Friday, May 20, 2011

aspartame by any other name is still brain poison

Blog post #7 ...

This post is about aspartame, one of the artificial sweeteners on the market here in the US.  I'm writing about aspartame today because my Dad has aspartame poisoning but he doesn't know it ... yet.  He's been consuming aspartame-laden foods and beverages shortly after the sweetener was introduced on the market in 1982.  And before that, his zero-calorie sweetener of choice was the nasty saccharin, which was banned in the late 1970's.  A little later on, I'll share what aspartame poisoning looks like. 

I'm offering this information to help convince you to avoid aspartame. It is my sincerest wish that you remove this from your diet, and especially from your children's diets, and guide your friends and everyone else you know to do the same.  

There are plenty of reasons to avoid aspartame, but I'm focusing on its effects on the brain.  Since many of our children struggle with brain-based issues, like sensory processing disorders, learning differences, ADD/ADHD, etc, we need to look at what could be causing the list of ABC disorders that are plaguing our children.    Today, let's point a finger at aspartame ... 

Aspartame, also known as NutraSweet, Equal, Spoonful and Equal Measure, may be a sweet replacement for real sugar ... 180 times sweeter, actually ... but it wreaks havoc on just about every system of our body.  

Aspartame can be found in about 6,000 products. 

First, in 'food:'   In addition to the pretty packets of all colors under the sun, you can find this sweetener in a long list of processed foods that tout they're 'sugar-free, no sugar added, diet, calorie-free, or Light.'  Sodas and other carbonated beverages, breath mints, chewing gum, flavored water,  ice cream, sorbet, gelatin, iced teas, cocoa mix, juice drinks, powdered drinks, cookies, ketchup, vegetable drinks, yogurt and a whole lot more. And that's just 'food' products.  

Then, in over-the-counter medicines like cough drops or liquids, other pharmaceuticals and even some vitamins!

What could be so bad about something so sweet? 

According to Dr. Russell L. Blaylock, the neurosurgeon who blew the whistle on the effects of aspartame on the nervous system, aspartame is an excitotoxin. Excitotoxins are amino acids that act as neurotransmitters and are dangerous and addictive compounds that damage the nervous system by killing brain cells.  I repeat ... killing brain cells. 

When brain neurons are exposed to these excitotoxins in too high a dose, they can become very excited and fire their impulses very rapidly until they reach a state of exhaustion.  Sometime later, these neurons suddenly die as if they were 'excited' to death. 

In his book, "Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills,"  Dr. Blaylock shares that people enjoy the effect they get from excitotoxins because they produce a slight rush, giving someone the temporary ability to think more clearly and have a quicker reaction time to the world around them. The rush feels good, so people go for more.   

That rush comes at a very high price. 

By the way, the same happens when we eat foods with MSG, another excitotoxin.

Here is the introduction to Dr. Blaylock's book to give you a better look into excitotoxins:

What if someone were to tell you that a chemical added to food could cause brain damage in your children, and that this chemical could effect how your children’s nervous systems formed during development so that in later years they may have learning or emotional difficulties?  What if there was scientific evidence that these chemicals could damage a critical part of the brain known to control hormones so that later in life your child might have endocrine problems?  How you would feel?”

“Suppose evidence was presented to you strongly suggesting that the artificial sweetener in your diet soft drink may cause brain tumors to develop, and that the number of brain tumors reported since the widespread introduction of this artificial sweetener has risen dramatically?  Would that affect your decision to drink these products and especially to allow your children to drink them? What if you could be shown overwhelming evidence that one of the main ingredients in this sweetener (aspartate) could cause the same brain lesions as MSG?  Would that affect your buying decisions?  And finally, what if it could be demonstrated that all of these types of chemicals (called excitotoxins) could possibly aggravate or even precipitate many of the neurodegenerative brain diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, ALS, and Alzheimer’s disease?  Would you be concerned if you knew that these excitotoxin food additives are a particular risk if you have ever had a stroke, brain injury, brain tumor, meningitis or viral encephalitis?”

“I would think that all of us would be more than just concerned to learn that well known powerful brain toxins were being added to our food and drink to boost sales.  We would be especially upset to learn that these additives have no other purpose than to enhance the taste of food and the sweetness of various diet products.”

“You would also be upset to learn that many of these brain lesions in your children are irreversible and can follow a single exposure to a sufficient concentration.  And I would bet that you would be incredulous to learn that the food industry disguises many of these “excitotoxin additives” so that they will not be recognized.  In fact, many foods that are labeled “No MSG” not only contain MSG, but also contain other excitotoxins of equal potency.”

So what can too much exposure to aspartame do to you?  Well, I'll share my Dad's symptoms from the list with you here. But you can find a comprehensive list at the DORWAY website. 

  • anxiety
  • arthritis
  • diabetes
  • gout
  • neuropathy
  • numbing of extremities
  • panic attacks
  • Parkinson's
  • psychiatric complaints
  • shooting pains in the lower extremities
  • short term memory loss
  • suicidal tendencies

Our children deserve the best chance for a healthy life we can give them. So, why mess up the only brain they have by giving them this poison?

My friend, Jane Hersey of the Feingold Association has a lot to say about removing artificial sweeteners from our children's diets, and you can read one of her articles here.

If you have an extra 10 minutes, please watch this expose about aspartame and how the FDA approved it for consumer use ... was it for our health?  No, it was a political move. The FDA still asserts that aspartame is safe.  But people who've become ill from it know better. 

Be careful ... aspartame producer Ajinomoto is attempting to rebrand the sweetener as "Amniosweet," by playing with aspartame's chemistry a bit.  Also, Neotame is a new artificial sweetener that's similar to aspartame by may prove even more toxis.  

Go for the real stuff --- pure stevia (Sweetleaf is a favorite), organic raw honey (Really Raw Honey is a favorite) or organic maple syrup.

I recommend folks to steer clear of agave nectar, for reasons that are beyond the scope of this blog post, but here's an article on it:

That's what my "great stuff in ... great stuff out (tm)" philosophy's all about ... 

Until next time, I bid you fare-well. 

Ida Zelaya
sensory street(tm), inc.

(c) 2011 sensory street, inc. all rights reserved.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Follow Your Own Yellow Brick Road - No Warning Labels for Artificially Colored Foods Just Yet

Blog post #6 ...

This post was going to be about artificial sweeteners, but I'll need to save that topic until next time and give you the latest word on the FDA's decision about artificial colors during their recent hearings:

No warning labels will be on food packages at this time, but they agreed on more research.  This sounds like a stalling tactic to me.  If they'd just visit the Feingold Association's website, they'll have all the research they need to support a decision to put warning labels on packages, let alone ban that bad stuff.

Despite the lack of immediate gratification, I believe that these hearings and all the publicity are raising awareness of the negative side effects of these petroleum-based chemicals.  While the FDA calls for more research, families across the country are taking charge of their own health ... and their success stories will support the formal, scientific studies yet to come.

Here is just one of these success stories, as told by Kim - an avid Feingold supporter who saw her child's out-of-sync behavior completely turn around within 2 days of removing the artificial colors from his diet.

Watch Kim's address to the FDA this week:

The Feingold Association is a volunteer-run organization that is funded by membership dollars.  Your membership includes an extensive list of approved foods that you can purchase at most popular stores, and access to an online support forum, and more.

Please consider becoming a Feingold family.  You'll be supporting your family's wellness, and helping the Feingold Association continue to be a leader in education about the effects of artificial ingredients on ourselves and our children.

For more information, visit

Impulsivity, fidgeting, meltdowns, sensitivity to lights and sounds ... common signs of several subtypes of Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).  Imagine what positive shifts we can make by shifting our children's' diets.  

That's great stuff in .... great stuff out (tm) for ya

Next blog ... artificial sweeteners ... what I have to share isn't for the faint of heart.  

Until next time, I bid you fare-well. 

Ida Zelaya
sensory street(tm), inc.

(c) 2011 sensory street, inc. all rights reserved. 

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Preserving our Children's Sweet Dispositions

Blog post #5 ...

Shortly after I posted The Rainbow Connection about artificial colors, I learned that the Food and Drug Administration is considering adding warning labels to processed foods that contain artificial colors:   This is a brave move on the FDA's part, considering how loudly the 'food' and 'colorant' manufacturers would scream against any move to shift away from their chemical-laden bounty.  

Warning labels can help raise our awareness, but will they really make a difference?  Will our children stop to read the labels when they reach for a bright blue Gatorade, a package of M&Ms, or some other 'treat' in their pantry at home, in the vending machine at school, or in the convenience store after school?   You know the answer to that one!

And will adults pay attention to the warning labels?  Will "Cereal with Blue Milk" continue to be a surprise 'treat' for breakfast?  Maybe. Maybe not.

Now that the US government's addressing colors, let's start raising a stink about the chemical preservatives, shall we?   Like colorants, preservatives negatively affect our children's developing brains and bodies (and are surely not good for adults, animals, or the environment, either). 

Many types of preservatives and it's not easy to identify them as preservatives on a package label:
  • Benzoates
  • Butylated Hydrozyanisole (BHA)
  • Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT)
  • Disodium Ethylenediaminetetraacetic Acid (EDTA)
  • Nitrites
  • Polyphosphates
  • Propionates
  • Sorbates
  • Sulfites

For your learning pleasure, visit for a nice explanation of these preservatives. 

On a personal note, hot dogs were a weekly staple on my family's menu, and I even ordered it for my son's hot lunch when he was in Lower School  ... until I learned about the hazards of chemical additives, and joined up with the Feingold Association. When I found out that hot dogs are filled with preservatives (and other unmentionables), I immediately removed them from our diet.   A year or so later, my son went to a ballgame with an older friend and had a hot dog there.  Within minutes, he developed a painful headache, and stomach pains shortly followed.  He felt so sick that he had to leave the park early.  It was like he melted into a pile of mush when he got home.  He swore off hot dogs after that.  I attribute that to the nitrite preservative in the hot dogs. 

My son didn't willingly give up hot dogs.  Oh, no.  He put up quite a fight.  But when he experienced the effects of the chemicals in the hot dogs, after being chemical-free for a long time, he swore them off.   His body taught him an important lesson. 

Preservatives made my child melt into mush, but it can have the opposite effect on other children ... hyperactivity and dangerous meltdowns. So if your child's experiencing frequent meltdowns or blow-ups, I highly recommend removing colors and preservatives from his/her diet. 

Until the battle against preservatives is waged and won, I recommend two wonderful resources for learning about these additives:
  • 1. The Feingold Association:
  • 2. An A-Z Guide to Food Additives: Never Eat What You Can't Pronounce, by Deanna M. Minich, Ph.D., C.N. This pocketbook-sized reference offers explanations of just about every preservative, as well as a rating system of their safety.  

Removing chemical preservatives from our children's diets will definitely help bring back their sweet dispositions.  And maybe some of those behaviors you attributed to Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) might disappear with the colors and preservatives. Something to try!

Next blog ... artificial sweeteners. 

Until next time, I bid you fare-well. 

Ida Zelaya
sensory street(tm), inc.

(c) 2011 sensory street, inc. all rights reserved. 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

the rainbow connection

Blog post #4 ..

Red Orange Yellow Green Blue Indigo Violet

In the opening scene of The Muppet Movie (1979), Kermit the Frog sits on a log in the middle of the swamp, pining away for something more in life as he sweetly sings "The Rainbow Connection."  Dorothy, in The Wizard of Oz (1939), dreams of escaping home to find a more exciting place where 'troubles melt like lemon drops' in "Over the Rainbow."  And Leprechauns store away all their coins in a hidden pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  

As a magical gift of Nature, the rainbow takes our breath away as we gaze upon the colors reflecting from water droplets in the atmosphere after a rainshower.  And Nature gives us another rainbow to gaze upon:  an array of colors of fruits,vegetables, nuts and seeds in every season of the year ... a feast for the eyes as well as for the body. 

FD&C Red #3 and #40 Orange B Yellow #5 and #6 Green #3 Blue #1 and #2 Caramel Paprika Oleoresin

Equally beautiful and enticing is the man-made rainbow that is added to most of the 'foods' on store shelves today:  a cacophony of chemicals, synthetics, and toxins that lure the eye, but break down every system in our bodies.

Researchers have found that these man-made food colorings negatively effect our children with increased hyperactivity, impaired brain function, lack of impulse control, difficulty focusing, and more. Thankfully, countries around the world have banned these chemicals from food manufacturing, and the U.S. is starting to take note of this issue.   

For those of you who love to delve into the world of scientific studies, my friends at the Feingold Association compiled a lengthy list of research about food colorings on their website:   

Although many studies have been done on the effects of colors on children with ADD, ADHD, Autism and other challenges, none exist for children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). 

That's A-OK by me, because my common sense tells me that eating petroleum-based artificial food colors can manifest many of the frustrating behaviors we see in our children with SPD.  I will bet my name on it, and don't need a research study to prove it.   I have anecdotal evidence from real families who've said that their children have turned around as a result of removing the chemical colors from their diets.  

Here's just one story from my online support group:  A Mom couldn't understand why her young child was  out of sorts every time he'd go to his Occupational Therapy sessions after school.  The OT would spend more time disciplining, than working on sensory issues.  Turns out that Mom would give her son a long, red, chewy Twizzlers in the car on the way to therapy, figuring he would get the calming and deep proprioceptive input to the jaw that the licorice stick offers. I applauded the Mom for being so sensory-minded, but gently pointed out that Twizzlers might be the culprit in her son's issues and suggested that pretzels are a nice substitute - a small change with great results!  

Hundreds of parents have shared success stories when they removed just ONE artificial color (Red 40) from their children's diet: calmer, more attentive and some sensitivities to their environment disappeared.  You can read more about Red 40 at www.red40.comAnd when the U.S. government bans artificial colors from manufactured food items, we'll hear even more of this wonderful anecdotal evidence from sea to shining sea. 

I agree that some children are more sensitive to this junk than others, but just because a child doesn't have a negative reaction doesn't mean that the chemicals aren't having a negative effect on the body.

Here's another popular chewy and colorful 'treat' that kids get on their way to therapy sessions ... can you guess what it is? (answer at bottom of blog)

Sugar, Corn Syrup, Hydrogenated Palm Kernel Oil;, less than 2% of Apple Juice from Concentrate, Citric Acid, Tapioca Dextrin, Modified Corn Starch, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C),  Coloring (includes Yellow 6 Lake, Red 40 Lake, Titanium Dioxide, Yellow 5 Lake, Blue 2 Lake, Yellow 5, Red 40, Yellow 6, Blue 1 Lake, Blue 1), sodium citrate, carnauba wax.  gluten-free gelatin-free.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, artificial food colors,"Offset color loss due to exposure to light, air, temperature extremes, moisture and storage conditions; correct natural variations in color; enhance colors that occur naturally; provide color to colorless and "fun" foods."

I don't see the 'fun' in chemically colored foods ... a child in a meltdown can become a danger to himself and others around him.  I don't see fun in foods that alter our children's brain chemistry and take away their ability to learn, resulting in plummeting self-esteem.  Do you? 


sensory street's Universal Law of great stuff in ... great stuff out(tm) rings true:  If we want our children to be more comfortable in their bodies, then we need to give them foods that promote wellness, not brain fog.  Let's take out the rainbow of artificial colors from their diets, and infuse our children with the beautiful colors of Nature's bounty - like green peas and kale and spinach, blueberries, orange bell peppers or butternut squash, white mushrooms, brown nuts.  Foods that we can pronounce.  Foods that our children's growing bodies know what to do with.  

To learn more about removing artificial colors (and other synthetic ingredients) from your child's diet, visit and watch the presentation given by Jane Hersey, Director of the Feingold Association. She'll teach you what's in those colors, and show you some alternatives of products you might already be buying in the market. 

Coming back to the theme of Rainbows, I'd like to share this rendition of  "The Rainbow Connection," played by the concert band at my son's school.  You can spot him seated in the back row next to the left of the large screen.  He's wearing a white yarmulke (or skull cap), and is playing the trumpet ... the same one I played in High School.  (Momma swells with pride.)

And for a peek at Kermit singing this beautiful song, click here.

Until next time, I bid you a colorful fare-well. 

Ida Zelaya
sensory street(tm), inc.

(c) 2011 sensory street, inc. all rights reserved. 

ANSWER:  Skittles - Pastel Colored

Saturday, January 29, 2011

sensory street's Universal Law

Blog post #3 ... 

By now, most everyone has heard of the Law of Attraction, featured in the book, "The Secret," by Rhonda Byrne and subsequent movie.  One of the 21 Universal Laws*, the Law of Attraction states, 'that which is like unto itself is drawn,' and shows us how all things, wanted and unwanted, are brought to us.

Unlike magnets, where opposites attract and likes repel, the Law of Attraction is based on the principle that Likes Attract Likes.  As I tell my son:  "You get what you give: You give good, you get good back.  You give attitude, you get attitude back.  Our thoughts and actions are like boomerangs, so be mindful of what you put forth, because it's coming back to you!"  Even though he rolls his eyes, I think he gets it  ;D.

I'd like to unveil a new Universal Law: sensory street's Universal Law of great stuff in...great stuff outtm:  "When we help ourselves and our children from the inside-out, we can see huge, positive changes in all aspects of our lives."

Put healthy food in ... we have more energy and feel great. 
Put more movement in ... we can attend and focus better.
Put love in ... we can give more love to others. 
Put honor and respect in ... and greatness abound!

great stuff in...great stuff outtm is the core of my practice, using it to fill people with the great stuff they need to be great.  Whether I recommend a sensory strategy, healthful eating choice, method of releasing emotional and energetic baggage, I lean on my Universal Law to help the whole person, the whole child with  tools I've collected from every discipline imaginable.

I'd like to briefly share the history of great stuff in...great stuff outtm:

For almost 7 years now, I've been honored to support and serve thousands of people whose lives have been touched by differently-abled children.

I was overwhelmed by the number of stories of struggle told by parents in my support group and along my path.  Each story contained oodles of pain:  meltdowns, atypical social behaviors, the effects of schools removing recess, teacher conference nightmares, challenging IEP meetings, changes in family relationships and friendships because of a differently-abled child, sleepless nights and difficult days, doctors who didn't understand about sensory processing challenges.  So much fear, pain, desperation, exasperation, aggravation, helplessness. So many children needed help.

As an empath, I carried the weight of their burdens on my shoulders and in my heart.  How could I help all of these people with their challenges when I was sinking with them? Many times over the last few years, I wanted to give up, to walk away. I couldn't handle it anymore.

Then ... came the epiphany.

I realized that I can't help anyone until I helped myself.  I needed to don the proverbial oxygen mask. I learned to lovingly step away from the drama, to feed my body with more healthful foods, to release my emotional baggage, become open to the wonders of new and curious healing modalities, and listen to my inner guidance.  My transformation is a work in progress, but I feel much more prepared to be of assistance now.

As a result of this shift, sensory street's great stuff in...great stuff outtm was born.

More about great stuff in...great stuff outtm will be revealed in upcoming blog posts, But for now, I leave you with something to think about:

Put in Knowledge, Love and Gratitude ... Empowering ourselves with information, showering ourselves (and others) with love, and swimming in gratitude and thankfulness lets us see past the struggles so we can find our way to the solutions, strategies and supports that make change happen for ourselves and our kids.

Put in Healthy Food and Clean Water ... Cleaning up diets and keeping hydrated with plain, filtered water will help reduce brain fog, attention issues, constipation, allergies, meltdowns, anxiety, and so many of the physical challenges too many children deal with today.

It just makes sense ... for everyone ... of all ages and abilities.

Until next time, I bid you fare-well.

Ida Zelaya
sensory street(tm), inc.

* For a list of the 21 Universal Laws, visit

(c) 2011 sensory street, inc. all rights reserved.