Does your child have sensitivity to the texture, flavour, aroma, or colour of food? Have you noticed that your child avoid certain foods and not ready to try new foods? Does your child gag when they see or smell certain foods? These are some common signs of food sensitivities in kids. Many children with autism are dealing with variety of sensory issues. Among them, food sensitivity issues are one of the major concern. Keep reading to understand more about food sensitivities in children as well as the tips and foods that can help to manage it.
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Food sensitivities in children
Children are exposed to a variety of foods, flavours, and sensations during their early years. Kids who refuse to taste or consume certain foods are frequently referred to as “picky eaters”. However, this picky eating habit is prevalent in kids, it can be more intense and also lasts in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Additionally, studies show that many children with autism have high preferences for processed foods and carbs while avoiding fruits and veggies. Moreover, it can cause nutritional deficits and also obesity, especially if exercise is restricted.
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Causes of food sensitivities
Sensory processing disorder
Sensory integration dysfunction is the inability of the brain to process the signals and information it receives from the sense organs. Due to this, the child becomes extraordinarily sensitive to things like normal sounds, touch, and food texture. Some kids experience extreme sensitivities for the smell or flavour of the food. This can result in nausea, vomiting or spitting out the food. Health professionals think that sensory processing disorder may also manifest on its own, despite the fact that its symptoms are frequently linked to other developmental issues like autism spectrum disorder.
Also check, Autism and Sensory sensitivity
Oral motor issues
Oral motor refers to the way our mouth’s muscles are used. The tongue, lips, cheeks, and jaw are all included in this. All of them are components of our mouth that are connected to numerous muscles; like all muscles, they can be strong or weak. To speak, eat, or drink through a straw, we require oral motor skills. Children who face difficulty chewing are unable to handle food and they will reject it. So, the foods that need little oral-motor skill can be chosen by kids as that can be eaten easily.
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Some coexisting conditions like food allergy, stress or anxiety, Genetic Disorder, abnormal brain activity/ lack of proper brain activity, other medical conditions can cause food sensitivities in kids.
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Symptoms of food sensitivities
Children who may have food sensitivities to food texture, taste, smell or temperature may exhibit the following symptoms:
- Rejection of some foods
- Irregular eating habits
- Not willing to try new foods
- Meals-related outbursts or meltdowns
Treatment for Food sensitivities
Children can develop coping mechanisms through therapies. The therapist will assist you in teaching your kids how to manage the problem. The child’s sessions will depend on whether they are oversensitive, undersensitive, or a combination of both.
Types of Therapy:
- Sensory integration therapy (SI): It is based on fun activities that help the child to manage the situation without getting overwhelmed by environmental factors.
- Sensory routine/ diet: These are the list of activities given to children that help to stay focused and organised in control.
- Occupational therapy: It helps to develop good motor skills and cope with everyday activities.
Also check, Types of therapies for autism
2.Oral motor exercises
Oral motor mouth exercises indeed help in strengthening the oral muscles and also aid in chewing and eating actions.
Types of exercises
- Tongue exercises: Stimulates the tongue movements.
- Lips and cheek exercises: Strengthens the cheek muscles
- Jaw exercises: Improves the jaw muscle movement.
Also check, Techniques to develop fine motor skills
tips that can help children with food sensitivities
Here are some tips and tricks that can help your children to cope up with food sensitivities:
1.Look into the reason
The first task is to investigate why a kid has food sensitivities. Asking your children questions that clarify their feelings and difficulties while eating can be quite helpful. Once the food has been identified, you can determine whether your child dislikes that specific food alone or a set of foods as a whole. This can make it easier for you to comprehend why the kid doesn’t enjoy it.
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2. Change your strategy
In some cases, what a child eats can be more crucial than how they eat. Occasionally only a change in strategy is required. Accept your child’s desire to avoid particular meals. Present the same food in a different way. It is efficient to introduce a new food that is nutrient-dense yet still has the desired texture. For example, if your kid enjoys munchy or crunchy foods like chips, give him/her beetroot chips instead of potato chips.
Also check, Tips to develop healthy eating food habits in kids
3.Introduce new foods
Gradually, introduce new meals. Don’t force your kid. You can start by asking your child to simply sniff or lick the meal when served for the first time or you can use the “try one bite” method. In addition to any new introductions, include one or two old favourites in every meal.
Also check, Types of foods that help for ADHD
4. Sensory food games
Toddlers typically develop coping skills through play. Playing with food that has a sensory component can help your kid become more used to sensory stimuli. Every child will respond differently to food, so the strategy needs to be tailored. One strategy that works well is to put food in plastic bags and write letters or shapes on them. This can help your child to touch the foods without hesitating and improves the sensory skills.
Also check, Benefits of sensory bins
Nutrients required to alleviate food sensitivities in children
According to experts, anything that is good for the brain is likely to be good for autism and food sensitivities . Below is a list of the essential nutrients and ingredients recommended as part of a healthy ASD diet.
It is a small woody plant native to India and North Africa. Ashwagandha has a strong affinity for GABA receptors. Ashwagandha is used to treat Autism symptoms such as sensory issues, memory loss, anxiety, and attention deficit.
Brahmi is a brain superfood. It sharpens the brain by protecting cells and increasing chemicals involved in learning and memory. It acts on the CNS, where it improves grasping power, eye contact, memory, intellect, and speech, as well as correcting sensory sensitivity, emotional, mood, and personality aberrations in an individual.
In order to improve brain functioning, shankhapushpi is an old remedy. The powerful antioxidants and flavonoids present in it improve the memory capacity, focus, concentration, calmness, alertness of an individual. Since it is a brain tonic and stimulator, people taking shankhapushpi have improved autism features like sensory issues, memory, reasoning, problem-solving, and other cognitive abilities.
Protein is an essential component of a healthy diet. It helps to build, maintain, and repair body tissues. It is also necessary for brain health and plays an important role in neurotransmitter production (brain chemical).
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5. OMEGA 3 FATTY ACIDS:
There is a link between omega 3 fatty acids and early childhood brain development, according to research. These healthy fats have incredible brain-boosting properties, additionally play an important role in improving autism features like sensory sensitivity, memory, and attention span. Fish and walnuts are excellent sources of omega 3.
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Magnesium is responsible for nerve transmission and nerve-muscle coordination in our bodies. In other words, it guards against a child’s excessive excitement (which can be traumatic). It also increases the effectiveness of vitamin B. This is important in the production of enzymes in the brain. It may improve sensory sensitivity and reduce behavioral issues.
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Zinc is a mineral that our bodies require in trace amounts. Because our bodies do not store zinc, we must consume small amounts of it on a regular basis to maintain our health. Zinc helps in proper brain development and function, immune function, protein synthesis, and wound healing.
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All nuts, including almonds, walnuts, cashews, peanuts, and hazelnuts, are high in vitamin E and aid in memory enhancement. They are also antioxidants that protect cells from damage. Walnuts are high in omega 3 fatty acids and are beneficial to sensory sensitivity, brain function, memory, and cognitive abilities. This fatty acid is also beneficial to cognitive functions.
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Aside from nuts, seeds such as flax, chia, melon, sesame, and pumpkins contain potent antioxidants such as vitamin E, which protect the brain from free radical damage. Sunflower seeds are brain-boosting snack. It have an effect on overall mood and mental processing abilities. Pumpkin seeds contain more magnesium, copper, and zinc than other seeds, which aid in eye contact, concentration, and memory. One of the simplest brain-boosting foods for children to consume.
Pure Cocoa powder (unsweetened) contains brain-boosting components. It is packed with a large number of antioxidants molecules, the main is epicatechin improves cognition. Hence, cocoa powder is also an important brain development food for children.
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