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

Children with ARFID avoid certain foods based on their appearance, brand, smell and texture

(US Department of Agriculture/Flickr)

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

Glacier Gymnastics big winner in annual grant funding

Columbia Basin Trust doled out $1.4 million in grants to the regional organizations

Procter working to reopen community bakery

The Procter Community Society is fundraising upwards of $100,000 for the project

Kaslo bus fueled by vegetable oil to begin service next month

Mountain Man Mike’s will run routes to Vancouver and eventually Edmonton

KAST receives $15,000 for inclusive programs at Nelson Tech Club

‘These programs will be a perfect introduction to using technology’

Nelson to send two musicians to provincial Festival of The Arts

Lucas Alexander and Nico Bucher will compete in Chilliwack later this month

‘Teams that win are tight’: B.C. Lions search for chemistry at training camp

The Lions added more than 50 new faces over the off-season, from coaching staff to key players

Growing wildfire prompts evacuation of High Level, Alta.

Chuckegg Creek fire has been burning for several day, but grew substantially Sunday

Top women’s hockey player Natalie Spooner coming to B.C.

Natalie Spooner special guest at annual Grindstone charity weekend in Kelowna

Take-home drug testing kits latest pilot to help curb B.C.’s overdose crisis

Researchers look to see if fentanyl testing could be a useful tool for those who use drugs alone

Facebook takes down anti-vaxxer page that used image of late Canadian girl

Facebook said that the social media company has disabled the anti-vaccination page

Search crews rescue kids, 6 and 7, stranded overnight on Coquitlam mountain

Father and two youngsters fall down a steep, treacherous cliff while hiking Burke Mountain

Raptors beat Bucks 118-112 in 2OT thriller

Leonard has 36 points as Toronto cuts Milwaukee’s series lead to 2-1

Rescue crews suspend search for Okanagan kayaker missing for three days

71-year-old Zygmunt Janiewicz was reported missing Friday

B.C. VIEWS: Reality of our plastic recycling routine exposed

Turns out dear old China wasn’t doing such a great job

Most Read