Childhood Anxiety Has a Connection to Food Allergies

Living a life plagued by seasonal allergies can vary from not very fun to downright miserable. Living with a food allergy, on the other hand, is a whole other ball of wax—especially as a child. There are about 5.9 million American children who suffer from at least one food allergy, or about 1 in 13. Managing daily life is a difficult obstacle to maneuver, yet scientists are just now finding out just how much kids’ mental health is affected by their food-related maladies.

Researchers from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology, and Albert Einstein College of Medicine recently published a study in the Journal of Pediatrics on this specific mind-body connection. They studied 80 patients between the age of 4 and 12, both with and without food allergies. Among those children who did have a food allergy, 57 percent reported anxiety symptoms, while only 48 percent of the non-allergic children claimed the same. Depression rates for kids with and without food allergies was the same at 48 percent.

One notable factor to consider is that the children studied all belonged to a low socioeconomic group. Also, the researchers made sure that the data of any child with an asthma diagnosis (which can exacerbate anxiety and depression) did not confuse the results. The stress of having a food allergy combined with having fewer means available for care translates to a particularly difficult time for these families.

“Management of food allergy can be expensive both in terms of food shopping, meal preparation, and the cost of epinephrine auto-injectors, which expire annually,” lead author Renee Goodwin, PhD, told Science Daily. “These demands could result in higher levels of anxiety for those with fewer financial resources and further heighten anxiety symptoms in children and their caregivers.”

Being different as a kid and a younger adolescent can significantly affect a whole slew of mental health concerns. Increases in social pressure, humiliation, and rejection from peers can mean way more anxiety symptoms for a child with food allergies, when compared to their non-allergic peers. Now that the scientific community is aware that these links exist, early interventions can be developed to help youngsters who suffer from the social and psychological effects of managing a food allergy.

Luckily, having a food allergy does not mean complete alienation from society. There is a growing awareness in many communities about what food allergies are and how to be a good support to those who need it. And traveling with an allergy is easier today than it ever has been. Continued education and reassurance that the world is adjusting to accommodate more medical conditions is essential for all allergy sufferers, young and old.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

50 comments

heather g
heather g5 days ago

It's probably due to all the chemicals that are allowed in all foods...

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Carl R
Carl R14 days ago

Thanks!!!

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Margie F
Margie FOURIE14 days ago

I think it depends on the child, anxiety, allergies, etc.

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Barbara P
Barbara P15 days ago

I have no idea if I had anxiety as a kid, but I do have food sensitivities and allergies and gut health issues like there's no tomorrow, but I don't believe they had anything to do with my childhood, I believe lifestyle and food were the factors that caused it all. My allergies go away when my gut heath is good and they come back when my gut health is doing poorly.

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Clare O
Clare O'Beara15 days ago

I ate everything almost and got no allergies to food

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Mona M
Mona M15 days ago

Yes of course, our future generations are poisoned at all levels but that tragedy is also awakening people level of consciousness. Thanks for sharing.

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Rosslyn O
Rosslyn O15 days ago

Hippocrates was born on the island of Kos in Greece in 460BC. He is recognized as the founder of modern medicine and medical graduates around the world swear a Hippocratic Oath at their graduation to follow the ethical principles laid down by Hippocrates. His medicine today would be considered as “alternative” or “natural” medicine and its fundamental thesis was that “All disease begins in the gut”....I was just reading an article tonight "Food intolerance and allergies...Proteins are normally very flexible and can adapt their three-dimensional structures to fit a particular protease enzyme’s active cavity so that the protein can be digested. The fixed structure imposed by the proline makes it impossible for the usual protease
enzymes to digest proline-rich proteins and that includes the protease digestive enzymes in our bodies.".... It is an eye-opener that so many of us have this missing enzyme leading us to have a variety of food allergies and other medical problems.

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ERIKA S
ERIKA S15 days ago

noted

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Philippa P
Philippa P15 days ago

Thanks.

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Lenore K
Lenore K15 days ago

ok

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