Over the years I have worked with a number of children and teenagers with a strong aversion to many common foods. Medical science has recently created the name ARFID – Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder – to extreme cases of such an eating pattern.  TV1 in New Zealand recently aired a feature on Sunday that followed several teenagers with the ARFID challenge.

As time literally turns and we find ourselves well into the complexities of the 21st century we are seeing increasing numbers of complex health and wellbeing disorders.  By their very nature they are requiring us to explore the subtle levels of life – the finer details of our foodstuffs (such as preservatives and additives in the processed foods, and antibiotics in our meat) and the subtle but powerful influences of electro-magnetic frequencies, emotions and thoughts.  To address the extent of physical health and wellbeing issues in this modern age, we are having to dig deeper than we ever have before.

From those children and teens I have worked with who have this strong aversion to common foods, the aversion typically began around 2-3 years of age.  The children go from enjoying a broader range of food to the marked contrast of refusing to eat anything other than a select range of foods, typically soft white food such as bread and pasta.   High fibre foods such as fruits and vegetables suddenly fall off the food intake list.  Whether a coincidence or not, a significant number of the children were given formula as children either through necessity or parental choice.  

A healthy gut has a healthy relationship to food, as in the natural mechanisms of hunger and desire for food occurs automatically.  So when food intake suddenly becomes a problem for a child, the gut is no longer functioning naturally.  There are a number of supportive herbs that have a generalized healing action on the gut, for example aloe vera, chamomile and plantain which help to heal any inflammation or irritation through the gastro intestinal tract.  The children and young persons I have worked with have all been what I call ‘sensitive’ kids – that is, they feel things in a heightened way compared to others.  This means that they have a more pronounced ability to feel any irritation in their gut as well as picking up on the types of foods that can irritate the gut lining further.  Because fibre is naturally stimulating, a bit like a broom tickling your insides, it is desired and tolerated well by healthy insides.  However, because fibre is stimulating it can irritate already irritated tissue, which is why many of these children go off their fruit and vegetables even though they may have enjoyed them previously.  Heal the gut mucosa and fibrous foods become more appealing for most people. 

The other thing I believe is going on at a physical level is a degree of ‘leaky gut’ where the irritated gut mucosa (gut cells) lose their integrity.  The cells are no longer attached robustly to their neighbouring cells, creating a ‘leakiness’ that allows undigested food particles to pass through into the bloodstream.  This is not helpful as it can trigger the immune system and inflammation in other parts of the body.  Many of these undigested food particles can cross the blood-brain barrier too.  It is well documented that some foods such as the ‘white’ foods mentioned earlier have an opiate type effect when they cross the blood-brain barrier to give a sense of euphoria or wellbeing.  This ‘high’ can be addictive, in that people who experience it will gravitate to more of the foods that make them feel good. 

The gut is often referred to as the second brain.  A great many hormones that were once thought to be produced only in the brain, have been shown by science to be produced equally in the gut.  This includes the legitimate hormones that make us feel good such as serotonin.  (and which is why a healthy gut is important for everyone, no matter who you are).  Herbs that assist the healing of leaky gut tendencies go a long way to restoring a more normal digestive function.

Following on from the above paragraph, the other main aspect in my experience to pronounced food avoidance is the cellular consciousness of the cells in the gut and especially those of the small intestines.  The heightened sensitivity of those I have worked with in clinic extends not just at a physical level, but at a non-physical level also.  Some people are just more thinned skinned than others and with appropriate help this thin skinned sensitive nature can become the strength in a person’s life that it is ultimately intended to be.  But left without innate support in this complex world, ‘sensitives’ can pick up on the energies within the environment, whether that be loud noises, EMFs, and the emotions of others are just a few examples.  This can lead to a heightened sense of anxiety and which tends to be internalized or held within the physical body.  Most people are aware that they absorb their stress in a different part of their body to their partner or colleague for example.  My understanding is that those who become affected by anything similar to what has been coined ARFID tend to be people who absorb their stress specifically in their gut.  When this happens, the ‘anxious’ cells in the intestines are not in the restful state they need to be to facilitate digestion and assimilation.  Poor digestion or assimilation can exasperate any irritated tissue and cause obvious or subtle bloating.  While some people can be quite oblivious to gas in their intestines, these children can feel the discomfort in a heightened way.  This contributes to the aversion of food especially fibrous or complex foods.  While herbs are always my go-to to assist the physical health of the digestive system, I have great respect for the First Light Flower Essences of New Zealand®️to serve the mental and emotional component of these children including strengthening their thinned skinned nature so that it is an asset in their life.  The First Light®️essences are an extraordinary range of 144 plant vibrations from New Zealand that help to clear, balance and strengthen the holistic and subtle aspects of the human makeup, and have proved time and again an invaluable therapeutic tool in the lives of children who have gone off their food.  

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