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

Pacific Northern Gas moves to reinstate full capacity and expand pipeline

Increased supply and demand could mean lower rates for North Coast customers, PNG says

CN train derailment cleared between Terrace and Prince Rupert

The CN mainline is now open, following a train derailment mid-way between… Continue reading

Kitimat’s BC Hydro substation receives a massive upgrade

It will cost $82 million to ensure that LNG Canada has enough… Continue reading

Comment requested for Kitimat LNG’s expansion plans

Company says radical redesign means additional export is possible

Haisla Nation Council appoints Stewart, Renwick

Two recently elected Haisla Nation councillors, Kevin Stewart and Arthur Renwick, have… Continue reading

VIDEO: Young couple found dead in northern B.C. had been shot, police say

Chynna Noelle Deese of the U.S. and Lucas Robertson Fowler of Australia were found along Highway 97

Family of missing B.C. senior with dementia frustrated with situation, heartened by community support

Nine days since Grace was last seen the question remains: ‘How can an 86-year-old just disappear?’

Unsealed record suggests U.S. man convicted of murdering Vancouver Island couple left DNA on zip tie in 1987

William Talbott is set to be sentenced Wednesday in the murders of Jay Cook and Tanya Van Cuylenborg

Surrey court clerk files human rights complaint related to concussion

Deborah A. Ryane claims her employer discriminated against her on basis of mental disability

Coast Tsimshian sign historic stewardship agreement

Lax Kw’alaams and Metlakatla plan to work as one to preserve traditional lands

Food fight: Liberals, Tories trade shots as pre-campaign battles intensify

Health Canada released an overhauled document that did away with traditional food groups and portion sizes

Okanagan Air Cadet challenges gender-exclusive haircut policy

Haircut regulation inspires challenge around gender identity

VIDEO: Bystander training gains traction as tool to prevent sexual harassment, violence

Julia Gartley was sexually assaulted after an event, and no one stepped in to help

Two brands of ice cream sandwiches recalled due to presence of metal

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency issued a recall on Iceberg and Originale Augustin brands

Most Read