Children With Special Dietary Needs
Get the facts about your kids’ food allergies and intolerances.
Fast Facts About Food Allergies continued...
Q. What other kinds of food sensitivities are there?
Two common kinds of food sensitivities are lactose intolerance and gluten
intolerance. These are not "allergies" in that they are not
IgE-mediated, but they can cause problems with certain foods.
Lactose intolerance is not typical in young children. It happens more in
adults, and when we do see it in children, it's more in school-age kids than in
babies and toddlers. Lactose intolerance is caused by the relative lack of an
enzyme that helps to digest the lactose in the milk product. Because it's not
caused by the immune system, it just involves gastrointestinal symptoms like
abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, and sometimes vomiting. It's really related
to how much milk you ingest and is usually fairly manageable.
It takes a fairly large amount of lactose to cause significant symptoms,
like about a glass of milk on an empty stomach. Management is just avoiding
lactose-containing products to a significant degree.
Gluten sensitivity is also not an IgE-mediated allergy. It's caused by a T-cell
in the body that reacts to gluten proteins. (Gluten is a highly complex protein
found in wheat, rye, barley, and oats, and therefore in baked goods made from
these grains, like bread, cookies, and pizza.) Again, it's more seen in adults
and is relatively uncommon in children, and the typical symptoms are
gastrointestinal -- you don't have the hives and wheezing you see with a
classic wheat allergy.
Food Allergies: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment
Q. What causes food allergies?
A. A true allergic reaction to a food is produced by a mistaken immune
response. These are called IgE-mediated allergies, because they are triggered
when immunoglobulin E antibodies are produced in response to a specific food
the child is sensitive to.
There are also other food sensitivities and reactions that are not
IgE-mediated. For example, some young children have a condition called
enterocolitis, an intestinal inflammation. In these cases, they have
gastrointestinal symptoms after ingesting milk or soy formula, but no
respiratory or skin symptoms. These are not IgE-mediated allergies, and kids
usually outgrow this condition by age 2 or 3.