Discovering your child is sensitive to, allergic to or totally incapable of processing certain foods can be a bit of a challenge. Many children react immediately to trigger foods or additives, but others develop chronic, escalating symptoms over time. These can range from unexplained rashes, headaches, abdominal pain, nausea or vomiting, to life-threatening anaphylaxis — closing of the throat.
Figuring it out
Determining definitively if your child is suffering from food sensitivity or intolerance can be done with several tests. Your pediatrician may administer a skin prick test for many kinds of common allergens, or may order a blood test. You may give your kid a food challenge test by giving them the food you think they may have a sensitivity to and monitoring their reaction. Do this under the supervision of their health care provider. You may also exclude these potential toxic products from your child’s diet to see if their symptoms clear up or persist.
The most common trigger foods include:
Gluten — Found in wheat, barley, rye, and traditionally processed oats and buckwheat. Oats and buckwheat do not contain gluten themselves, but pick up gluten when they come into contact with wheat flour during processing.
So what do you do when your little hungry one is having big food troubles?
Go organic and non-GMO, or non-genetically modified, whenever you can. Sometimes the body just doesn’t recognize or rejects what we’ve done to our food, and reacts to it. The food molecules themselves are not the problem, but the hormones, pesticides, toxins, food dyes and additives are.
Try goat’s milk instead of cow. Goat’s milk is highly nutritious, lower in fat than cow’s milk, has a much lower potential for allergic reaction, and is alkaline. Which does tremendous good for the body. Plus, goat cheese is simply delicious. You can also give soy, almond, hemp and coconut milk a try.
Gluten-free grains like rice, quinoa, millet, amaranth, corn and oats can be substituted for wheat. Gluten-free oats are processed differently than standard oats, so they don’t pick up any wheat-gluten on the way. And buckwheat, despite its name, does not contain gluten like regular wheat. But again may be cross contaminated with wheat by commercial processors. If you’re looking for wheat flour substitutes try potato, almond, garbanzo, rice, corn and soy flour.
If corn and soy have been scratched off the list as well, try substituting with nut flours, like almond and coconut. If nuts also cause problems, the aforementioned rice and buckwheat are the standard choices.
Baking without eggs can be difficult, but some recipes can use applesauce and an extra teaspoon or two of baking powder to get the same leavening and volume effects.
Your child’s pediatrician may prescribe anti-inflammatory medications such as antihistamines or steroids to keep immune responses to food allergies under control. But an outright intolerance to certain stimuli may not have an easily administered medical treatment.
Eastern medicine has an array of options for food sensitivities. Whether you believe in these ancient techniques or not, anything from acupuncture, reiki, herbal elixirs, and energy healing to exposure therapy is an option. Leave no stone unturned, and get your child’s body back in balance. Whatever it takes.
Sometimes the best defense is a good offense. Eliminating the allergen from your child’s diet is a guaranteed way to avoid the problems they cause. But unfortunately, the world isn’t set up to cater to special dietary needs. And your child is bound to come into contact with forbidden foods sooner or later. Especially the sweet, salty, fatty, delicious options their friends get to indulge in.
I am allergic to gluten myself, and have a noticeable change in my mood when I indulge in it. Begrudgingly, I’ve had to completely eliminate corn from my diet recently due to severe indigestion. Even organic non-GMO corn couldn’t save my love of breakfast cereals, crunchy taco shells and crisp tortilla chips.
Navigating your child’s food allergies, sensitivities and intolerance can be a difficult adjustment at first. But given the opportunity, it is a chance for the whole family to get on board and find some alternative ways to make healthier choices. Most of the trigger foods can be substituted with much more nutritious, alkaline and naturally less processed whole foods and supplements. It may also give you and your kids the opportunity to bond over testing new recipes and experiencing new fun food flavors. Take the tests, take on the challenge, and take a chance on a better diet. Your kids will thank you.