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Nutrition

Pediatric Food Sensitivities Part Two: What Causes Food Sensitivities in Children?

A variety of factors, from diet and lifestyle to medication use, can contribute to or cause leaky gut. Repeated or even one time use of antibiotics, for example, can destroy the beneficial bacteria in the gut, leaving the cell wall vulnerable. A parasitic infection, a bad stomach virus, consuming dairy products with a known lactose intolerance, overconsumption of sugar, or even serious and chronic stress can do the same.

But it often isn’t as simple as making the “right” choices for our children. Parenthood is especially challenging in the inevitable moments when we are forced to choose between “bad” and “worse” on behalf of our children: We weigh the pros and cons of giving our children antibiotics against the possibility of a serious infection, like Lyme disease or, in the case of a newborn, a group B strep infection. We let our child have the sugary treats at the birthday party to prevent them from feeling awkward or left out of the fun. We take them to public places knowing that there is a stomach virus circulating and that they will undoubtedly stick their contaminated fingers in their mouths before we’ve had a chance to wash their hands. We do these things because the alternative is to cover them in bubble wrap and suffocate them with well meaning but misdirected overprotectiveness.
There might come a time, however, when our children develop a condition, like leaky gut, that motivates parents to raise their vigilance and make different choices. Fortunately, leaky gut and resulting food sensitivities can often be cured in a matter of months, after which children and their families can return to their usual pre-treatment way of life if they choose.

The Difference Between Food Sensitivities, Food Intolerance, and Food Allergies:

IgG food sensitivities are different from IgE food allergies in several important ways. Food sensitivities are developed, are often symptomatically easier to tolerate (which is also a reason that they go undiagnosed), and they can be reversed. IgE food allergies are often something children are born with, they cannot be reversed, and their symptoms can be severe and even life-threatening. By contrast, a food intolerance is due to an individual’s underproduction of a certain enzyme needed to break down a component of food. Symptoms of food intolerance are initially limited to local GI discomfort, are not life threatening, but can eventually lead to leaky gut.

While the symptoms of IgG food sensitivities are not as dramatic as those of IgE food allergies, they can lead to other medical conditions over time and compromise an individual’s long term health and create a dramatic loss in their quality of life, or in the case of a child, in the entire family’s quality of life. Conventional medical education generally does not cover the diagnosis and treatment of leaky gut syndrome and the resulting food sensitivities because neither condition is considered acute. Integrative practitioners, particularly Licensed Naturopathic Physicians, are taught to look at how the systems of the body interact and overlap, so the diagnosis and treatment of leaky gut and food sensitivities has an important place in their holistic training.

Check back in for Part 3, diagnosing and treating food sensitivities in children, next week…