For the past 4 years, our family has made a conscious effort to avoid artificial ingredients. An increasing number of people have asked me about our eating habits, so I’m recording the basics of our “plan” here.
The Feingold Association promotes healthy living through the elimination of artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives. The program also presents information about possible effects from salicylates in natural food.
“Numerous studies show that certain synthetic food additives can have serious learning, behavior, and/or health effects for sensitive people.”
“The Feingold Program (also known as the Feingold Diet) is a test to determine if certain foods or food additives are triggering particular symptoms. It is basically the way people used to eat before “hyperactivity” and “ADHD” became household words, and before asthma and chronic ear infections became so very common.
In the beginning (Stage One) of the Feingold Program, aspirin and some foods containing salicylate (Suh-LIH-Suh-Late) are eliminated. Salicylate is a group of chemicals related to aspirin. There are several kinds of salicylate, which plants make as a natural pesticide to protect themselves. Those that are eliminated are listed in the salicylate list which is included also in the Program Handbook. Most people can eventually tolerate at least some of these salicylates.”
I learned about Feingold as several members of SHS (a Yahoo Group for support in homeschooling) mentioned benefits of the program. I am extremely grateful that those women shared their experiences!
In September of 2007, our family implemented the Feingold program. After following the program for approximately 4-5 weeks, we noticed improvements in the behavior and attention spans of our children. On the occasions when Christian and Rebecca eat “off-plan,” the reaction is painfully OBVIOUS: difficulty following instruction, increased and amplified humming and “boy noises,” increased “drama queen” episodes, and increased fidgeting. Impulse control is suppressed, often increasing sibling conflict. Ugh.
Christian has not been officially diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome (a mild form of autism), but he exhibits a majority of the common symptoms. Those symptoms are minimized when we stick to the Feingold guidelines. Over the last week, I allowed the children to eat several fruits with a significant salicylate content. Christian exhibited a noticeable lack of focus and increased stimming. [Short for self-stimulatory behaviors, this includes all sorts of things: flapping hands, echoing phrases, making noises.] These reactions can last a week or so. After the salicylates or artificial ingredients wear off, Christian only moderately displays Asperger’s symptoms.
To my knowledge, Rebecca has had no ear infections since we’ve been on Feingold. We recall only one earache after swimming that was soothed by some warmed olive oil. No antibiotics needed. Prior to the plan, she was diagnosed with recurring ear infections each year. Several courses of antibiotics each winter! I don’t understand exactly how ear infections would be linked to artificial food, but others have noted a similar connection.
Click here for a list of symptoms that may be helped by the Feingold Diet.
Although we embarked upon this journey for the benefit of our children, Terry and I have noticed improvements in our own health. I have fewer headaches. We’ve encountered stomach aches and even nausea when we’ve eaten certain buffet food or guzzled the wrong kind of soda pop. Because our bodies are now accustomed to running on natural foods, they rebel when given our old standards.
A strong commitment IS necessary to properly implement the Feingold program. After receiving the Feingold materials, I purged our pantry and refrigerator of all artificials. [I learned to switch many of our soaps, detergents, and lotions as well, but that’s a topic for another post.] For the first few months, grocery shopping is labor-intensive while you look for products listed in the Feingold Foodlist and Shopping Guide. By now, I’ve learned which products are “Feingold-approved” and shopping typically takes no longer than before.
If you live near a large health food store, your life will be considerably easier. Our nearby town has a small health food store that carries some specifically approved items. But you can survive with regular grocery stores. Many basic groceries can be found at stores such as WalMart, Kroger, and Meijer.
Please note: eating naturally does not have to mean boring or flavorless. We have plenty of options for drinks, snacks, and desserts. Soda pop. Lemonade. Oreo-like sandwich cookies. Potato chips. Candy bars. Cheese puffs. Cake. Ice cream. I think you get the picture:)
Although some speedy pre-packaged meals are made without artificial ingredients, and we utilize those on occasion, most of what we eat nowadays is homemade. I’ve learned to make some delicious meals “from scratch.” I’m working on an updated blogpage with our favorite recipes. Hope to have that published soon.
Restaurant dining is possible with Feingold guidelines (after you’ve progressed through the recommended 6 weeks of “clean” eating to establish a benchline). Feingold membership includes a restaurant guide which lists acceptable menu choices. Subway and Papa John’s Pizza are two of our local restaurants with “safe” options. When we travel to larger cities, we enjoy eating at Five Guys Burgers and Fries! Desserts are available from Cold Stone Creamery. Please note that not every menu item from those companies is acceptable. Our guide is well-worn—it goes with me everywhere!
Feingold membership is a worthwhile cost for our family. In addition to the initial materials, members receive a shopping guide, restaurant guide, and monthly newsletters as more foods are investigated and “approved.” Other benefits are a “bulletin board” for member support. I gleaned many helpful tips from that bulletin board when our family prepared for a Disney trip!
Feingold membership renewals are considerably less expensive. We have paid the annual membership fee for 3 of the past 4 years. [One year we couldn’t afford a renewal, so we just continued using our shopping and restaurant guides from the year before. It was no huge problem, but we missed out on learning the newly-approved products during that year.]
You may question the necessity of paying for Feingold materials. For us, the improved focus of our children and the peace of our household is worth even more than that cost! We’ve not needed antibiotics since we’ve started the program. I’ve read of children who no longer need ADHD and/or allergy medication. I’m sure that such meds cost much more than Feingold membership. By the way, the Feingold Association is a non-profit organization.
Please note that I received NO compensation for my review. Nor am I a medical expert. The information in this post is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. I’m just sharing what works for us!
Please ask if you have questions. I’ll answer to the best of my ability:)