Eczema, asthma, and allergies are among the most common childhood health concerns in pediatric care. What do these conditions have in common? They are all considered hypersensitive conditions characterized by some form of inflammatory reaction in the body. For example, eczema is a hypersensitive skin reaction; asthma is a hypersensitivity of bronchial airways; and allergies are hypersensitivities of the immune system.
A Common Thread for Common Concerns
Instead of seeing these conditions as separate entities, research has shown the role of childhood food and environmental sensitivities as the common thread linking this triad of health concerns. With inadequate nutrients in our modern food supply and more chemicals, food additives and stress in the environment, children may not be able to process these foods and environmental substances properly, consequently becoming hypersensitive to them and resulting in developing eczema, asthma and allergies. It is interesting to note that when these factors are present during pregnancy, there is an increased incidence of these conditions arising even earlier in the newborn’s development.
Regulating the Inflammatory Response
Regulation of the inflammatory pathways is a key component in treating eczema, asthma and allergies. Identification of foods and chemicals in the environment that may increase the inflammatory response in the body is important. Foods that may increase inflammation when consumed in excess include dairy products, sugar, wheat, red meats, peanuts and nightshade family vegetables such as bell peppers and egg plants. Food additives such as MSG (monosodium glutamate), nitrites, sulfites and food colouring are also common triggers of inflammation. Other chemical culprits in the environment may include synthetic laundry and house cleaning products and pesticides. Specific food and environmental sensitivity tests may be done to identify reactions particular to the child. Once these aggravating factors are recognized and eliminated, the body will have the opportunity to rebalance itself. During this process, it is critical to replenish any depleted vitamins and minerals and provide the body with additional nutrients that aid in re-establishing proper— rather than hyper—immune responses.
Clinical Nutrients in Pregnancy and Childhood Some of the most common nutrient deficiencies associated with this triad of conditions include B-vitamins, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids and probiotics. In fact, studies have shown that supplementing omega-3 fish oils and probiotics during pregnancy decreases the incidence of eczema, asthma and allergies in the newborn—and the benefit of supplementing children with these basic nutrients continue through childhood. Recommendations relating to requirements and dosages should be supervised by your naturopathic doctor or healthcare provider.
The common thread behind the triad of eczema, asthma and allergies in children is an underlying hyper reaction of the body. Minimizing factors that contribute to this hyperreaction and regulating the immune response while providing the proper nutrients will reduce the incidences of these hypersensitive conditions in children, putting them on the path to wellness.
Dr. Charlene Chan is a naturopathic physician and codirector of Ray Clinic. Dr. Chan has a general naturopathic practice with additional experience in fertility, pregnancy, pediatrics, and food and environmental sensitivities. www.rayclinic.ca.