When Food Allergy Creates A Fear Of Food

Anxious food allergic kids, understandably concerned about avoiding allergens, can become so restrictive in their food choices that weight loss and other problems arise.

If the food restriction is severe enough, it can develop into an eating disorder. While this does not occur often enough for parents to lie awake and worry about, it is something allergy families should be aware of.

Signs of a Problem

One eating issue that can develop during childhood is ARFID, or Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder. This diagnosis covers a variety of eating problems including limiting intake for fear of the body’s response to food (e.g., choking, vomiting, anaphylaxis).

Because kids with ARFID do not get enough calories and nutrients through their diet, they either lose weight, or fail to gain weight and grow as they should. Individuals with this disorder also tend to have school and social difficulties such as avoiding social gatherings when food is served, having poor concentration, or a lack of energy.

To be diagnosed with ARFID, a child must exhibit one or more of the following:

  • Significant weight loss, or a failure to achieve normal growth/weight gain.
  • A significant nutritional deficiency.
  • A reliance on feeding assistance, or nutritional supplements.
  • Marked interference with everyday functioning.

An ARFID diagnosis is not given when symptoms are owed to a lack of available food, a cultural practice, or can be better explained by another medical condition.

Parents who suspect their child may be struggling with food anxiety and avoidance should contact their doctor or a mental health professional for an assessment. Fortunately, children with ARFID respond well to Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), an evidence-based treatment frequently used to relieve anxiety in children.

Odd Behavior vs Disorder

While worry comes with the territory of parenting, it’s helpful to remember that not all odd food behaviors indicate a disorder.

Many kids, including food allergic ones, can develop unusual patterns of eating such as refusing to eat veggies, or saying “no” to all meat except hot dogs. These patterns generally resolve on their own without professional intervention. Only a very small subset of children develops persistent and worsening food issues that interfere with their health and ability to function at home or in school.

The important thing, should you suspect your child is negatively impacted by food or allergen anxiety, is to consult a professional. Anxiety is a highly treatable condition, and eating disorders are easiest to address when caught early.

Sources: Eating Disorder; Food Allergy Canada
Photo credit: David Goehring

Community

More Articles

You might have wondered if small amounts of an ingredient can be added to a food product without being declared on the food’s label. The FDA...

Is it possible to eat your way to a food allergy cure? Scientists think it’s...

There are many reasons why you may want to substitute almond flour for wheat flour in recipes. Of course, if you have a...

Not all oils are created equal. Some oils are high in saturated fats or in trans-fatty acids – not good for general health. Some are partially...

It may never be safe to begin feeding peanut butter to your baby or toddler if you have peanut allergies in your family. If either parent or one...

More Articles

More Articles

What is a peanut allergy? It is a reaction that occurs in the body after eating peanuts or peanut...

For those with severe food allergies, flying can be a stressful process. Here are...

Approximately one out of 13 children under age 18 are allergic to at least one food, though many of them will outgrow their allergy by the age of...

Fact 1: Over a third of food allergy reactions happen after the first known oral...

The reason why some people are affected by allergies while others are not begins in their genes. Allergies are passed down from generation to...

Here’s a tip that might someday save your life, or that of a loved one: two to four times a year, review the proper way to use your epinephrine...

Lactose intolerance is the inability to process lactose, a sugar found in milk, caused by the lack of a needed enzyme. Those with lactose...

Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA)

An important part of peanut allergy awareness was enacted on January 1, 2006...

Tomato allergies are very rare. They are a "type 1 allergy," which means a contact allergy. When a person with this type of allergy touches a...

Milk allergies are becoming more common, especially in babies and small children. There is some confusion about what is an allergic reaction and...

Recognizing food allergy in babies or toddlers is not always easy, but there are specific risk factors and signs that parents and other caregivers...

Burlap bags are often used to store and ship coffee beans, potatoes, rice, seeds, nuts, and peanuts. They can be one of the disguised...

People with pollen allergies need to stay away from some foods. If you have allergic rhinitis in the spring or fall, you may not realize that you...

Of course, everyone knows that if you have a peanut allergy that you should avoid peanuts, peanut butter, peanut butter cookies and foods that...

Eating at a nut-free lunch table in school is a safety precaution that causes some students to feel isolated from their peers. Unfortunately,...