I am so troubled by what I have been learning over the last few weeks. Or really the last few years, if you include all the whole grain stuff. Since the beginning of July, when I finally realized my kids have a sensitivity to food dyes, I have been devouring with a vengeance books and websites that address these topics. I am appalled. I am (a little) scared. I am mad. I am furious. And I'm sickened. Probably literally, if some of these people are right.
When I found out about whole grain flour and what is milled out of it in order to prolong the shelf life, I couldn't continue to feed my family anything less than the entire wheat kernel. I bought a mill and later a powerful mixer so I could make my own all-inclusive flour and know that my kids were getting every mineral and nutrient that grew in that grain of wheat. We are decidedly healthier for that decision. Our biggest success story is the disappearance of Michael's eczema. No more steroids. No more allergist visits. Very few Benedryl pills.
When I started researching the food dye issue at the beginning of this month, I did not realize how interconnected that information would be with so many other, and more common, problems that are prevalent today. Things like peanut allergies, asthma, and genetically modified foods. Over the past two years I have read several books by investigative reporter Michael Pollen and I've learned a great deal about the way our food system works here in the United States. Not surprisingly, it is driven by money. I knew there were other areas in my kitchen that were going to need attention besides the wheat, but I wasn't sure what was most important or where to start. So I just didn't do much of anything. We did back off of white sugar a good bit, mostly by switching from tea to water, but that was all.
The food dyes are surprisingly easy to avoid at home. Most of the time, if one brand of something uses a food dye another doesn't. We really haven't changed much at home for those. Out in public, though is a whole other story. Last week, we had dinner at McAlister's Deli because it was free tea day. Both Carrie and Daniel ordered peach tea. None of us adults thought to ask if the peach syrup had dye in it until it was too late. Yellow 6 in one cup of tea caused 2 days of hyper, aggressive behavior and another night terror for Carrie. I have to stay on top of it when we are not at home.
But the more I read, the more I realize that it's not just the dyes. There are so many chemicals making their way into our bodies disguised as 'food' that it's a wonder we're able to operate at all! Really, it's a testament to our design that we are still alive and kicking given some of the stuff we put in our mouths and expect our bodies to digest and make use of. I have concerns that Carrie may have reactions to some of these other chemicals as well. There are no allergy tests for this kind of thing. I'll have to do my own trial and error testing with a food journal and behavior observations to see if I can pin it down.
Tonight my head is spinning because I'm thinking about all the antibiotics that animals are given, that are then in the meat I feed my kids. I'm thinking about the hormones cows get to produce more milk, and while my gallon of milk from Kroger is free from it, I don't know about our yogurt, our cheese, our sour cream, our butter.. etc. And if it's in there, are we getting extra estrogen we don't need? And is it doing us harm? I'm thinking about the problems with soy, both before it's been genetically modified and after. And how it's in every. thing. we. eat. I'm thinking about how much of the world requires that genetically modified foods be labeled - and we here in the US don't. I'm wondering how one major company that has way too much influence can be knocked back down to size. I see logical connections between stuff in our food and troubles in our bodies and I wonder why there isn't more uproar. The scientific community calls this causation or correlation. Either way it's not good. The research is so often skewed because it's not independent. It's paid for either directly or indirectly by the companies who make the 'food'. I'm overwhelmed trying to avoid the things that might (or might not) be messing with our bodies.
Some of this stuff I have read twice just to think I might have understood what I read. And yet I keep going. I keep reading. I keep having conversations (both with myself and with Michael or others) about these food issues and where they are leading us. So many aspects of this are troubling. But what I do know is that we can't keep pretending it's not a problem. We have to spread the word and start fighting back.... the alternative is frightening, even under the best of circumstances.