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.


Acupuncture for Medication Withdrawal

By: Amanda Gawrysz, L.Ac, MSOM

Have you been told about the effects of eliminating your psychiatric medications? Detoxing from medication can be a very uncomfortable and sometimes debilitating experience. People are not often offered much for withdrawal support, which leaves individuals “white knuckling” through a rollercoaster of physical, emotional, and psychological distress. Not to mention, the psychological aspect that comes along with the decision to stop taking a medication that can be terrifying. Life may feel like an eternity as each moment passes during a medication taper experience. Utilizing acupuncture can help achieve a state of harmony during this process and promote a level of balance in your body that minimizes the intensity of these symptoms.

Acupuncture is an under utilized modality that can help ease the emotional, mental, and physical manifestations during this time. The body is in a state of disharmony and shock from the absence of certain chemicals that it was accustomed to receiving. It needs time to return back to its homeostasis. There is a real sense of urgency when in the transition period of a tapering plan and acupuncture can make this transition less intense.  

Acupuncture ultimately helps restore balance through the stimulation of specific points. By stimulating these points, we improve the movement of Qi (energy) and of blood to help relieve pain, increase circulation, stimulate the liver, and speed up lymphatic drainage to ease the negative effects of withdrawal. Your practitioner will target specific meridians and acupoints that are connected to your specific withdrawal symptoms and bodily imbalances.

Acupuncture during medication withdrawal can help with agitation and restlessness, muscle aches and pains, insomnia, nausea, vertigo and dizziness, headaches, depression, temperature fluctuations, and what patients describe as “brain zaps.” A rebound effect may also be experienced during tapering where the original symptoms return and are worse than they were before.

Many are unaware that endorphins are released from the brain during acupuncture. Endorphins are our natural pain killers which also have a calming and positive effect on our mood. The release of endorphins also help relieve those pesky body aches that may be experienced. Using acupuncture, you can take advantage of the body’s natural chemicals to calm your brain and provide relief that will promote staying sober.

Withdrawal can cause uncomfortable body temperature changes, especially from alcohol and opiates. Alcohol usually causes an increase in temperature while opiates may cause fluctuations between sweating and feeling cold. A study has demonstrated that in combination with electrical stimulation acupuncture reduced this unpleasant withdrawal side effect.

Acupuncture has been known for centuries to help relieve nausea and vomiting from pregnancy, chemotherapy, and postoperative cases. Medication withdrawal is no different. Acupuncture speeds up the elimination process and improves detoxification pathways to allow the chemicals from medications to be expelled out of the body more efficiently.

In the case of experiencing depressive symptoms from alcohol, opiates, or even antidepressant withdrawal is common. In Chinese Medicine, depression causes a stagnation or seizing up of liver energy. These drugs falsely stimulate the energy from the liver causing it to flow more freely throughout the body. Once these drugs are stopped, that liver energy once again becomes constrained based on the Chinese Liver System. Additionally, your Liver energy can move erratically when these medications are stopped causing something called “internal wind” in Chinese Medicine. Internal wind is a sense of movement where there should be stillness. This internal movement is similar to akathisia and is also considered to be a rebound reaction. This effect manifests symptoms such as dizziness, vertigo, restlessness, tremors, and the brain zaps.  

The current common approach to medication elimination sets us up for failure. The process of medication tapering can feel overwhelming, discouraging, and impact our mental and physical body’s to a point where we decide it is not worth the effort. Acupuncture is built upon a foundation of ancient knowledge that can promote balance in your body and provide you with the stability that you need to take your withdrawal head-on and minimize the impact of resulting physical symptoms. Psychiatric medications can have an enormously positive impact on an individual’s life.  When a person is ready to move on without those medications, it is crucial that there is support provided to create a confident and successful transition toward independence.