(US Department of Agriculture/Flickr)

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

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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Provincial COVID-19 data can now be used for B.C. to prepare for a second wave

In the past week, B.C. has seen a slight spike in daily test-positive case counts

‘Someone knows something’: a look into Vancouver Island missing persons with interactive map

There are more than three dozen people listed as missing throughout Vancouver Island

Commercial plaza proposed for Rocky Creek and Ludlow intersection

Town Council directed the application proceed for further consideration

Symphony pop-up concerts coming to Saltair

Only 40 tickets available so get them soon if you’re interested

South Wellington Elementary demolition not taking place next school year

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public School trustees vote against razing south-end school in 2020/21

B.C. records 62 new COVID-19 cases, two deaths since Friday

Province has just over 200 active cases

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

We’re asking you to lock arms with us, as we look to better days ahead

Port Alberni will have a salmon derby on Labour Day after all

Alberni Valley Tyee Club reveals ‘socially distanced’ derby only for Labour Day 2020

‘Trauma equals addiction’ – why some seek solace in illicit substances

Part 2: Many pushed into addiction by ‘toxic stress,’ says White Rock psychologist

Hotel rooms for B.C. homeless too hasty, NDP government told

Businesses forced out, but crime goes down, minister says

Suspicious fire quenched before reaching gunpowder in Nanaimo’s historic Bastion

Probe underway in basement blaze that erupted near where powder stored to fire signature cannons

Duncan model makes quarter finals in ‘Maxim’ magazine contest

Brandee Peart among top one per cent left in competition

Wage subsidy will be extended until December amid post-COVID reopening: Trudeau

Trudeau said the extension will ‘give greater certainty and support to businesses’

B.C. government prepares for COVID-19 economic recovery efforts

New measures after July consultation, Carole James says

Most Read