Artificial Food Color + ADHD

Living Dye Free

By: Bella Sakai

Most of us love bright and colorful things, especially when it comes to food. Unfortunately, artificial food coloring (AFC) changes more than just the color of the food. AFC has been positively correlated to hyperactivity in children. The most common symptoms of food dye intolerance in children are the same symptoms recognized in people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Because of this, prescription medications (that also commonly contain artificial dyes) are being prescribed to children with food dye intolerance to treat symptoms that could be fixed through simple diet changes. The ADHD epidemic in the United States has led to the surprising statistic proving 7.5% of children aged 6 – 17 years are taking prescription medication for emotional or behavioral difficulties. This is equivalent to approximately 4,510,000 children. Not only has AFC been linked to behavioral changes in children but it can also affect adults causing fatigue and restlessness. Scientific studies involving animals have linked these food dyes to organ damage, cancer, and birth defects.

You may be wondering what exactly are in these dyes that make up the products on the market. Artificial food dyes are a set of chemicals used to enhance the appearance of processed foods. AFC was originally manufactured from coal tar however, this did not sit well with consumers so most synthetic food dyes today come from petroleum or crude oil (which is also used to make motor gasoline and fuel oils for heating and electricity). Because of the harmful effects that come from AFC, many countries (such as Austria, Finland and Norway) have banned the use of them all together. In the U.K., the color in a McDonalds strawberry comes from real fruit and in the United States, food coloring is incorporated to enhance the bright colors. So, why do we use these dyes in our food if they have no nutritional value? According to the Food and Drug Administration, color additives are used for many reasons including, to offset color loss due to exposure to light, temperature and storage conditions, to enhance colors that occur naturally, and to provide color to colorless foods and make them more “fun”. Another main reason is because the cost of natural food coloring such as turmeric, beets, matcha, and blueberries are far more expensive than dye.

            In the United States, 90% of food dyes that are used and consumed are Red 40 and Yellow 5. Red 40 is commonly used in candy, baked goods, soft drinks and many other products. The main health concerns that are related to Red 40 are hyperactivity, lymphomas, and chromosomal damage. Yellow 5 is another commonly used dye in the U.S. Products that may contain Yellow 5 are processed cheeses, pasta, banana peppers and pickles. The reported concerns surrounding this dye are aggression, violent behavior, insomnia, and other behavioral affects. Yellow 6 has shown similar results also including eczema. Red 3 is a dye mostly found in sausage and meat products. The FDA tried to ban Red 3 due to the neurochemical, chromosomal, and thyroid concerns, however their attempt failed.

While the effects of AFC may be startling, it’s never too late to implement small changes into your daily routine. The first way to live a more dye-free lifestyle is to recognize the common places where artificial food dyes can be found. Food is a familiar place to look for AFC however, AFC is also an ingredient commonly found in household items, medications, pet food, and cosmetic products.

Below you will find a list of commonly used products that contain AFC:


Breakfast cereals


Fruit snacks


Salad dressing


Ice cream

Nacho cheese

Pasta sauce

Jams and jellies


Pet Food


Fruit juice

Sports drinks



Flavoring syrup

Powdered drink mix


Pain relievers

Cough syrup

Prescription drugs

Fluoride treatment

Allergy medications








Hair dye

Shampoo & conditioner



Body wash

Make up  

Another easy way to reduce contact with AFC is to read labels and ingredients before purchasing new items for your home. Cooking with natural food dye is an option for maintaining a colorful dish without the harmful effects of AFC. It’s important to remember that naturally colored food may not be as bright or concentrated in color as processed foods and if food is naturally colored, the taste may be different than what you are used to. Making your own homemade food coloring may integrate beets, carrot juice, turmeric, liquid chlorophyll, purple sweet potatoes, cocoa powder and other natural ingredients. Researching companies and grocery stores such as Whole Foods, Fresh Thyme, and local farmers’ markets that provide a variety of organic products will make shopping for dye and additive free products more accessible.

Lastly, if you’re worried about whether the dye is affecting you or your child, implementing the Feingold diet may be an insightful regimen. This diet was developed by Dr. Ben F. Feingold who did extensive research on the link between food additives and behavior. The Feingold diet temporarily eliminates foods containing certain food additives (in this case, food coloring) and reintroducing the product if no positive results occur. Starting with a specific dye in mind may make this transition easier. For example, eliminating Red 40 contact and consumption for two-weeks rather than removing food dye from your diet altogether. This will also help you recognize the specific effects of each dye.

Going cold turkey could be challenging when so much of our products contain AFC, and we all know sometimes it’s just too hard to resist the bright pink doughnut with rainbow sprinkles. Living dye free can help you discover any intolerance or allergy that you may not have known you had and implementing small changes to our diet can uncover pathways to optimal overall health.




Arnold, L. E., Lofthouse, N., & Hurt, E. (2012). Artificial food colors and attention-deficit/hyperactivity symptoms: conclusions to dye for. Neurotherapeutics: the journal of the American Society for Experimental NeuroTherapeutics9(3), 599-609.


Eating with your eyes: The Chemistry of Food


What is the Feingold program? The Feingold Association of the United States


Food Doesn’t’ Have to Wear Make Up


Potera C. (2010). The artificial food dye blues. Environmental health perspectives118(10).


U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2010). Overview of Food Ingredients, Additives and Colors.


Spring: Prevention and Self Care

By: Amanda Gawrysz, L.Ac, MSOM
In Chinese Medicine, emphasis is placed on living in tune with the seasons in order to experience wellbeing and prevent disease. Each season is related to an organ network or meridian which contains its own unique associations that can be seen both in the external natural world and also within our bodies. The energy of true spring occurs in the midst of what we still consider to be winter. It may feel as if the two seasons are pulling us in different directions. Winter is a time of yin energy where it is best to rest and nurture our bodies. During this transitional time, this deep yin energy from winter is trying to emerge to the more superficial layers of the body. There is an energy within us that is moving up and outward like a crocus flower emerging from the earth as snow still lays on the ground.

In Chinese Medicine, each season is associated with an element, organ, and its own energy (Qi). Spring is the quintessential time for creating, cleansing, movement, growth, and renewal.  Spring is associated with the wood element, the Liver and Gallbladder organs/meridians, and emotions. The energy of the Liver in Chinese Medicine is especially associated with emotions rooted in anger, resentment, and frustration. It is a time to focus on releasing emotions that no longer serve us well. The Liver helps move blood and Qi smoothly throughout and when unbalanced this movement begins to slow down or even becomes stagnant. Just as the energy of the crocus pushing its way through the ground, so does Liver Qi in your body. If this energy is unbalanced, our bodies also feel unbalanced as spring arrives.

These imbalances in the Liver network will manifest as physical and emotional symptoms. Symptoms may include headaches at the top of the head, depression, anger or irritability, dizziness, digestive disorders, eye issues, high blood pressure, and menstrual disorders. By shifting our awareness and taking simple steps we can help harmonize our Liver with expanding energy of spring and experience better wellbeing.

So what can you do to help support your Liver and make a smooth transition into spring?

  1. Exercise. This is important all year long, but especially important during this time of year. Whether it is taking a walk outdoors, starting a yoga or tai chi practice, or joining a gym, movement helps soothe the Liver energy. Your routine does not have to be intense. Walking in nature for 20-30 minutes 3-4 times per week can make a major beneficial shift.

  2. Diet. In Chinese medicine, green is the color associated with spring and green also charges up the energy for this season. Leafy greens like dandelion, chard, lettuces, watercress, asparagus, kale, and collards should be consumed. Rich, greasy foods should be avoided. Pungent foods like garlic, onions, basil, peppermint, rosemary, dill, and fennel also help with supporting the upward and outward energy of spring. Lemon and apple cider vinegar with their sour tastes helps move bile especially when taken first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. Sour is also the taste associated with spring and Liver energy.

  3. Alcohol. All that heat-producing alcohol we consumed during the cold winter should now be consumed in moderation to preserve your Liver’s energy and give it a break.

  4. Emotions. It is the season to let go! Anger and resentment constrain the Liver energy. Try journaling, meditating, or writing intentions for releasing. It is a time for forgiveness more than ever. Staying calm and peaceful is important during this time.

  5. Sleep. In Chinese medicine, each organ is associated with a time of day where its energy is at its strongest. The gallbladder organ is the liver’s pair organ with its peak time of day being 11pm-1am. Liver energy is strongest from 1am-3am. It is crucial to be in bed no later than 11pm so that these organ networks can focus on eliminating toxins while the rest of the body is at rest.

  6. Attire. Spring is seen as a transitional season. In order to maintain optimal health, think of this time as keeping one foot in winter and one foot in summer. In Chinese medicine, the pathology of wind is associated with spring and Liver energy. It is important to remain covered with a scarf while outdoors as it starts to warm up. Areas of the body that are prone to wind attacks include the upper back, neck, and head. Once a wind attack occurs, symptoms may include common, cold, headache, nasal obstruction, itching, allergies, or rashes. Keep in mind that after an acupuncture session it is also important to cover up the head and neck; certain points as well as the pores in the body are more open and more susceptible towards this wind invasion.

  7. Nature. Walking barefoot to get grounded and reconnect with the season is one of the best and most simple ways to get back in touch with Mother Nature. Walk through nature and listen to the birds sing. Get your hands dirty and start an herb or vegetable garden.  

  8. Relax. While spring has a tendency to become a busier time, it is important to remember to schedule in downtime in order to let your energy gradually build as we move out of winter.

  9. Detox. Enjoy a sauna, steam, or bath with epsom salt and baking soda. Far-infrared saunas are great to utilize during this time. The infrared light penetrates deeper into the body. A traditional sauna uses heat to warm the air which in turn warms your body. An infrared sauna heats your body directly without warming the air around you.

  10. Acupuncture. Getting regular treatments are a great way to help support your efforts to cleanse and detox. Acupuncture stimulates the meridians, smooths the flow of Qi, and clears out stuck energy. Acupuncture can also decrease mood swings, depression, and irritability that may be amped up at this time.

In addition to the foods listed above, the following are springtime foods for detoxification, balancing Liver/Gallbladder Qi, and supporting emotional healing:

  • Arugula, basil, bay leaves, beet, black sesame seeds, broccoli, cardamom, carrots, celery, chives, diakon, dill, grapefruit, green tea, legumes, lemon, lettuce, mint teas, oranges, radishes, sea vegetables, seeds, spring onions, watercress

Spring cleaning our bodies and preventative care truly starts from within. To summarize what was mentioned above:

  • Focus your attention on your Liver/Gallbladder organ/meridian with respect to diet, stress, and lifestyle tips mentioned above.

  • Keep warm and protect yourself from the wind. A light coat and scarf will do the trick in most climates.

  • Focus on the color green, sour tastes, and seasonal foods to help support Liver/Gallbladder health.

  • Allow mental awareness, mindfulness, and to be emotionally flexible.

  • Schedule an appointment with a local acupuncturist for a seasonal support session.