Children and Food Allergies

  • 12 Mar 2015
  • Reading time 14 mins
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Children in the 21st century are developing more allergies and food intolerances. This may be due to less exposure to a wide range of bacteria needed to help the immune system mature and a fundamentally different diet. Also, problems with exclusively breastfeeding up to 6 months increases risk of developing food allergies. Here I examine the more common symptoms of childhood allergies, from asthma to ADHD.

Children and Food Allergies Children in the 21st century are developing more allergies and food intolerances. This may be due to less exposure to a wide range of bacteria needed to help the immune system mature and a fundamentally different diet. Also, problems with exclusively breastfeeding up to 6 months increases risk of developing food allergies. Here I examine the more common symptoms of childhood allergies, from asthma to ADHD.

The ADHD epidemic

ADHD has become a household name and is estimated to occur in a quarter of a million children under the age of 17. In the US the figure is rapidly approaching 3 million.

ADHD affects five times as many boys as girls. A third or more ADHD children will grow up to be ADHD adults. There is no laboratory or clinical test available yet that definitively diagnoses the condition; a diagnosis is based on observations of inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity so serious they impair a child’s ability to function. Many children with ADHD take medication under a doctor’s prescription, usually the amphetamine-like drug Ritalin (methylphenidate) to help them pay attention, calm down, become less disruptive and perform better in school. More than 250,000 prescriptions for Ritalin are written each year.

Largely ignored, however, is the role that food allergy and chemical food additive sensitivities play in children with ADHD. In a classic study by Dr Joseph Egger and colleagues at the University of Munich in Germany, 76 children with severe ADHD were kept on a strict hypoallergenic (very low allergic potential) diet for 4 weeks.1 The results were amazing: 82 per cent of the children got better on the hypoallergenic diet. One out of four children with severe ADHD recovered completely. Even more remarkably, most of the other non-ADHD symptoms improved with the diet, as well. Here’s what happened.

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Top
SymptomBefore diet changeOn diet
Antisocial behaviour 32 13
Headaches 48 9
Seizures/fits 14 1
Abdominal pain or discomfort 54 8
Chronic rhinitis 33 9
Leg aches