Naturopathic medicine is one of the few natural treatment options that can be profoundly helpful for children suffering from food allergies and sensitivities. Food allergies involve an immune reaction to food, such as an anaphylactic reaction to peanuts, affecting 1.3 million Canadians (4%); the incidence is highest amongst young children (under 3) with close to 6% affected by food allergy. Food allergy symptoms include: runny nose, itchy skin rash such as hives, tingling in the tongue or lips, tightness in the throat, hoarse voice, wheezing, cough, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain and diarrhea. Anaphylaxis is the most serious food allergy reaction involving a sudden, severe allergic reaction in which several problems occur all at once and can involve the skin, breathing, digestion, the heart, blood vessels and is a life-threatening medical emergency for which Epi-pens are carried.
Food sensitivities (or food intolerances), by contrast, occur when the body cannot fully digest a food, such as wheat or dairy, causing symptoms and can lead to chronic illness. Symptoms of food sensitivity include: upset stomach, heartburn, behaviour changes, headaches, bed-wetting, bloating, gassiness, eczema, dark circles under eyes, picky eating and recurrent infections. Those suffering from these conditions often do not know that they have food allergies or sensitivities because the symptoms are so varied, affecting multiple body systems.
Most cases of food allergies and sensitivities can be helped with naturopathic medicine as well as prevented in those who do not have any symptoms. The typical course of treatment for food reactions involves first identifying the offending foods by an elimination and re-challenge diet and/or non-invasive testing. Once the food allergens have been discovered, foods are eliminated for a period of time. Digestive tract repairing and rebuilding, as well as immune system rebalancing are the central focus of treatment.
Pursuing naturopathic medicine for food allergies and sensitivities can be a life-changing decision for parents and children. Identification and removal of suspected foods combined with treatment to optimize digestive and immune health can make all the difference in a child’s day-to-day life while preventing chronic illness.