Children and Food Sensitivity

Food Sensitivities

Why do so many kids have food sensitivities?

Food sensitivities and food allergies are becoming an alarming norm in the United States. Gluten- free, dairy- free, soy- free… these are products we see in grocery stores all the time and we all probably know someone in our lives who adheres to one of these diets. I know that in my pediatric aspect of my practice, most children I see with chronic illness, have a food sensitivity. If it has not been diagnosed yet, the parent and I work together to decipher which foods or food group may be creating such a negative impact on a child. Ways to decipher this vary, saliva tests, blood tests (which have mixed results and don’t seem to be as accurate), biofeedback and simply elimination diets. I understand that this is not easy. It’s difficult on the parent, it’s difficult on the child, it is just a disruption. Especially, when getting healthy food into children can be a difficulty to begin with. Add that to being exhausted, working parents and it all feels overwhelming.

The unfortunate element that I have found with food sensitivities is that if we don’t remove the offending food, the child’s immune system is constantly being bombarded by something that is making it sick and inflammation ensues. At this point, this child is immuno- compromised and chronically getting sick. Whether it is a skin reaction, a chronic cough, fatigue, gastrointestinal illness, brain fog, achy joints or muscles, sleeplessness or chronic nasal congestion or runny nose. An example of this is a child that I recently had in my office this winter. This little girl was 18 months old and had a chronic wheeze associated with an upper respiratory infection and chronic cough. We deciphered from biofeedback that this child had a dairy sensitivity. This was difficult for this mom to institute, but she did it and the cough started to clear up. The dairy example is confusing because we are told culturally that dairy is the only way to get calcium into the body. 1) This makes it difficult to institute the change because parents are always trying to do best for their child and 2) from what I have seen a child will not absorb or assimilate the calcium anyway because the dairy sensitivity is creating inflammation and the body is rejecting it.

Often a child will “grow” out of a food sensitivity, but the cause of inflammation needs to be removed in order to heal the gut lining. After that is instituted for a period of time, often the child can “grow” out of the sensitivity or just not be quite as sensitive avoiding a constant state of distress.

Preventing Food Allergies

One cause of food allergies may be related to “hygiene hypothesis” —our children are raised in an environment that is ‘too clean’ .

A second cause of food sensitivities may be related to the exposure to chemical toxins in our food: pesticides, genetically modified organisms and general environmental toxicity.

“Because 70% of our immune system is found in our digestive tracts, the foods that we eat and the chemicals that they contain can have a significant impact on our health.

As these chemicals in foods work through a child’s digestive system, they can corrode his or her “pipes” in much the same way that chemical toxins corrode plumbing! This “chemical corrosion” of the digestive tract can leave a child vulnerable to a host of auto-immune disorders, including allergies, asthma, Celiac’s disease and other conditions.” (source:
“Because of the risks that these chemicals may present, mothers in most developed countries are advised to avoid exposure to chemical toxins during the first twelve weeks of pregnancy given the role that these toxins play in the development of:

Gestational diabetes.

A mother’s exposure to pesticide during pregnancy has been linked to both:

Gestational diabetes (Source: Organic Center)” (

In the last 20 years,

400% increase in allergies,
300% increase in asthma,
400% increase in ADHD
and an increase of between 1,500 and 6,000% in the number of children with autism-spectrum disorders.

Most likely, these increases are related to environmental toxins. I believe the best way to counter this is to do your best to avoid pesticides, antibiotics, hormones and chemicals in food, GMOs, xenoestrogens (from plastics) during pre pregnancy, pregnancy and during your child’s life in at least the first 7 years.

The approach is simple:

Eat a whole foods organic diet the best that you can.

There is the adage to follow, “If your grandmother would not have had the ingredient in her pantry, don’t eat it.”
There are many great sources for this type of diet, a place to start is:
Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon.