Some medical conditions’ treatment is a food-restricted diet – sometimes it is the only treatment. This means that specific food/s must be eliminated from one’s diet. Sometimes any exposure to the offending food/s – even a tiny crumb accidentally transferred by someone’s hands or a cooking utensil – can cause serious illness or even death.
People following medically required food-restricted diets are oftentimes isolated, excluded from social events and bullied at school. To avoid the anxiety of potential risk they may avoid eating food away from the safety of their home, or even skip events all together.
Most of the research has been conducted on people with food allergy, but we can extrapolate the findings and apply them to other groups who also follow medically required food restricted diets.
- – 1/3 of children with food allergies are bullied because of them[i]
- – Children bullied because of food allergies report higher anxiety and lower quality of life[ii]
- – Parents were unaware that their child was bullied 50% of the time[iii]
- – Schools should make plans that reduce bullying and social isolation and promote acceptance and understanding for children with food allergies.[iv]
- – Living with celiac disease leads to lower social identities and how others behave toward them[v]
Who is affected?
There are many medical disorders or diseases that necessitate people follow a food-restricted diet. Some of them are listed below.
- – Food allergy
- – Celiac disease
- – Eosinophilic Disorders
- – Irritable Bowel Disease/Crohn’s Disease
- – Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- – Metabolic Disorders
- – Diabetes
- – Up to 15 million Americans have food allergies
- – One in 13 children under the age of 18 (5.9 million) have a life-threatening food allergy
- – The top 8 food allergies are: Peanuts, tree nuts, milk, soy, fish, shellfish, egg and wheat
- – People can be allergic to any food – not just the most common ones
- – Strict avoidance is the only treatment for food allergy
- – Exposure to an offending food may result in anaphylactic shock. This is when more than one body system reacts causing a drop of blood pressure, narrowing of airways, difficulty breathing. Without emergency treatment it may be fatal.
- – One percent of the population (3 million people) has celiac disease
- – The only treatment for celiac disease is a gluten-free diet: strict avoidance of gluten, the protein in wheat, barley and rye
- – Ingesting gluten leads to various uncomfortable symptoms and illness and internal damage to the gastrointestinal tract.
[i] Shemesh, E, et al (2013.) Pediatrics;131:1.
[iv] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Voluntary Guidelines for Managing Food Allergies in Schools and Early Care and Education Programs. Washington, DC: US Department of Health and Human Services; 2013.
[v] Rose C. & Howard R. (2013) Living with coeliac disease: a grounded theory study. J Hum Nutr Diet.27, 30–40 doi:10.1111/jhn.12062