Is It Possible to Outgrow a Food Intolerance?
We know it’s a challenge to avoid the food your child has an intolerance to, and it’s tough to see your child having to deal with symptoms from eating the particular food. Because of these effects to your child and your family, it would make sense for you to wonder if your child will ever outgrow a food intolerance. We did some research on the subject to give you the answer.
In short, it is possible to overcome a food intolerance, but it won’t always happen.
The Distinction Between Food Intolerance and Allergies
Food allergies and intolerances are often talked about in an interchangeable way, but they’re not the same at all. And it’s important to understand the differences when we discuss the idea of growing out of a food intolerance.
Children often outgrow food allergies. The majority of kids outgrow certain food allergies, including those to wheat, dairy, egg and soy. However, it’s not as likely that they will outgrow other types of allergies, including tree nut, peanut or shellfish allergies.
The fact that many children outgrow allergies does not mean they’ll outgrow intolerances. That’s because the two affect the body in different ways. An allergy happens because the immune system reacts to the food. Intolerances do not involve the immune system but instead are based on the body having trouble digesting the food. They tend to be gastrointestinal in nature, including symptoms such as abdominal pain, gas, bloating or diarrhea.
The reason for the difficulty digesting the food is that the body isn’t breaking down the food correctly. In some cases, this happens because the person is deficient in an enzyme that would help the body use the food properly. For instance, children with lactose intolerance are lacking enough lactase enzyme that breaks down lactose in milk and other dairy products. Other times, it relates to a sensitivity or reaction to something in the food, such as caffeine in coffee.
Overcoming an Intolerance
It is possible to get over a food intolerance, but it won’t always work. Some young children’s bodies are able to adjust to not having enough of an enzyme. In other cases, children will have the intolerance for the rest of their lives.
Some people find that it works to avoid the food for a while and then reintroduce it. After reintroducing it, people don’t always experience the negative reactions again. In this case, the body may have developed a tolerance to it. Nonetheless, it’s worth noting that with intolerance the reactions don’t always occur unless you eat a lot of the food or eat it too frequently. It requires trial-and-error for each person to see how long they need to stay away from the food before reintroducing it, and then how much their body can tolerate at that point.
This is another difference between a food allergy and intolerance. It’s safer to do trial-and-error with the amount and frequency of a food when your child has a food intolerance. If your child has an allergy instead, exposure to just a small amount can potentially be life-threatening. Since it’s not always easy to see the difference between an intolerance and an allergy, and because some people have both at once, the safest bet is to work with a medical specialist when trying to see if your child has gotten over a food intolerance or allergy.
To learn more, check out Food Allergies vs. Food Intolerance: What’s the Difference?
Have you or someone in your family outgrown a food intolerance? Please share your story in the comments below!