For well over two decades, research has been correlating children’s diet with their behaviour and health. Studies have shown that children who had diets with high quantities of sugar, food additives (preservatives and artificial colouring) or if they eat common allergenic foods, can have negative impacts on their behaviour and state of health. Some food related symptoms can be attention-deficit disorders, hyperactivity, destructive-aggressive behaviour, restlessness, fits, headaches, abdominal pain, and/or skin disorders. Nutritional deficiencies may also be contributing to these behaviours and symptoms.
Deficiencies may include:
1. thiamin-deficiency which is known to cause aggressive behaviour,
2. fatty acids deficiency which causes mixed/oily/dry skin and small bumps on the back of the upper arms among other skin-related issues.
The two most common deficiencies in children are:
1. low iron can cause anemia and symptoms of tiredness, weakness, weak immune system and impaired brain function (less oxygen reaching the brain). And iron deficiency could also affect growth and development.
2. lack of Vitamin D, which may cause in children growth delays, rickets (soft bones), and contribute to a weakened immune system.
Research has also shown that changes in diet such as eliminating the culprits and including whole foods (greens, vegetables, and unprocessed foods) can help to correct most of the behavioural issues, food-related health issues and nutritional deficiencies. Related studies have found that participants who had reported physical symptoms such as abdominal pain and headaches, noticed significant improvements when eliminating food preservatives, food colouring, sugar and allergens from their diet. Moreover, participants would also relapse into their symptoms during the reintroduction of these foods. When determining the root cause of behaviour or other related symptoms, potential food allergens should be eliminated from the diet. These allergens include: milk, eggs, cheese, corn, wheat, pork, beef, peanuts, soft drinks, high fructose syrup, refined/white/brown sugar, chocolate and ketchup, among others. Keep in mind that foods you might consider ‘healthy’ may still contain with food preservatives, food colouring, high quantities of sugar and/or allergens. Always make sure to read the list of ingredients of anything you intend to feed your child to avoid being fooled by marketing strategies and labels.
4 actions you can do now to improve your child’s wellbeing:
1. Eliminate certain foods from their diet. Your child could benefit from an oligoantigenic diet, also known as the elimination diet, or a modified version of it. Remember, there are foods that contain essential vitamins and minerals needed for optimal growth and development. Always consult with your Naturopathic Doctor before starting these nutritional changes.
2. Add supplementation. Some children may benefit from the supplementation of Omega 3’s, greens, vitamins and minerals. It’s not always easy to convince children to eat their vegetables and some may be more selective with the foods they want to eat. Children may need additional supplementation for iron, vitamin D, zinc and more. Always consult with your Naturopathic Doctor for appropriate supplements and dosage.
3. Active play time. Allowing a child to burn energy is vital. If a child doesn’t use their energy reserves they can become restless and hyperactive. Focused and sleep patterns can be disrupted. Children need at least 60min of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily. Including vigorous-intensity activities 3 times a week, and bone and muscle strengthening activities 3 times a week. Sports are a good way to keep them active as they have fun.
4. Read all ingredients lists. Labels and advertisements can be deceiving. Stay away from processed products that have the words “fat-free” and “sugar-free”. These words just mean they are replacing fat or sugar with chemicals. Keep in your cart products with ingredients you can read and are 5 or less ingredients. Some of the ingredients to watch out for are blue 1, blue 2, green 3, red 3, red 40, yellow 5, FD&C lakes (combination of colours or dyes), orange B (in sausages and hot dogs casings), BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene) & BHA (Butylated Hydroxyanisole), Sulfites, artificial sweeteners (Aspartame, Acesulfame-K, Saccharin), added sugar (High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), Corn Syrup, Dextrose), Propyl Gallate, Potassium Bromate, Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), Olestra (Olean), Heptylparaben and Sodium Nitrate. This is not an exhaustive list, but will help get you started. Have this list accessible when go grocery shopping.
Many behavioural issues and uncomfortable symptoms can be eliminated through dietary adjustments. For personalized assessment and strategy for you or your family contact Dr. Frances Pierantoni, ND at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*This article was originally published on Ottawa Holistic Wellness Centre September 2016 ebook and website on September 10, 2016 under the name Diet and Childhood Wellbeing.
This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.