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Preventing Childhood Allergies

What is responsible for the rising prevalence of atopic diseases such as food allergies, asthma, hay fever, and eczema?

December 30, 2011 |
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Acknowledgements

Images thanks to Care SMC.

Transcript

The prevalence of so-called atopic diseasesfood allergies, asthma, hay fever, and eczema—appears to be increasing year by year around the world. Doubling, tripling, even quadrupling. Here’s asthma rates over the years. Here’s hospitalizations for food allergies among American children over just a few years. What’s going on?

Well, we had a little new insight last year. Eczema, atopic dermatitis is a red itchy bumpy rash that can develop into thick scaly or leathery lesions.

Researchers in Japan wondered if the westernization of the Japanese diet could account for the dramatic rise in incidence. In the first study of its kind, they found that higher maternal intake of meat during pregnancy was significantly associated with an increased risk of both suspected and physician-diagnosed eczema. They suggest that certain components of meat may affect the fetal immune system. They thought maybe it was the saturated fat, but that didn’t pan out. Maybe it’s the cooked meat carcinogens?

Bottomline - they don’t know what it could be about the meat.

They were surprised that fish did not reduce the incidence of the disease given the anti-inflammatory nature of the long-chain omega 3 fatty acids. They suggest maybe it’s the mercury and dioxins that are accumulated in fish that might be counteracting the omega-3 advantages.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by MaryAnn Allison.

To help out on the site please email volunteer@nutritionfacts.org

Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. Check out the other videos which address allergies and immune function.  And there are 1,449 subjects covered in the rest of my videos–please feel free to explore them!

For some more context, see my blog posts: Plant-based Benefits Extend Beyond the Top KillersProtecting Our Babies From PollutantsPlant-Based Diets for PsoriasisSchoolchildren Should Drink More Water, and Mushrooms and Immunity

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/mgreger/ Michael Greger M.D.

    Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. Check out the other videos which address allergies and immune function. And there are 1,449 subjects covered in the rest of my videos–please feel free to explore them!

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/jcchavez/ jcchavez

    I’ve been vegan for nearly 8 years yet my 9-month old recently had an allergic reaction  even though we hadn’t given him any new food (he got all-over skin spots for 3 days). Only possible culprit I can identify is gelatin I just discovered in some darn Gerber baby food I had mistakenly thought was vegan. Separately he got rough skin patches that may be very mild eczema. Any studies linking gelatin in particular to either condition? I’m so disappointed this is happening.

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/thea/ Thea

      jcchavez: I’m so sorry to hear about your 9-month old. I hope he has a full recovery.

      I don’t know if you keep on top of watching each daily video, so I thought I would point you to today’s video:
      http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/throw-household-products-off-the-scent/
      This video talks about certain household products like cleaning products that can potentially cause allergies (or cancer?). So, maybe your baby’s problems can be traced to non-food sources. I don’t know of course. I’m just giving you another avenue of research.

      Good luck!

    • Jen

      HI we have had a similar issue trying to get to the root cause of my son’s eczema which seemed to flare up and disappear without any cause. I put him on a vegan version of “the eczema diet” (the authors provide options). He followed a simple starch based diet with limited fruit and vegetables for a short time. His skin cleared within 3 days, after a week of clear skin we started reintroducing foods one at a time. Oranges, corn and raspberries were all triggers for him. Once we had simplified his diet we could clearly see what happened as we reintroduced him to his normal diet one food at a time. When he had a slice of orange we saw a hot, red rash within 2 hours. Raspberries resulted in a face rash within 20 minutes.

      It was well worth it for us to find out those few triggers which could actually be a nice healthy food.

      The author of the book also mentions that there is good news – which is that people do often seem to grow out of some of these sensitivities and after healing the skin you may be able to reintroduce some of these foods without an issue in the future.

      We do try to provide organic foods but that doesn’t seem to be a major factor in comparison to him having these actual trigger foods. Other recommendations I’ve come across include checking your cleaning solutions, especially soaps, clothes washing and dishwashing detergents. (Our dishwashing detergent was a lovely natural organic product that contained citrus so we had to swap because citrus was a strong trigger for him. We also invested in a humidifier as we personally live in a very air conditioned environment but again this wasn’t a major factor in our case and doesn’t improve his skin but may be helpful for some people.

      Good luck with your efforts.

      • Jen

        Oh I forgot to say that if he is still breastfeeding then what mum eats can also be a major factor so while he might not have had new foods if mum did then so did he.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/berryman/ Berryman

    I’d be interested in your opinion of this study I found online at http://www.finola.com/FinolaOilandAtopy.pdf. This is regarding hempseed oil, not necessarily for children but for adults with eczema. Have you seen other studies looking at hempseed oil and eczema? Is it ok to take so much oil every day for a month?

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/mgreger/ Michael Greger M.D.

      I was surprised to find so few articles published in the human medical literature on hempseeds, but maybe I shouldn’t be given the lack of much of an industry lobby and the stigma attached to the plant. Only 4 popped up in a pubmed search (excluding articles written by a “Dr. Ian D. Hempseed.”). The latest (available full-text) was a double-blind placebo-controlled comparison of fish, flax and hempseed oil supplementation that lasted 3 months and found no significant effects of any of them on lipid profile, LDL oxidation or measures of inflammation. This result is similar to what was found in my video Is Distilled Fish Oil Toxin-Free? Before that a study comparing daily tablespoons of flaxseed to hempseed oil similarly didn’t find much effect. The third was the study you cited, which found that 2 daily tablespoons of hempseed oil improved atopic dermatitis (an itchy skin rash) better than the same amount of olive oil. The researchers suggest it may be because of the gamma linoleic acid content of hempseeds, an omega 6 fatty acid that paradoxically appears to have an overall anti-inflammatory effect. Instead of downing the oil, as always I’d suggest eating the whole food–hempseeds–directly (same with flaxseeds, see my video Just the Flax Ma’am). And the final study, “Anaphylaxis to ingestion of hempseed” soundly debunks the wikipedia claim that “In fact, there are no known allergies to hemp foods.”

  • Vera Springate

    Based on comment in this video fish isn’t safe to consume because it comes with mercury, toxins and what not.  Does this pertain to both farmed and wild fish of any kind?  F.e. Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch site says Alaskan wild salmon is “OK” to eat…  Is it not OK?

    • DrDons

       I would not eat fish or shellfish. Of course some fish contain less mercury, arsenic, dioxins, pesticides, endocrine disrupters than others but they all contain cholesterol and saturated fat. Even the Alaskan Salmon contain contaminants… remember everything that we flush or dump into our rivers ends up in the oceans where it circulates. As a physician if I recommend supplemental EPA/DHA to a patient I always recommend a plant based option see http://nutritionfacts.org/video/algae-based-dha-vs-flax-2/ (Algae-Based DHA vs. Flax). In addition to improved human health the health of our oceans ecosystems also benefit from a reduction in the number of fish caught and of course the fish appreciate it.

  • Maguccichild

    What is the best nutritional way to combat eczema, in children?  

  • Jesse

    take out all dairy if youre consuming it and have eczema.

  • carol

    Other than being vegan, how do I avoid sinus, upper respiratory infections and pneuomenia?

  • Johanna

    I love your daily videos and look forward to them each day.
    Thank you for the work you do.

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/ Michael Greger M.D.

      Thank you so much for your kind words. So glad I can help!

  • Krissy

    Do you have information on adult environmental (trees, grass, etc.) allergy relief/prevention?