The average American household consumes about 70% of their diet from processed foods. The majority of our food is coming out of a box or a package rather than whole foods found in nature. Our bodies are being pumped full of artificial additives on a daily basis. If you look back to your childhood, (if you are in your late 40’s early 50’s like myself) what % of the food you ate came from a box? We typically had cereal for breakfast, maybe packaged cookies or chips, but for the most part our meals were made at home. We didn’t get take-out, eat fast-food in the car, and going to a restaurant was the exception rather than the norm.
Now we are faced with our children growing up on pre-packaged convenience foods. It is no coincidence that our children are seeing a higher incidence of behavioral problems, chronic illnesses, and obesity.
In my own family, before I understood what was in our food, my daughter was diagnosed with ADHD at a young age. I was told on several occasions by the doctors we trusted that there was no correlation between what she ate and her behavior. I believed this for several years, and in those years her behavior got worse and I got sick from the stress caused by dealing with an out-of-control child. That is when I knew something needed to change. I did a lot of reading and then ultimately went back to school to study integrative nutrition. The more I studied the more I found that what my daughter was eating, as well as myself, did have an effect on her behavior and my chronic pain.
The main culprits for imbalance for most of us are sugar, artificial sweeteners, artificial colors and MSG. Did you realize that Europe bans many of these additives in their food but the US does not? Here is just one example. Compare the ingredient list for Haribo gummy bears from Germany vs those here in the US. The US version is made in Turkey.
Artificial colors are banned in the UK because studies found them to cause behavior problems in children. Some food dyes were even found to cause as much damage to children’s brains as lead in gasoline. I hope the US will do the same at some point.
In our house we found artificial colors and MSG (monosodium glutamate) to be the main triggers for behavior issues. Artificial colors are easy to eliminate, they are obvious, but when we think of MSG we usually think of Chinese take-out. Unfortunately, MSG is hidden in almost all processed foods in various forms. Sometimes just listed as “flavoring”. MSG and it’s other names are an excitotoxin, meaning your cells get over excited and damage occurs. Some people get headaches, stomach issues, skin rashes, heart palpitations, or even asthma from MSG, as well as, neurological issues like mood swings and irritability.
Here is a short list of other names for MSG:
- Any combination of words with glutamate – monosodium, calcium, monopotassium, magnesium, etc
- Yeast Extract
- Anything Hydrolyzed
- Calcium caseinate, sodium caseinate
- Autolyzed yeast
- Textured protein
- Soy protein concentrate, isolate
- Whey protein concentrate, isolate
Here is a partial list of ingredients that often contain the same chemical in MSG that may cause the same side effects
- Malt extract
- Barley malt
- Citric acid
As you can see this is quite a list. I challenge you to look in your pantry right now and see how many of the items in there contain these ingredients.
If you or someone in your house is prone to migraines, digestive issues, heart irregularities, asthma, irritability, hyperactivity, or mood swings experiment with eliminating or cutting way back on these ingredients from the diet. I understand we live in the real world and removing processed food completely from your home is not realistic but cutting back is.
My daughter understands her triggers and is good at reading labels now. She knows the physical consequences if she chooses to eat something she should not. Did this happen overnight? No, but by slowly removing most of what were her favorite snacks and replacing them with a better option has improved her behavior tremendously. She sees the difference in how she feels and wants to continue on that path.
If you want to start on this path too but just don’t know where to start, I am here to help get your family on the road to wellness.