & Drug Administration to allow them to once again market this sweetener. Cyclamate was banned in 1970 after tests showed a mixture of cyclamate and saccharine caused cancer in laboratory animals.
The double blind British study by Egger et al indicated that only 16% of the hyperactive children tested reacted to sugar. In addition, the parents of several other children in the study felt their child reacted to sugar when he ate a great deal of it. The experience of Feingold volunteers supports these findings. A few children are very sensitive to sugar and/or other sweeteners, but most can tolerate them in moderation. When too much sweetener is consumed the parents report their child's behavior changes for the worse.
A study conducted at Children's Hospital in Washington, DC supported another Feingold observation - sugars seem to be tolerated by most children if they are eaten after a nourishing meal.
Some studies claim to demonstrate that there is no link at all between sugar and hyperactive behavior. One which is widely quoted was conducted by Mark L. Wolraich et al at the Univeristy of Iowa. (Funding was provided by the Sugar Associates, Inc., and the National Institutes of Health.)
Feingold members will readily see some of the serious flaws in the design of this study:
A study conducted at the National Institutes of Mental Health, using 'lemon flavored" drinks, sweetened with saccharine made similar mistakes. In the NIMH study, the children were taken off medication one week prior to the start of the study.
A FDA task force report on sugar gained wide publicity last year. After reviewing more than 1,000 papers on the health effects of sugar, the scientists concluded that sugar did not appear to be a cause of hyperactivity.
News of the FDA conclusion was greeted joyfully by the Sugar Association, whose president, J.R. O'Connell, had earlier vowed to battle the foes of "nutritive sweeteners".
Addressing an industry gathering in February of 1982, O'Connell said, "...we have been the symbolic whipping boy in an ongoing widespread nutritional scandal that will be remembered by sociologists as the low-point in consumer exploitation."
The hotly competetive cereal industry is often a trend-setter for the rest of the food industry. Kellogg's opened the floodgates of health related advertising in 1984 when it printed anticancer claims on its boxes of All-Bran.
The following year the cereal giant removed the word 'sugar' from its Sugar Frosted Flakes. Advertising Age, the advertising industry's trade journal, reasoned. "No need to wave a red flag in the customer's face."
At the same time General Foods "Post Super Sugar Crisp" became "Super Golden Crisp." The company said the change was due to their desire to change to a new gold foil box in honor of the company's introduction of puffed wheat 36 years earlier.
Post ads claimed the cereal is made "just the way Mother Nature intended." Advertising Age responded, "Who says you can't fool Mother Nature?
Nabisco's contribution was a statement on the box front of its 100% Bran cereal: "100% Bran flavored with two naturally sweet fruit juices." The cereal continued to be 18% sugar, but now contained a fraction of a teaspoon of fruit juice in each serving.