Food Allergy Guide
Allergies are adverse reactions to various things including foods, and children are often more prone to them. Allergies can be caused by virtually any food including fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, peanuts, eggs, wheat, milk, shellfish, and soy. Children most at risk for developing an allergy are those born to parents who have a history of allergies, have asthma, experience colic, have frequent ear infections, frequently get sick, or commonly experience a runny nose, gas or constipation.
Children can also develop intolerances to foods, which result in digestive problems after a certain food is eaten. The most common intolerances among children are lactose intolerance and celiac disease.
Difference Between Allergies and Food Intolerances
A food intolerance is a sensitivity to any component of the food. It is typically a result of the body not having the adequate amount of enzymes to break down the food, or due to having a leaky gut, which is where a food can enter into our bloodstream via the digestive tract, causing a reaction. A food sensitivity will always start in the digestive tract.
On the other hand, an allergy is a specific immune reaction to the protein in a food. The allergy-causing food does not necessarily need to be ingested and can set off the body's immune response by touch alone.
To nourish and support optimal growth and development in children with allergies and food intolerances, a combination of the right foods and a healthy lifestyle is ideal. Retesting every couple of years is helpful as food sensitivities often shift or heal over time.
Common Food Intolerances
Lactose intolerance is a food intolerance to the sugar lactose which is found in milk. Symptoms include gas, bloating, and diarrhea, which are often a result of the body’s inability to absorb lactose through the wall of the small intestine.
Celiac disease is a result of a sensitivity to gluten, which is a group of proteins that give grains their stickiness. Symptoms include diarrhea, bloating, weakness, and muscle cramps.
Ways to Nutritionally Support Children with Allergies and Food Intolerances
Children who experience allergies or food intolerance can treat symptoms with certain nutrients to avoid flare-ups and recurrence of symptoms.
To support those with allergies, remove all sources of that food from their diet. Depending on the severity of the allergy, it may be a good idea to not keep anything containing that food in the house. If the food the child is allergic to can also be found in products (such as shampoos, body wash, etc.), make sure to diligently review labels or do advanced research before buying any new products for the home.
To support those with lactose intolerance, it is best to avoid foods/drinks containing lactose and to replace them with lactose-free foods/drinks.
Common replacements include
Almond milk, coconut milk, cashew milk, or oat milk
Coconut yogurt and kefir (kefir contains dairy but it’s fermented so easier to digest)
Ghee (lactose-free, clarified butter)
If there is concern about consuming enough calcium without dairy, enjoy more calcium-rich foods such as sesame seeds, tahini, beans and lentils, and almonds.
To support children with gluten sensitivity or intolerance (celiac disease)
Remove all sources of gluten-containing foods from the diet
Incorporate foods that are gluten-free, such as:
Oats (ensure they are processed in a gluten-free facility to avoid cross-contamination)
Gluten-free flours (rice, almond, coconut, or teff)
Search for fun alternatives to your favorite gluten-containing foods such as pasta (look for brown rice or chickpea pasta)
Other Ways to Support Allergies and Intolerances
Try peppermint and eucalyptus essential oils in a diffuser to relieve allergy symptoms. Both oils can provide soothing relief with opening airways.
Eat out at restaurants by doing research into restaurants and menus before visiting.
Find friends with food allergies, as this creates a common bond for children and allows you and their parents to share experiences.
Talk to children about their specific food allergies and intolerances, and what steps they should take to keep themselves safe (helping them understand what foods they can and cannot eat and why).
Supportive Supplements for Allergies and Food Intolerances
Digestive enzymes: are useful specifically for intolerances, and will help the body break down the foods so that minimal irritation is felt by the digestive tract. It is not advised to take enzymes daily for more than 6 weeks.
Consider Enzymedica's chewable Kid's Digest. It contains kid-friendly doses of many of the same enzymes found in the Digest Gold product
Glutamine: is a master antioxidant that has gut lining-healing properties. When taken at night on an empty stomach, it helps to repair the junctions in your gut lining, which have likely been worn down over time from eating foods that irritate the gut lining.
Try adding the powder to a smoothie or some coconut yogurt in the mornings.
Collagen: helps repair the cell walls. When the body has an immune reaction, you want your cell walls to be as strong as possible.
Try adding the powder to a smoothie or juice.
Probiotics: are also known as good bacteria, and they line the digestive tract to ensure the gut lining remains an entangled barrier, preventing any pathogens from getting into the bloodstream, which can trigger an immune response. Try taking a capsule in the mornings to prepare your stomach for a day of food.
Zinc: is a necessary component in stomach acid. Stomach acid is necessary for breaking down proteins so they can be deactivated before entering the intestines. Zinc also supports the function of white blood cells. Try taking a tablet in the morning or at lunch with food.
With the right food and lifestyle choices, allergies and food intolerances can be well-managed and children can live healthy, happy lives. Learning the fundamentals of what to do and what not to do can help your child thrive despite their allergy or intolerance.