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A Doctor's take on Infant Digestion, Food Allergies, Intolerances and Elimination Diet

Posted by Julie on 9/7/2013 to Mom Madness
Parents these days are dealing with some serious diaper issues; constipation, foul smelling, irregular bowel movements you name it. This month I want to help explain why your little one can’t digest food like you right away. Our digestive system is a series of tubes, liquids, and scrubbers; to break it down simply. It all begins in our mouth with saliva and enzymes that begin to break down our food.

These enzymes don’t start being excreted until an infant is 5-7 months old, right around the same time as teething begins. From the month our food travels to our throat and esophagus and then to our stomach where more enzymes are secreted and then to our small intestine where the pancreas and gallbladder secrete more enzymes which don’t begin until an infant is 15 months old. Then the food travels through the rest of the small intestine where little scrubbers called villi absorb and extract nutrients to be absorbed by the blood stream. There is a ton of bacteria that help with this process as well. An infant’s intestine lining is extremely permeable during the first 9 months and can absorb things it shouldn’t when given food they are not developed enough to digest such as dairy, wheat, or sugar. Dairy and wheat have very large proteins called casein and gluten which can be absorbed into an infant’s digestion before it is developed enough to break these proteins down to smaller bits. The larger proteins are then seen as foreign by the child’s body so they create antibodies to attack them causing an inflammatory/ allergic response.

At around 9-12 months infants can begin to eat foods other than breast milk or formula. This is the period of trial and error to determine how foods affect your child’s digestion. There needs to be close observation and monitoring of an abnormal response such as, congestion (often confused with teething), hives, rashes, eczema, ear infections, wheezing, and red ears. These can take hours if not days to develop. Only introduce one food at a time and continue for 3-4 days provided there are no signs of intolerance. If you are passed the days of introducing food and there are so many foods you don’t know what could be causing the congestion, rashes, agitated attitude, constipation, indigestion, or foul odor the next step is elimination techniques or rotational diets.

Elimination techniques will be able to show you how your child’s body reacts to a certain kind of food over a six week period. This first thing to do is review your child’s diet and eliminate everything with artificial flavors, colors, dairy, and wheat for two weeks. After 2 weeks you can begin reintroducing foods one at a time (you want to know which one causes a reaction) every 3-4 days and watching for reactions such as, changes in bowel movements, runny nose, hives/rashes, changes in sleeping habits, changes in attitude. All of these are signs of food intolerance. Continue this process for 2-4 weeks keeping a food log to keep track of your child’s reactions and improvement. This process can be stressful 2 weeks is a long time not to have frosted flakes or cheese. You can find substitutes for the time being such as oatmeal with fruit (without artificial flavors) and almond or coconut milk (considering your child doesn’t have a nut allergy). Its two weeks that could make a world of difference for you and your child.

Once you determine your “sick list” now you have power in creating the best diet for your children.

After the eliminate diet food items that had a milder reaction or if you want something a little simpler try the rotation diet. This means rotating foods every 4-5 days. Such as, pasta on Sunday means the next pasta dish will be on Thursday or Friday. When you can give your body a break it can better tolerate a food that it might be sensitive too.

If you are strictly breast feeding and you don’t know what could be causing the four odor, constipation, or reflux. Look at your diet because your child is eating what you eat and use the elimination diet for yourself. Also if your child has had a need for antibiotics the intestinal flora that helps with digestion and absorption is now killed off as well. Following up with a non-dairy probiotic can give your child’s digestive system an extra boost.

Stop by Dr. Carly’s office and pick up a schedule for foods to introduce at certain months of your infants development.

dr carly,chiropractor,virginia beachDr. Carly is a local Chiropractor, a health and wellness educator, a public speaker, and an active member of the Virginia Beach community. She partners with parents at Wave of Life Chiropractic Center as a resource to make the best health choices for their family. She enjoys working with her practice members at Wave of Life to help them realize a lifetime of health and wellness. Her goal is to help children and adults stay off medications and support natural child birth.



Brittany @ The Pistachio Project
Date: 9/11/2013
Love hearing doctors back up how I feed my kids! We start solids at 9 months and delay grains until their 1 year molars come in (which is when the enzymes needed for grain digestion develop)
Jessica Pilkington
Date: 9/12/2013
Very interesting. I'm pretty strict about what my boys eats and people think I'm crazy!
Kim Hendricks
Date: 9/13/2013
We stuck by the 4 day wait between introducing foods, but we did start solids at 6 months because he would attack my fork or spoon trying to get my food! He still nursed till 14 months, we just fed him solids after nursing.
Date: 9/14/2013
We've been doing baby led weaning since my son was 6 months, and he's doing great. This might be good advice for children who have shown signs of allergies, but if your child shows no signs of a reaction, why deny them foods? I'm hesitant to take the advice of a chiropractor and even pediatricians if they do not have any training in infant nutrition.
Leela R.
Date: 9/14/2013
While I think the advice about slowly introducing foods is good, as is the advice on how to eliminate and reintroduce foods if there is a reaction once many foods have been introduced, I'm not too sure about waiting until 9 months to start introducing solids. Our baby really wanted to eat solids at 4 months. We held him off for a month by giving him breastmilk slushies, but at around 5 months he was really wanting to move on. I had every intention on waiting longer, but my son had other ideas. We go slow, but he loves to eat and at 7 months even with 35 oz of breastmilk per day he's still hungry and has three "solid snacks" during the day.
Date: 1/10/2014
Great advice! I haven't stared feeding my LO yet but this is good to know.

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