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Delayed onset food sensitivity reactions have been linked to symptoms such as rashes, itching, asthma, abdominal cramping, diarrhea, constipation, neurological symptoms, fatigue, and hair loss. The inflammation caused by these reactions can exacerbate the symptoms experienced by neuro-diverse children. These reactions may not be noticed until up to 72 hours after the offending foods are ingested and are mediated by IgG antibodies. Due to the sometimes unspecific reactions and the delay, the cause of the symptoms is often misidentified or the foods causing the reaction are tricky to pinpoint.
Food sensitivities are different than food allergies. Food allergies typically cause anaphylactic type reactions. These reactions typically occur within about 30 minutes of ingestion. They are mediated by IgE antibodies. The offending foods in these cases are usually linked quickly to the reaction.
IgE antibodies can be tested through skin pricking or bloodwork. This testing is typically easy to access and covered by insurance. Due to the nature of food allergies, testing may not be needed to identify allergens. IgG antibodies can be tested through bloodwork. Because these antibodies are not linked to allergies, this type of testing is not offered through many clinics, is expense, and is not usually covered by insurance. In addition, bloodwork is traumatic and invasive for some kiddos. However, food sensitivities are not usually easy to identify.
An elimination trial is a great option to consider if you aren’t ready to commit to IgG testing. The 8 most common dietary allergens/sensitivities are dairy (cow), eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, shellfish, gluten, soy, and fish. You’ll want to strictly eliminate all 8 of these for 3-6 weeks. Based on improvement of symptoms, it’s pretty easy to tell if one of the 8 foods may be the cause. It’s usually unlikely that your child is reacting to and will need to eliminate all 8 foods for a longer period of time.
The next phase of the trial is to add foods back into the diet. Foods should be added in one at a time at least 72 hours apart. This will allow you to identify when symptoms returned and which of the foods are the offenders. Any of the foods that are not causing reactions can be added back into the normal diet. If offending foods are identified, I usually have my clients avoid these for 6-9 months. During this time, we work together on strategies for healing the gut and reducing intestinal permeability. If the gut is more permeable than it should be, larger proteins can be absorbed into the blood stream, which leads to the development of IgG antibodies against foods that are commonly consumed. Following this elimination and healing phase, you can attempt to add the offending foods back into the diet slowly. I often recommend not serving them any more than once per week to start.
With dairy and gluten in particular, it’s not uncommon to still have sensitivities even after a period of strict avoidance and work on the gut/intestinal permeability. Dairy and gluten are each linked to specific symptoms other than the “typical” sensitivity symptoms. In these cases, a longer term dairy- or gluten-free diet should be considered. If your kiddo wants to splurge every now and then or accidentally eats the offending food, it’s a good idea to keep digestive enzymes or specific lactose/gluten enzymes on hand. These can help to break the offending foods down, which may help the body to process them more efficiently.
Some children react to foods that are reacted to less commonly. If you cannot identify sensitivities through an elimination trial, it’s probably a good idea to work with a healthcare practitioner. Things to consider may be testing for IgG antibodies (https://www.truehealthlabs.com/Food-Allergy-Test-IgG-p/gen_88_igg_foods.htm), intestinal permeability/gut health (https://www.truehealthlabs.com/Comprehensive-Stool-Analysis-with-Parasitology-x3-p/dd_csap3.htm and I like the Advanced Intestinal Barrier Assessment by Dunwoody Labs), and micronutrients (https://www.truehealthlabs.com/Comprehensive-Nutritional-Micronutrient-Panel-p/spectracell_nutri_panel.htm). Based on the results, a protocol can be tailored to the more specific needs of your child.
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The views expressed in this blog are not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any condition and should not be substituted for medical or nutritional advice.