How Sensitivities To Food Might Affect A Child's Health & Wellness
Esteem's Food Sensitivity Test is now available, and it helps parents work towards getting their children healthier.
Tap the button below to check it out, or keep reading to learn more about how a Food Sensitivity can help you make progress with the health and wellness of your child.
To better understand why food sensitivities matter, and what you can do about them, we interviewed Dr. Tom Pedigo, medical psychologist, child development expert, and Esteem cofounder.
Thanks for talking with me today, Dr. Pedigo. Food Sensitivity Testing is something that many Esteem parents are interested in. Actually, it's been the MOST requested Add-On by parents!
Could you please explain what a Food Sensitivity test is, and how it relates to how our kids are doing?
Sure thing. It's really great to be able to talk about a solution that's simple enough for anyone to be able to use, but that can still have a seriously positive impact on a child's health, and even behavior.
A food sensitivity test a way to find out if there are any foods, drinks, additives, or anything else we consume, that causes a reaction in our bodies.
Many times, these types of sensitivities are unnoticeable and don't really cause a reaction with a harmful impact. But it's not uncommon for children to have food sensitivities that can actually cause significant challenges to a developing child, because the research shows that they can cause, confuse, mask, or worsen all kinds of behavioral health symptoms in children - even things like symptoms of ADHD.
The reason people use a food sensitivity test is so that you can (1) become aware of any sensitivities in your body, and then (2) start to remove foods that negatively impact you, or your child. That process of removing foods is what's called an "elimination diet", which just means taking foods that are bad for you out of your regular diet.
sneak peek of Esteem's food sensitivity results:
That's very interesting. With parents that you have worked with in the past, have you seen parents have success doing an elimination diet with their kids? Has it helped their kids?
Yes. Over my 30 years of clinical practice, I have seen hundreds of kids with ADHD respond well to an elimination diet. The families I've seen that have had success were happy to help maximize their children's potential by removing the foods that they didn't know were negatively impacting their child.
What's the science behind seeing results from an elimination diet?
There have been many studies done about elimination diets. In 2011, a leading medical journal called Lancet, published the results of a study that gauged a diet's effect on ADHD symptoms. In this study, researchers recruited 100 children with ADHD and placed 50 of them on a restricted diet of mainly rice, meat, veggies, pears, and water, with some kids getting a few other foods. The other 50 were the control group, so they received a normal diet.
What were the findings from the study?
At the end of the five weeks, 64% of the children on the restricted diet had significant improvement in their ADHD symptoms, while NONE of the control group had improved. This was an exciting and encouraging study, showing that eliminating certain foods from a child's diet can improve a child's ADHD symptoms! Four other studies from the 1980s showed similar results.
That is indeed exciting, but it's also perhaps a little bit scary for a parent to realize that food they typically feed their child could be having a negative impact without them even realizing it. What can parents do about this?
It can definitely be frightening to not be aware of the impact of a food, or even a seasoning or an additive. If a parent has questions about foods, the first step is always to get answers, which is why I love Esteem's Food Sensitivity Test. It's cheaper than most other tests out there (around just half the price), and it focuses on SENSITIVITIES to food rather than allergies.
How does the Food Sensitivity Test work?
All a parent has to do is send in a small sample of hair, which is then tested by a lab to discover sensitivities to 494 different foods, drinks, additives, and what have you - just about anything a child could ingest.
After the hair is analyzed by the lab, parents get a report that shows which things their child has a reaction to, and how strong that reaction is. If a child is very sensitive to something, the report shows that item as a high level sensitivity, and on down the list to less severe reactions.
example of what the detailed results look like in the Esteem app:
So once a parent learns about their child's sensitivities, what is the next step?
Learning about the sensitivities is a great place to start. Having this detailed information that the test provides can help you answer health questions about your child and offer a "road map" to make changes.
After you get your child's results and discover their sensitivities, the next step would be to start trying to eliminate the things that your child's system reacts negatively to. There can be a little trickiness to it, as some things a child has sensitivities to may not be what is causing a negative reaction in the body, or worsening ADHD symptoms, for example. Going about an elimination diet can be a bit of a task to take on, but the benefit is tremendous because you can actually help your child be healthier by just helping them avoid what isn't good for them.
Is it difficult for a busy parent to try an elimination diet with their child?
I'm glad you asked that question, because it can sound overwhelming, but it's absolutely doable for any parent, especially with how easy Esteem has made the whole process. If a parent tries the Food Sensitivity Test with Esteem, you'll receive some easy-to-follow steps about how to start eliminating foods from your child's regular diet.
For example, let's say your child has sensitivities to 4 different things: let's just say chicken, broccoli, apples, and almonds. A good way to start would be for a parent to start by eliminating 2 things: let's say the chicken and almonds.
By starting with just a couple of things at a time, you can start to figure out the impact specific foods have by paying attention to how your child does over 7 - 10 days of not eating them. Some of the biggest things to look for are sudden changes in behavior, sleep, emotional control, and school performance. Are they getting better sleep? Are ADHD symptoms lessening? Are there changes in managing emotions that come up?
If no changes take place, try eliminating the broccoli and apples next. If there is a change, perhaps you've found that chicken or almonds, or both, have a big impact on your child's wellbeing, and you can continue to test and remove those foods.
For some parents, it can take a few months to test and feel good about which foods their child should avoid, but you'll make progress along the way as you make discoveries about your child's system, and they'll feel better as you do!
That makes a lot of sense! It sounds like removing certain foods can be a process, but one that is possible and has a lot of potential to be positive for parents and kids. How can parents get started with a sensitivity test?
I really like the food sensitivity test that Esteem offers in their app. It's less than half the price of other tests out there, and Esteem makes it really simple by providing parents with the steps to send some hair to the lab, and get their results right back in the Esteem app for parents to review and learn. They send along helpful info about how to get started eliminating certain foods, so their tool really helps parents get started and get working quickly.
Esteem's Food Sensitivity Test is cheaper than most other sensitivity tests out there, and you can use it alongside everything else that Esteem helps you with so that you can see a comprehensive picture of how your child's health, wellness, and development are.
If you haven't yet learned how Esteem can help you address health and development challenges that you, your child, and your family are experiencing, tap the button to learn more and try Esteem. It's free!
Thanks so much for all of this info. I have a few more scientific questions for you from parents wanting more details around how it works.
A mom from Georgia:
"It seems like experts don't often suggest food allergy testing for ADHD. Why is that?"
Great question. First, it's important to make the distinction between a food allergy and a food sensitivity.
A food allergy is an allergic reaction to a certain food that can be detected by a skin or blood test. Most children with ADHD don't have food allergies, but some might.
A food sensitivity test is different. A food sensitivity is evident when a food causes some type of physical or behavioral symptom in a person. This is things like stomachaches, rashes, headaches, or, in the case of ADHD, increased hyperactivity, impulsivity, or lack of concentration. These types of reactions can be better managed or avoided when a parent is armed with the information from a sensitivity test, but not an allergy test, because an allergy test is looking for different reactions a child might have to certain foods.
Thanks! A California mom asked:
"What are the problems that come along with food common elimination diets?"
Usually, there are three types of elimination diets that are recommended:
The "oligoantigenic", or "few foods" diet is strict, eliminating nearly all foods except a limited number that generally cause no problems. This diet is mainly used in research studies, but it can be difficult for parents to eliminate most foods and slowly add them back in to their child's regular diet.
The "multiple-food" elimination diet removes foods that most commonly cause food sensitivities, but every child reacts differently to different foods, so it can be tough to try this almost 'one-size-fits-all' approach.
The "single-food" method, which Esteem helps parents try, in my opinion, is a great way to start, because you can start to eliminate the few things that cause the most severe reactions in the body, and go from there. This way, you're starting with the most likely culprits your child reacts to, which saves time and effort as you find out what your child is reacting to.
Awesome. Last question comes from a mom in Alabama:
"How does the testing actually work? Is it difficult? Or take weeks to complete?"
Another great question. This sensitivity test that Esteem has only requires a couple of hairs from a person to be tested. In the past, blood tests looked at specific markers suggestive of food sensitivities, but that old method was inaccurate and ineffective because various levels of things in our blood can change rapidly - much more rapidly than in hair. The old way also required a visit to the doctor and for blood to be drawn, which isn't very comfortable for anyone.
But with the new way, using hair, the lab is able to send results back to parents within 7-10 business days. All they have to do is place the hair on a scanner and use what's called a bio-resonance hair follicle testing method that can actually test differences and changes in our bodies at a cellular level. This type of analysis is the most cutting-edge technology in the world today for what it does. And it's advantageous because it's non-invasive, you don't have to go to the doctor, and again, it's way cheaper than other methods of sensitivity testing.