Food sensitives can make going back to school challenging for parents, teachers and kiddos. Many parents take precautions if their child has been told by a pediatrician or health practitioner to stay away from particular foods. However, if a child doesn’t have anaphylaxis or break out in hives, it can be hard for many parents and school administrators to consider food damaging to your child’s health. You need precautions in place to make sure your child is safe and healthy during the school year.
Keep in mind: no health practitioner on earth wants to make your life more difficult or unpleasant. Their job is to help you and your family. Therefore, if they suggest removing a food, based on the myriad of tests performed, its only to help your child. A histamine antagonist and gut reactive product can wreak havoc on your child’s mental and physical health. Many schools are also following suit.
The prevalence of food allergies in children increased 18% from 1997 to 2007, and almost nine out of ten schools had at least one student with a food allergy in 2006, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Eight main foods account for 90% of these food allergens, and wheat is one of them. The CDC also created guidelines for schools to take food sensitivities seriously. Take this to your school if they are not accommodating. Wheat can be an especially challenging allergen to avoid because, according to the National Wheat Growers Association, 75% of all grain products in the United States are made from wheat flour.
Gluten Intolerance and Other Food Sensitivities
First, let’s be clear about what gluten intolerance is. It isn’t a food allergy; it is a physical condition in your gut that is incredibly damaging to your psychical and mental health. Undigested gluten proteins (prevalent in wheat and other grains) hang out inside intestines and are treated by the body like a foreign invader, irritating the gut and flattening the microvilli along the small intestine wall. Without those microvilli, children and adults have considerably less surface area with which to absorb the nutrients from their food. This leads sufferers to experience symptoms of malabsorption, including chronic fatigue, neurological disorders, nutrient deficiencies, anemia, nausea, skin rashes, depression and more.
Some are not so lucky. Their guts may heal, but their bodies will never be able to digest gluten — even if it’s been “bent” by traditional preparation methods. They have a genetic pre-disposition that causes gluten-sensitivity.
Tips for Going Back to School with Food Sensitivities
Explain the Problem to Your Child:
Many children do not understand the seriousness of their food sensitivities—sadly many parents and teachers don’t either unless it’s an obvious reaction (anaphylactic, itching, or stomach aches). As we know, many of our kids have very sensitive systems and it’s important that the school and that your child take this seriously. It is extremely important to sit with your kids and teach them about their food allergies. Teach them what they can eat and what they cannot, and WHY.
Tip 1: Remind your child of how they felt the last time they ate it, but do not use fear as a tactic. Explain that it makes you anxious, that you want to protect them from feeling bad, and that you care so much about them. Teach them how to read labels and identify any types of ingredients that might not suit them. Be sure to teach them how to identify the early warning signs if they get an allergic reaction such as a headache, fever or stomach ache.
If they come home with a tummy ache, it could very well be an accident. Praise them for telling you and ask them, “help me understand what you ate today so I can see if I have something to help with you physical pain” (you likely do if it’s a stomach ache, or food sensitivity).
Tips 2: Try not to punish them or use threats such as “next time,” “you should have known,” etc. This only sends the message that they aren’t capable and reduces the chances that they will tell you in the future and greatly reduces the chances they will open up to you about other things important things.
Tip 3. Don’t cheat. Here is the problem with “cheating” it would be like taking medications off and on you would never feel good. Pam Helmly, Neuroigistics founder and clinical nutritionist says “If you remove a food because it negatively affects the GI tract and has a terrible effect on the brain – causing catecholamines to rise – mood, behavior, sleep, and digestion gets better.”
If the child begs or cheats, the food goes back in to the diet, everyone suffers. The child’s GI tract is affected, the brain is negatively affected and EVERYONE experiences poor behavior and lack sleep as a result.
Talk to the School:
Tip 4. Prepare your documents and information beforehand. Have everything ready so the school doesn’t have to do much work. They will be more likely to watch your child closely if you make it easier for them. If for some reason your child has an allergic reaction to something he or she ate at school, then make sure to have a plan that they can follow to inform you or your doctor. Need a plan in place for your child? Here is one that can help.
Tip 5. Schedule a meeting and talk to the staff. The school nurse should be made aware of any type of food allergies that your child might have. Have a meeting with the teachers and management of the school and let them know of all your kids’ food allergies. Give them a list of all of the ingredients that your child is allergic to or sensitive to. Also, ask the school to provide a list of all the different food that is prepared in the cafeteria. This will help you manage your kids’ food allergies.
Tip 6. Bring Your Own Snacks. Ask the school if you can provide them with snacks that are approved for your child. The teacher or nurse can keep them. Here’s a list:
Tip 7. Ask for Birthday’s. It sounds silly but it’s important that you or the school provide an “approved” and yummy dessert for your child on birthdays for other children. This makes them feel included and allows you to give them a sweet treat too. There are great gluten-free, nut-free, and dairy-free options these days
Tip 8. If the school needs a note, you can ask your pediatrician. However, they should not need a note; many schools do this because they don’t want to take the time to watch yet another child. If they only understood how much it impacted their learning and behavior, schools would pay more attention to these needs. So don’t be bullied by the school.
Pack Food for your Kids:
Tip 9. If your kids have food allergies, then it is best to pack their lunch or snacks at home for them to take to school. This way you can be sure that they are eating only those foods that suit them and are considered healthy. Make sure to pack a lot of snacks for your kids so that they do not get hungry and eat something that they might be allergic to.
Have a safe and happy school year ahead!
Take Good Care,
Emily Roberts and the Neurogistics Team
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Emily Roberts MA, LPC is the clinical therapist for the Neurogistics Children’s Program. She has worked with Neurogistics for over a decade. Emily is also an award-winning author of Express Yourself: A Teen Girls Guide to Speaking Up and Becoming Who You Are, Psychotherapist, TV & Media Contributor, educational speaker and parenting consultant. Express Yourself is available at bookstores nationwide and on Amazon. To learn more about Emily click here.
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