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You say the word “no”. You take the iPad away. You tell them to put the candy or toy back on the shelf. The result is catastrophic. A full blown meltdown with yelling, kicking, screaming and head banging. The whole store is looking at you. Nothing works to transition your child. It is alarming because it seems to happen on a regular basis.

Maybe it is homework time or any structured activity that requires focus and concentration. Your child starts out strong but then fades very quickly. There are lots of tears, broken pencils, arguments, ripped papers and all sorts of excuses to get up from the table and do something else. Much encouragement is needed to complete the assignment but 2 hours pass and only a small portion of the homework is complete. This is frustrating for the entire family because it happens every day there is homework.

I have heard the stories over and over and one of the most common factors that influence behavior is food. Theo Theoharides, MD, PhD at Tufts University has shown that some children with behavior issues have lots of mast cells in their brains, which are the same cells that are responsible for causing a runny nose of hay fever in people with allergies. So when these kids get exposed to certain foods, they don’t necessarily get “allergy” symptoms, but rather neurological symptoms such as tantrums, mood swings, sleep disturbances, cognitive impairment and poor focus.

Many children may be sensitive or intolerant of foods and NOT allergic. Conventional allergy testing only looks at immediate type reactions, such as hives or facial swelling, so often misses any delayed-type reaction that may develop over hours to days. This means that it can be difficult as a parent to figure out what adversely affects your child.

One mother told me about her son’s reaction to eating a piece of cheese after having been on a casein-free diet for some time: “After having my son avoid dairy for several months we decided to take a break from the casein-free diet. My son had a piece of cheese.

Through tears he told me that he had to close the zipper on his jacket just right. It took him 30 minutes to put on his jacket “. It was clear to her that even that small piece of cheese had adversely affected her son’s ability to complete a simple task.

The reality is that some food reactions are difficult for parents to observe, since they may take up to 2-3 days to appear after a food has been ingested. It could be milk, wheat, corn, soy or some other food like raspberries. Or it could even be a family of foods.

Even if a child does not eat a food in great quantity, sometimes only a small amount of a particular food is needed to upset the balance in the body.

If you at your wit’s end with the tantrums, meltdowns and outbursts, it may be time to find out if something your child is eating is the cause.

There are many ways to figure out which foods may be immune triggers, so it is important to work with a healthcare provider who is knowledgeable about food intolerances and sensitivities.

At our office, we utilize conventional and non-invasive methods to help figure out what bothers each person. Working with practitioners who offer a comprehensive approach to food allergies and sensitivities is most likely to help your child be healthier and happier!

Sean E. Heerey ND, MA, CCC/SLP

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