Some of the biggest battles between parents and children begin at the dinner table. Despite a parent's best efforts to sneak veggies onto the plate, most kids will go pick around the greens and go straight for the grilled cheese, polished off with a glass of milk.
While there's nothing wrong with good ol' fashioned comfort food now and again, some parents may wonder if the dairy-rich meals are wreaking havoc on their child's health. Thankfully there are some telltale signs your kid may have a dairy sensitivity, and you can easily make the switch to dairy-free ingredients, if necessary.
Dairy sensitivity vs. allergy
Many children (and adults) have food intolerances that aren't full blown allergies, but can still affect overall health and comfort.
Food allergies1 are immune-mediated responses that can lead to hives, anaphylaxis, and swelling. Food sensitivities or intolerances2, on the other hand, are triggered by a response in the digestive system, not the immune system. They generally occur when a person can't process or digest a certain food.
Signs your child may be sensitive to dairy.
Digestive upset is one of the most obvious signs your child has a food sensitivity. Tummy aches, gas, constipation, and diarrhea are all symptoms of food sensitivities. If your child is suffering from many of these gastrointestinal (GI) issues, it may be worth cutting out dairy for a while to see if the symptoms dissipate.
While the symptom is less common than gastrointestinal issues, headaches and migraines have been associated with lactose intolerance3. If your child has headaches after consuming dairy—especially in combination with the other symptoms—it's possible that the two are connected.
Food sensitivities aren't always the cause of these health conditions, but they can be a huge contributing factor. It’s also important to remember that every child is different. Meaning, not all kids with these symptoms have a dairy sensitivity, and not all kids with a dairy sensitivity will display these symptoms.
Seek the help of a pediatrician to help identify food sensitivities and guide you in planning a more gut- and kid-friendly diet (yes, ice cream is still on the table). And, of course, if there are any concerning signs or symptoms, please reach out to your doctor immediately.
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Ashley Weber, N.D., is a Naturopathic Doctor who seeks to gain insight into the physical and emotional factors contributing to her patients’ health. She has a holistic mindset with a clinical focus on prenatal and pediatric care. She maintains a busy family practice in Toronto, Canada.
Ashley is also a co-founder of Samana Health Retreats, offering luxury and custom programs and retreats focusing on holistic health, yoga, and detox. To learn more about her upcoming luxury detox retreat in Costa Rica, visit the Samana Health Retreats website. You can also connect with Ashley on Facebook and Twitter.