If your child has a food allergy, you probably already know, for example, that he gets hives after eating strawberries or can’t breathe after eating peanuts. Due to this immediate immune response or IgE reaction, food allergies are often very easy to determine. However, more difficult to identify is food sensitivities , which are IgG or delayed immune reactions.
These IgG reactions can be very difficult to recognize due to the vague and often wide range of symptoms that can take up to 72 hours to manifest.
10 signs your child has food sensitivities
Food sensitivity can develop over time , often due to excessive consumption of these foods and imbalances in the gut microbiome.
The top five food sensitivities seen in children are: gluten, dairy, corn, soy, and eggs. The possible consequences of consuming these foods if your child has a sensitivity to one of them are inflammation that can lead to a leaky gut and chronic diseases such as autoimmune diseases in the future.
So what are the signs of food sensitivity in your child, and how do you rate them?
10 signs your child has food sensitivities
- Stomach aches
- Constipation and diarrhea
- Fatigue, joint pain, and muscle pain
- Frequent infections, especially of the ears and throat
- Skin irritation and rashes
- Behavior problems
- ADD / ADHD or other concentration problems
- Unexplained weight gain or loss
- Wet the bed frequently
- Autism spectrum disorder
How to Test for Food Sensitivity
All people, regardless of age, are advised to follow an elimination diet . It involves eliminating various inflammatory foods from your diet for a few weeks and then gradually adding each food back one at a time, observing reactions and symptoms.
Depending on the age of the child, the severity of the symptoms, and how fussy they are, we can tailor the diet to include only the top five inflammatory foods listed above.
You can present this diet to the child as a science experiment in which they will play detectives and find out which food causes which symptoms or no symptoms. Now remember, these IgG food sensitivity symptoms are often very vague and subtle.
IgG food sensitivity analysis
For that reason, an IgG food sensitivity blood test is recommended . The advantage of this is that we can see your child’s immune response to a significant amount of food. The downside to this test is that it is not 100% perfect and there may be false positives if your child has leaky gut and false negatives if he is not currently consuming food.
At the end of the day, the body knows more than any proof. If you remove food and your child feels better or the symptoms go away, it is a sign of food sensitivity. Or, if when your child adds food again he feels worse or his symptoms get worse, that is a sign of food sensitivity.
5 tips to help your child cope with food sensitivity
At first this can seem overwhelming. All parents want their children to be healthy. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to help them grow up healthy and happy. Regardless of age, the following five tips will help you ease your transition to a diet more suitable for your bodies.
1. Train your child
This begins with the elimination diet. Letting your child be the detective and find out which foods are causing a problem gives him power over his health. I find that once children go through the elimination diet, they quickly recognize the correlation between aggravating food and uncomfortable symptoms.
They make the decision to avoid food themselves and do not see it as an arbitrary rule that they can break once they are out of the house. Depending on how picky your child is, the changes may be more difficult, but emphasize all the delicious foods that your child can eat, rather than focusing on the few that he cannot eat.
2. Eat what they eat
Show your child that everyone else agrees with him and that his sensitivity is not just theirs. Food is intrinsically linked to our culture, our family and our social life.
That can be frustrating if you’re on a restricted diet, but it also gives you a great opportunity to create new memories with your family – cooking together, finding new favorite restaurants, maybe even creating new snacks to take on a trip.
Your kids look at you in every situation, so model for them. Show them how to prepare and cook for themselves. It demonstrates the importance of reading nutrition labels and asking questions in restaurants.
The stress of a diet change is lessened when you surround yourself with a family support network. You shouldn’t expect your child to give up a loved food while the rest of the family eats it, and your family shouldn’t expect you to cook a different meal for each person. You don’t want to create a dynamic in which a child feels deprived.
Support them by removing food from your home. Most likely, the offending food isn’t that good for anyone else anyway. It’s best to eliminate problem foods like gluten and dairy before the disease has a chance to take hold.
3. Make the transition easier by being creative in the kitchen
This is a great opportunity to invent new recipes and get the whole family involved. Set some guidelines and create a weekly menu with your kids, giving them some feedback on what they eat. If your kids are picky eaters, remember that taste buds eventually adapt and change, and the sooner the changes are made, the better.
You may be able to control what your children eat when they are at home, but what about when they are away from home? This is where a little preparation is really essential. Pack a lunch for your child (if it’s within your means) to avoid troublesome school lunches.
Explain that they shouldn’t trade food with their classmates or eat cafeteria food, and make that easier for them by packing fun snacks and lunches that they enjoy. Focus on whole fruits and vegetables or other portable options like soup leftovers in a thermos, nut butters, brown rice tortillas (if your child can tolerate grains), and maybe a homemade muffin as a treat.
4. Educate other parents and teachers
Be your child’s advocate. If you can’t pack a lunch for your child, talk to the teachers about your options. Explain the situation to them and make sure they understand the severity of food sensitivities and which foods are problematic. Ask for a copy of the school lunch menu and help your child select the right foods.
Depending on the age of the child, classroom cross contamination can be a concern. Ask your child’s teacher if you can give him some approved snacks to keep on hand in case a classmate brings food to share. Certain craft supplies contain gluten, so be sure to inform your child’s teacher of this fact.
Outside of the classroom, educate other parents about food sensitivities. If your child is going to a birthday party, ask them if they can bring some gluten-free treats for the party guests. Most people won’t pick up on sensitivity, and as a parent, you need to teach them.
5. Find a support system outside of your family
There are many great resources for parents of children with dietary restrictions. It can be overwhelming helping your child deal with food sensitivities while trying to navigate the changes yourself.