In my previous article I talked about when picky eating is a phase and when it’s considered chronic. When picky eating is chronic it’s not an isolated issue. It’s always followed by degraded physical, mental, or emotional health. These are the overlooked picky eating side effects.
Picky eating often originates in imbalanced digestive microbes or neuro circuits that are clogged with toxins, but since we consider picky eating to be a nuisance of willful behavior, we often miss the signs that something deeper is going on. As our food quality has gone down, and kids with chronic health issues and taking daily medications has become commonplace, it’s easy to overlook these signs that picky eating, and the malnourishment it leads to, is taking a toll.
Here are common associations, or picky eating side effects.
- Frequent colds or illnesses that linger. Parents often chock this up to exposures at school or daycare, but a well-nourished child is resilient. He doesn’t catch every bug that comes through town, and when he does, he’s over it quicker than his peers.
- Constipation, diarrhea, or tummy upsets. Many kids limit foods because eating them makes them feel bad in some way. Few kids will express this with words though – it often shows up as behavioral issues. One symptom that kids do often mention is stomachaches. Take this complaint literally and do some ‘diet detective’ work (LINK) to figure out what is causing it. Constipation can result from lack of vegetable fiber, too many grains in the diet, or poor-quality fats. Diarrhea can happen when kids repetitively eat too much of one thing, or from unrecognized food sensitivities.
- Seasonal allergies. While symptoms of seasonal allergies manifest mostly in sinus issues, watery eyes, and itchiness, they originate in the gut with an imbalance in the modulation of the Th1 and Th2 parts of our immune system, which needs strong gut flora to balance it.
- Escalating food allergies and sensitivities. Particularly in kids who eat limited foods repetitively, sensitivities may increase as poorly digested particles find their way into the blood, where they are determined to be foreign invaders.
- Eczema. Often accompanied by food sensitivities, and the above mentioned poorly digested particles. Skin is an elimination organ of the body, releasing toxins through sweat. Part of this toxicity is immune complexes formed to bind partially digested proteins that got into the body through a damaged gut. As the toxins and immune complexes get into the skin, they can cause chronic skin diseases.
- Asthma. The lungs are the second most important detoxifying organ, after the liver. If your child’s picky eating originated from a backlog of toxins from artificial colors, flavors, chemicals in home products, or those made from maldigestion of foods they’re secretly sensitive to, there can be an overload of gases that need to be eliminated through the lungs.
- Sleep issues. Often related to blood sugar regulation issues or mineral deficiencies, sleep issues show up as trouble settling down in the evening, nightmares, and middle of the night wake-ups.
- Mood and behavior ups and downs. Neurotransmitters are made from protein and fat that we eat and properly digest. If your child is eating minimal protein or poor quality fats, they will have more mood and behavior swings. If they are eating mostly carbohydrate-based foods, they’ll have the added disadvantage of up and down blood sugar, which couples with up and down mood.
- Underweight. Picky eaters are twice as likely to be underweight than kids who’ve never been picky.
- Developmental delays. In the most severe cases of picky eating, those with only 5-10 foods eaten, it’s common to see delays in learning new words, age-appropriate social behavior, and slower reading and comprehension.
In my practice, each of these areas have turned around remarkably. Often, they’re not the reason the family came to see me, but a ‘side benefit’ of overcoming picky eating and getting the child to eat real, natural foods.
Interestingly, poor growth is not always associated with picky eating. The body’s wisdom prioritizes physical development at a basic level, and it’s often immunity, brain, or mood issues that are much more apparent. One example is how the body can substitute lead for calcium in bones without obvious damage at the time. Neurotransmitters and immune compounds that rely on specific fats, minerals, and antioxidants show more obvious signs of deficiency.
If picky eating has lasted for two or more years, your child is classified as a chronic picky eater. One or more of these picky eating side effects is likely present for your child already, and they tend to compound over time.
Overcoming picky eating isn’t going to be easy at first, but I can promise you it’s worth it. Not just for your own ease in meal preparation, but for the long-term health impacts it has on your child.
If you need detailed guidance to make dietary changes with your picky eater, my book From Mac and Cheese to Veggies, Please, walks you through exactly how to do it.