In the last 50 years, the prevalence of immune disorders such as allergic asthma, hayfever, sinusitis, bronchitis and atopic dermatitis has significantly increased in the developed world. Allergic diseases are ranked FIRST among the causes of chronic disease in children in Westernised societies.
Many things in our environment can cause an allergic reaction, such as dust mites, pollen and grasses. As a practitioner of natural medicine, in today’s society I am seeing more and more that a common culprit is diet-related, and can really be affecting your child’s short-term and long-term health. This is not always due to an actual allergy, but possibly an intolerance.
Because babies and young children’s immune systems are underdeveloped, they can be prone to allergies, and children can be more vulnerable to intolerances due to having a higher dose of food stuffs/chemicals than they can cope with for their weight.
When assessing a child’s immune system, it is essential to take into account their gut function, as this is their “first line of defense” against the world. It has been reported that allergic infants have less beneficial bacteria in their gut, which reduces their ability to ward off such nasties as staphylococcus aureus and clostridia. Also, if mum is an “allergic” type, allergens can also pass from the mother into the amniotic fluid during gestation, making the baby more prone to allergies.
When conducting a natural health check, besides looking at signs and symptoms and checking diet and lifestyle, it is imperative to ascertain the health of the gut. One of the tools to do this is live blood analysis, using a darkfield microscope and a pin prick of blood which is viewed immediately in my clinic, giving an assessment of possible nutritional deficiencies, immunological disorders and gut health.
Q & A
When it comes to food, what is the difference between an allergy and an intolerance?
A food allergy is an “immunological” reaction to a food … a disease that follows an immune system response to what should be a harmless antigen. Reactions include asthma, eczema or hayfever. Reactions are quick, usually within 30 minutes. Only the tiniest amount needs to be eaten.
A food intolerance is a “pharmacological” reaction to a chemical in the food (similar to a side effect of a drug). Reactions include migraines, behavioural problems, irritable bowel symptoms. Reactions are slower, up to 48 hours after eating the food, and are dose-related, so you can eat a little bit and be symptom free, but eat too much and “wham”.
What are some symptoms my child may have?
Look out for things like itchy eyes, itchy ears, dark circles under the eyes, constant runny nose or chest infections, always rubbing at their nose, failure to grow, restless legs, mood swings, fatigue, hyperactivity, unusual amount of temper tantrums or gut dysfunction such as bloating, excess wind, constipation or diarrhea.
What are some ways of checking if my child has intolerances / allergies?
Blood tests can be performed wherein their blood is actually checked against all the different allergens to see if antigens are formed. An elimination diet is also an effective (and cheaper) way of checking, but it does involve determination and commitment. Also, a live blood analysis can check for signs that the immune system has been activated and that the gut may be compromised.
Can Live Blood Analysis be done on infants and what can it show me?
Absolutely. It can be done on anyone at any age. Looking at the blood, there are certain signs that indicated potential “leaky gut” or dysbiosis, liver stress, inflammation, parasites, bacteria and candida (yeast overgrowth). It can also tell us if the white blood cells (immune system) is overactivated or if it is compromised in any way. Nutritional deficiencies such as iron, Vitamin B12, folate, magnesium and essential fatty acids are also evident.
Article from Kids on the Coast magazine August 2012. Author: The Medical Sanctuary’s naturopath Cassi Cowlam. Read more about Cassi HERE.