About 7 years ago I was dealing with a 4 year-old child who had very irrational behavior and crazy temper tantrums that just seemed so uncharacteristic and unnatural that I was actually considering counseling. I was at the end of my rope and was willing to try just about anything. I was talking to a woman at church who was dealing with similar issues with her son and said that she had narrowed it down to an allergy to corn. Corn? Seemed like an odd thing to be allergic to, but nonetheless I was ready to try anything. I cut EVERYTHING corn out of his diet, including corn starch and…drumroll please….HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP! Literally, within 48 hours of cutting out corn, corn starch and corn syrup, my son had returned. The crazy monster child that was living in my house was gone. I was amazed. I was thankful to God and I knew that it had something to do with corn. After doing some research online and reading some testimonials regarding the effects of corn syrup on some people’s behavior, I was convinced it was not the corn, but it was the corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup. It all was related to the process that is used to create the sweetener. I was floored.
I was flabbergasted. I was essentially poisoning my child for the previous four years, feeding him everything that seemed “normal” and “healthy” by society’s standards. I thought I was doing him right by the healthy crackers and cereals and lunch meats and breads I was feeding him. Here, everything I was feeding him, was harming him! I realized that I had been feeding him this horrific sweetener since he was an infant! He nursed only a few months and then moved to formula and I realized the formula indeed had high fructose corn syrup (HFCS!) I felt like the worst mother ever. I beat myself up inside, feeling the guilt for not knowing better. But, alas, I did NOT know better. How would I know that HFCS was bad for him, or me, or anyone for that matter? It was in everything, so it must be good, right? Wrong! I know that my son was a unique case, he had an unusually strong reaction to it, because my other son did not appear to suffer the same effects. However, “the proof was in the pudding,” so to speak based on the immediate and extreme change he experienced. I was sold on the fact that the HFCS was the culprit. I cleaned out my pantry and went on a search for foods he would enjoy that would not hurt him. This was extremely difficult since this was before it was trendy for manufacturers to advertise that they no longer used it in their products. This was before it was blacklisted by moms and health practitioners across America. Essentially, it was before it was “cool” to not want to consume HFCS. It was so hard to find anything that did not have HFCS. My saving grace were fruit leathers I found at Wegmans and Pepperidge Farm Goldfish which were already a favorite of his. Forget cereal. It was unheard of unless I bought Cheerios. I would estimate about 75% of his daily food consumption was turned upside down. Next, I had to tell his preschool and Sunday School teachers that he could not have the snack provided because it most likely had HFCS. It was really difficult because they didn’t understand how it would change his behavior and even though it was technically an allergy like a peanut allergy, I had to tell them it was an allergy otherwise I would not be taken seriously. They didn’t understand that even one lone cupcake for a snack rendered me a terror within hours and sometimes into the next day! I could see my son behaving with the telltale signs of his irrational and extreme behavior and ask him, “now, what did you have for snack today?” and sure enough, he was giving something that contained HFCS. I would get so frustrated because people did not take it seriously because it was not a life-threatening allergy and it was commonly overlooked by his caregivers. I would send in special snacks and anyone with a child with an allergy knows how difficult it is to see you 4, 5, 6, 7 year old deal with being “different” and not getting to enjoy the Oreo cookies. My heart broke when the other child had yummy rice krispie treats and my son had his pseudo-snack. He was a trooper but I could see his hurt and it hurt me. I knew I was doing what was best for both of us (his health and my sanity) but it was still so hard. I remember back to Kindergarten when he was sick and missed the Valentine’s Day party. I was sad for him to miss the party because he was looking forward to it so badly, but part of my was really relieved that he would not suffer watching other children munch on sweets and he have something different. Oh, my heart breaks even now remembering the struggles.
So, as you can see, my journey to eating more cleanly started about 7 years ago when I started finding out the evils of processed food but that was really the only thing I had focused on removing from all of our diets at the time. I will give you the next step in my journey in a near future post – when I started recognized the evils of partially hydrogenated oils – before it was popular.
Be encouraged mothers, this is NOT easy, but it is so worth it. Looking back, I remember the struggles, but knowing that I put my children’s health as the priority, I have no regrets. Thanks for listening.