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How Do Food Intolerances Impact Kid’s Digestion?

Published May 29, 2024

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Food intolerances can significantly affect kids' digestive health, leading to discomfort and other related symptoms. Understanding how food intolerances impact digestion is crucial for parents to help their little ones maintain a healthy and comfortable gastrointestinal system. In this blog, we’ll review the effects of food intolerances on kids' digestion and how parents can manage symptoms in their little ones. 

What are Food Intolerances?

Food intolerances occur when the body has difficulty digesting certain foods, leading to digestive discomfort and other symptoms. Unlike food allergies, which involve the immune system, food intolerances typically involve the digestive system's inability to properly break down certain components of food.

Common Types of Food Intolerances

  1. Lactose Intolerance: Lactose intolerance is one of the most common food intolerances among kids. It occurs due to the insufficient production of lactase, the enzyme needed to digest lactose, the sugar found in milk and dairy products. According to theNational Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), approximately 65% of the world's population has some degree of lactose intolerance.

  2. Gluten Intolerance: Gluten intolerance, also known as non-celiac gluten sensitivity, affects the ability to digest gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. Research fromGastroenterology and Hepatology suggests that up to 6% of the global population may have non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

  3. Fructose Intolerance: Fructose intolerance occurs when the body has difficulty digesting fructose, a sugar found in fruits, honey, and high-fructose corn syrup. According to a study inNutrients, approximately 30% of kids with functional gastrointestinal disorders may have fructose intolerance.

Impact of Food Intolerances on Digestion

  1. Digestive Discomfort: Food intolerances can cause a range of digestive symptoms, including bloating, gas, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and constipation. A study published inGut found that individuals with food intolerances experience more frequent and severe gastrointestinal symptoms compared to those without intolerances.

  2. Nutritional Deficiencies: Continued consumption of foods that trigger intolerances can lead to nutrient deficiencies, as the body may not absorb nutrients properly due to ongoing digestive issues. Research from theJournal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition suggests that kids with food intolerances may be at a higher risk of nutrient deficiencies, particularly if they avoid certain food groups.

  3. Impact on Growth and Development: Persistent digestive discomfort and nutritional deficiencies can impact kids' growth and development. A study inPediatrics highlighted that kids with food intolerances may experience slower growth rates and delayed puberty compared to their peers.

  4. Quality of Life: Food intolerances can affect kids' quality of life, leading to discomfort, embarrassment, and social limitations. Research in theJournal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice emphasized the psychosocial impact of food intolerances on kids, including anxiety and reduced participation in social activities.

Managing Food Intolerances in Kids

Managing food intolerances in kids involves identifying trigger foods and making dietary modifications. Working with a healthcare provider, such as a pediatrician or registered dietitian, can help develop a personalized management plan tailored to the child's needs. This plan may include eliminating trigger foods, using digestive enzyme supplements, and ensuring adequate nutrient intake through alternative sources.


Food intolerances can have a significant impact on kids' digestion, leading to digestive discomfort, nutritional deficiencies, and impaired quality of life. By identifying trigger foods and implementing appropriate management strategies, parents can help their kiddos manage food intolerances and enjoy better digestive well-being.


  1. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK): "Lactose Intolerance" (2020)
  2. Gastroenterology and Hepatology: "Non-celiac Gluten Sensitivity" (2015)
  3. Nutrients: "Fructose Intolerance in Children with Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders" (2018)
  4. Gut: "Gastrointestinal Symptoms in Patients with Self-Reported Food Hypersensitivity" (2019)
  5. Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition: "Nutritional Considerations in Pediatric Food Allergy and Intolerance" (2018)
  6. Pediatrics: "Growth and Development in Children with Food Allergies and Food Intolerances" (2017)
  7. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice: "Psychosocial Impact of Food Allergy and Food Intolerance in Children" (2019)