Could Food Allergies Be Causing Your Child's Asthma?

Filed under: Nutrition: Health, Medical Conditions, Development/Milestones: Babies, Dear Karla

Dear Karla,
My 7-year-old son has asthma and my 3-year-old is starting to show some signs of breathing challenges. Is there anything I can do on a nutritional level to lessen their symptoms? Thanks, Carmen

Hi Carmen,
Asthma is a growing concern for many parents as it is currently on the rise. According to Statistics Canada, in 1978 just over two percent of children reported asthma and in 1996 that number jumped to just over 12 percent. This condition causes inflammation in the airways, which makes breathing challenging at times, and wheezing is a natural result.

A study published in 2009 revealed that children who spend more than two hours every day glued to the TV had a doubled risk of developing asthma. This report suggests that sedentary behaviour may link directly to breathing patterns in children, which correlates to the development of the lungs. More research is needed in this area, but it is certainly an interesting thought, considering the trend of inactivity that we see occurring throughout North America.

How does food factor in?
Food can also play a role in the increased rate of asthma in both adults and children. Some reports link food allergies as the direct cause of asthma, and if this is the case, then removal of the food item from your child's diet is the ideal answer. A good way to determine if a particular food is causing an asthma attack is to pay attention a few hours after the suspected food is eaten as that is when most food-induced asthma reactions occur.

With a higher dose of processed foods being served up on many family dinner tables, the body has become more burdened with toxic ingredients, which can lead to a greater inflammatory reaction. With foods in a box (or can, or jar) replacing fresh produce, it's safe to say that children today are not getting the same natural antioxidants from their diet as they did once upon a time. Antioxidants defend the body against free radicals (free radicals come from cooked food, processed food and refined carbohydrates), which are the source of irritation and inflammation in the body.

Here's how to decrease the incidence of food-related asthma attacks in your family:
  • Bump up the fresh fruits and vegetables in your child's diet (I suggest 80 percent raw and 20 percent lightly cooked).
  • Increase your family's intake of omega-3s. This "good fat" acts as a natural anti-inflammatory, which helps calm asthma symptoms during the year (Note: It should be avoided if there is a suspected allergy).
  • Increase magnesium intake. Magnesium is found in food sources like spinach, beans, peas, nuts and seeds, and keeps the immune system strong and muscles relaxed.
Karla Heintz (BSc) is a nutrition educator and author of Picky? Not Me, Mom! A Parents' Guide to Children's Nutrition. She has worked with families and athletes for over 10 years and helps parents find ways to make healthier choices in their daily lives. If you have a question that you would like answered, please leave them in the comments below. Thanks!

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.