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.


Are You Eating Dessert for Breakfast?

By: Amanda Gawrysz, L.Ac, MSOM, Dipl. OM

Do you eat breakfast? Are you one of those people that like to roll out of bed and run out the door with a sugary snack? Or are you the one to wait for sugary snacks like donuts or cupcakes to be brought into work by your coworkers?

Many of us have heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but many of us may not fully understand the true importance of making that first meal nutrition packed. A lack of time and a lack of hunger in the AM hours seem to be the two main excuses for skipping this important meal.

Processed and added sugars are the biggest culprits in the standard American breakfast; pancakes with syrup, waffles with fruit jams, muffins, donuts, French toast, cereals with artificial colors and flavors, and even granola bars are what Americans consider to be breakfast foods. By eating those types of meals and then adding multiple cups of coffee we are seeking a short-term energy boost that is artificial in nature just like the processed sugars being consumed. Then lunch time approaches and you are probably experiencing extreme hunger, a sugar crash, or are ready for a nap. Not only do you experience energy fluctuations throughout the day with this method of eating, but research shows that sugar and sweetness can induce reward and craving that are comparable in magnitude to those induced by addictive recreational drugs.

Let's discuss how much sugar is actually in typical foods that are being consumed for breakfast. A Yoplait original strawberry yogurt contains 18 grams of sugar which is the equivalent of eating a vanilla ice cream cone with sprinkles. A Dunkin’ Donuts blueberry muffin has 43 grams of sugar which is the same as one 2.17 ounce bag of skittles. Are you feeling disgusted by this yet? The USDA reports that the average American consumes between 150 to 170 pounds of refined sugars in one year! We have become a sugar driven society. The food industry is fully aware of this and continue to pack more and more sugar into their products so that consumers become addicted and in the end buy the product again.

Not all sugars are the same. There are naturally occurring sugars in foods such as fruits and grains that also contain vitamins and other nutrients including fiber that we all need for optimal gut health. Although fruits should be consumed in moderation, it is the added sugars and sneaky ingredients the food industry uses (like high fructose corn syrup and aspartame) that we need to look out for.

Sugar is a major life force and our bodies need it as fuel to feed the ongoing fire of life’s process. The sugars in whole foods are balanced with the proper minerals. When natural sugar is refined and concentrated, the life force is dispersed and the natural balance is upset. Refined sugar passes quickly into the bloodstream in large amounts giving the stomach and pancreas a shock. An acid condition forms which consumes the body’s minerals quickly. Thus calcium is lost from the system causing bone problems. The digestive system is weakened and food cannot be digested or assimilated properly. This leads to a blood-sugar imbalance and to further craving sugar.

Satisfying the sweet tooth can be a challenge. Begin by reducing the intake of sugar slowly and use some discipline and self-reflection to take you smoothly through the withdrawal symptoms of tiredness, anxiety, and depression. Suddenly dropping sugar usually results in a desire to binge. People who stop eating sugar nearly always experience higher spirits, emotional stability, improved memory and speech, restful sleep and dreams, fewer colds and dental problems, more endurance and concentration, and better health in general. Raw carrots are especially helpful for sugar cravings or eating something sour, pungent or spicy like warm lemon water can also diminish those cravings.

What if you changed your morning habits by either giving yourself an extra 15 minutes in the kitchen or by meal prepping the night before? Liquids like smoothies, green juices, and soups or bone broths are the easiest and quickest way to get a nutritional breakfast in. If eating three meals per day, optimal meal times are breakfast 7-9am, lunch 11-1pm, and dinner 4-7pm. Also, make sure to keep cold beverages to a minimum. The ideal time to drink cold liquids is in the afternoon when our body’s energy is at its peak. Drinking room temperature or warm drinks 30 minutes before a meal aids in the digestion process instead of slowing it down like cold liquids do or drinking during meals.

Refined sugar delivers high energy and enables one to keep working, but unfortunately it is addicting and contributes greatly to disease and unhappiness. While in very small amounts it can be used as medicine, in large amounts sugar leads to obesity, hypoglycemia, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, anemia, immune deficiency, tooth decay, and bone loss. Choose whole fruits and vegetables, decrease the intake of processed sugars slowly to avoid intense withdrawals symptoms, and make sure to eat a nutrition packed breakfast every day to give you the long-term energy you need.


Blooming in Spring with Traditional Chinese Medicine

In Chinese medicine, springtime is correlated to the liver and the gallbladder as these organs carry energy to store and detox the blood. In spring, we look forward to longer days, the frost thawing and new growth surrounding us.

‘Spring cleaning’ is a great energetic way to express the change of the season, not only for your home, but for your body too.

As the bulbs begin to push through the soil, we humans should be pushing ourselves to be more active, to engage in activities or thought provoking experiences in order to move stagnant winter energy and express our creativity.

When it comes to our nutrition, raw greens, herbs and vegetables are in abundance this season to enjoy-which stimulates liver energy flow.

A restful winter that may have led to more indulging in heavy foods, alcohol, coffee, and Netflix will lead to more feelings of tension and congestion symptoms.  This tense, sluggish energy is called liver stagnation.

Symptoms of stagnant or sluggish liver energy include: muscle tension, headaches, waking between 1-3am, difficult menses, increased allergies, waking feeling "hung-over", lethargic, depressed, impatient, irritable, or more constipated. 

Foods that decrease liver stagnation are those that taste pungent such as watercress, onions, mustard greens, turmeric, basil, fennel, rosemary and mints. Too many pungent foods can lead to excess heat in the body. If you find yourself experiencing excess heat turn to foods like beets, taro root, sweet rice, strawberries, cabbage, kohlrabi or broccoli. 

If this time of year you find yourself in depression or digestive indigestion, try drinking unrefined, high quality apple cider vinegar, brown rice vinegar or red wine vinegar. To drink, add one teaspoon vinegar of choice to one cup of warm water (raw and local honey an optional addition). If the vinegar causes excess heat try drinking warm water with lemon, lime or grapefruit instead. 

Decreasing your cups of coffee throughout the day will also keep our liver healthy. In order to curb this habit reach for herbal tea rather than the caffeine. We suggest milk thistle, chamomile, licorice root or dandelion root tea. Add a hint of brightness with a fresh slice of lemon or lime and a generous teaspoon of honey to sweeten your morning or afternoon.

Upping our dose of raw foods, adding pungent, bitter and sour foods and drink along with drinking less caffeine will make for a happy liver, a calmer mind and a more creative spirit this time of year. Combine these fresh new foods with hot tea to ensure strong digestion.