Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Food Allergy and Intolerance

It seems as though I hear more and more often about food allergies and food intolerance in children.  In the past, I've known little about either of them other than that there are some individuals who absolutely cannot have food items such as nuts, shellfish, or dairy and in doing so, they could go into some sort of a shock where they are rushed to the hospital needing immediate care.  A food allergy is when a person's body produces a substance called immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies to a particular food because it believes it is harmful.  When presented with this particular food, the body will react immediately to or within a few hours to that food.  It can better be explained here. So what is a food intolerance?

A food intolerance (when the body produces IgG, not IgE antibodies) is a digestive response to a particular food rather than an immune system response.  The way I understand it is when the digestive system has a problem digesting a particular substance, it sends messages to other parts of the body including but not limited to the brain, the intestinal tract, and the nervous system.  This in turn can cause behavioral changes in the individual.  According to, there are many factors that may contribute to food intolerance. In some cases, as with lactose intolerance, the person lacks the chemicals, called enzymes, necessary to properly digest certain proteins found in food. Also common are intolerances to some chemical ingredients added to food to provide color, enhance taste, and protect against the growth of bacteria. These ingredients include various dyes and monosodium glutamate (MSG), a flavor enhancer.

Another really common food ingredient that continues to cause intolerance in individuals is Red Dye #40, a common ingredient in many food items on our supermarket shelves, which can include "fruit" drinks, candy, and snacks. After learning more about this common additive, it's no wonder why it's causing harm to individuals all across the globe.  It's a by-product of coal tar!

Some behaviors caused by food intolerances are:

According to the American College of Allergy and Immunology, they include upset stomach, gastroenteritis, runny nose, dark circles under the eyes, shock, edema or swelling, anxiety, ulcers, joint pain, asthma, addictions, and rashes.  In children they can cause seizures, red ear lobes, red cheeks, excessive talking or aggressive behavior, bedwetting and attention deficit.

A few months back, my chiropractor noted similar behavioral traits in my son that she once experienced in her own son.  The glazed look, the inability to concentrate when being spoken to, the dark eye circles, the high energy then the immediate low energy (just to name a few).  She explained to me that these behaviors can all be associated to allergies and intolerances to specific food items.  She was so helpful in passing along information to us about these conditions, how to test for them and food choices to move forward with.  Although we still have yet to do the lab tests with Park as we are waiting for them to come in the mail, I went ahead and took him off dairy, a HUGE staple in his daily diet, to see if there was a difference in his behavior.

And low and behold, there was.  In the past, Park has been a picky eater.  I was lucky to get one meal in him a day, despite removing all snacks from his diet.  He always reached for his milk before eating the rest of his meals, then rarely touched anything else on his plate.  Now for the time being, I am placing the majority of his change in behavior due to the fact that because he isn't filling up on milk products, he is more open to other choices.  BUT, choosing to remove dairy has been the best thing we've done for him in a long time and the possibility of an intolerance to it is high.  So we will wait and see the test results but continue the no dairy diet.

I should also mention that I myself am lactose intolerant.  I have not been able to drink a glass of milk or eat ice cream in many years (as is my own mother)...and food allergies and intolerance can be passed down through generations.

Just last night, Park ate chicken breast and a half cupful of peas...that's HUGE!  We are very pleased.  And since you are what you eat, his behavior has been very different.  He looks at us while we speak to him, he enjoys reading books again and listens well, I can take him places and he holds my's great.  I am really looking forward to testing him for a dairy, nut and gluten intolerance.  It's nice that I have this option and when presented with the results, I can rule things in or out with regards to the struggling behavior we have had with him in the past.  ( I should also note that food intolerance behaviors in children are much like autistic behaviors in young children.  As you may remember, we were presented with this suggestion with Park last summer.  Luckily, and for the time being, autism has been ruled out for Park.  However, his behaviors have not completely disappeared...which is why we are still working diligently on figuring out a cause for them.)

There is an excellent link that can better explain how a person can behave with a food intolerance.  You can view that here.  I highly recommend reading is a great source of information!

A source to order lab tests to test for food allergies and intolerance can be found here.  The lab tests are a bit pricey but so worth it if you have a child with any of the above behaviors!  And if you hang on to those receipts, you can write them off as a medical (lab) deduction on your tax return.

I should thank my wonderfully smart and giving chiropractor, Dr. Christine, for encouraging me to move forward with Park's diet and the culprit of his behaviors.  Many people wouldn't waste their time telling another about their experience with it all, sending me links to more information and giving me fantastic recipes and food tips for Park's new diet.  Like she has said, so many people ask her if it is a huge pain to buy dairy-nut-gluten free food items for her family with which she replies, it is a much larger pain having a child that behaves the way they once did.  And I totally get it!

~Mommy Bridget

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