Book review (& giveaway):
a nutritionist connects the dots between food & childhood ailments.

July 6, 2011 · 47 comments

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As the mom of an allergic child, I have long been frustrated with what seems to be a gaping hole in pediatric medical care: the connection of food to illness. While most any doctor will tell you a child needs to have a “balanced diet” to remain healthy, that’s where the causal relationship typically ends in conversations at the doctor’s office.

For instance, when my infant son had severe eczema, I had to repeatedly (even forcefully) ask for a referral to a pediatric allergist for testing. Our doctor just kept saying that it was “dry skin” — that we needed to find the right lotions, bathe him less often, bathe him more often, change laundry detergents. But in my gut I knew it was food.

And there are other illnesses and/or disorders that many parents find improve by a change in diet: everything from autism to chronic ear infections. But the unfortunate truth is that much of this dietary knowledge comes primarily from online communities, obsessive research, and independent observation — not from the traditional medical community. Which leaves many parents feeling like they are going rogue with their children’s healthcare.

I was cautiously optimistic when offered a review copy of a new book by licensed dietician Kelly Dorfman, What’s Eating Your Child? The Hidden Connections Between Food and Childhood Ailments. If a licensed nutrition specialist was writing a book about this, I wanted to read it. Could this finally be a mainstream publication addressing the connection between diet and sick children?

Indeed it is. This book is an important step in the right direction — if for no other reason than it’s written (and well-documented!) by a professional in a scientific field — with a forward by a pediatric allergy specialist. These MDs, LNDs, and MSs give credibility to a topic that often gets pidgeon-holed into a category of psychosomatics and granolas, ripe with pejoratives.

Medical credibility or no, the most important thing the book does is empower the parent. She encourages parents to become “nutrition detectives,” becoming keen observers, note-takers, scientists on behalf of their child. Many of her own clients end up in her office as a last-resort — they have seen every doctor, specialist, psychiatrist (yes, food can be a culprit in behavioral disorders) for their problem and have nowhere else to turn. They have been given Rxs for everything from reflux to ADHD, but their gut tells them to keep searching before handing their kids the drugs (or they’ve used the drugs, with no improvement).

It might seem like a large task — and sometimes it is. But the book goes a long way to get a parent started. Each chapter details a different case study, along with her thought process during treatment and the end result. Does your child have no appetite? It could be a zinc deficiency. Does your child have reflux? Dairy is often the culprit. Does your child have bumpy skin (otherwise known as “chicken skin”)? It could be a deficiency in EFAs (essential fatty acids).  From chronic ear infections to high anxiety to constipation, the cases are covered. The book addresses picky eaters, too — limited diet is often a sign of allergy (but even if no allergy is present, the book offers practical ways to broaden your child’s diet).

The book gets a little long, and many readers might choose to skip chapters that do not relate to their child. But there is information to be gained in each chapter — nutritional information is given in such a way that it is generally helpful — not just in feeding our children but in feeding ourselves. I was happy to read that the author addresses pesticides as potential allergens, admits that popping supplements is not always a magic pill solution, and paints a true and demonizing picture of HFCS and sugar.

My major criticism of the book is that, while full of the usual disclaimers, it can give the impression that finding solutions to some of these problems is easy — like the mystery flick where, once solved at the end, seemed to be obvious all along. But most of us don’t have 20 years experience in the field of nutrition, two decades of gathering clues. We are simply busy parents who are trying to help our children while keeping our heads above water — and elimination diets are not easy, especially with children who have been eating the same way for years. I also wish the solutions didn’t rely so heavily on supplements rather than dietary change — but I understand that that is often the fastest, easiest way to get necessary nutrients into deficient little bodies.

That being said, I would recommend the book (and have already, more than once!) to any parent who seemed concerned about his child’s health, and is looking for solutions beyond medications that simply treat symptoms. The book can get a parent into the right frame of mind, and give her a starting place on the road to solution. Which hopefully, in the very near future, will by default include a nutrition-detective pediatrician as well.



**UPDATE: This giveaway is now closed. Congrats to Gina, of comment #27, who “hated squash and chinese food, and still doesn’t like slimy foods.” Thanks to everyone who entered, followed, tweeted, updated, and shared their most-hated foods as a child.

If you are interested in winning a copy of What’s Eating Your Child, you have three ways to enter (each person can have a maximum of 3 entries):

  1. Leave a comment below, telling me the one food you most hated as a child.
  2. Tweet this giveaway. You might write “Hoping to win Kelly Dorfman’s *What’s Eating Your Child*– a book giveaway from @katyshecooks:”
    Leave a link to the tweet in a separate comment below.
  3. “Like” me on Facebook. If you already “like” me, you can post a link to this giveaway in a status update. Tell me which you did in a separate comment below.

You can enter anytime between now and Monday, July 11, at 8:59pm EST. A winner will be selected from the entries, using I will email the winner on Tuesday (make sure your email address is correct when leaving a comment) to get a shipping address — the winner has three days to respond, or the world might end (and another winner will be chosen).

Fine print: Other than the free review copy of the book, I received no compensation for hosting this giveaway.


I linked this post up to Simple Lives Thursday, at GNOWFGLINS — a great blog resource for natural solutions to myriad household challenges, in the kitchen and elsewhere.







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