We now know there is a connection between what we eat and how we behave.  Highly processed foods containing artificial ingredients (additives) can quickly create an addictive cycle – a pattern of behaviours and feelings which send the wrong messages and mess with our bodies and minds.   The key to breaking the additive-addiction cycle, is to detoxify the system and reset your body thresholds to it’s original levels, so the body can start sending the right messages about what it needs, not what it has been tricked into thinking it wants.

Changing to an additive free lifestyle for your family all starts with a greater awareness of the additive-addiction cycle and common detoxing stages.  This way, both the parents and the kids are able to recognize, listen to, interpret and overcome the mixed messages, break the addictive habits and find a personal calm blue ocean, deep blue sea – your happy place!

My blog on additives and addiction covers the basics of this vicious cycle, so now let’s delve into detoxing.

What to expect when your kids are detoxing from additives

First, it’s important to remember we are all unique individuals, so this is not an exact science.  Plus, food sensitivities build up over time.  Little amounts every now and again can usually be absorbed with minimal effects or only create symptoms for small periods of time.  If your kids have been consuming chemical cocktails of additives for a while though, it’s going to take a little more to get it out of their system.

Days 1 to 3  The calm before the storm 

Usually, the first thing noticed when your kids are going off additives is nothing!  Research has shown additives and the additive-addiction effects (ie: the ‘high’) can last up to, or at least, 3 days… So it might be smooth sailing for the first few days whilst the additives are still doing their thing, and you’re left wondering what all the fuss is about!

Day 3-5  Little werewolves appear detox2

But just when it seems too good to be true, it usually is, and then the cravings really kick in – often at day 3 to 5.  This is when the nagging, asking for more of their favourite food, trying to sneak eat, bargaining, etc all starts.  Usually it sounds like Can I have another lolly, Can I have some more tomato sauce… I want… Just one more… I’ll still eat my dinner… but I only want one  etc

All the associated lows of a typical addictive behaviour cycle start to rear their ugly heads too. Lots of defiance, questioning why are we doing this, tantrums, crying, feelings of anger, sadness, frustration, teary at the drop of a hat, overly emotional at trivial things, and defiant, argumentative etc.

You can also see lots of hyperactivity or overactive/adhd types of behaviour here – jumping up and down, can’t sit still, restless legs and arms (swinging them around etc), jumping from one topic to another, unable to hold a conversation or train of thought, difficulty concentrating and listening etc.

All focus is on trying to get the next ‘hit’ and logic and reason or the ability to see it, think it or listen to it, go out the window!

Days 6-14  Transformation begins

If all is going well, and with good planning and preparation prior to starting the detox, most of the nasties should be eliminated and things will start to improve (i.e.: less ‘low’ addictive behaviours).  Their little bodies are starting to reset and calm is beginning to emerge.  You can start to reason with your kids, see their normal loving selves emerge and the cravings and nagging starts to subside.


Days 6-14  Transformation begins – calm starts to emerge

How to deal with kids during detox

Now I know I’ve only covered what to expect here, and left you wondering how you deal with these detox behaviours and feelings.  The detox stage can be a lot to manage, but rest assured, it’s only for a short time!

Arm yourself with the basic knowledge of addiction and detoxing.  It’s most important to have an understanding about why your child is behaving in this way when detoxing, because it helps to have compassion towards their situation and separate the behaviour from the child. They’re not really little terrors, they’re just detoxing from an addiction and therefore rightfully acting a little out of sorts!

There’s not a lot of use trying to reason with a child when they’re not able to see reason amidst the cloudy haze of cravings and addiction.  It’s best to use effective behaviour management to deal with any outbursts or unwanted detox behaviours, stick to calming methods and ride the storm until it’s over.  Once you’ve dealt with the detox phase, you can take on the next step and start to deal with the change process and emotions that arise.

I’d like to devote a lot more time to helping you work out how to deal with the detox stage, so in the coming weeks, I’ll cover tips and ideas for how to deal with this in more detail.  In the meantime, focus on gaining a solid understanding of the additive-addiction and detox process.  Start to think about how your kids behave with food additives in their system, and what kind of things you think you might come up against during the detox phase.

Let me know what you think will most likely be your hardest thing to deal with and I can address your particular concerns and give simple tips on how to approach this stage specifically for your family.  Email me here, or comment below and keep an eye on future blogs and facebook posts.

Before I leave you to digest this detox information, here’s one more point worth mentioning…

In general, the above timeline is what you can expect for the first 2 weeks of detoxing.   However, this is not always the case – for several reasons.

First, there may be discipline/behaviour management issues – separate to or linked to the foods and moods connection – which aren’t going away after the additives have been detoxed. This definitely needs to be addressed, and usually involves resetting old habits with parenting methods to undo patterns in child behaviour/reactions to parenting… Another rather meaty topic I’ll cover in upcoming blogs!

Also, there may not be the ‘calm after the storm’ in days 6-14 of the detox process, because there may be something overlooked and a ‘full detox’ is not really happening.  This comes back to looking at things such as

  • what level of additive free living you’ve chosen for your family (are you going the whole hog or just colouring and preservatives?)
  • what food your child is typically eating
  • their tastes and motivation to change
  • or even something as simple as the toothpaste they are using.

This is where great planning and preparation, combined with a little expert help and support can come in handy – to find the little things that may need tweaking to get things back on course.

As mentioned before, everyone is different and some may take longer than others to detox.  Some additives take a lot longer to get out of their system, and even if they have, the longer lasting psychological effects of addiction – often stronger than the physical – are still hanging on.  So the changes in taste are yet to happen on a mental and physical level.  Ie: the new messages in the body and mind about what is needed and right for your body aren’t yet being heard or understood properly, and the kids aren’t ready to tackle new tastes without resistance.  There’s still confusion about what is good and what isn’t, what their body needs and what they thinks it wants.

And there’s also mourning for the loss – sounds ridiculous, I know, but it’s true.  Especially for older kids who have many years of habits and patterns to undo, they will be missing and mourning what has been their life and normality for so long.  And this is all part of the process of change.  Different emotions arise after they work through the detox phase and come out the other side.  Which is where a good understanding of what I call ‘the emotional rollercoaster of change’ is needed.

But I think that’s enough info for one blog!  Added to your new knowledge about additives and addiction, you are now also armed with some of the common patterns that arise in the initial detox stages of change to an additive free lifestyle.

Stay tuned for my next blog covering what to expect emotionally during the change process.  It’s the final bit of info needed to fully understand how you can best help your family through this process, then we’ll move onto the all important strategies on how you can inform, empower and help them easily and effectively get through the change!

Loren x