Picky eater or health problem? B.C. doctor talks about an unfamiliar disorder

  • Feb. 6, 2019 1:50 p.m.

For some children at the dinner table, it’s simply a matter of picky eating, but for others, it may be a legitimate eating disorder that brings anxiety, extreme weight loss and malnutrition.

To mark Eating Disorder Awareness Week, BC Children’s Hospital is focusing on a relatively unknown condition that only became a recognized diagnosis in 2013: avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder, also known as ARFID.

Dr. Jennifer Coelho, a psychologist at the Vancouver-based hospital, told Black Press Media that in its most serious form, the disorder can cause extreme iron deficiency and gastrointestinal and psychological problems.

“It’s really not picky eating. It’s quite normal for young children to have foods they avoid or not have preference for,” Coelho said.

“It’s different than other eating disorders. [These] kids don’t have issues with how they look, like how those with anorexia or bulimia nervosa may have.”

Children and youth with ARFID will avoid certain foods based on the appearance, brand, smell and texture.

Some children may also become extremely worried about eating outside of their normal routine, like on holidays or at a friend’s house.

“For example, if somebody has an allergic reaction, or gets sick and has a vomiting episode, they become very worried about eating,” Coelho said.

Before being designated as a disorder, most children who were struggling would be diagnosed as having an “eating disorder not otherwise specified.”

READ MORE: ‘Love you to life’: B.C. family shares desperate fight to save teen with eating disorder

READ MORE: Victoria woman shares her painful experience with opioid addiction

Since BC Children’s Hospital started a program five years go, she’s seen children of all ages take part in treatment, some as old as 18 years. The disorder can manifest in adults, too, but is more commonly found in children.

Exactly how many children on average suffer from ARFID in B.C., or Canada, isn’t known at this time. A 2014 study out of Penn State University found that 20 per cent of youth admitted to a day treatment program for eating disorders had similar symptoms of this particular disorder.

“There is some confusion in the community here – people who haven’t heard of it because it is so new,” Coelho said.

A first-of-its-kind treatment manual was created and released in 2018, which Coelho said will help doctors better understand the symptoms of ARFID, and the therapy needed to treat it.

BC Children’s Hospital has also been approved through a grant to survey doctors across the province to identify any knowledge gaps around understanding the disorder.

For parents concerned their child may be more than a picky eater, Coelho said important symptoms to look out for include a child failing to gain weight, nutritional deficiencies, or a struggle with eating interfering with their day-to-day. If there is any concern, she urged parents to visit their pediatrician or family doctor.


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Parksville artist aims to produce zero waste with creations, business

Margie Preninger even dabbled with dryer lint year ago

RDN dealing with high interest in backyard cannabis production

New policy proposed to address challenges with Health Canada licences

Vancouver measles outbreak prompts vaccine vigilance on Island

No cases here yet, but Island health authorities push measles vaccinations - and not just for kids

Oceanside RCMP members take the plunge for Special Olympics

Some members of the Oceanside RCMP detachments took the plunge freezing waters… Continue reading

Jeep bursts into flames on highway near Nanoose Bay

Emergency crews responded to blaze at approximately 9:15 a.m. on Tuesday

VIDEO: Massive elk herd runs across Washington State highway

Elk have been making an appearance in the Pacific Northwest

BREAKING: Woman, off-duty cop stabbed outside B.C. elementary school

The officer was interceding in an alleged assault when he and the woman were stabbed

$10-a-day child care not in 2019 budget, but advocate not irked

Sharon Gregson with the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of B.C. says NDP on track to deliver promise

Winter storm freezes U.S., halts air travel

Storm dumps snow or heavy rain, snarls travel in much of U.S.

Gwyneth Paltrow: Skier sued me to exploit my fame, wealth

The incident happened in Deer Valley Resort in Park City, Utah

B.C. Seniors Advocate questions labour shortage in care homes

Are there really no workers, or are care aide wages too low?

B.C. business groups worry about looming economic decline in wake of NDP budget

The party’s second government budget focused on plenty of spending, business advocates say

Missing Surrey snowshoer caught in avalanche found dead on Vancouver mountain

North Shore Rescue resumed its search today after efforts were temporarily halted Tuesday due to snowstorm

Man injured in police shooting near Nelson has died: B.C. police watchdog

The death follows an incident in Bonnington on Feb. 13

Most Read