Kids and Food sensitivity

Food allergies and sensitivities amongst children are on the rise, making it an increasing source of concern and stress for parents and caregivers.

Recent studies show that food allergies and sensitivities occur in around 1 in 20 children, with hospital admissions for severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) doubling over the last decade in Australia, the USA and UK. *

The most common foods associated with adverse reactions include wheat (gluten), dairy, nuts and eggs. Given the fact that these foods feature so prominently in everyday recipes, groceries and at social gatherings (picnics, parties and at friends’ houses), it makes conscientious and mindful eating difficult for kids and a veritable minefield for adults to navigate. Although awareness and understanding of allergies is on the rise amongst those unaffected, it still remains an emotional and logistical challenge for parents and caregivers who are all too familiar with the unpleasantries associated with adverse reactions in their little ones.

It is common (and completely understandable) for children who experience illness and discomfort after eating certain foods to become more fussy and wary of different, or new foods. It is for this reason, that I have included extensive information around food allergies, intolerances and sensitivities in my book – as well as proven strategies for helping with fussy eating.

For those with little ones who have food intolerances and who are worried that their child isn’t eating a broad range of foods, there is most definitely hope! Eating a broad range of food groups is still possible by using a few simple ingredient substitutions.

Why do allergies occur?

Allergies occur when the body overreacts to an allergen or ‘trigger’ that typically is harmless to most people. Around one person in four is allergic to something and around half of all allergy sufferers are children[2]. The symptoms of an allergy range from mild to severe. The most severe type of allergic reaction is anaphylaxis, which can be fatal if prompt medical attention is not sought. In most cases however, effective treatments are available to successfully manage and treat unpleasant symptoms.

Wheat Allergy vs. Gluten Intolerance vs. Coeliac Disease

A wheat allergy can be defined as an immune response to one or more of the proteins found in wheat (this can include gluten). Symptoms can be gastrointestinal and include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, bloating and constipation. Other symptoms can also include hives, rash, nasal congestion, mouth or throat irritation as well as mood and behaviour disorders. This can be managed and the symptoms treated through a strict adherence to a wheat-free diet and lifestyle.

Gluten intolerance exists when there is an intolerance to gluten or other wheat components without damage to the small intestine. Symptoms can include diarrhoea, bloating, abdominal pain as well as constipation. Sufferers can also experience brain fog, neurological disorders, joint pain, fatigue as well as mood and behaviour disorders. Again, this can be managed and resolved through an adherence to an appropriate wheat-free or gluten-free diet.

Coeliac disease is the most severe and due to a genetic autoimmune disorder, whereby gluten indigestion triggers damage to the small intestine. Symptoms include diarrhoea, constipation, nausea, vomiting, flatulence, cramping, bloating and abdominal pain. Left untreated, it can cause weight loss, malnutrition, iron deficiency, dental cavities, low bone density, skin issues, neurological disorders, liver dysfunction, joint pain, hair loss and fatigue. Strict adherence to a gluten-free lifestyle makes this disease manageable, and when followed, allows those affected to thrive.

tips

If your child has coeliac disease, gluten intolerance or a wheat allergy (or if you simply want to reduce the amount of gluten in their diet), try wholemeal spelt flour, almond flour, coconut flour and buckwheat flour in place of wholemeal flour. Lettuce, cabbage leaves or nori sheets can be a delicious and excellent replacement for traditional wraps, too).