Legit Excuses for Picky Eaters

Is your child a picky eater? Do they gag, eat slowly, or not want to finish their food? Have you been labeled a “picky eater”?


My Story

When I was a child, I vomited a lot and frequently suffered from diarrhea. I was also frequently the last one at the table, because I ate SO. SLOWLY. It was hard to digest much of anything, and many foods made me feel sick.

At that age, however, it was hard to know what was going on, or to realize that any of the food I was eating might not be healthy for me. I was about six at the time. I had no clue that I had food allergies and sensitivities or leaky gut. I didn’t know about genetically modified foods, or that they were being widely embraced by the food market in 1999 – just around the time my vomiting ramped up. Around the same time (age six), I also began suffering from migraines.

My parents tried to keep our (my siblings’ and my) diet pretty nutritious. Whatever they knew to include or avoid, they did. None of us realized we were guinea pigs for biotechnology. None of us knew much about lectins and solanine, or their potential impact on the thyroid and the nervous system, respectively.

None of us were aware that broccoli, kale, peas, garlic, onion, kidney beans, dried fruit, grapes, pineapple, watermelon, coconut, or chicken could be harmful for more than a small fraction of the population.

For additional background on my health journey, check out my posts, When You Can Only Eat Five Foods and It’s All In Your Head.


What’s the Deal?

You try your best to make sure your kid eats healthily, yet they still seem lethargic, rowdy, or depressed much of the time. While there could certainly be other (or additional) reasons for any of these symptoms – which is worth checking into – diet can play a major role in the manifestation of these signs.

If your child is expressing or indicating an aversion to certain foods, this may be a signal that there are substances in those foods which their body cannot tolerate, and the body is trying to give your child the message “stop putting that into me”.

I’ve noticed that many of the foods to which I’m sensitive or allergic have either been extremely addictive or extremely repulsive to me.

Your child’s nutritious meals may contain hidden enemies (e.g. antinutrients, indigestible sugars, neurotoxins) in surprising places. Foods like broccoli, banana, or tomato.

And if they’re affecting your child, it’s quite possible that they’re having an impact on you, too.

So what are some of these enemies?


Lectins

Lectin sensitivity be can linked with autoimmune issues, and/or related to something as simple as your blood type. Different blood types are susceptible to agglutination by different food lectins.

According to Joseph Cohen at selfhacked.com:

You can identify lectin sensitivity by a combination of symptoms, blood tests, and genes. The more of these that you have, the surer you can be that you’re lectin sensitive and the more you’ll be affected by lectins.

I have a homozygous mutation on the “lectin sensitivity gene”: CNR1 (rs1049353).

I also have type B blood.

Chicken has bothered me for a long time, but the severity of my sensitivity has worsened in recent years. And sure enough, I learned not too long ago that chicken meat contains a lectin that can cause agglutination (blood cell clumping) in type B blood. At last! An explanation for why such a seemingly “harmless” meat makes me feel unwell.

Are You Lectin Sensitive? Using Genes, Symptoms and Blood Tests to Assess Lectin Sensitivity


Glutamates

If you’re sensitive to MSG (monosodium glutamate) [which is likely, if you suffer from migraines], then other foods containing glutamate (such as spinach, grapes, and gluten [gluten is found in wheat, rye, barley, and spelt]) may be problematic for you.

From leavesoflife.com:

Too much glutamate/excitation causes anxiety and sleeplessness, among other symptoms, depending on the person. Over time, excessive levels of glutamate cause neurological inflammation and damage.

Check out their website for a list of glutamate foods.


Solanine

Solanine is a poisonous glycoalkaloid found in members of the nightshade family such as tomato, potato, eggplant, red and green peppers, paprika, tobacco, and ashwagandha. For a more comprehensive list of nightshades, click here.

Among other symptoms, there is believed to be a link between solanine and:

  • Joint pain, inflammation, swelling (arthritic symptoms)
  • Muscle aches, stiffness, weakness / Fibromyalgia
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Gout
  • Hypothyroid conditions (as solanine can disrupt the endocrine system)
  • Eczema and psoriasis
  • Migraines
  • Dizziness
  • Birth defects, such as spina bifida
  • Appendicitis

Of course, solanine may or may not be the cause of these symptoms for you or your child, but eliminating solanine from your diet is certainly an inexpensive place to start the diagnostic process.


FODMAPs

According to dietsolutions.net.au:

FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides And Polyols. These are a group of short-chain carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed. In people with gastrointestinal symptoms, a diet high in FODMAPs can induce diarrhoea and/or constipation, bloating, wind and abdominal pain.

FODMAPs are essentially fermentable carbs. If these carbohydrates make it past the small intestine unabsorbed, then they can be fermented by bacteria in the large intestine. This can cause symptoms like gas, bloating, stomach pain, and irritable bowel syndrome for some people.

Some major FODMAPs are:

  • Wheat
  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Fruit (because of fructose)
  • Vegetables (due to the fructans, galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS), fructose, mannitol, and sorbitol)
  • Legumes and Pulses
  • Sweeteners (such as agave nectar, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, added polyols in sugar-free mints and chewing gums [check the labels for sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol or isomalt])
  • Other grains/pseudograins (such as amaranth, barley, and rye)
  • Dairy (especially foods like cottage cheese, cream cheese, milk, ricotta, and yoghurt)
  • Beverages, such as chai tea, chamomile tea, coconut water, dessert wine, and rum

You may find that you or your child can tolerate certain FODMAPs but not others (for example, fructose but not sorbitol).


Salicylates

Salicylates can be great for you, unless you are sensitive to them or can’t remove them from your system.

Salicylate sensitivity symptoms may include – but are not limited to:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Asthma
  • Bed wetting
  • Fatigue
  • Persistent cough
  • Psoriasis
  • Sleep disorders
  • Skin problems
  • Stomach irritation
  • Swelling of face, hands, and feet
  • Anxiety or agitation
  • Bouts of excessive energy followed by fatigue
  • Distraction
  • Excessive or constant talking
  • Impatience
  • Mood swings
  • Nervousness
  • Visual disturbance

For a more complete list of salicylate sensitivity symptoms, check out this site.

If your body is unable to effectively eliminate salicylates, then these compounds can begin to irritate your skin. You’re sort of getting an internal acne “treatment” 24/7. Your skin gets pretty tired of this, and it’s possible for conditions like eczema or psoriasis to develop.

Low Salicylate Diet


Celiac and/or Gluten Sensitivity

If you or your child has celiac, then even a tiny amount of gluten exposure (such as cross-contamination of gluten-free foods with non-GF foods, counters, or utensils that are gluten-contaminated) could potentially elicit a reaction.

In individuals with celiac disease, gluten can actually damage the gut villi (villi are tiny projections/protrusions in the gut which increase the gut’s surface area, optimizing nutrient absorption). This can result in malabsorption of other beneficial nutrients, so it is not uncommon for those with celiac to also suffer from several nutritional deficiencies.

Additionally, gluten contains glutamate, which can cause MSG-type reactions in glutamate-sensitive people.

Individuals with mutations on the HLA-DQA1 or HLA-DQB1 genes have a genetic predisposition for developing celiac disease (but this doesn’t necessarily mean that they will).

A blood test for gluten antibodies can be helpful. Just be aware that even if the test isn’t technically positive for celiac (doesn’t show a high enough concentration of antibodies for gluten), it’s still possible that you or your child may have celiac, especially if you’ve been off of gluten for a while.

This was the case for me. When I took the blood test earlier this year, my gluten antibody levels were pretty high, but not quite high enough to be positive for celiac. However, I had been avoiding gluten for some time at that point, so the fact that many antibodies were present at all was pretty suggestive of a gluten allergy (a couple doctors who saw these results believed that I likely have celiac, despite a “negative” result. I also have mutations on the HLA-DQA1 and HLA-DQB1 genes).


Protein Intolerance (can be related to pyroluria and/or sulfur intolerance [see more below])

Take an (unofficial) pyroluria test.


Heavy Metal Toxicity

Mercury poisoning from dental fillings, fish, and immunizations can cause serious problems for individuals whose detox and sulfur-processing (transsulfuration) pathways are broken (often due to MTHFR and CBS mutations). Eating fish may cause distress for someone who cannot remove mercury from their body. (There are, however, other reasons that you or your child might react to fish – including histamine intolerance and a true fish allergy.)


Sulfur

If your kid has an aversion to broccoli, brussels sprouts, or onions, it’s possible they have genetic mutations that can lead to sulfur intolerance.

An Incomprehensive List of High Sulfur Foods and Foods that CAN have sulfur additives:

  • Broccoli
  • Kale
  • Other cruciferous vegetables (cruciferous vegetables also contain raffinose, an indigestible sugar)
  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Eggs
  • Dairy
  • Wheat
  • Beef
  • Lamb
  • Legumes (Beans, Peas, etc.)
  • Nuts
  • Dried fruits
  • Wine and grape juice

Some fruits that are higher in sulfur:

  • Banana
  • Pineapple
  • Watermelon
  • Coconut
  • Avocado

You or your child may not have problems with all of these foods (although every single one of these is problematic for me).

But if you’ve noticed gastrointestinal discomfort, brain fog, skin itchiness or breakouts, nausea, headaches, or any other symptoms when you or your child consume any of these foods, then it’s worth skipping them for a while to see if you and/or your kid feel better. Of course, there are several other reasons that certain foods in this list could be bothering you. I’m not going to go into detail about each food here, but if you have questions, ask me in the comments! I’d be glad to help and provide more information where I can.

Additionally, there are some bacteria that feed off of sulfur, creating hydrogen sulfide. While a very small amount of hydrogen sulfide is actually beneficial for the body, too much can cause the liver to become overburdened, causing you to be poisoned.

If your gut is overtaken by bacterial colonies that feed off of sulfur, then this may be another reason sulfur is making you sick. The more sulfur you feed them, the more hydrogen sulfide that gets created.


Histamine

Do you or your child hate vinegar, hot dogs, bananas, citrus fruits, tomatoes, avocado, or spinach? You might be suffering from histamine intolerance. This is often related to genetic mutation(s) on the MTHFR gene, and sometimes also mutation(s) on the DAO (diamine oxidase) gene. Diamine oxidase is one of the enzymes responsible for the processing of histamine, mainly in the gut.

Histamine can increase intestinal permeability, so if the body is unable to effectively remove histamine from the system, this can eventually lead to a lectin sensitivity or other food allergies.

Histamine intolerance works in a cumulative fashion.

Everyone needs (and produces) a little histamine. The body needs histamine to function properly.

However, we each have a histamine threshold. When that threshold is exceeded, symptoms begin to appear.

For undermethylators [people with MTHFR mutation(s)], that threshold is lower, because they do not effectively clear histamine from their bodies. So the histamine builds up, and can eventually and potentially lead to some heart problems.


Specific Macronutrient Aversions

Macronutrients are: Protein, Fats (Oils/Lipids), and Carbohydrates.

Most of us need a “normal” balance of all three of these.

Some people, however – due to genetics or other factors – may feel unwell when consuming one or more of these macronutrients at a “normal” or “average” level.

I feel sick if I eat very much protein (even a smaller amount than the average American woman might consume). I’ve noticed I have the least reaction to fats – especially certain medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), and generally process oils and certain healthy carbs better than I do most proteins.

Some people cannot process carbohydrates effectively. For example, if one has a harmful version of the APOE gene (specifically, APOE4 [vs. APOE2 or APOE3] from one or both parents), this can increase one’s risk for Alzheimer’s, and is linked with an earlier onset of the disease. Individuals with this genotype may benefit from a high-fat, low-carb diet (of course, do your research and consult with your doctor before taking any action. As with nearly any medical topic, there are certainly dissenting opinions regarding the best diet and course of action for individuals with this genetic variation).

Pyrolurics and those with sulfur intolerance may find it difficult to digest protein.

However, the symptoms of pyroluria can often be mitigated.

If protein intolerance persists, sulfur intolerance may be the culprit, or at least co-implicated with another condition.


Other Food Allergies

You can develop an allergy to just about anything – especially if you have a leaky gut.

With leaky gut, undigested food particles can “fall through” the gut lining and into the blood, triggering an immune response. Antibodies are then created to tackle this “foreign” substance (i.e. your undigested food). So the next time the food is consumed, your body is ready to attack with antibodies, creating the miserable allergic reactions we recognize as rash, itchiness, hives, brain fog, gastrointestinal discomfort, increase in pulse, and just about any other symptom you can imagine.


Wrapping It Up

As a child, I had no clue that I was dealing with lectin sensitivity (leading to thyroid problems), celiac and other gluten sensitivity (leading to a damaged gut), glutamate and solanine sensitivity (leading to neurological issues), heavy metal poisoning (creating autoimmune problems), sulfur intolerance (leading to liver toxicity), histamine intolerance (leading to heart problems), and other food allergies. I just thought I was a picky eater because I hated some foods or they didn’t settle well with me.

It is sometimes difficult for very young kids to express or even know what type of discomfort they are feeling when eating certain foods. Additionally, they may assume that everyone feels the way they feel, and it’s just normal to feel yucky. I did.

If your child is indicating a disinterest in consuming a certain food, try to ascertain the reason. Ask if they have stomach bubbles or pain, are feeling nauseated, or are experiencing muscle pain or dizziness. Watch for rashes (these won’t appear for every child with food allergies or sensitivities, but if they do, that’s a pretty good sign that there’s a food issue).

Watch for migraines, diarrhea, vomiting, anxiety, depression, mood swings, and insomnia.

If your child is struggling with school, this also could be a sign of a food intolerance or allergy. However, other links could include bullying, unfair academic expectations from teachers, relationship issues, or depression (which can be food-related or not).

I struggled through many years of school (especially as a little kid), and looking back, I can see that some of my most challenging years academically were those in which I ate a lot of foods that were especially troublesome for me, or when I consumed foods with lots of artificial additives.


Diagnosing Food Allergies and Sensitivities

It can be difficult to diagnose a food allergy or food sensitivity, especially if multiple offending foods are present in the diet.

If you eliminate one problematic food (while you are, in fact, suffering from multiple sensitivities or allergies), you may not feel much better, and therefore decide to reintroduce that food. It is possible, however, that another food was responsible for the continuation of your symptoms after you eliminated the other food from your diet.

In order to effectively identify problem foods, your body must be a “clean slate”. This will require the removal of most foods from your diet for a period of time. Work with your doctor on this. Everyone has individual dietary needs. (See disclaimer at the bottom.) You may not be able follow a strict bone broth or soup cleanse before reintroducing foods. However, if you can do this, you’re likely to identify problematic foods more accurately.

In general, I’d recommend eliminating all grains, nuts, coconut, legumes/beans, beef, lamb, and chicken (except chicken broth, though I’d recommend using homemade turkey broth instead, if possible – especially if you have type B or AB blood).

Additionally, I’d recommend avoiding all cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, arugula, mustard greens…click here for a more complete list), as well as spinach, tomatoes, potatoes, and all peppers (except white and black pepper).

If possible, skip fruit for a day or two as well. If you are FODMAPS sensitive, some or all fruits may be a problem for you.

After following this cleanse for a while (there are differing opinions on how long – it really just depends on your gut health), slowly reintroduce foods, one at a time. I’d suggest introducing no more than one new food every other day, but approaching the reintroduction more gradually than this is advisable (one food a week is great, as sometimes it can take a week to fully recover from a previous food reaction).

One caveat: It may be tempting to think that the reason for a reaction upon reintroducing a food is that the body is trying to “break out of starvation mode” and it’s “just normal to feel sick while adjusting to eating ‘real’ food again”. This can be the case, but if you’re experiencing a headache, irritability, sensitivity to smells, anxiety, mood swings, pain, stiffness, insomnia, difficulty breathing, brain fog, fatigue, a rash, a rapid pulse, or much gastrointestinal discomfort when you reintroduce a food, you can be pretty sure you’ve got a food allergy or sensitivity, so don’t ignore that. ❤

Again, run all of this by your doctor before trying it. This information should not be treated as medical advice.


Food Allergies vs. Food Intolerance

What is the difference between a food allergy and a food intolerance, anyway? It is a common misconception that a food allergy always manifests as anaphylactic shock or severe, instantaneous symptoms.

mayoclinic.org:

For some people, an allergic reaction to a particular food may be uncomfortable but not severe. For other people, an allergic food reaction can be frightening and even life-threatening. Food allergy symptoms usually develop within a few minutes to two hours after eating the offending food.

My gluten allergy has escalated to the point where I feel sick if I’m in a high-gluten area, or close to people who are consuming gluten. My head will almost immediately begin to feel light and/or tight, and I sometimes develop a headache shortly after. It’s not a life-threatening thing, but it can be very debilitating.

How do I know this is an allergy?

My body contains gluten antibodies which respond at the smallest amount of gluten. The presence of these antibodies is indicative of an immune response. Immune responses to food are typically linked with food allergies.

A food allergy, then, is typically present when a food elicits a reaction from the immune system.

A food intolerance typically involves an enzymatic or other digestive deficiency of some kind, which impairs one’s ability to adequately process that food.

Lactose intolerance is an apt example. While some people have true allergies to milk (often the protein casein), lactose intolerance tends to involve a deficiency in the enzyme lactase. People who don’t have enough lactase can’t process lactose, hence lactose intolerance.

I am sensitive to or intolerant of* the glutamate in gluten. I cannot adequately process this substance in large amounts. The glutamate I get from food often doesn’t convert to GABA for me to the degree that it should, resulting in neuroexcitotoxic symptoms (my nervous system goes haywire). So I am both allergic to gluten, and gluten-sensitive/intolerant.

❤ ❤ Fun fact: Envelopes contain gluten, so don’t lick them, and wash your hands after using them. 🙂 ❤ ❤


What to Do

I would highly recommend testing your genetic profile (the test 23andme.com offers is pretty popular, though I should mention that they’ve been cutting back recently on the amount of genetic data they provide. You can also check out other DNA testing companies. Just double-check to make sure the company will provide you with raw genetic data). Then upload your raw data to a site like livewello.com to interpret your results (I think they charge $20 or so). I like Livewello because they offer this thing called the “SNP Sandbox”, where you can look up a lot of specific genes and run them against your genetic profile to see if you have any mutations for those genes.


There’s way more here than I could elaborate on in this article. If you have any questions for me, please let me know in the comments! I’d be happy to offer what help, information, or resources I can. And some of your questions just might turn into future posts! 🙂

To you and your family’s health.


* One school of thought identifies food intolerance and food sensitivity as separate entities.

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4 thoughts on “Legit Excuses for Picky Eaters

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