If you’re new to the Six Week All Natural Challenge, and wondering what this is all about, please read my article on Circle of Moms called How Artificial Ingredients can Lead to Artificial Kids. You can also click on the “All Natural Challenge” tab at the top of this page to read all the related articles on how eliminating artificial ingredients can dramatically improve your health, and the biggie, your child’s behavior. My daughter was on the verge of being diagnosed with ADHD until I cut artificial ingredients from our diet. Within 36 hours her symptoms vanished. You’ll also find lots of tips and tricks there for how to easily make the transition from an artificial to an all natural diet. I encourage everyone to read the Success Stories at the top of the page as well to hear first hand accounts of how the All Natural Challenge has helped families who thought their only option was medication for ADHD symptoms. You’ll find a Shopping List tab with some of the items that I use as well as products that have been suggested by readers. And the reader favorite Grocery Bag Menus – two different weeks worth of easy, all natural, family pleasing meals along with a shopping list to help you save time and effort. (A third menu to be posted soon.)
So, let’s dig in to the topic for this week, excitotoxins. First, what’s with the name? I always have to fight the urge to add an exclamation point after I write it. Excitotoxins! It’s a simple explanation that makes perfect sense when you think about it. Excitotoxins are chemicals that cause brain cells to become overstimulated, or excited, and fire uncontrollably, leading to cell death. Yes they kill your brain cells, for real. Excitotoxins cause permanent damage, once those brain cells are dead they aren’t replaced. What’s even worse is that they have the ability to affect unborn babies in exactly the same way. So when people say you should avoid diet sodas when you’re pregnant there’s a good reason, although they probably aren’t aware what the real reason is. Most people assume it’s the caffeine that causes the problem. While caffeine is a concern, it’s nothing compared to what excitotoxins can do. Excitotoxins have also been linked to unexplained heart palpitations, high blood pressure, epilepsy, seizures, migraines, and ADHD. (By the way, if you suffer from migraines you need to eliminate this group of additives. My almost daily headaches were completely gone in less than a week after eliminating these things.)
So the mission this week is to eliminate MSG and artificial sweeteners from your family’s diet. To be clear, not all artificial sweeteners are technically considered an excitotoxin, but it is extremely important to eliminate all of them from your diet to improve your overall health as well as your child’s well being and behavior.
Artificial sweeteners are usually easy to find. They have many brand names that we’re all familiar with, which I won’t mention here. But there are other more generic names as well, such as sucralose, neotame, acesulfame potassium, saccharin, and aspartame. Of that list only aspartame is classified as an excitotoxin, but all of them are artificially created, and will cause problems for children who are sensitive. Some of the other health risks of artificial sweeteners, especially aspartame, include an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, low levels of serotonin in the brain, epilepsy/seizures, mood/emotional disorders, birth defects, and brain cancer. So now you know why I quit my diet soda habit cold turkey. And I can tell you that my mood has only improved since doing so. I also had another unexpected improvement in my health. I had been seeing a doctor for a long period of time to control heart palpitations and high blood pressure, which had caused an enlarged muscle in my heart. I was taking two prescription medications every day for those conditions for a year, with exactly zero progress. Within two weeks of giving up my diet soda, which contained aspartame, everything was back to normal and my doctor was stunned. No more prescriptions and I feel better than ever. I’ve read several studies by respected physicians and researchers who go so far as to question the morality of any manufacturer who uses aspartame, saying it’s like putting poison into our food supply. And that stuff was in the juice I used to buy for my children thinking it was healthier than all that sugar. You are much better off eating the sugar than eating this stuff.
The second excitotoxin as I mentioned above is MSG. This is one tricky little ingredient. There are over FORTY different names for MSG as an ingredient in food. FORTY. I don’t want to overwhelm you with this list, but here are the words you don’t want to see in your list of ingredients: Glutamic acid, Glutamate, Monosodium glutamate, Anything followed by the word “glutamate”, Yeast extract, Calcium or Sodium casienate, Yeast food or Yeast nutrient, Autolyzed yeast, Anything with the word “protein” associated to it as in “soy protein” or “whey protein”, gelatin, Ajinomoto, and Vetsin. That’s a lot of words to avoid. Stick with me because I’ve got a few more. These are common food additives that have been proven to contain or create MSG. They are: Carrageenan, “flavors”, “flavoring”, anything with the word”enzymes”, broth, bouillon, citric acid, and maltodextrin. I had a question a few weeks ago about “flavoring” asking whether it was considered safe. When you see “flavoring” you should automatically think “MSG”.
Also an important thing to note about MSG: it can technically be classified as “naturally occurring” because some ingredients, when combined, can spontaneously create MSG. But luckily the list of ingredients will still have to list it in one of it’s various names, so read carefully, and beware of processed products with the words “all natural”, or “no added MSG” on the front of the package. The manufacturer doesn’t have to add MSG it for it to be present. But you will see one or more of those words in the ingredient list, which will be your alert to make a better choice.
One last thing to note: despite what you’ve been told, do not be afraid of whole milk. Low fat milks typically add MSG in the form of carrageenan and other ingredients. They have to replace the nutrients they remove with artificial ingredients. The same goes for low fat ice cream, cheeses, and other dairy products. These are not healthy products. Last year we switched from low-fat to whole milk, and full fat dairy products across the board. Since then I’ve lost fifteen pounds and my husband lost twenty-five. Healthy fats do not make you fat, and they don’t cause terrible health problems. In fact they support good health. Your body needs those fats to function and to feed the nervous system. It’s especially important for growing children. If you’re eating a healthy diet full of whole foods like we discuss here you have nothing to fear about whole milk. If you don’t believe me you can read some of the research by the highly respected Weston A Price Foundation, here. You can also search the web for story after story of real people who improved their health by eating full fat dairy instead of low fat. So, that’s my soapbox about fats. They’re not all bad.
So week three – eliminate those excitotoxins. No artificial sweeteners and no MSG. It may seem overwhelming at first, but my guess is that you’ve made some pretty great strides in the past two weeks, so this is just a baby step by now. As you begin whittling away the artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives you are most likely making a shift towards real food, like fruits, vegetables, and wholesome grains. That’s an amazing thing. I want you to know that I’m amazed by how many people are taking this challenge so seriously. I know that you’ve seen huge improvements over the first two weeks – that’s amazing news. I hope you’re feeling stronger and more empowered when you enter those grocery stores. When you see the healthier choices your children are making you should stop for a minute and pat yourself on the back. You’re doing some amazing things, and the benefits will continue for their entire lives. Congratulations! You really deserve it!
How are you feeling about all this? I really want to know, because I know how important having a little support can be when you’re making changes like this. I’m here to answer questions or give you a virtual hug. Whatever you need to keep on trucking just ask. You can just comment below, and will probably find a few others who are feeling or felt the same way you do right now who are more than willing to lend a hand. Or email me any time at contact.ourfamilyeats at gmail dot com. Don’t forget to check the All Natural Challenge tab at the top, along with the Resources tab for more articles and information to help you along the way. I frequently add information to both of those pages. Good luck this week!