Food Intolerances in Children: How to Deal with Them

In this article, we'll take a look at food intolerances, why they occur, how to spot them, and how to prevent their ill effects.
Food Intolerances in Children: How to Deal with Them

Last update: 18 March, 2019

The body’s metabolism can be suddenly altered by an inability to process certain foods. That’s why we need to pay serious attention to the adverse reactions produced in children when they eat certain foods. Food intolerances are a real problem and shouldn’t be ignored.

Children’s health is always deserving of attention. As such, it’s important to understand that it’s harmed by adverse reactions caused by food intolerances. Once it’s clear there’s a problem, you need to learn about nutrition and your child’s specific needs.

Food intolerances in children

Food intolerances occur when the body is unable to process certain foods due to a deficit in the digestive or metabolic system. This leads to uncomfortable conditions including nausea, diarrhea, swollen stomachs, headaches, and so on.

It should be noted that food intolerances aren’t the same as food allergies. This distinction is important because intolerances affect the metabolic system, while allergies affect the immune system.

Foods most commonly linked to food intolerances

The foods that tend to cause the most intolerances are the following:

  • Gluten
  • Lactose
Dairy foods

Other food products, classified as “derivatives,” are also linked to food intolerances due to enzymatic deficiencies in children.

The most common of these products include chickpeas and lentils (legumes), as well as cow’s milk and certain kinds of cheese. Among proteins, the culprits can include eggs, fish, and some shellfish.

Certain types of fruit, such as citrus, also produce food intolerances. Almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts are the offenders from the nut family, while cereals like wheat, barley and oats can also be the cause.

Symptoms linked to specific food groups

When children have food intolerances, their bodies will respond in different ways depending on deficiencies in certain enzymes.

Specialists have detected certain bodily reactions that can appear even three days after having consumed the problem food. For this reason, parents need to be vigilant and evaluate their children’s symptoms. We’ll describe some of these symptoms below:

Symptoms due to gluten intolerance

Gluten-intolerant children can experience diarrhea, constipation, gas, vomiting, headaches, and abdominal discomfort ranging from moderate to severe.

Symptoms due to lactose intolerance

Lactose is also known as “milk sugar.” In lactose-intolerant children, the enzyme responsible for breaking down this substance fails, meaning the substance heads straight to the large intestine. Once there, it mixes with the bacteria of the intestinal flora and produces colic, and of course gas.

Symptoms due to fructose intolerance

Children with fructose intolerance tend to present the most extreme symptoms. Due to the absence of the enzyme responsible for hydrolyzing these two substances, children may vomit after consuming certain fruits and cereals. They can also experience jaundice.

Mint tea

How to deal with food intolerances in children?

Once you understand what they are, what causes them, and what their symptoms are, consider using some of the following tips:

  • Immediately suspend the consumption of the food causing the intolerance. Its consumption needs to be reduced until you can detect how the child’s digestive system is reacting.
  • Use herbal infusions such as chamomile, as they have anti-inflammatory properties that provide relief.
  • Eating artichokes can help reduce liver inflammation due to fructose intolerance.
  • Regularly offer them foods containing prebiotics, such as asparagus and kefir, which will strengthen the intestinal flora.
  • Keep a record of all the foods your children consume and the reactions they have to them. This way, you can eliminate the ones they don’t process properly when consulting with their pediatrician.
  • Avoid giving products containing gluten to children under six months of age.

With this practical advice, food intolerances won’t cause any great discomfort. Of course, any food intolerance warrants an immediate consultation with a doctor. Proceed according to the medical advice he or she provides.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.