The six foods most like to produce bodily reactions are called the Sensitive 6 andinclude:
Wheat, dairy, soy, eggs and peanuts are the most common food allergies for children under three, but are frequently outgrown within one to seven years. Food allergies that develop after the age of three are more likely to be lifelong.
Signs of allergy, for any age, include:
- Ear infections
- Nasal congestion, sneezing, runny nose
- Puffy eyes, dark circles under the eyes, tearing
- Swelling of oral structures, such as lips, tongue, throat
- Hives, eczema, itching, redness of cheeks
- Difficulty breathing, coughing, wheezing, asthma
- Reflux, vomiting, nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation
- Headaches, migraines and behavioral problems; tantrums, hyperactivity, etc.
In the first step of helping your child with asthma, allergies, autism and/or ADHD, you already eliminated numbers 1 and 2 from their diets with the GFCF diet. If they continue to need more nutritional intervention, you would follow through and remove the other 4 food items, which is known as an anti-allergy diet. Utilizing the sensitive 6 elimination diet is a more intense step forward than the GFCF diet alone.
An estimated 1 out of 13 children have food allergies, a number that has continued to rise over the years. Children with autism and related disorders, including ADHD are more vulnerable to food allergies secondary to differences in their GI tracts and immune systems. Food allergies do not CAUSE autism or ADHD, but do affect these children more than a neuro-typical child.
Generally these kiddos struggle to effectively communicate their needs as it is and often do not have a way to identify if something is hurting or bothering them. They may tell you they are having reflux, an upset stomach, or a headache, by becoming angry, impulsive, self injurious or aggressive. A growing body of research also indicates a link between food allergies and behavioral issues. Understanding how food affects your child’s body and behaviors can help tremendously.
Most doctors and dietitians recommend a blood test to identify any major allergies, which can give you a better picture of where to start with eliminating foods. Many factors affect your child’s mood and behaviors and knowing definitively what foods are harming your child can help you stick to your guns!
Talk with your child’s doctor or immunologist to find which test is best for your child as many have high false-negative rates. You will also want to find a nutritionist or registered dietician during this time to help you navigate this new experience.
To begin, it is recommended to pick 1 food item at a time to eliminate, until all the sensitive foods have been removed. Of course you can remove all 6 from their diet in one fell swoop, but most parents struggle to come up with enough recipes to hold the family over!
Once all the foods have been eliminated, keep a log of the child’s behavior for the next 10-12 days (while keeping him off the sensitive 6). You will likely notice a decrease in negative behaviors and the child can often seem to ‘wake up’ and be more alert with these foods out of their body.
During this time, it is also important to remove any food the child is craving, since it can be an indicator of a food reaction, secondary to the endorphin/hormonal rush felt during eating them.
After the allotted elimination time, slowly begin to re-introduce the foods back into their diet. Only introduce one of the foods a week and continue to observe and log their behaviors and attitudes. This way, you’ll know how the food affects them, if at all.
I bet you are already thinking of certain foods your child craves and then reacts negatively to. Foods you hate to give them because you know a behavioral whirlwind is going to follow. Yet, you say “my child will only eat a few things! How is it possible to remove all this stuff?”
Well, no one’s going to argue with you there. This is not an easy thing to do and it’s certainly not a quick fix. It’s recommended to address the food limitations and sensory issues that often go hand in hand BEFORE starting these diets, to ensure your child is getting a well rounded and nutritional diet. Plenty of kids with autism, ADHD, asthma and allergies eat very normal, appropriate meals and have no aversions. That can be your child if you are willing to do the work!
Healing the New Childhood Epidemics; Autism, ADHD, Asthma, and Allergies by Kenneth Bock, M.D., and Cameron Stauth
Eating for Autism; the 10 Step Nutrition Plan to Help Treat your child’s Autism, Asperger’s or ADHD by Elizabeth Strickland, MS, RD, LD