food color allergies

Food Color Allergies: How I Live A Dye Free Life

food color allergies

How To Cope With Food Color Allergies

I want to give a really big “high five” to my amazing family, my awesome friends, and my spectacular partner in understanding and dealing with my food color allergy. It’s definitely not an easy life to live in having to read EVERY…SINGLE…INGREDIENT on food & product labels, but I want you to know how much I appreciate everything that you all do, and have put up with from me.

Yes. I am one of those annoying people that has a “food” allergy. The only difference is that I’m not allergic to food per sei, but I am allergic to food coloring (food dyes) that are put into every day products that people take for granted (including colognes, deodorant, toothpaste, detergent, body wash, mouth wash and even medicine). For example, when I go out to eat and I want a salad (instead of my normal bacon cheeseburger), I have to ask if the salad dressing was made in house or store bought. If it’s store bought, I normally don’t go for it because I already know that there is food color in it as the main “pretty” ingredient. In fact, I even had to be afraid of even eating red meat because so many stores & vendors actually used red food coloring to keep that meat looking “fresh” in the meat display. Thank goodness that most of those days are gone that stores do this, but some still do.

Now you must be wondering, “What culprits are you allergic to?” Well, I’m so glad you asked! I’m allergic to FD&C Yellow #5 and Red #10. FD&C stands for: Food, Drug & Cosmetic. In essence, Congress approved part of our federal government to approve or disapprove the safety and health issues brought to our food, drug and cosmetic market. I am hypersensitive to these two food colors. I’m not sure what happens to most people, but with me I tend to get: dizzy, light headed, faint, sleep for hours (like a small coma), hot flashes (like I’m going through the change in life), my skin would get bright red as if I was cut with a knife and someone rubbed my skin with sandpaper, and I would get nauseas and vomit (like you really wanted to know that part, but I think it’s important to know in case you have a family member or friend that exhibits these signs).

You’re also probably wondering how on earth did I ever figured out that I was allergic to those two specific food colors. Well…I’ll tell you…it wasn’t easy at all. I have severe sinus allergies. I tend to have polyps grow in my sinus cavity. Polyps are these little tumor-like sacs that fill with liquid and create cranial pressure. I’ve had two sinus surgeries to help correct this issue, but it’s something that I can never get rid of and I’ll have to live with polyp breakouts for the rest of my life. Oh the joy of being me! Ha! At any rate, I was already seeing an amazing ENT (Ear, Nose & Throat) specialist to help me with my sinus issues. He couldn’t figure out what was going with me since all of the polyps were removed out of my sinus cavity. After some blood work and skin tests, he handed me and mom 10 pages of products and ingredients that I couldn’t have until we could slowly put things in and leave out. I was basically brushing my teeth with baking soda, washing my body with just plain water, and eating bread. Man…I felt like I was screwed for life! Anyhow, after months of testing and observations, my doctor was able to narrow it down to FD&C Yellow #5 and Red #10 (a small attribution to aspirin, which I’m only slightly allergic to). Eureka! I almost did a little dance, until he gave me 10 additional pages of products that I could never use and what to watch out for on labels of products. Also note, if you have a sensitivity or allergy to aspirin, you might be highly susceptible to this food color allergy.

I really felt bad for my mom. We didn’t coupon back then, and the products that I could use were SUPER expensive. I felt like I was the biggest burden. At the same time, it also lifted a veil from our eyes of how food colors directly effect our bodies. I have become a small advocate – not a big one standing on a soap box preaching on a corner – but a small one in educating people and what harmful chemicals people are putting into (and on) their bodies…and they don’t even know it. I do think it’s imperative that you know what these chemicals do to your body. Think about this:  were there really any food allergies (like we have today) 25 to 35 years ago? No. Was there ADD or ADHD 25 to 35 years ago? No. “Food for thought!”

FD&C Yellow #5

FD&C Yellow #5 is also know as Tartrazine. A variety of immunologic responses have been attributed to tartrazine exposure, including: anxiety, asthma, migraines, clinical depression, blurred vision, itching, general weakness, heat waves, hyperactivity (mimicking ADD), ADHD, feeling of suffocation, lupus, purple skin patches, sleep disturbance, throat cancer, and more. From my personal experience, I can tell you that I have experience over HALF of these symptoms. The sad part? I never put 2 and 2 together. Tartrazine (yellow #5) is found in JUST about everything! Turn your box of Kraft Mac & Cheese around, look at your box of cake mix, your toothpaste, deodorant, your MEDICATION (that pretty color that your pill is), your laundry detergent, your house cleaners…it’s everywhere. Funny thing, they actually used to use Tartrazine in gasoline as an additive. They have since stopped using it because it was too flammable and highly dangerous. Still want to eat that re-bound Twinkie? Need more information? Check out this MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) pull sheet: CLICK HERE TO READ and scroll down to where it states: Animals (Oral toxicity) Humans: Not Available!! Here is another interesting read: Prolonged Usage of Yellow #5 Tartrazine

synaptic nerve cells communication picture
(Thank you to for photo usage!) With my allergy, as depicted above, my neural transmitters stop communicating with each other.

In essence, it’s a neural inhibitor. Which means it stops brain cells from properly communicating with each other. This is where my hypersensitivity comes in to play. My brain cells are so hypersensitive that it that it increases the rate of reaction in my biochemistry. Now imagine this process happening in your child. Go ahead and test it. Give your child some gummy worms. You think they really get energetic from just the processed sugar alone? That’s only part of it. Your child’s brain is literally out of control and can’t think. They become reactionary thinkers to stimuli in their environment, instead of logical thinking. They’ve been taught the pot is hot, but watch how many times they’ll want to run around the hot pot with boiling water with the gummy worms versus them without the gummy worms. In addition, all information available out there states that it creates asthmatic type conditions, if not full blow asthma. I have had asthma my whole life, between diet and exercise, I’ve learned to control it…and have I might one breakout a year or every other year.

FD&C Red #10

This is another sneaky little monster. This food color is also known as Carmoisine (and there are different variations of carmoisine). Carmoisine is known to cause hyperactivity in children. May also cause symptoms of general allergic reaction (skin swelling, breathing difficulties, hives). Carmoisine may also cause cancer and tumors based on animal studies. You will mostly find it in soda, marzipan products, jams, preserves, jelly, boxed cake mixes, and certain personal hygiene products. I couldn’t believe it when I grabbed box of chocolate cake mix and found Red #10! They use it to increase the “browness” coloration factor of the product. In chocolate products? Really? They really wanted me to die for sure! (insert sarcasm).  I was in such disbelief. They had taken away my chocolate cake, too! lol.

Here’s a side note from a Medical Journal study done on rats. I tried finding MSDS sheets on this product, but I kept coming to other Red colors. The biggest thing to be careful of is skin irritant. So, be sure to wash your hands and clothes thoroughly if you if you come in direct contact with the solid – powder form….and also, wear a mask. you don’t want to inhale this stuff into your lungs. There isn’t much discussion about this food color, as much as there is about FD&C Red #40. That’s just a horrible little monster to watch out for! It has amazingly bad effects on the human body.

I apologize if I was long winded in this post, but I just wanted to bring to you a level of awareness of the effect that the food has on your body…mostly food colors. Over the years, I’ve learned how to deal with it and live with it. My decision making process of what I buy to eat and the products out there to purchase  have become amazingly abundant with choices. To be honest, I do not live a total dye free life. For the most part, I don’t eat processed food out of a box or can…like I said, for the most part. Living a dye free life is becoming easier and easier for everyone. Even the multi-million dollar companies have switched over to using beta-carotene and beet juice extract for food coloring. I get so excited because Whole Foods & Trader Joes are my biggest stores that I can find my favorite sweet treats from…even your local bakeries are switching over to using food color alternatives in their baking! It’s amazing! My life is opening up more and more. Now I’m just waiting for Jell-o to come up with a product line! (HINT HINT JELL-O!! lol).

My advice for your children: the next time you want to take your child to a doctor because they think they have ADD or ADHD (Or EVEN YOU), try living without a few food colors in your life. You’re going to see a DRASTIC change! Your/their levels of concentration and comfort level of sleep is going to increase greatly. I promise you. On another note, without going on a whole other tirade of information, BUT did you know that ADD and ADHD aren’t even classified as real diseases? You should do some reading up on this subject. You’re in for an eye opening experience.

If you have any questions at all, please do not hesitate to ask me. I’m NOT a professional, but I do have a degree in Biology with a Chemistry minor. I DO have food color allergies, so I can discuss this matter from both an educational standpoint and from someone who suffers with this. I’m including a few links of some blogs that I think you would LOVE in getting amazing recipes and ideas from! So many special thanks to them for finding and writing recipes that everyone can use in trying to live a dye free life.

B In Real Life (Living a Dye Free Life)

Bye Bye Food Dye

Frugal G33K

Red Dye Free

Living A Special Kind Of Life

Kid Friendly Organic Life