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Food Intolerance and Food Allergies

Does your child experience discomfort or sick symptoms after eating certain foods? If so, you might suspect that they have a food intolerance or allergy. Be aware that food intolerance and food allergy are two different things. Food intolerance occurs when the body cannot properly digest the food that is consumed and therefore, the digestive tract becomes irritated, leading to symptoms such as nausea, gas, cramps, diarrhea, or headaches. 


Examples of food intolerances include lactose intolerance and celiac disease. Lactose intolerance is caused by a lack of the enzyme needed to digest lactose, which is a type of sugar found in milk products. If your child has lactose intolerance, you can give them dairy products that are lactose-free or milk alternatives. There are also other non-dairy sources to obtain calcium. Celiac disease is caused by the body's inability to properly digest gluten, a type of protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. The only treatment that is currently available is to avoid products that contain gluten. It's best to stick to foods that are naturally gluten-free than processed, such as fruits, vegetables, meat, beans, legumes, and other grains like millet and quinoa.  


A food allergy occurs when the body's immune system triggers an allergic reaction to a certain food. The majority of food allergies are caused by 6 groups: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, and wheat. Some people are allergic to certain fruits and vegetables, though these are less common and the reactions to them are less severe. Typical symptoms of a food allergy include hives or rashes, breathing issues, nausea, diarrhea, pale skin, and light-headedness. Most food allergies are outgrown in early childhood. 


If you notice any symptoms or discomfort in your child that may be coming from a food allergy or food intolerance, the first step is identifying the suspected food and then eliminating it from the diet. We recommend keeping a food diary to track what your child is eating and which foods may be causing symptoms. However, the only way to get an accurate diagnosis is to have your child examined and tested by the pediatrician. Your pediatrician will also be able to help create a diet plan for your child so that they avoid foods that cause allergic reactions or problems from food intolerance. 


Even though there are certain foods that are common allergens, you still can introduce them to your baby when they start solids. Just make sure to start out small to see if they have a reaction. If they don't, you can gradually increase the amount over a few days. It's also recommended to start with one food allergen at a time to help identify if it causes a reaction. If your baby doesn't show any allergic reaction, you can continue to expose them to the food. Regular exposure can help prevent a food allergy later on. 


If you have any questions or concerns about a food allergy or intolerance in your child, contact our office.

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