Inflammation of the gut is linked to chronic problems throughout the entire body, including neurological and autoimmune disorders. While we continue to wait for the science to catch up to what so many of us have already concluded, we can begin to take charge of our lives, and almost more importantly, our children’s lives.
I’m creating a three-part series on the topic of elimination diets because there are generally three types of individuals who are looking to learn more about them. Adults who are tired of band-aid solutions that cover symptoms, mothers who are exhausted and frustrated with colicky, cranky, diaper-rash-butt babies, and parents who want to figure out what is happening with their children. All three of these people have walked through my office doors. Some find it amazing that something as simply difficult as an elimination diet can change all of their lives.
I’m starting the series with elimination diets for kids because this generation is struggling with gut-inflammation like no generation before them.
Look around and you can see the ever-growing number of children suffering from ADHD, ADD, Autism, Type 1 Diabetes, IBS, Obesity, Cancer, Depression, Anxiety, Sensory and Mood Disorders. While some of these disorders cannot be fully recovered from, they are all linked to a leaky or inflamed gut. As the gut is truly the ‘brain’ of the body, it feeds the real brain and cannot do as intended when it is inflamed and not functioning properly.
One (not so) small example: Researchers have found that putting ADDHD children on a restrictive diet to eliminate possible, previously unknown food sensitivities decreased hyperactivity for 64% of kids.
Children have age on their side, but their young guts may not even know how to be healthy or function correctly. If your child struggles with food allergies/sensitivities, rashes/skin issues, extreme emotions, tantrums, sleep troubles, lack of control, or any of the above mentioned issues, I highly recommend beginning an elimination diet to heal the gut and learn what specifically effects your child.
I am a huge proponent for daily probiotics and utilizing digestive enzymes, but you should get to the root of the issues. We cannot eliminate the environmental toxins from our children’s lives, but we can work to restore gut health and possibly ease their chronic ailments.
What is an Elimination Diet?
It is exactly as it sounds. A diet that takes out foods from the typical diet. Generally all chosen foods are eliminated together and left out until the person begins to feel/act/achieve a ‘normal’ state for a period of time. Once this occurs, foods are very slowly reintroduced, taking extreme note on behaviors, sleep, moods, skin appearance, and overall health. Through the reintroduction stage, you will discover what foods ‘trigger’ or intensify your child’s ailments, symptoms, and disorders.
What Elimination Diet is Right for My Child?
This is where things get hard. There are several diets you can choose from, but there is not a one-size-fits-all magic trick diet. Well, there might be, but many parents opt to go for an easier introduction to the food-eliminating world. The GAPS diet will bring you back to the very root of foods and keep you there until the gut is healed. It then slowly reintroduces foods as you record the body’s reactions. It is a wonderful option, especially if things do not change after eliminating the basic foods.
There are three basic types of elimination diets:
The strict, limited foods “oligoantigenic diet” which eliminates nearly all foods except a limited number that generally cause no problems.
The multiple-food elimination diet removes foods that most commonly cause food sensitivities. Dairy, gluten, wheat, corn, soy, eggs, nuts, citrus, processed foods and artificial colors and flavors top the list of what should be first eliminated.
The single-food elimination diet removes only one or two foods at a time. It is most helpful if you are highly suspicious of one or two items your child is eating. However, this diet typically leads parents into a multiple elimination diet, as it is not as accurate.
You can learn more about diets geared specifically toward ADHD, Autism, and other ailments like the Feingold Diet. You can try a month of Whole30 and see if it leads you to any easy solutions. You can create your own diet if you feel comfortable doing so. However, a diet is not an overnight miracle. It takes 2 weeks or so for the body to detox from the foods it is used to. This detox period can be emotional and extreme, especially when a child is use to consuming food dyes, sugars, and processed items on the regular. Stay strong and committed, keeping other foods out of reach and sight. Once your child reaches ‘baseline’ or what you would consider ‘typical’ for a 3-week timeframe, you can add back in one thing at a time. Reactions (emotional, mental, or physical) can occur up to two days after eating something.