Childhood Food Sensitivities: It's more than what you might think.
How important are our brains to our health? For some reason this is a little assessed question probably because until recently tools for treating the brain were less know and less mainstream. While Naturopathic doctors have plenty of tools for supporting the brain, this is still an emerging focus of treatment even for us who tend to be fast clinical innovators. Behaviour problems in children are big issue and as our knowledge around how to help children improves hopefully the connection between foods and immunity will become a mainstream understanding Common childhood experiences like chronic runny nose, colds, chronic skin rashes (eczema), allergies, puffy eyes and digestive problems like reflux are often linked to the foods children consume. What we put into our digestive systems, and what we allow into our children’s mouths, directly affects the whole body.
A major concern for parents is childhood behavioural difficulties. Many parents instinctively know that certain foods will affect their child’s behaviour. A common and often obvious example is sugar which can get some kids so amped up they might like to fly rather than walk! This is probably not related to allergy in most children (though an immune response could come into play) since sugar is the fuel used by each cell in the body to make energy. So with the influx of sugar the child is suddenly filled with excessive energy which can make them act out or get really wound up!
What about other foods we know children’s immune systems have a tendency to react to? How is this affecting their behaviour? Naturopathic doctors have long held the tenet that treating the ‘gut’ is typically the most important first step to restoring health. Turns out some new research is giving us a more detailed explanation of how that tenet is linked to behaviour and neurological diseases. The gut is comprised of the stomach, small and large intestines, rectum and the accessory digestive organs (liver, gall bladder, pancreas). The gut has it’s own nervous system and it contains the largest amount of immune cells and vessels in the body.
The immune system is complex and is connected throughout the body by thin, delicate tubes called lymphatic vessels which travel alongside veins and arteries. These tubes connect to lymph nodes, or what is commonly referred to as glands. When you get sick with certain diseases the glands swell up; these glands aka lymph nodes are then easy to feel and sometimes to observe. The immune system is in high gear making antibodies and increasing the number of immune cells to contain infection.
Based on a holistic understanding of health, it may seems obvious that the immune system would directly affect the brain and doctors like Doris Rapp (www.drrapp.com) have been teaching and helping families detect these problems for many years. An easy way to see foods or chemicals affect the brain is by observing changes in handwriting following ingestion or exposure of a substance a child is sensitive to. However it is literally only in the past number of months or year that science has caught up to this understanding by elucidating the physical connection in the body between the brain and the immune system. In June 2015 scientists released exciting findings online in Naturethat they had discovered before unknown lymphatic vessels in the brain connecting it to the rest of the body. The article is titled: “Structural and functional features of central nervous system lymphatic vessels” by Antoine Louveau, Igor Smirnov Prior et al. Before this the brain had been considered free of lymphatic vessels. Due to brilliant surgical and observational innovation the researchers suddenly saw what no one had seen before. What a wonderful example of science corroborating the things we can observe in our children. This increases the evidence supporting what we know about improving lymphatic flow in the body through hydrotherapy, exercise, botanicals and cleansing the body and how they improve brain health. I’m pretty excited that science has discovered something new about the physical structure of the human body and I hope it makes us reflect on all that we don’t know; after all you can’t see what you can’t see and you can’t see something you’re not looking for.