Vivienne Pither - Dietitian with a holistic touch
I was already on my pathway to becoming a dietitian when my 6 year old daughter at the time began to exhibit a variety of symptoms , including motor tics (involuntary movements such as body jolts, eye blinking and leg stretching), vocal tics (throat clearing), erratic behaviour, strange 'habits' and she was very oppositional. Looking back to the early years there were already signs such as severe colic as a breastfed infant, problems sleeping (difficulty winding down), highly emotional outbursts, days of intense hyperactivity where she looked like she'd taken some serious party drugs, to days of anger, aggression and reclusion, clearly evident by her suddenly pale skin and dark circles around her eyes. Our beautiful little girl suddenly had no control over her body and was also suffering from anxiety.
I searched the internet desperately trying to find a solution. We tried a sugar free diet, but there was minimal improvement, the candida diet, controversially dangerous, and then I discovered SUE DENGATE and the RPAH Elimination Diet which explained how intolerances to food and environmental chemicals can have an effect, especially on the hypersensitive child. This made sense as our children have always been hypersensitive to the temperature (if I was cold, they would be freezing, or if I was hot, they would be boiling), smell (my daughter would be aware of her surroundings just by the familiar smell), noise (despite her loud voice, she hated any loud noises, particularly in a closed room) and touch (we had to remove all clothing tags, woollen garments and anything that clinged to her).
So we started the strict elimination diet on both our children and within three days we noticed an improvement. Our little girl whose name we'd call repeatedly, but she wouldn't hear us (called 'foggy brain'), would suddenly turn around and say 'Yes Mum?', her tics were less severe, her behaviour improved 200%, the night terrors and night sweats stopped and she was tolerating her environment much better. For our son, the leg pains stopped and he became less restless. We sought professional guidance from a dietitian familiar with the RPAH diet to help us through the challenges and in the end found that both children were intolerant to all additives, moderate to high amines and glutamates, high salicylates and our son was also dairy and egg intolerant. Under the recommendation from our paediatrician, we sought professional assistance to help our daughter manage her anxiety and learn some behavioural strategies. An all encompassing approach is critical to supporting the sensitive child, especially if they have a number of cognitive issues, diet is imperative, however, it needs to be implemented in conjunction with therapy, plenty of physical activity, minimal screen time and if necessary, medication. In food sensitive children who are medicated for inattentive ADHD, the chemicals in the food interfere with the neurotransmitters preventing the medication from working, so these children require both diet and medication.
So where are we now...
Our children are now 18, 17 and 13 and eat pretty much everything except dairy (and gluten for 3 of us). Amines and glutamates occasionally remind us of our previous sensitivities, but generally we're fine in moderation. We finally enjoy being able to eat out at our local sushi and Thai restaurants and Guzmen y Gomez (no additives!!) and my youngest who was once hospitalised for a severe facial reaction to salicylates, now enjoys berry smoothies, curries and oranges. My eldest seems to be managing her newfound freedom with commercial takeaway chains (although I don't condone this!!) and if I have a day off serving veg or salad, I get complaints!!
What I have learnt...over the years, through both professional and personal experience and continuous study (including herbal medicine), I have found that the key to improved health is through addressing the underlying cause of food sensitivity via the gut. By focusing on the gut initially, along with removing any stimulating/irritating factors (food allergens (including oral allergy syndrome related to pollens), food chemicals - salicylates, amines, glutamates, sulphur, environmental stimulants and FODMAPs, if need, provides the most effective approach to healing food chemical intolerance, the nervous system and possibly preventing the development of allergies in babies and auto-immune conditions later in life.
A thorough family history is critical to determining genetically predetermined food sensitivities and gut microbiome imbalances likely passed from mother to child. Aligning this information with a history of chronic debilitating viruses and infections (Glandular Fever, food poisoning, Streptococcus, Ross River Fever, Epstein Barr Virus, etc), the impacts of stress and poor or incorrect diet allows me to fit together all of the pieces of the puzzle.
I rarely now prescribe the strict RPAH elimination diet, as it is too restrictive (for the majority) on healthy vegetable options and is too high in processed foods (white flour, sugar, dairy). I instead utilise the more moderated RPAH diet to temporarily remove stimulating food chemicals if I deem salicylates, amines and glutamates a problem, along with other potential problem foods. If the gut is compromised and lacks the enzymes to break foods down properly, then more often than not, more than one area of food intolerance is indicated (FODMAPS, oral allergy syndrome, including latex and nickel allergy,, allergens, non-coeliac gluten sensitivity).
A healthy diet is ONLY every encouraged as this will build strong constitutions including a stronger immune system. I also utilise probiotics, nutraceuticals (Zinc, Magnesium, B6, etc) and herbal supplements, where indicated. For the super sensitive who struggle with these products, they are introduced extremely cautiously when we have the body ready to accept them.
Elimination diets, food challenges and finding tolerance levels is such a mind-boggling process and almost always requires more than monthly catch ups. So if you need someone to be there for you providing ongoing reassurance and support, I can help guide you through the process every step of the way.
Thank you for listening to my story......life experiences are invaluable.
My aim is to help as many families as possible discover the NUTRITIONAL LINK to what is causing adverse reactions in their children's and their own body and brain. We are all different and often our genetic predisposition along with our gut health strongly influences the food our bodies can metabolise.