Episode 9: Addressing Food Intolerances & Sensitivities In Kids
In today’s episode, we will be talking about food intolerances and food sensitivities in kids. It can be a really tricky area to navigate, to know how to figure out whether your child has food intolerances. What are the signs and symptoms? What’s the testing that’s available? What can be the effect on your kids’ overall well-being? How do we start to manage food intolerances and sensitivities in our kids?
I discuss the difference between food intolerances and food allergies, and break down the underlying factors, addressing these through:
- Developing a healthier gut function
- Increasing the diversity in our kids’ guts
- Addressing the gut barrier issue
- Maintaining a well-regulated immune system
- Probiotics for Kids – A Naturopath’s advice
- Food allergies and Intolerances – What the medical approach is missing
- Download our free Kids Gut Health e-book
- Book an appointment with our Naturopath
Welcome back, everybody! Great to be with you today.
Before we get started on the podcast today, I’ve got a special announcement. This is going to be timely if you’re listening to this as we go live with this particular episode, which is in late February 2021. If you’re listening to this episode later, it may not be relevant. But I’m very excited to announce that I have a free masterclass coming up on the 9th of March, Tuesday. This masterclass is going to be about gut health. So I am going to be talking you through my three surprisingly simple ways to transform your kids’ gut health. To improve their mood, immunity, fussy eating and allergies.
I am going to pop a link on where you can sign up in the show notes. Excited about this because it’s more than just a one-off masterclass. We are going to have a free pop up Facebook group to go with the masterclass. We’re going to do bonus trainings, giveaways and prizes. So if you’re interested in improving your kids’ gut health, this masterclass is a must. Totally free, I’d love for you to come along. Make sure you register for that. You can find the link in the show notes, and even if you just head over to www.naturalsuperkids.com, our website, you’ll find a way to sign up. We’ll have a banner at the top to make it really nice and easy for you to be able to sign up for that.
As I talk about so often, gut health really is the foundation of our kids’ well-being.
Today’s episode is focused around gut health as well. It just has so many rippling positive effects when we work on gut health with our kids. As I said on their mood, immune system, sleep, their behaviour, fussy eating. Believe it or not, that’s a really big one that can be improved with some improvements in gut health. But I know that there are a lot of different ideas and lots of different information out there when it comes to gut health. So I want to simplify it for you, and give you these three really effective things that you can be working on to improve your kids’ gut health. That’s what we’re going to be talking about in the master class.
Today, we’re definitely going to be talking about the gut as we do in nearly all episodes. We’re going to be focusing on food intolerances and sensitivities in kids. This is probably one of the most common thing that I see going on with kids that I work with in clinic on a one -on-one capacity. Also with a lot of our Natural Super Kids Klub members. It can be a really tricky area to navigate, to know how to figure out whether your child has food intolerances. What are the signs and symptoms? What’s the testing that’s available? What can be the effect on your kids overall well-being. How do we start to manage food intolerances and sensitivities in our kids? So these are all things we are going to be talking about today.
So first of all, we are talking about food intolerances and sensitivities today. This is very different from food allergies. Let me just explain a bit about the difference. An allergy is generally what we call an IgE reaction. The body is producing IgE antibodies when there’s an allergy. And with an allergy, you will know about it, there is a rapid onset. So almost immediately, when a child eats a particular food that they’re allergic to, they will start getting symptoms. The IgE-type allergic responses is what leads to anaphylactic reactions in kids, which is obviously very serious. Allergy and IgE-based allergy is, it’s possible to just have a tiny amount of a particular food and the symptoms can follow from that. And generally it’s quite easy to detect both symptomatically and also with testing.
When we compare that with what we’re talking about today, food intolerances and sensitivities are IgG reactions. There can be other types of intolerances and sensitivities as well. It’s a different type of antibody that our body is producing with these types of reactions. This can be delayed onset. Hours later or even days later after consuming a food, you can have a food sensitivity or intolerance reaction. They tend to be dose dependent. So depending on how sensitive your child might be to a particular food, they may be able to have a small amount. But if they go over their particular threshold, they will get symptoms.
These types of intolerances and sensitivities, as opposed to allergies are harder to detect both with symptoms and testing. Because the delayed onset of symptoms can make it really tricky to figure out what it is your child is actually reacting to. And the testing, in my opinion, is not very accurate or effective because it’s really changeable. We’re going to be talking about that a little bit. So that gets that sort of difference between allergies and intolerances and sensitivities. Today we’re focusing on those IgG, food intolerances and sensitivities.
So one of the things that makes this really tricky to detect is, the symptoms can be very varied. Of course, there are the gastrointestinal symptoms. If your child does have a food intolerance or sensitivity, they will generally get some sort of digestive symptoms. Whether that’s bloating, pain, gas, diarrhoea, vomiting, heartburn. But when with younger children, these can be hard to detect because it might just result in a lot of whinging and whining, and a pretty unhappy child because they don’t always articulate what’s going on with them. Those gastrointestinal symptoms are really common.
Skin symptoms are also very common with food sensitivities and intolerances. We’re thinking things like rashes, hives, even eczema can be triggered by food intolerances. Then there are the mood, the behaviour and the sleep symptoms. So there could be irritability, hyperactivity, or lots of tantrums and meltdowns. You know, a generally unhappy child when there’s no sort of external reason why they should be unhappy. Food intolerances can definitely be linked to sleep issues. Whether that is frequent waking through the night, or troubles with sleep onset, with getting to sleep.
Then there can be the pain-type symptoms as well. Headaches and joint pain, fatigue, respiratory symptoms like coughing, wheezing, sinus issues, sneezing. Picky eating can be a common sort of presentation of kids particularly with like a range of sensitivities and intolerances because they don’t want to eat. Because they know eating makes them feel yucky or uncomfortable so they can become quite picky eaters. It’s the experience of the clients that I’ve seen in clinic for sure.
So food intolerances and sensitivities are known as IgG reactions, as opposed to IgE reactions that are sort of related to allergies. A lot of food intolerances and sensitivities are immune mediated, but not all of them are. Sometimes they might be linked to more of a digestive deficiency. An enzyme deficiency and lactose intolerance is a really good example of this. Lactose intolerance results because there is not enough of the enzyme that breaks down lactose. That enzyme is called lactase. So lactose doesn’t properly break down and then can lead to bloating and pain, wind, loose bowel movements and diarrhoea. That sort of thing in children and adults as well.
Lactose intolerance is a good example of a food intolerance that is not solely to do with the immune system. Although there would be some sort of immune regulation issue in there as well. But it does have that sort of digestive deficiency kind of pattern. And yet, there are many other examples as well of those types of food intolerances. They’re not always these IgG intolerances that we’re talking about. They can be just related to a digestive deficiency. And the common pattern that we see with food intolerances and sensitivities is that kids are starting to become more and more sensitive to more and more foods.
So you might detect that your child isn’t great with dairy. You removed dairy or you remove lactose from their diet, and their symptoms improve. But they don’t totally go away. And maybe a month or two later, you’re noticing that they’re now having an issue with some other foods. So this is a very common presentation that kids tend to start getting more and more sensitive, more and more intolerant to more foods. And we’re going to talk about why that is the case.
So when you are going to see a practitioner or a doctor, often the first thing that is recommended is that you avoid the food that is causing the issue. If you know what that is, then this is a good advice. This is necessary as a first step to give the digestive system a rest. To reduce or eliminate the symptoms, but it’s not the end of the story. Because as I said, if we’re not looking at some of the underlying issues that are going on here, then that child can potentially just become more sensitive, and more intolerant to more foods. We can’t have a child that can only eat a handful of foods, you know, I’ve definitely seen these children. And my priority with these kids is to get more variety into their diet.
It’s a bit of a catch 22 because a lot of these kids can’t have a lot of variety. They get symptoms from so many foods, but that lack of variety is not sort of doing anything for their overall digestive function. Particularly their microbiome diversity. We need diversity in our diet for a nice diverse microbiome. That’s really important for overall gut function. We want to be digging a bit deeper and looking for some other things that we can do besides just removing the foods that our kids are intolerant to. Sometimes we might not even be able to pinpoint the foods that they are intolerant or sensitive to. And just a note here on testing, this is a question I get asked a lot about food intolerance testing. I’m not a fan, as I said earlier, of food intolerance testing, or IgG intolerance testing.
Now, it does have its place. Lots of practitioners use it. But again, I have found over my many years of practice that the results can be variable. What shows up as a food intolerance one month compared to say, three or six months later, can be quite different for that same person. Tat can be confusing and again, if we’re just looking at what foods we need to remove from the diet for that person to be well, I think we’re really missing the point. Because essentially, our digestive systems should be able to break down a range of different foods. We’re talking about a whole range of different foods here that people can be intolerant to. We don’t just want to be removing more and more foods from the diet.
So we want to be thinking about some of those underlying issues that could be leading to this person becoming intolerant or sensitive. That is what our approach here at Natural Super Kids is all about. It’s about starting to improve tolerance. About starting to improve that sensitivity to foods so that kids can eat a really nice varied diet. I am much more a fan when it comes to figuring out what’s going on. What foods we might need to remove initially while we start to improve gut function. I’m much more keen on a food elimination approach and reintroduction approach. I find that this is a much more effective way of pinpointing the foods that are the triggers or the causes of these symptoms in kids.
It’s really important that you do work with a practitioner on this. I won’t go into details of how to do this because it really is variable based on what type of food we’re thinking might be the issue. And we need to make sure that there aren’t any nutrient deficiencies or deficiencies that could start to develop from removing a particular food or a group of foods. It’s really important to be working with a practitioner. But I would certainly be looking at food elimination and reintroduction as a better way to figure out what’s going on for your child. In terms of food sensitivities, then an IgG food intolerance test.
All right, so let’s have a look at some of those underlying factors. There’s four things that I want to go through here. First one is gut function, the second one is the microbiome. The third one is the gut barrier and the fourth one is immune regulation. As I said, a lot of these food intolerances and sensitivities are developing because there’s a lack of resources within the body. Within the digestive system to break things down properly to handle different things within the body. We want to be working on that to start to improve a child’s tolerance so they can have a nice healthy, varied diet. We don’t have to be, you know, it’s stressful.
I’m sure mums that are listening, that do have kids with sensitivities, they go to a birthday party or a sleep over and you have to make sure they’re not having dairy. They’re not having salicylates, and they’re not having all of these different things. So yes, that can be helpful and necessary initially. But while we’re doing that elimination, we want to be building up gut function. Building up a healthy microbiome, making sure that gut barrier is nice and robust and as healthy as possible. We want to make sure the immune system is well regulated as well.
So first of all, we want to make sure that gut function is as good as it can be. We want to start to develop a healthier gut function and there’s a lot involved in gut function. There’s all sorts of different enzymes being produced and peristaltic movements that move food through. You know, all sorts of things that are going on in terms of healthy gut function. But two of the things that we really want to be thinking about when it comes to food intolerances and sensitivities is: (1) stomach acid production and (2) general enzyme production. We want to be making sure that we’re maximising and optimising these two things.
For proper stomach acid production, one of the things that’s often overlooked is Zinc. Our body needs the mineral Zinc to produce a healthy amount of stomach acid. Zinc is really important in general enzyme production as well. Again, this is changeable based on the particular child we’re talking about. The particular food intolerances we’re talking about. But I think just being aware that we want to start to think about that stomach acid production, that enzyme production, and one of the things we can think about is Zinc.
Sometimes an enzyme deficiency can be genetic like lactose intolerance. A deficiency in the enzyme lactase definitely has a strong genetic link. There’s not always something we can do to make it perfect again. But there’s certainly things that we can do to start to improve it. Thinking about those things is really important and the next thing that we want to be thinking about is the microbiome. The bacteria within our kids’ digestive tracts or large intestine, specifically.
We really want to be thinking about making sure that the diversity of the microbiome is as healthy as possible. That really is the key when it comes to addressing lots of things when it comes to kids’ health. Particularly food allergies and intolerances, as we’re talking about today. I’ve talked about this on past podcast episodes. In the hunter gatherer days, we had twice the diversity we have now on average. In our digestive tracts, and it’s our modern processed diet, our modern lifestyle that has led to this reduction in the diversity. Having a flow-on effect when it comes to more problems with food, breaking down food sensitivities, food intolerances.
To increase the diversity in our kids’ gut to address these food sensitivities and intolerances, we want to make sure that we are fuelling the good bacteria within their gut. We can do this with prebiotics, which are a type of fiber that feed the good guys in the gut. They nourish the good bacteria and they encourage the good bacteria to grow. You can find many prebiotics in whole foods, including things like vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. So we want to get more of these healthy whole foods into our kids’ diets.
The other thing we want to do is to expose our kids to different microbes. In my opinion, we live in a very overly hygienic, very well-sanitised world. Particularly, you know, I think 2020 ramped that up. What it means generally, even pre-2020 is that our kids aren’t exposed to different microbes as much as they were even a generation ago. We want to encourage that exposure to different microbes. And one of the easy ways that we can do that is get them to play outside. Just the act of being in an outdoor environment helps to improve that microbiome diversity. Pets can also be a really great way to improve diversity. These are just a couple of things that we want to think about when we are wanting to improve that overall, microbiome diversity in our kids.
Probiotics and or fermented foods can be really helpful as well. But we want to make sure that we are getting some professional advice when it comes to probiotics. I’ll pop a link in the show notes, I’ve got a blog on choosing a good probiotic for your kids. And definitely including fermented foods in their diet is a good way to introduce lots of good bacteria to their gut. This is going to be beneficial for our kids in so many different ways. If your child has a food intolerance, or you suspect of food sensitivity, then this is really important work that will really help to develop a higher tolerance for more of a range of foods.
The third thing that we want to be thinking about is the gut barrier. Think about the gut as a tube. Food passes through in that tube. At the end, we eliminate what we don’t need and we absorb what we do need. Obviously, this is very simplistic, but we have tight junctions between the cells of the gut wall. We want the food to stay in the tube. But what happens so commonly in the Western world with our modern diet, and our modern lifestyle, is that those tight junctions between the cells of the gut will break down. And the food can leak into the bloodstream before it’s been fully broken down or fully digested. This is known as leaky gut. You may have heard that term before.
When there is undigested food in the bloodstream, the immune system sees it as an enemy and responds with inflammation. This is one of the big causes and contributors to food allergies and intolerances. And this is exactly the reason why those kids that I see so often as I was saying before that are becoming more intolerant to more foods. Because we remove the offending food that’s causing the symptoms that we haven’t healed that gut. We haven’t improved that gut barrier. So the next food they start eating, lots of it will start to leak through. The immune system will start to see that as an enemy and start attacking.
Without addressing that gut barrier issue, we’re not going to make any progress. We’re just going to need to keep on removing more foods from our kids’ diets. And I don’t think any of us really want to do that. It is a bit of a chicken and egg scenario. Leaky gut can create food allergies and intolerances but inflammation from food allergies and intolerances can also cause leaky gut. So leaky gut and that nice robust gut barrier is something we want to be thinking about in kids with allergies, sensitivities and intolerances.
There are nutrients that will help to heal and seal that gap back up. Things like Zinc and the amino acid Glutamine, are two really common ones. These two are really effective ways that we can start to improve the gut. Bone broth and the gelatin. The beautiful gelatin that bone broth contains is really effective at starting to heal the gut as well. These are some things that you can be thinking about doing with your kids with food sensitivities, allergies and intolerances.
The last thing that I want to talk about is immune regulation. We want to encourage a well-regulated immune system. We’ve got to remember that our kids’ immune systems are immature. They still need to learn what to do and we can train them. One of the best ways that we can train our kids’ immune systems is with exposure to those microbes that I talked about before. Kids are more prone to allergies. A lot of kids grow out of allergies as their immune systems develop. Their immune systems are much more prone to confusion than our adult ones are. But even allergies in adults is on the rise. So it’s not just that immature immune system. It’s the things that our bodies need, that our bodies require to train our immune system to be well regulated.
One of the most important things that we need to do for healthy immune regulation is have good healthy gut function, and a good healthy, diverse microbiome. The things that I’ve already talked about in this episode are really important to that immune regulation as well. The other thing we need to think about for healthy immune regulation is vitamin D. Vitamin D is an essential nutrient for immune regulation. It’s also essential for diverse gut bacteria, and maintaining the gut barrier. Unfortunately, even in sunny Australia, low vitamin D is all too common. To support healthy vitamin D levels in our kids, we want to encourage them to play outside because vitamin D comes from the sun. We absorb vitamin D, through our skin.
Again, put simplistically, I could definitely talk all day about vitamin D. But that’s just one part of what I want to talk about today. As we head into winter, we want to make sure that our kids are still getting nice healthy exposure to sunshine. In those cooler months, or if you live in a cooler climate, we want to make sure that our kids are getting outside in that midday sun. Obviously, we don’t want to be doing this in really hot climates or in the middle of summer here in South Australia. It can be almost unbearable some days to go outside in the midday sun, but vitamin D is really important. We think about that sun exposure, we can also supplement with vitamin D.
Vitamin D is something we can get fairly easily tested. It is a blood test, which isn’t always easy with kids. If you are concerned about your kids’ vitamin D, it might be a good idea to have them tested because then you can make a really well-informed choice about how much they need in terms of supplements. So that you’re not wasting time and money giving them supplements that they don’t need. Vitamin D is something that is, you know, it’s a fat-soluble nutrient. It’s not easily excreted from the body when we’ve had too much. Like for example, vitamin Cs. So it is a good idea to get some testing done on your kids if you’re concerned about their vitamin D.
Okay! To summarise, these four points are what we really want to be thinking about addressing in our kids with food intolerances and food sensitivities:
- Overall gut function. Particularly stomach acid production and enzyme production. Zinc can be really effective here. There’s a lot of other things that can help as well, but zinc is a really good start.
- A nice, diverse healthy microbiome is really important. We want to be exposing our kids to microbes in an outdoor environment. In fermented foods, we want to be making sure that those microbes or the good guys are being fuelled by those prebiotic fibers in whole foods such as vegetables and whole grains and legumes and nuts and seeds.
- We want to work on that gut barrier. It’s almost certain with kids that have intolerances and sensitivities that their gut barrier, and those tight junctions are starting to break down. And food is leaching through into the bloodstream. So we want to make sure that that gut barrier is nice and healthy. A couple of ways we can do that is again zinc, glutamine, the amino acid and bone broth. We do want to make sure we’re seeking professional help in terms of doses and the best combination of things to be giving to our kids in either supplement form or in food sources to make sure that they’re getting all of the things that they need.
- And then lastly, we talked about that immune regulation. We want to be making sure that our kids’ immune systems are well regulated. They’re not prone to allergies, sensitivities, intolerances. And for that nice, healthy immune regulation, we need to think about gut health. All the things we’ve talked about prior, and also optimising their vitamin D levels.
So I really hope this information has made you think about food intolerances and sensitivities in a different way. The more common approach is to figure out what foods are causing these issues, remove the foods from the diet, and get on with your life. As I said, it’s not as simplistic as that and often, this sort of approach can lead to more and more issues. Now, if you haven’t already downloaded a copy of our free Kids’ Gut Health e-book, I would highly recommend that you do. This will reiterate a lot of the things that I’ve talked about today in terms of those things that improve gut function. Also, it will give you a good overview of how our kids gut health can affect so many other areas of their well-being.
If you’re listening to this in time, you can register for the free masterclass that I have coming up on the 9th of March. Three surprisingly simple ways to transform your kids’ gut health to improve their behaviour, immunity, allergies and fussy eating. zthe link to that is in the show notes.
I would love to hear from you! Send me a DM on Instagram, and let me know what you thought of this episode. Let me know something new that you learnt, I would love to hear from you. If you don’t want to reach out to me personally, you can share an Instagram story and tag us Natural Super Kids. Share something that you learned with maybe some other mums that you’re friends with or who are in your community. I can re-share any of those stories that you share on Instagram as well.
Want to improve your child’s allergies by working on their gut health?
Learn how to do just that with our FREE Gut Health For Kids Ebook – download your copy here.