Understanding food intolerance's in children

Written by: Dr Ajith Prasad
Published:
Edited by: Kate Forristal

In his latest online article, Dr Ajith Prasad offers invaluable insights into understanding and managing food intolerances in children. Through a comprehensive exploration of symptoms, causes, and effective management strategies, Dr Prasad provides clarity for concerned parents seeking to support their child's health and well-being.

Defining food intolerance: Recognising symptoms and triggers

Dr Prasad defines food intolerance as adverse reactions to specific foods, predominantly affecting the gastrointestinal tract. Symptoms, which may include abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhoea, and skin rashes, vary in severity and presentation. Unlike food allergies, which involve the immune system's response to certain proteins, food intolerances arise from the body's inability to digest certain foods or react negatively to specific components.

 

Common culprits: Understanding lactose and gluten intolerances

Lactose intolerance emerges as a prevalent form of food intolerance in children, characterised by insufficient production of the lactase enzyme, leading to gastrointestinal discomfort upon consuming dairy products. Similarly, gluten intolerance, often associated with wheat consumption, can provoke digestive disturbances and discomfort in susceptible individuals. Dr Prasad also highlights the role of food additives, such as MSG and artificial sweeteners, in triggering adverse reactions in sensitive children.

 

Differentiating food intolerance from food allergy: Timing and severity

A key distinction lies in the timing and severity of symptoms. While food intolerance symptoms typically manifest gradually, sometimes hours or days after consumption, food allergy symptoms tend to appear rapidly, often within hours of exposure. Moreover, while food intolerance symptoms are generally mild to moderate, food allergies can elicit severe, life-threatening reactions, highlighting the importance of accurate diagnosis and management.

 

Exploring hereditary factors and familial influence

Dr Prasad addresses the question of hereditary predisposition to food intolerances, acknowledging that while familial tendencies may exist, genetic influences are not always straightforward. Environmental factors and shared dietary habits within families can also contribute to the development of food intolerances among relatives.

 

Identification and management strategies: The importance of a food diary

To aid parents in identifying and managing food intolerances, Dr Prasad emphasises the significance of maintaining a food diary. By documenting food intake and corresponding reactions, parents can identify patterns and make informed dietary adjustments. While diagnostic tests for food allergies may not be applicable to intolerances, specialised tests like breath tests can aid in diagnosing specific intolerances, such as lactose intolerance.

 

Effective management: Elimination and reintroduction

Managing food intolerances often involves eliminating suspected trigger foods from the child's diet and gradually reintroducing them to assess tolerance levels. This stepwise approach allows parents to identify problematic foods and tailor their child's diet accordingly. Dr Prasad advises caution when reintroducing foods, advocating for small quantities initially to gauge tolerance levels accurately.

 

Dr Ajith Prasad is an esteemed consultant paediatrician with expertise in allergy. You can schedule an appointment with Dr Prasad on his Top Doctors profile.

By Dr Ajith Prasad
Paediatric allergy & immunology

Dr Ajith Prasad is a leading consultant paediatrician with expertise in allergies. Whilst he has over 25 years of experience treating children for a variety of health issues, he specialises in the diagnosis and treatment of food allergies and intolerances, eczema, and allergic rhinitis.  

In 1997, Dr Prasad completed his MBBS at the University of Kerala, India, where he would later go on to achieve his diploma in childcare in 2000 and his doctor of medicine degree in 2001. He then relocated to the UK to complete specialist training, where he earned himself a membership to the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health in 2004.  

In 2020, he obtained a postgraduate certificate in allergy from the University of Southampton. Currently, Dr Prasad holds an NHS consultant position at Epsom and St Helier Trust. He practices privately in Horley, London, and Dorking.  

Dr Prasad has been a fellow of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health since 2020 and holds esteemed memberships to the British Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology and the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.  

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