Ever Wonder If Your Toddler Has a Food Intolerance?

Oliver refused to eat and was a “terrible sleeper.”

At GetzWell, we’ve seen astounding results with nutrition counseling and elimination diets. In this post I’ll explain how we were able to help a toddler named Oliver and his parents dramatically improve his health and their whole family’s well-being.

Oliver’s parents came to GetzWell because the quality of their family life had significantly deteriorated in the prior few months and they were very concerned about his lack of interest in food and failure to gain weight. 

Oliver was almost 18 months old when we met him and his parents had become increasingly worried as they watched him drop from the 70th weight percentile to the 20th. Most of the time Oliver refused to eat — he was angry and cried at mealtimes. Feeding him took a lot of time through the day as his parents, nanny and grandmother deployed every distraction they could think of: toys, games, books, stories and finally, screens. Oliver would typically accept about three bites of food and anything after that involved shoveling food in his mouth during brief moments he was distracted. He wasn’t interested in feeding himself unless he was offered sugary processed snacks. This pattern was familiar to us as many families have described it when their little ones don’t seem to want to eat.

Oliver also had a lot of trouble falling and staying asleep at night. Often when he would awaken he cried for milk and because he was a poor eater, his parents routinely gave in. In addition, Oliver was frequently crabby, although he was very active and meeting appropriate developmental milestones.

When we met Oliver’s family everyone was sleep deprived and moody, meals required hours every day, he was frequently difficult to console and wasn’t growing well. His parents were really worried — and they hadn’t been getting answers. Their previous pediatrician reassured them that Oliver’s bad moods were developmental and instructed them to do hard-core sleep training as a fix for his frequent night wakings. 

This advice didn’t resonate with them, however, so following her mother’s instinct, Oliver’s mom went on a mission to find a pediatrician who could uncover the root causes of Oliver’s sleep challenges, eating issues and less than cheerful demeanor. 

Oliver also had stinky poop.

Oliver’s bowel movements were loose and foul-smelling. They also contained undigested food.. Every time he pooped there was an unpleasant mess to clean up, and this was quite different from their experience with Oliver’s older brother at that age. 

At GetzWell, we take seriously stool quality and frequency because it tells us so much about what’s going on in a patient’s intestinal tract. It’s not normal for a 15 month old to have foul-smelling diarrhea on a regular basis, so we knew something was definitely going on gut-wise for this little guy.

Our advice for Oliver’s parents.

Our prescription was proactive and straightforward:

  • Limit meals to 20 minutes in the high chair — not longer
  • Eliminate all gluten, dairy, and soy from his meals (which are the “king, queen and prince” of food sensitivities) for 8-12 weeks
  • Don’t chase him around or distract him to try to get more food into him
  • Focus on nutrient dense foods (i.e. eggs, vegetables, stews, soups, etc.)

We provided the framework and resources for this elimination diet as well as support for making the necessary dietary changes. Then, we waited to see what would happen.

“Life-altering” results!

Even though Oliver’s parents received criticism and discouragement from family and friends–including another pediatrician–regarding the advice we gave them, they forged ahead and stuck with the plan. And, importantly, they quickly saw dramatic improvements in their son. 

Within a few weeks of implementation of our advice, Oliver’s mother told us what they experienced as a family was “life-altering.” He was eating meals in 30 minutes or less and gaining weight and was a much happier toddler. Additionally, he was finally falling asleep easily and staying asleep through the night. The quality of his poop had improved dramatically, too. When Oliver’s parents began to systematically reintroduce the foods they had eliminated (after an appropriate period of elimination), they quickly determined that gluten continued to be problematic. Gluten-containing food caused Oliver to become upset, refuse to eat subsequent meals and his diarrhea returned. Once he was exposed to gluten it took about 4-5 days for these symptoms to resolve after again removing gluten from his diet. Oliver’s parents have reported that his symptoms remain at bay as long as they follow strict gluten elimination.

How do you know if it’s a food sensitivity?

Are you worried your child has an intolerance or sensitivity to certain foods? Food sensitivities can manifest in a variety of ways and in very young children there may just be a lot of crying and challenging behaviors. When your toddler refuses to eat, how do you know if he is going through a developmental phase or if it’s related to something else? It can be tricky for a parent or caretaker to discern the source of all the tears and difficult behavior. 

At GetzWell, we are experts at getting to the root of the problem. Give us a call — we’d love to help you figure it out!

Want to know more?

We are committed to providing the best pediatric care in the Bay Area. If you want to learn more about our practice, please contact us.