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Dear Candy Q & A: Retraining with Children

Q: I was born with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS) which I now understand is a limbic condition and have had food and chemical sensitivities since I was a baby. My two nephews have also had limbic ITs since birth. Can you explain how you can be born with limbic ITs yet your limbic system isn't fully developed yet as a baby and toddler?

A: It isn't entirely clear how limbic system issues get passed on from one generation to the next. Much like intergenerational trauma, it likely has to do with how the expression of genes are passed down. As we know from epigenetics, changes in the expression of genes can occur due to behavioural and environmental factors. These changes of expression can be inherited by the next generation as their default expression. Other factors, such as stress levels experienced in utero, also likely play a role, and there may be other mechanisms of action too that are not yet understood.

Q: I would love to hear if you have any suggestions for how to regulate a child's nervous system. Especially toddlers and babies if that is possible.

A: First and foremost the best way to help young children regulate their nervous systems is to regulate your own, especially if you are the primary caregiver or a regular active participant in the child's life. Young children's nervous systems are not fully developed and they rely heavily on the adults around them to help regulate. We can also model self-regulation strategies and as children get a little older we can teach them some self-regulation tools. Teach children to pause and take a breath when they are getting wound up. Teach them to notice the signs that they are becoming dysregulated, so that they learn to eventually intervene on their own. Basically, you are acting like their curious observer and active redirector of their limbic systems until they able to do it for themselves. I also highly recommend using guided meditation and relaxation practices that are designed for children, on a regular basis. This helps their system to build resilience, along with all the other benefits meditation has to offer.

Q: Do you have any suggestions for how to help babies and toddlers with food sensitivities?

A: Incremental training, by giving very small amounts of the food, combined with elevated emotional experiences, can be useful. We accomplish this by positively interacting with the child during and immediately after they eat. Work with one food at a time. Additionally, it is very important that the adult working with the child has addressed their own fears, concerns, and automatic negative thoughts regarding the child's food sensitivities before doing this with them. Since children are very sensitive and rely on the adults around them to help them regulate, a dysregulated adult will affect the outcome. If an adult is unable to step into this role, consider choosing another person (adult or older child) who doesn't have the same baggage and is able to stay fully present, calm, and emotionally elevated with the child while engaging in this process. Belief in the child's ability to overcome the sensitivities is also important.

My son developed severe food allergies after one of his infant vaccinations. I worked with a naturopathic doctor who told me that he could, and likely would, outgrow all of the allergies. We removed everything from his diet to which he was reacting, and started adding small amounts back in one at a time. This was before I knew about brain retraining and the limbic system, but I believed in what the naturopath said and we made eating the foods a positive experience. Within six months he no longer had any allergies. While it could be argued that this example is not the same as coming into this world with the genetic expression of allergies already present, it could also be said that this is an example of epigenetics both in how the allergies developed in the first place and then in how they were resolved. It doesn't matter how long the genes have been expressing in a particular way. That expression is still changeable, and we can use our brain retraining tools and understanding to make it happen.

Until next time!

If you have a question, please email me at


Candy Widdifield is Registered Clinical Counsellor, Wellness Coach, and Registered Reiki Master Teacher in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. She works with people all over the world, helping them to optimize their wellbeing and thrive in their lives. Her modalities include coaching, therapy, Reiki and the Safe & Sound Protocol. More information about Candy can be found at


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