How Food Affects Your Child

How Food Affects Your Child

If you or your child finds it difficult to concentrate, study or learn; are always restless, hyperactive, irritable, agitated, withdrawn, obsessive, lacking in energy, bed-wets, has difficulties sleeping, feels moody, anxious, or depressed, then you or your child might be suffering from either food allergy or food intolerance or both conditions. Recent research has linked emotional and behavioral changes to food allergy. Some of these behavioral and emotional symptoms have been previously labeled as ADD< ADHD, dyslexic or autistic behavior.

Adverse reaction to foods can be broadly divided into allergy or intolerance. Allergy is an immune mediated reaction to the offending food whereas intolerance is an inability of the body to chemically process the food in the body. Allergy and intolerance arise through two very different basic mechanisms but the clinical condition may look similar for some symptoms.

Individuals with attention deficit disabilities are more susceptible to allergies due to their impaired immune system and also food intolerance due to defects in digestive enzymes and other genetic deficiencies compared to the average individual.

Intolerant reactions to chemical components of the diet are much more common than true food allergies. They are caused by various organic chemicals occurring naturally in a wide range of plant and other foods, or by additives (such as preservatives, food colorings or food flavorings) used in food processing. Chemically there's little difference between "natural" and "artificial" ingredients. Both may cause adverse intolerant reactions in sensitive people if sufficiently large amounts are consumed. Individuals with food allergy may also suffer from food intolerance.

Allergies are increasing in prevalence rapidly worldwide. The increase has been attributed to modern lifestyle that is associated with enhanced exposure to high load of allergies. An allergy is the body's overreaction of the immune system to a foreign substance. The substance that causes the body's immune system to overreact is referred to as an 'allergen'. When an allergen, such as pollens is inhaled, it is identified by the body's immune system as an intruder. In response to the foreign substance, the body produces an inappropriate large amount of a special antibody called 'immunoglobulin E' or IgE. the IgE antibodies immediately attaches to mast cells located in skin and mucosal tissues. Further subsequent exposure to the allergen causes the mast cells to release histamine and other mediators.

Histamine causes swelling of the lining in the nose and causes extra release of watery mucus. Consequently, the person can suffer nasal itching and congestion, sneezing, and inflamed, irritated, and or itching eyes. Similar reactions occur in the skin causing eczema and itching to be gastrointestinal tract resulting in diarrhea and stomach pain. In a systemic reaction many organs in the body may be affected.

Foods that commonly causing allergy problems include eggs, cow's milk, fish, wheat, peanuts, soybean, crab, shrimps and banana.

There is growing evidence that many people with attention deficit disability and other related disorder such as autism and asperger syndrome are intolerant of certain food products. Some of these children also suffer from true allergies as well. The most common food products to which this sensitivity develops are grains (wheat, rye, oats) and dairy products (milk, cheese, whey). Other foods, which are often consumed such as strawberries and citrus fruits, may also cause problems.

Food intolerance may be responsible for numerous physical and behavioral problems, such as headaches, stomach aches, feeling of nausea, bed-wetting, appearing 'spaced out', stuttering, excessive whining and crying, sleeping problems, hyperactivity, aggression, sound sensitivity, temper tantrums, fatigue, depression, intestinal problems (gas, diarrhea, constipation), muscle aches in the legs, ear infections and possibly seizures. These can include: pink or black circles around the eyes, bags under the eyes, rosy cheeks or ears, rapid heartbeat, shallow breathing, fluid in the ears (a cause of ear infections), and excessive perspiration. However, other factors may also participate in causing these problems.

A differential diagnosis determines the factors that play a role in the development of the symptoms including behavior pattern. Several laboratory tests are available in identifying the suspected food allergies and food intolerance in the individual. Avoidance of the offending foods can bring marked changes in symptoms and behavior pattern of the individual.

Although allergen immunotherapy, which is a costly long-term immunosuppressive technique, has been advocated it has been found to be effective for IgE-medicated reactions to aeroallergens such as house dust mites and pet dander, but not for foods in general.

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