Dr. Linda, my 3 child has some symptoms that my doctor has said may be ADHD but he’s too young to treat. A friend of mine said he could have a food intolerance causing his symptoms. What can I do to find out?
Allergy symptoms, eczema, acid reflux, tummy aches and even some behavioral issues like anxiety and ADHD can be caused by an intolerance to one or more foods. The elimination diet is an important tool you can use to figure out whether your child has a food intolerance causing any of these symptoms. A food intolerance, in contrast to a true food allergy, can’t be diagnosed for by doing skin tests or blood work. An elimination diet is a reliable way to discover what food, if any, is causing your child’s challenges.
How to do an Elimination diet:
- Keep a written diary of everything your child eats and when they eat it for the 3-5 days. At the same time keep a diary of your child’s symptoms and when they happen or get worse.
- For instance, if your child’s eczema or itching gets worse every time they eat pizza or soon after, it could be dairy (cheese), gluten or tomatoes, causing the symptoms. Look back through the diary and look for other times when the symptoms got worse but your child wasn’t eating pizza, this should give you a better idea of which one is the real cause of the symptoms. Let’s say your child ate tomatoes and bread a few other times with no increase in symptoms, but every time he eats cheese or drinks milk his symptoms got worse. This would suggest that your child is having a challenge with milk and dairy products.
- Your next step, after consulting with your doctor, could be to stop your child from eating or drinking any dairy products ( anything containing milk) for the next 2 weeks while you continue to keep a close eye on his symptoms. It takes at least 5-6 days for any food to clear from your child’s system so don’t be discouraged if you don’t see an immediate improvement. In a few cases, the symptoms may even get worse for 1-3 days as the toxins leave their bodies. If this happens make sure your child is drinking plenty of water and has a good source of vitamin C in their diet because vitamin C is a great antioxidant and will help relieve the symptoms.
- If the symptoms disappear while your child is off the food, keep your child off of it for 4-6 months. Consult with your doctor about healthy alternatives you can give your child instead. In the above example, you’d need to give your child good food sources of Calcium and possibly a Vitamin D supplement to replace what he won’t be getting while he is off of dairy products.
- If the symptoms don’t change off the food, slowly put your child back on it and, as in the above example, you would try eliminating gluten or tomatoes while you continue to keep a diary of the symptoms.
- If you don’t see any pattern but you suspect your child has a food intolerance, consult with your doctor and take your diaries with you, she may see something you didn’t. You could also talk to her about possibly eliminating dairy, eggs, soy, corn or gluten because these are the most common culprits in food intolerances.
I have had great success with treating kids with conditions from severe eczema to ADHD with the elimination diet, so, even though it is time consuming and can be labor intensive, it is well worth the effort.
If you have any questions or comments, I would love to hear from you. Please go to my Facebook page Ask Dr linda and post them!
Have a happy healthy day