Red Dye and IBS: Why to avoid it and how to treat IBS naturally

In today’s world where processed food reigns supreme, hidden ingredients are everywhere. Red dye, often used to enhance the visual appeal of various foods, has been associated with potential health risks that extend beyond the surface. It’s no wonder we see so many of our Wisconsin neighbors with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) step through our doors searching for relief.

At VIVA Wellness, we empower our clients with knowledge about the impact of their dietary choices on their well-being. Today, we expose the risks associated with red dye consumption and its potential connection to Irritable Bowel Syndrome and other digestive and inflammatory issues. Additionally, we’ll provide insights and connect you with the best remedies to relieve IBS symptoms and optimize gut health.

What is Red Dye 40?

Red no. 40, a synthetic dye, is utilized in various foods to create vibrant and appealing colors. It is one of the nine FDA-approved synthetic dyes listed as safe for human consumption. Additionally, it has been approved by the European Food and Safety Authority (EFSA).

This color additive is commonly found in the form of a rich, dark red powder or granules. With its ability to dissolve in various substances like water, alcohol, glycerol, and propylene glycol, it’s an easy way for food companies to create tantalizing colors in their products.

Red no. 40, along with other synthetic dyes, is used to produce consistent and appealing colors in the foods and beverages we consume. These color additives are used to make products visually attractive and help consumers identify different flavors.

For instance, a purple hue often indicates a grape flavor, while yellow hints at a lemon taste. And when you spot the vibrant red no. 40, it could mean your treat is made with cherry, strawberry, or raspberry flavoring.

It is commonly used in cake mixes, frostings, and soft drinks, adding an eye-catching element. While large-scale food manufacturers often use these dyes, they can also be utilized in home cooking. In fact, most likely red dye is lurking on your pantry shelves right now!

Formally known as FD and C red no. 40, this dye serves as a color additive in other products as well, such as cosmetics, and drugs. Its main component is Allura red AC, a naphthalene sulfonic acid.

Extreme temperatures can cause the dye to emit toxic fumes composed of nitrogen and sulfur oxides. The dye also contains non-colored components like sodium chloride and sodium sulfate.

As a synthetic food dye, red no. 40 is not naturally occurring and is created through man-made processes. The dye is the result of a chemical reaction involving two types of sulphonic acids, toluene sulfonic acid, and naphthalene sulfonic acid.

This chemical is more prevalent than you may realize; more than 30 companies currently produce red no. 40.

Before any dye can be used in consumable goods, it must receive approval from the FDA. Synthetic dyes undergo a thorough approval process for each new use. The FDA specifies the permissible usage and amounts for each dye.

Keep in mind that just because the FDA allows a certain amount of red dye to be placed into food products does not mean that it can’t cause harm. Foods high in any type of synthetic or processed ingredients can significantly harm gut bacteria and cause a slew of health issues.

What foods contain red dye?

Red Eye 40 is one of the most popular color additives and can be found in many types of foods. On a nutrition label, Red Dye 40 can also be called:

  • Red 40.
  • Red 40 Lake.
  • FD&C Red No. 40.
  • FD&C Red No. 40 Aluminum Lake.
  • Allura Red AC
  • E129
  • CI Food Red 17
  • INS no. 129

While this list is not comprehensive, foods that commonly contain red dye 40 include:

  • Cakes, pastries, and frosting
  • Cereals
  • Candy and gum
  • Yogurt
  • Puddings and gelatin (Jell-O)
  • Sports drinks
  • Ice cream and popsicles
  • Soda and juice
  • Energy drinks
  • Gummy vitamins
  • Condiments
  • Protein powders.
  • Chips and salty snack foods.

The Health Dangers of Red Dye:

Despite its visually tempting hue, concerns about its potential health implications have been raised. Some studies have suggested a link between red dye consumption and digestive diseases, including inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. While the research is ongoing, it’s important to be mindful of the potential risks associated with excessive consumption of red dye.

Interestingly, many countries outside of the United States have taken different approaches to using red dye in foods. Some European countries have implemented stricter regulations on synthetic food dyes, including red dye, due to concerns about their potential impact on health. In fact, some European countries have outright banned products made with this ingredient, leading manufacturers to opt for natural alternatives like beet juice or other plant-based ingredients to achieve the desired color.

Our team at VIVA Wellness is passionate about helping our clients make informed choices for their health, so keep reading to learn about the potential health implications of consuming Red Dye No 40:


A recent 2021 report from California reveals that consuming synthetic food dyes, particularly Red Dye 40, can lead to hyperactivity and other neurobehavioral problems, especially in children.

Experts point to several possible reasons for the behavioral changes associated with red dye 40 and other synthetic color additives, such as mineral deficiency like zinc and iron, chemical changes in the brain, and hypersensitivity reactions, including inflammation, that can result in allergic responses.

While numerous studies have explored the impact of synthetic color additives, Red Dye 40 has been the primary focus. Although the findings vary, most of these studies indicate some level of association between color additives and symptoms of ADHD.

Increased risk of cancer

In the 80s, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned some formulas of red dye from cosmetics and other products based on scientific evidence that the chemical caused cancer in laboratory animals. Another 2012 study supports these findings. Despite this, red dye continues to be permitted in all kinds of foods in every department of the grocery store.


Concerns have been raised about Red Dye 40 and its potential connection to allergies and migraine headaches. Allergies can be triggered by any substance the body perceives as foreign, including synthetic dyes found in food. While we typically associate allergies with symptoms like a runny nose or watery eyes, they can also lead to migraine headaches in certain individuals. These headaches are more severe and can last for hours or even days, causing intense stabbing pain.

Many people have reported experiencing sensitivity to red and other dyes in their food. If you suffer from migraines after consuming artificially colored foods, it’s worth considering this potential link.

IBS and digestive symptoms

Frequent and prolonged exposure to a common food dye may damage gut health and promote inflammation, according to a recent study published in Nature Communications. Clinical trials on laboratory mice found that the dye disrupts gut bacteria and increases serotonin production, ultimately impacting the gut microbiome and increasing the risk of inflammatory bowel conditions.

The findings, published by McMaster University, highlight the dangers of long-term ingestion of red food dye. The study’s senior author, Professor Waliul Khan, emphasizes the significance of these harmful effects on gut health and suggests that identifying gut serotonin as a critical factor could have important implications for preventing and managing gut inflammation.

Another 2023 study revealed a strong link between chronic inflammation and developing diseases like Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and colorectal cancer (CRC). This connection has been shown with persistent and severe inflammation, and new evidence suggests that even subtle and long-lasting inflammation can contribute to the development of colorectal cancer.

This study found that Red 40 could trigger a hidden and low-grade inflammation, specifically in the colon and rectum, potentially leading to colorectal cancer. Our team has seen the effects of widespread exposure to synthetic chemicals like Red 40 in our daily diets, which is why we developed an array of services to detox from these harmful substances.

What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a collection of symptoms related to digestive health, including recurring abdominal pain and alterations in bowel movements, such as diarrhea, constipation, or a combination of both. The unique aspect of IBS is that these symptoms are present without any visible indications of damage or disease in the digestive tract.

IBS is categorized as a functional gastrointestinal (GI) disorder, which is now referred to by doctors as a disorder of gut-brain interactions. These disorders are linked to issues in the coordination between the brain and the gut. This can result in the gut becoming more sensitive and affecting the contraction of the muscles in the bowel. Increased sensitivity in the gut may lead to heightened stomach pain and bloating, while changes in muscle contraction can cause diarrhea, constipation, or a combination of both.

Previously, IBS had been referred to by various names such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), colitis, mucous colitis, spastic colon, nervous colon, and spastic bowel.

Types of IBS

There are four common types of IBS:

  • Diarrhea with abdominal pain or discomfort (IBS-D).
  • Constipation with abdominal pain or discomfort (IBS-C).
  • Both diarrhea and constipation with abdominal discomfort (IBS-mixed).
  • Undefined subtype with varying other symptoms (IBS-U).

IBS Symptoms

IBS symptoms can vary from person to person or from day to day.

The main symptoms of IBS are:

  • stomach pain or cramps, especially after eating and can sometimes be relieved with a bowel movement
  • bloating in the stomach and gas
  • loose stools and urgent bowel movements
  • constipation and straining during a bowel movement

Symptoms may get better or worse and may be triggered by food or beverages.

Other symptoms of IBS

In more serious cases, IBS can also cause:

  • mucus in the stools
  • nausea and vomiting
  • fatigue and a lack of energy
  • bowel incontinence
  • mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression

Natural remedies for IBS

The good news is that you have multiple options for IBS treatment, so you can likely find one that works for you. If you’re concerned about the potential risks of red dye consumption and its impact on your digestive health, consider an IBS detox. Many of our IBS patients find incorporating the following products and services into their wellness routine can help improve IBS symptoms and help them feel their best:

1. A low FODMAP diet:

A low FODMAP diet can be a solution for those with digestive issues. This temporary eating plan helps pinpoint troublesome foods for individuals with IBS and SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth). FODMAP refers to certain sugars that the small intestine struggles to absorb, leading to discomfort and symptoms like cramping, bloating, and diarrhea.

First, you eliminate high FODMAP foods. Then, you reintroduce them slowly to identify the culprits. Finally, you can avoid or limit those foods while enjoying everything else worry-free.

A low FODMAP diet eliminates dairy, wheat, beans, certain vegetables, and some fruits. Instead, choose options like eggs, meat, almond milk, rice, and various fruits and vegetables.

While following the elimination phase for a few weeks, you can gradually reintroduce high FODMAP foods one at a time to check for any negative reactions. If a food causes symptoms, avoid it long-term.

A low FODMAP diet is not meant to be a long-term solution, but rather a short-term tool for restoring gut health. Our nutritional experts will discuss whether a low FODMAP diet is appropriate for you.

2. Hydration:

Staying hydrated is important for overall health and to reduce IBS symptoms. Around 60% of our body is made up of water, making hydration essential. We highly suggest drinking filtered water (we love the Berkey System) and adding LMNT mineral packets for the biggest benefit.

Consuming approximately two liters of water daily can alleviate uncomfortable symptoms associated with IBS, including bloating, abdominal pain, constipation, and diarrhea. Hydration plays a crucial role in digestion and removing toxins, making it a key factor in managing IBS. During flare-ups, it is especially important to increase fluid intake to compensate for the loss caused by frequent diarrhea. Dehydration occurs when your body loses more water than it takes in, hindering regular bodily functions.

Don’t wait until you feel thirsty to address your body’s hydration needs. By then, your body has already lost 1-2% of its water. Even this seemingly small amount can cause decreased mental and physical functioning, as well as a decrease in energy.

With the demands of everyday life, it can be hard to keep up with hydration. That’s why we highly recommend utilizing IV hydration infusions for extra support.

3. Herbal Teas:

Certain organic herbal teas can have soothing effects on the digestive system and are known to support detox functions. Specifically, research has shown that chamomile tea has antioxidant and antimicrobial benefits, and animal model studies show anti-inflammatory properties. Some studies also show that peppermint reduces the severity of gut symptoms for people with IBS.

Another great herb for digestion is ginger. Besides its delicious taste, gingerol in ginger root enhances gastrointestinal motility. This means it helps speed up digestion, preventing food from staying in your stomach for too long. It also helps with nausea, bloating, and inflammation. You can find several yummy organic herbal teas here.

4. Detoxifying Supplements:

When you come to our clinic with concerns about Irritable Bowel Syndrome, the first step is to get to know you and your body. Our Functional Medicine Practitioners offer different approaches to understanding your body’s state of “toxicity” or nutritional deficiencies. Based on those findings, they’ll determine a protocol to support your body in detoxing, whether from red dyes or other toxins in your body. Our healthcare professionals are well-versed in detoxifying supplements that support your body’s natural detox processes.

One supplement our clients love for irritable bowel syndrome is SBI Protect. This powerful dietary supplement is the only source of purified immunoglobulin G (IgG) available. Its pure IgG formula works wonders in maintaining a strong intestinal immune system by binding and eliminating a wide range of microbes and toxins in the gut. You can get SBI Protect right in our clinic or online.

The benefits of SBI Protect include:

  • Boosts immunity with concentrated immunoglobulins
  • Supports a balanced microbial environment
  • Enhances GI barrier health and integrity
  • Promotes normal inflammatory balance

By binding and eliminating harmful microbes and toxins, SBI Protect resets healthy immune tolerance and fortifies the body against external threats.

Many vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin D, have been shown to improve IBS symptoms. We offer IM Vitamin D supplementation, which is more powerful than oral supplements. VIVA Wellness also offers other IV and IM therapies for improved gut health and treatment of IBS symptoms. Our knowledgeable NPs will discuss your options and develop a protocol that’s right for you.

Treatments for IBS that we offer at VIVA:

In addition to incorporating the aforementioned supplements into a balanced diet, VIVA Wellness offers several other services that serve as alternatives to prescription medications to treat Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

5. Colon Hydrotherapy:

For some people, colonic hydrotherapy sessions can be a great tool to manage IBS symptoms. A colon cleanse can help relieve constipation and regulate bowel movements associated with IBS. Our experienced and certified Colon Hydrotherapists use this treatment to help remove accumulated toxins and waste from your digestive tract. Recent studies have revealed the impressive benefits of colonic irrigation for a range of constipation issues, including Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

Rest assured, our colon hydrotherapy is highly effective and completely safe for patients suffering from stomach pain and constipation. Read all about our colonics services in the Milwaukee area.

6. Lymphatic Drainage Treatment:

Research has shown that lymphatic drainage therapy can assist in reducing toxins, supporting immune function, and enhancing overall circulation. The lymphatic system is closely tied to digestion, so many clients find that LDT helps with regular bowel movements. VIVA Wellness offers two types of Lymphatic Drainage Treatments: Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) and Vacuum RF Lymphatic Drainage. A consultation with one of our healthcare providers will determine if MLD or Vacuum RF is right for you.

7. Sauna Usage:

While you may picture the sauna as a way to relax at the gym, research shows that sauna treatments help with intestinal function. Additionally, stress is one of the most common IBS triggers, and saunas are great for stress reduction. The benefits don’t stop there—regular sauna sessions can help stimulate circulation, promote sweating, and aid in detoxification by eliminating toxins through the skin.

Unlike traditional steam saunas that rely on steam and hot rocks, our infrared saunas at VIVA Wellness use advanced technology to increase your thermal energy. This means you can enjoy the benefits of a relaxing hot sauna without the discomfort of extreme temperatures. If you’re curious about the benefits of an IR Sauna, one of our therapists would be glad to discuss them with you.

Manage your IBS with VIVA Wellness

IBS is one of the common health concerns we see at VIVA Wellness. It’s important to know that certain foods like red dye can worsen symptoms for people with IBS. Being mindful of the potential risks associated with red dye consumption is an important step toward making informed dietary choices. Don’t jump into a self-prescribed or self-designed detox protocol alone. This is a dangerous move without the support of healthcare professionals. You need a distinct protocol based on your health needs to ensure your body is empowered to do the detoxing work.

At VIVA Wellness, we’re committed to providing you with the information and support you need to make decisions that positively impact your well-being. Remember that small changes in your diet and lifestyle can go a long way in supporting your overall gut health and vitality. If you have concerns or questions about detoxifying from red dye consumption, colon cleanses, and other types of detox, our knowledgeable team of NPs is here for you.

Our team is excited to meet you and come up with a plan that is right for you. If you’re ready to start feeling better and living the life you want to live, contact us today!

Contact us to book and appointment or consultation in Brookfield, WI.


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