Wildflowers for Jade: November 2012

Sunday, November 11, 2012

I Go Exploring

Chase and Pip are here! Kindle version and in paperback. Beautifully illustrated story of fun adventure in rhyming verse, for kids ages 2-5.

And yes, you will be supporting a single mother of a child who has Autism as well! (Shameless plug, maybe, but it's true.)
If you want a hard cover book stick around just a little bit longer, it's coming soon! 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Annatto drama aka Annatto is the devil or turns my child into one

Andrew Magill
It began with a free cookie from Publix. Jaden was just a little over 3 yrs old. I
was hesitant but didn't think too much of it when they offered it to him. He went all hyper in the store after that, a little more than usual but that happens. I don't know if it's the florescent lights or the chemicals they clean with or the smells or… but something in the grocery stores set him off. Only he never calmed that night, until he was whipped into an absolute frenzy. It was hours later, 1 a.m. with me trying to hold down my screaming child to keep him in the bed when it hit me. He was yelling at the top of his lungs "Help me! Somebody help me!" At the time I lived in an apartment with people living under, over, and on three sides. I had horrible visions of the police banging on my door and ripping my screaming child from my arms into the night, because it sounded like he was being tortured. 

"What the hell has gotten into him?" I wondered desperately. "It's like he's been drugged." 

Just like. He'd been drugged. 

The next day I was at the customer service desk at Publix wanting the ingredients list of that cookie. They made calls, I made calls and sent emails. Two days later it was in my hand. It was a simple and short list. I understood and ruled out every ingredient except one. What was annatto? 

Ramon FVelasquez
Annatto, if you don't know, is what makes cheese yellow. Actually if you're eating something yellow, there's a good chance it's annatto. I had no idea previously that cheddar cheese was actually white, and they dye it to be yellow. Why? 

Annatto is a natural food dye, but it's also the most allergenic of natural food dyes. Unfortunately there hasn't been much study of it, so everything I will tell you is from years of anecdotal evidence. 

My first round of research turned up some odd stories of children so allergic-yet-addicted (it so happens some people crave what they're allergic to, don't know why?) that they would only eat yellow and only wear yellow. I wasn't even sure if I believed all that, but there was enough to make me wonder just how far this connection was with Jaden. 

He did have some annatto in his diet already but not much, due to his very self-limited diet. Grilled cheese was one of his 3 staple foods, and I used yellow american. I switched to white american. There was some slight resistance but it wasn't terribly difficult for the fact that the cheese was inside the bread, and not prominent. And I fed him in front of the TV so he wasn't staring at it the whole time. 
Slowly, his speech started to improve. At that time his speech had been very twisted. Twisted is really the best way to describe it. The words were half wrong, he would say one word when he was trying to say something else. The other half weren't even real words. Not only that, but he said them all in the wrong order. 

A few days ago I watched a short video of him from that era. He was talking and I was responding, and I thought "How on earth did I DO that?? I can't make out a single thing that sounds like a word!" I can't even begin to describe the copious amounts of desperate effort it took to understand that child… I must be a saint! 

I digress. In a few weeks his words started making more sense. Less scrambled sentences. Words that were actually words. I won't say it "fixed" everything. He still needed speech therapy for two years after that. But there was a definite notable improvement that made speech therapy more effective. But was it really the annatto? It's often difficult to tell in these types of trials. I started to doubt myself, often. There was still some slight trace of it in his diet, in the vegetarian Morningstar Chick'n Nuggets he ate it's listed as an ingredient (and I tried but could not get him to switch.) But I've ascertained that it can't be very much. Sometimes I gave in to his love of Goldfish. And I regretted it. Every. Time. His speech would become twisted again, his thoughts more confused, his behavior more hyper. After enough times it was too obvious a change, when that was the only thing that changed. It had to be the annatto. 

I think of that Publix cookie as a life saver. Thank you, Publix, for dosing my child with a large enough amount of unnecessary annatto that I could finally root out something that had been too subtle in his other foods. Seriously. How else would I have figured it out? I wouldn't have. It was also a backhanded blessing that his diet at the time was so severely limited. Finding a needle in a haystack is more doable when you've eliminated most of the hay. 

Why am I writing this rambly annatto post? Because I made a mistake again. I was prepping for a long trip, and Jaden's dad offered to make a last minute run to the store for road trip snacks. There's not a whole lot he can eat on the road. White cheese to put in the cooler (we switched to provolone btw, he's loving it,) bakery bread, and … oh I don't know. He was standing by the door keys in hand. "Goldfish." 

Why didn't I ask for his veggie sticks? 

So a whole huge box of Goldfish was bought and I tossed a handful each into two baggies. A little tiny bit every 6 months or so is not *that* bad… 

Until that night, 8+ hours later we arrived at my parents house, all travel-weary and stuff. Unpack the car, talk to the parents… while Jaden snags and eats the whole rest of the box of Goldfish. 

And so begins my 5 whole days of some of the most hellish behavior I've ever had from him. I'm. Not. Kidding. 

I told my dad (or maybe screamed at my dad, it's all a blur) "He's not usually like this! If he had been, there would have never been a custody battle!" 

For the record, there was never actually a custody battle. Also for the record, it's not a bit true anyway. I was just at one of those I'm-pulling-my-hair-out moments. Was all of this really from the Goldfish? Or was it the change of scenery and routine, or stuff between me and his dad, or… 

And on day 6 I had my child back. Still hyper, smart-mouthed, and easily frustrated but no longer these things at a screaming 20 on a scale of 1-10. His true personality was back and no longer drowned out. I realized how much I had missed him. Nothing had changed but that it had been the right amount of days for a whole box of crap to get out of his system. I will never feed him another Goldfish again and will body slam anyone who comes near him with one. Just saying. 

After all this drama I realized that I can't, just can't, be the only parent of a hyper child with Autism and SPD who goes off like a baby on crack when fed annatto in the world. I might just have been lucky enough to figure it out where others haven't who weren't given a free Publix cookie at the time when their child had limited themselves to only 4 foods which happened to include chocolate chip cookies.  I'll concede that might be a rare chain of events. 

So I'm writing this for them, or you, whoever you is who is trying to figure out why your child turns into the tasmanian devil sometimes and if it could possibly be a random, unheard of, seemingly innocent food additive. 

That is all. Oh and as a word of warning to everyone else. I will body slam you if you come near my child with a Goldfish. 

"Natural food colors such as annatto extract have not been extensively investigated with respect to potential allergenic properties." Wikipedia  
"Allergy symptoms for Annatto include…
Mood changes
Behavioral changes

Food Intolerance Network Factsheet: Annatto
There are a lot of anecdotes here that describes similar physical and behavioral reactions to annatto.

Read my most recent post on annatto: Taking Annatto Seriously