Could Diet Play a Role in My Child’s Behavior?
by Rose Forbes
You bet it can. There are some foods that can cause real imbalances in brain function, especially in children. While much of western medicine chooses to look at ways to mask the symptoms (through prescription medication) to change an unwanted behavior, there is a natural approach that has worked for many children and adults alike. By removing the foods that can typically result in intolerance or sensitivity for a period of a few months or more, a large number of children have improved their attitude and behavior. An intolerance or sensitivity is different from a true “allergy” in that it can’t be diagnosed with a blood test. While there may be no rashes, swelling, or physical symptoms, an intolerance is still just as real as an allergy. Identifying foods that may be affecting your child requires some investigative work. Embarking on an Elimination or Rotation Diet can help to pinpoint which foods to remove. In many cases, people can start to add back small amounts of the offending food after a period of a few months of elimination, as the body can repair itself when allowed to rest from processing foods that it is sensitive to.
Some common symptoms of food intolerance:
Weight gain or loss
Now, let’s take a look at some of the most common offending foods:
A true wheat allergy is classified as celiac disease. While some people who have a wheat intolerance can sometimes eat other gluten-containing grains, celiacs cannot. Wheat is obviously found in breads, pasta, cereals, pizza, cakes, cookies, desserts, and breaded and fried foods. It is also hidden in processed food ingredient lists in less obvious places, so check labels for wheat, wheat four, whole wheat, gluten, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, modified food starch, and more.
Dairy intolerance may be identified as minor rashes and increased mucous production related to sinus or ear infections and inflammation in the joints. While it may appear to be just a minor inconvenience, the intolerance is actually interfering with how the brain communicates with the rest of the body. Dairy products are listed as milk, cheese, yogurt, whey, butter, lactose, and casein.
Intolerance to soy is quite common. Because soy is a government subsidized agricultural crop (like corn) it has become cheap and easy to add to processed foods. Obvious soy products include tofu, soy milk and formula, soybeans (edamame), soy sauce and soybean oil. Soy can also be hiding in foods labeled as soy protein isolate, stabilizer, MSG, natural flavor, miso, guar gum, and more.
Artificial Colors, Flavors, Sweeteners, and Chemical Food Additives
Red food coloring, as well as other artificial food dyes, flavorings, and sweeteners have been identified as creating imbalances in the nervous system. Dr. Feingold, a pioneer in the autism field as an allergist and pediatrician believed that salicylate-containing foods aspirin, medications, or skin care products may be to blame for autism-spectrum diagnosis. Some foods with high concentrations of salicylate include dried fruits, berries, citrus, and apples.
What’s The Solution?
Now that you know the top foods to watch out for, it’s time to start looking at the foods your child eats and making a note of their behavior before eating the food and after eating the food. Many children have changes in their facial features (red in or around the eyes, facial muscles tensed, distant or vacant look in the eyes, drooping mouth, etc.), handwriting, and drawing when affected by food intolerance. Eliminate the foods you suspect are contributing to your child’s unwanted behavior. You will likely see improvement in their concentration, listening skills, sensory issues, and self control.
Because many of our precious children are being diagnosed with ADD and autism-spectrum disorders, it’s important for us to examine all possible sources and cures. Although mood altering drugs like Aderal and Ritalin have a place for some children, many can avoid these drugs by simply changing their diet. Behaviors that doctors, social workers and teachers commonly labeled as ADD/ADHD can often be stopped, or at least significantly reduced by following a restricted diet. Diet restriction really can be the cheapest, easiest, healthiest, and safest way to treat ADD-like behaviors.
The final solution? Eat a diet of fresh, whole foods that are unprocessed and as close to nature as possible. This includes primarily vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, choosing organic and natural when available, and keeping acid-forming foods like meat, dairy, and grains to a minimum. And of course, eliminating the offending foods you’ve determined are possible triggers for unwanted behavior.
Good luck and Good Health to You!
http://www.allergyadvisor.com/hidden2.htm Resource for foods that cause allergies and intolerance
www.drrapp.com Books titled Is This Your Child? and Is This Your Child’s World?
www.feingold.org Dr. Feingold’s Dietary program
http://www.zipworld.com.au/~ataraxy/Salicylates_list.html List of Salicylate-containing foods
www.cfids.org/about-cfids/elimination-diet.asp Elimination Diets
http://foodintol.com Food Intolerance Support Group
Rose Forbes is a Chef, Author, Board Certified Holistic Health Practitioner and Nutrition Consultant practicing in Asheville, North Carolina at The Nutrition Makeover. She Co-founded the Brevard, Florida chapter of Families for Natural Living, and has been active in La Leche League and Attachment Parenting. She organized several Vaccination Education Conferences and developed an expertise in the link between Nutrition/Food and Behavior. Rose is married to Jack for 18 years and has 3 daughters. She has merged her passion for nutrition, entertaining, and cooking as the owner of Green Mountain Bed and Breakfast: an Organic and “Green” B & B offering Health and Cleansing Retreats. 828-633-0232 www.greenmountainbb.com, www.nutritionmakeover.net
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