The incidence of conditions such as asthma and eczema has increased five-fold over the last 40 years. What and how we feed our children has also changed. A whopping 25% children in Australia and New Zealand are overweight or obese.
Allergies in babies and children are extremely common. Whether it is seasonal allergy or food allergy, these hyper-sensitivities indicate an imbalance in immune and digestive systems. Common allergic reactions include hay fever, hives, eczema, aversion to food, asthma attacks, and reactions to medications such as antibiotics, penicillin, and aspirin.
Allergies are an exaggerated response to things that are considered safe for most people but can be especially dangerous for babies and young children, Strategies to help prevent allergies are easy to apply, and you can never start too early.
Did you know that allergy prevention can start whilst pregnant?
Many allergies can be triggered in pregnancy, so it’s important to examine your diet, emotional health and response to stress. As a Pregnancy Naturopath, I can recommend probiotics specific to certain allergies that when commenced in the last trimester of pregnancy, have been proven to reduce the incidence of allergies in those who have a family history.
Key areas to consider when implementing preventive measures and addressing your child’s allergy symptoms include:
Not too much food too soon.
Avoid introducing your baby to too many different foods at once. Your baby needs time to develop a relationship with each food; too much at once may be overwhelming – so introduce one food at a time when starting solids. This article on when to introduce eggs to your baby is worth checking out.
Digestion begins in the mouth with chewing and secretion of important enzymes. Guidelines about feeding your baby solids state that you need to aim for your baby to be eating what you are eating by twelve months. That means they use their strong jaw, gums and eventually teeth to break down food. Don’t puree for too long. Teach your child to chew food until it is soft and mushy. This prevents the stomach from attempting to break down big pieces of food, which may lead to indigestion, colic, irritation and inflammation.
Choose organic produce where possible.
Exposure to chemicals such as pesticides can overwhelm your baby’s ‘new’ liver, which in turn makes the digestive and immune system work harder to try and remove them. This article about organic products for children in Australia is really useful.
Whole, fresh foods are preferred as prepackaged and processed foods are high in sugar and nasties. They produce more toxins in the body and are also harder to digest. Read labels/ask for ingredients when purchasing store bought food as most contain preservatives, colours, sweeteners, sugar, dairy, and nuts, which children often sensitive to. Remember if you can’t read an ingredient it’s usually a processed chemical, and also the more numbers the more potential for your child to react badly.
Teach your child to eat with awareness. Worrying and rushing are the enemies of digestive health. Eating quickly increases the amount of air and the size of food swallowed. This can lead to inadequate digestion and painful gas production. Don’t eat when stressed. Take the time to try and calm your older child down beforehand. Stress puts your child in a constant fight or flight mode which is very bad for digestion.
Touching, tasting and smelling food before eating prepares the body for digestion and improves the psychological relationship your child will have to food. Teaching your child to respond with a peaceful attitude when facing life experiences and to openly and appropriately express emotions is also important. On an emotional level, an allergy may indicate fearful thoughts your child is holding onto about life and the world.
Most conventional medicine products for allergies come with a list of potential adverse effects that are counterproductive to addressing the issue long-term, and often create new health challenges. Consider natural wellness options that strengthen your child’s immune and digestive system. 60% of the immune system is located within the stomach/gut. Incorporate the right digestive enzymes into your child’s conscious eating lifestyle, along with immune-boosting nutrients and essential oils. Don’t forget purified water is the elixir of life so don’t hold back.
As soon as you notice a food or environmental intolerance in your child, respond straight away. Your early response is the key to preventing the onset of life-altering allergies. After all, good food is the spice of life – not the enemy.
Got a question for The Pregnancy Naturopath? Call now to book an appointment or read more about naturopathy for pregnancy.