Food allergies can have a significant impact on kids' growth, so parents need to ensure an accurate diagnosis before changing their children’s diets
You might recall that I wrote a recent article about celiac disease (CD), a condition many people describe as an allergy to wheat, which is wrong because it’s not a true allergy.
Rather, CD is an auto-immune disorder triggered by wheat (as well as rye and barley) and that distinction — that CD is not an allergy — is very important for celiacs like me to remember.
Food Allergies on the Rise
But the thing is, according to studies that compared blood samples taken many years ago with blood samples taken recently, CD has increased roughly fourfold over the last two decades (as usual, no one knows why). This does make CD very similar to more standard food allergies because food allergies have also spiked dramatically over the last couple of decades (also for reasons that are unclear).
Think about it: When was the last time you hosted a dinner party without hearing from at least four friends that they no longer eat dairy or fish or whatever, which led you to suffer nightmares trying to figure out how to make dinner without killing at least one guest.
Now, aside from those who might suffer a life-threatening anaphylactic reaction by ingesting some food allergen (such as peanuts), for most adults, the only real consequence from a food allergy or sensitivity is that they generally become neurotic about reading food labels.
Consequences of Diet Restrictions
For kids, however, there can be real consequences from food allergies. They may not grow properly, according to a study presented at the recent annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, in which researchers looked at 245 kids with food allergies.
Their conclusion? Kids with a food allergy are smaller than non-allergic kids, and the more food allergies a kid has, the smaller he or she tends to be. So, children with more than two food allergies were significantly smaller than those with fewer food allergies. And this failure to grow as much as they otherwise might was especially true of kids with an allergy to milk, which is quite common.
Have Your Children Properly Diagnosed
Now, it could just be that children with food allergies have other metabolic abnormalities that lead them to be smaller. It’s way more likely, though, that restricting a kid’s diet can also limit growth through a nutritional shortfall.
So, no one should ever diagnose a food allergy in anyone — especially in kids — except via some strict objective criteria, which brings me to one of my pet peeves: All those people who write me to say that they were diagnosed as allergic to specific foods through “testing” that, if you ask me, borders on witchcraft.
If you’re a parent, be very sure you are doing the right thing when you decide to restrict your child’s intake of anything.
Dr. Art Hister is a medical writer and health analyst for Global TV.