Have you ever met anyone (besides me) that was allergic to yellow dye #5? Me neither!! That's because only 1 in 10,000 people are actually allergic to it. That's crazy, right!? My allergist thought so too when I told him that I'd finally found the culprit of my random food allergies. I really am a unique snowflake!
My Canary in the Coal Mine
As it turned out, my allergy to yellow dye #5 was my version of a canary in a coal mine. Historically, canaries were kept in coal mines to alert miners of toxic gases like carbon monoxide or methane. If those toxic gases were present, the canary would die before the miners were affected. Sad, I know, but history just the same.
Like canaries in the coal mines of the past, my allergy to yellow dye #5 was really just alerting me to a larger problem going on in my system that needed to be addressed.
I had released a whole host of toxic substances into my system by following a two week colon cleanse back in 2011, and unwittingly sent my immune system into over drive. It was a really great cleanse, and helped to move a lot of the toxins out of my body. Unfortunately, at the same time it "kicked up the mud" so to speak, and brought up a lot of toxins that my body had compartmentalized to protect me.
Unfortunately, and unbeknownst to me, my liver was impaired by approximately 70% (we'll talk about why in a bit), so it couldn't remove those toxins from my body fast enough, and my "bucket" began to overflow. My immune system couldn't keep up with the fight.
Two weeks later I began having a terrifying reaction to random foods (ie., store bought cookies, pumpkin pie, eggs, and smarties). I would get a "lump" in my throat and have trouble breathing.
It took more than a year to figure it out, but it turns out that all of those foods had yellow dye #5 in them. Yes, even the eggs! I bet you didn't know that some producers give their chickens feed with yellow dye #5 to make their yolks more yellow, did you? Apparently consumers find this more appealing.
Terrified to Eat
At first I felt terrible and I was terrified to eat for fear of losing the ability to breath. I had no idea what was causing these reactions, and my allergist didn't understand either. He prescribed an epi-pen and put me on what he called the "caveman diet", which was basically just an elimination diet. I ate organic rice and chicken for months before being brave enough to add other foods back into my diet.
I tracked literally every piece of food I put into my mouth. It was easy not to cheat because I feared for my life. I was about 60 pounds overweight at the time, so the weight began to fall off with no effort. It was actually a silver lining to all of this because I had been struggling to lose weight for years.
On My Own
I continued to see my allergist and have him run tests, but the only things that popped up were cats (which I didn't have) and crustaceans (very rare for me to eat this food). I was at a complete loss, and knew I was on my own to solve this mystery.
I researched every product that had caused a reaction, and scoured the internet daily for more information. Fortunately for me, there was one food that gave it away because it had very few ingredients (Dextrose, Citric Acid, Calcium Stearate, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Colors (Red 40 Lake, Yellow 5 Lake, Yellow 6 Lake, Blue 2 Lake). You guessed it, Smarties!
Yellow dye #5 was the only ingredient that all of the foods that had caused a reaction had in common. Though the egg confused me for quite awhile. It didn't seem to fit until I read the article about what they feed chickens and became appalled with our food industry. Once I figured it out, I immediately cut out anything that had yellow dye #5 listed as an ingredient.
I went back to the allergist and told him what I had found. He told me that it was highly unlikely because so few people were allergic to it, and he had no way to test for it anyway. So, because of his assessment, and the fact that some fruits were still causing an allergic reaction I kept searching.
I searched high and low for toxins in my environment that could be causing the problem. I finally found two things that seemed to make things worse; Drinking the water at work and sleeping. Water and sleep seem like two really healthy things, but for me they were not.
The cooler water always smelled like bleach, so I suspected that chlorine (and possibly fluoride) was part of the problem. When I stopped drinking that water and got a Berkey water filter for the tap water, my issues improved by half, but I still had a ways to go.
Next to tackle was my sleep. I had seen a post online about someone who had an allergy to yellow dye #5 and also had an allergic reaction to their memory foam mattress. With a little more research I found that yellow dye #5 is made from petroleum byproducts, and so are memory foam mattresses.
I decided to try sleeping on the couch for two weeks to see if things would improve. I knew I hadn't been sleeping well lately and we had just gotten the mattress about 6 months prior. After only 3 days, things improved dramatically. I was sleeping well again and the huge dark circles under my eyes had almost disappeared. Needless to say, we quickly got rid of that mattress.
Yellow Dye #5 is Everywhere!
So, although yellow dye #5 was not the root cause of my issues, it was the canary that alerted me to bigger problems that needed addressing. I had figured out my major triggers, but I was still having reactions to a few different fruits (e.g., pears, apples, bananas). It had taken me more than a year just to get that far, and it took another six months before I felt "normal" again and was no longer afraid to eat for fear of dying.
I never went back to a Standard American Diet (SAD), because I still had to be very careful not to eat yellow dye #5. If you're the kind of person that looks at the ingredients list on a package, you probably understand how difficult it is to avoid this petroleum byproduct in our food. Gross!
Depression and Fatigue
Fast forward a couple of years and I was still very careful about what I ate, but had managed to gain 15 pounds back. Probably because I had added bread and cheese back into my diet. The allergic reactions seemed to be under control, but I still felt depressed and tired all the time. I went to see a naturopathic doctor to see if she could help.
MTHFR and Me
She was amazing and suspected right away that my food allergies had been caused by an MTHFR mutation. An MTHFWhat!!?? She had some blood tests run and indeed I am homozygous for the C677T mutation. I had no idea what that meant, but she said that it is a gene that helps create what your body needs to get rid of any toxins floating around inside.
Apparently because I was homozygous for this mutation, my liver was impaired by approximately 70%. Ah...it all made sense now. That's why my body couldn't handle the cleanse. Wish I had known that ahead of time! She started me on a daily multi-vitamin, Vitamin D3, 5-MTHF, and Glutathione. She also warned me that I needed to eat whole organic foods to keep the toxins out of my body, so that I never had to relive that nightmare again.
It was a whole new world. My depression and fatigue finally went away and I began to feel happiness like I never had before in my life. This journey was truly a life changing experience. Not just the newfound happiness, but finding a whole new way of eating really changed the way I looked at food. Many of my friends think I'm crazy to eat as "clean" as I do, but anyone who has lived through this knows, it's not crazy, it's survival.
MTHFR and ADHD
About a year after my boys were diagnosed with ADHD, I decided to have them tested for the MTHFR gene. It turns out they are both heterozygous for the C677T mutation. This means that their livers are also impaired, but to a lesser degree by approximately 30%. It also meant that some of their ADHD symptoms could be caused by a build up of toxins in their system.
So, they take a chewable version of methyl folate with added B12. This helped reduce their symptoms a bit, but not as drastically as what I had experienced, and hoped for them. I truly believe that it is because I had already removed things like pesticides and artificial coloring from their diets, and seen a dramatic change there.
Never the less, I'm glad I had them tested, so that I understood how important it was for me to feed them as "cleanly" as I was feeding myself. If your child has ADHD and a reaction to food dyes, you should really consider having them tested for MTHFR mutations.
So while, I'm mostly feeling great these days, I have the occasional environmental toxin that sneaks its way into my life. A couple years back it was a new couch I had purchased, and just this week it was a newly painted metal sign I bought. It took about a week and a half for that familiar lump in my throat to show up, so I know it will be at least three weeks before I'm feeling "normal" again. Oh well, such is life! I'm off to start my detox rituals.
As always, please email me at info@WhatYouSeekIsWithin.com if you have any questions.
In peace and happiness,