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Treating Asthma/Allergies through Nutrition

Diana is looking for guidance and advice for a diet/nutrition makeover to help alleviate symptoms of asthma and allergies.  Can you help?

Hi, I'm the mom of a 3 year old boy and 20 month old girl.  Last spring, my 3 year old started to show signs of asthma and some allergies.  It seemed to last all spring, summer and unitl the end of fall.  We did the doctor/inhaler thing, but - when the doctor reccomended steroids - I decided to do some research before we went any further. 

In doing so I've come to learn about the use of diet to control the immune's system reaction to allergens.  I' ve read lots of good books on natural remedies and they suggest tayloring the child's diets of wheat, gluten, dairy and other trigger foods.  I've decided this spring before his allergies and asthma start again, I'm going to make a "big" switch in our diet to see if this helps.  It's also used in treating Autism and ADHD (part of the 4 A's including Asthma and Allergies). 

Are there any other Mamas out there who are using this nutritional technique?  This is going to be a huge change and I could use some tips and support on the subject.  I'd love someone who wouldn't mind showing me around the grocery store at some good choices.  We eat healthy now, but we will miss the milk and cheeses!  Is there a support group out there?  Any information would be a big help.  Thanks so much!

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Hi. I haven't tried using an elimination diet to control asthma, but I do have a four year old daughter who is horribly allergic to milk and soy. In fact, she was hospitalized when she was three weeks old following a severe allergic reaction to traces of dairy in my breast milk. It took me awhile to figure out what she could and couldn't eat, and I need to learn a whole new way of cooking, but it's a piece of cake now. I'm happy to recommend some products/brands that are available locally and have worked for us and can share recipes. Also, there are some good resources on the web:

http://www.foodallergy.org/recipes.html

http://www.fankids.org/

http://kidswithfoodallergies.org/?gclid=CObht5Tj74sCFQJIYQodfHCBRQ

http://www.kidshealth.org/parent/nutrition_fit/nutrition/milk_allergy_diet.html

http://nomilk.com/

For information about going wheat free, you might research non-profit organizations concerned with Celiac disease (wheat allergy.)

Also, there is a group on Yahoo Groops for parents of kids on Neocate. Neocate is a nutritionally complete hypoallergenic formula that is often given to kids on feeding tubes, although many kids are able to drink it straight. The reasons children are on Neocate vary - intense food allergies, metabolic disorders, autoimmune disorders, and other conditions - but the outcome is the same. They are all on very limited diets (if they can eat food at all.)

While your son doesn't need Neocate, the moms and dads in the Neocate Yahoo Group are very welcoming and supportive and know all about learning your way around the grocery store in a whole new way. They often have great recipes to share, and are even just nice support to have, since people often just don't 'get' what a challenge it is to have to monitor every bite that enters your child's mouth. So, they might be worth a look.

Finally, I would say a good place to start in terms of looking for dairy and wheat-free foods locally is the "health food" section in Fred Meyer. It's limited, but you'll find wheat free crackers and pasta and dairy free cookies, crackers and bread. Trader Joe's is sort of notorious for food cross-contamination, but they are a good resource for rice milk and almond milk super cheap (and they will even let you buy by the case.) New Seasons can be pricey, but they have lots of dairy, wheat and soy-free options. Same for Wild Oats (which was Nature's and is about to become Whole Foods.) Local food co-ops are a good bet too. And now that it's almost farmers' market season again, you can't beat fresh fruits and veggies.

I agree that steroids can be scary. My daughter had terrible asthma when she was younger. Fortunately, he doctors figured out that she had acid reflux and was inhaling/aspirating stomach acid when she was sleeping at night, which was, as you can imagine, irritating her lungs. As soon as we got her reflux under control, the asthma disappeared. It doesn't sound like that's likely to be the problem with your child, but just thought I would mention it because sometimes asthma can be a symptom of something else.

Hope this helps a little bit!

So due to a blood test (for ecxema), we have our 3 year old on no wheat, dairy, egg, sesame, fish, nut free diet. We have doing it for about 4 months and the good news is that it has worked wonderfully. We used to put lots of scary medicine on him to control the medicine, now we use it once a week (maybe) on little tiny spots.
We have now gone to another allergist (Dr. Osbourne) that explained that the blood test is only 30% indicative of an actual reaction. So that those things that showed up in the blood test (wheat, dairy, egg, etc) are only "suspects." It is now up to us to conduct a grand science experiment and once a week, take a suspect allergen like wheat and give him a quarter teaspoon on Monday, 1/2 teaspoon on Tuesday, etc. And then keeping a detailed record of skin, attitude and poop, figure out if there is any effect. We will start that next week. I KNOW HE IS ALLERGIC TO SOMETHING, but I would prefer his diet not be so limited (and my cooking not be so short order cook like). So, that will be our summer - one science experiment.

But back to you (sorry - that went a little off topic)... Pro biotics are one thing you should research - they seem to help a kid deal with allergies, we will be continuing them during our summer of trial and error. The websites listed above are great, I have been a huge fan of New Seasons. Yes, it is pricey, but I can do all my shopping there. I've not experimented with Fred Meyer yet. As far as cooking, my strategy has been "back to basics" - I've cut out sauces, and most prepackaged foods, lots of straight veggies and protien - unadorned. I've become a reading label fanatic and it takes me ALOT longer in the grocery store than it used to.

Breakfast is the easiest meal of the day - heck even Cheerios fit his diet. Pasta is also a great place to start, we've been a fan of the stuff in the aqua greenish box.

Good luck to you. It's an adventure and a challenge and we haven't been without slip ups (and you can't beat yourself up over those - you can't know that someone is going to hand your kid a pile of goldfish or that product X actually contains allergen Y when it didn't last week.) You just try to figure out a safeguard for that next time and move on.

It has been worth it for us, but I am very much looking forward to adding a few of these things back in. My gut is currently egg, but we will conduct the experiment.

OH - and another hard learned lesson... trust your kid. If your kid is refusing to eat something, accept it and offer an alternative. Ours is a bowl of Cheerios with soy milk. I know that seems so basic, but before having a kid with allergy concerns, I was much more of the "you eat what the family is eating" camp. I provide nutritious and varied meals and you eat them and I was a bit of a hardass about it. (error of ways). But the other night he had a reaction to what I can only figure out was cumin. And because I had worked so hard to modify the recipe with gluten free flour and egg replacement and blah blah blah, I was trying to goad him into to eating it as it was GOOD and healthy and I had worked hard to make it right for him - and sure enough next day - severe diarhea and gas and a general bad attitude. Trust his process. (Gosh, I sound horrible in this description, but really I'm not a bad mom, just doing my best and learning as I go). (I thought he was just being a three year old reacting to the spinach). OK, I think that's it.

This is not an alternative method, but it is one that may help you avoid scary situations and medications: immunotherapy.

I had shots as a kid and it meant that I needed far less medications as an adult than otherwise. I had acute asthma as a kid (due to multiple alleries) and although I carry an inhaler just in case, I only have had to use it a handful of times over 20 some odd years of adulthood.

Also, have you considered molds and dust as a trigger, or are the symptoms clearly "hay fever"?

as a pediatrician, I can offer a few other tips. with any elimination diet, ensure your child is getting all the vitamins and minerals he/she needs. A good kids multivitamin with zinc should do the trick if you dont think you can round things out with diet alone- ask the folks at new seasons for examples. also, if your child wheezes or has serious breathing difficulty with the asthma, I would still use the rescue inhaler as prescribed, it can be life-saving.

I don't have experience with elimination diets, but I do know that the staff at New Seasons will walk you through the store and show you which products would fit your needs. If you call them, they will set you up with an appointment. They also do home delivery, so once you figure it out what you need, at least the shopping won't be a pain. (I swear I don't work there...I just think they are a good company)

We're a mostly gluten-free, dairy-free household due to sensitivities. Are you able to do any casein? If a little is okay, you can try goat milk. You can get it powdered at New Seasons or Fred's. The brand is Meyenburg. You can also get goat milk cheese at New Seasons and Trader Joe's.

I'm starting a project of posting recipes and strategies for cooking this way. Another mom whose son has peanut allergies is helping me. We need testers! Email me if you'd like the menus and want to give feedback: portlandwriter@hotmail.com.

-Katherine

I read yesterday in the New Seasons circular that the Arbor Lodge store will be hosting a gluten free tour at the end of the month--they are probably full of great resources for you.

My 8 month old gets excema reactions that seem to come from my milk. I've stopped eating about 10 different common allergens but she still gets the occasional flare up for no known reason, and I am always, always hungry. I want to figure out what foods she really doesn't tolerate in hopes I can reintroduce a few things to my diet. Does anyone know a good doctor (allergist, naturopath, anything) who can work with a baby? Our pediatrician didn't think allergy testing would be reliable this young.

Also, how do you find or choose a probiotic? My daughter was on antibiotics for a few days when she was 5 weeks old, so I think that may play into it.

By the way, Trader Joe's has a good selection of inexpensive rice-based pasta, tortillas and bread.

One thing to be careful about with probiotics if you are dealing with a milk allergy or intolerance is that most of them are grown on some type of dairy culture (usually whey) and so they can cause an allergic reaction in a kid with a dairy allergy. There are a few that are grown on soy cultures (I believe the Jarrow Babydophilis they carry at New Seasons falls under that category) but if you're dealing with a soy allergy, that's out too. There are a few dairy AND soy free options, but be prepared for them to be pricey. One that I know of is made by Kirkland. Here's another:
http://www.uaslabs.com/sections/products/product_detail.php?product_id=4

There are a few others - you might want to try a Google search.

OK, can I just say CR#P right now??? Thank you Stephanie, I NEVER NOTICED IT. ARRRRGGGGHGHH. Pediatrician recommended, mom blindly followed. Really hard to do an elimination diet if you are feeding them milk every day with probiotics. Sigh. Going to go mope now and go to the grocery store tomorrow. Thanks Stephanie - that was really, really useful information.

Don't mope, Betsy - give yourself a big pat on the back for being such a concerned mama. :-)

I've been at this for over four years now, but there was a definite learning curve along the way. My daughter's former GI doctor who was fully aware of my daughter's allergies, once prescribed medication for my daughter which contained dairy (thankfully, the pharmacist caught it before I gave it to my daughter) and later recommended that I give my daughter Culturelle. When I mentioned that Culturelle contained dairy she said "you're just wrong." I went home, went to their web site and printed out the page that said Culturelle was grown on whey and was not appropriate for people with dairy allergies. Then I mailed it to that doctor with a note saying that we'd be looking for another doctor. Don't be too hard on yourself. It takes awhile to find all that hidden dairy!

Another thing to be aware of, just to be on the safe side, is that if you give your child a vitamin supplement (most kids on limited diets take one to fill in the gaps nutritionally) some kids' vitamins contain small amounts of dairy and soy. The dairy component may not be listed as milk, per se - it could be listed as casein, lactose, whey or some other dairy-related term, so you might want to do a quick label check of your child's vitamins.

Also, to clarify my "contamination" comment about Trader Joe's earlier, most of their store label foods are made on shared equipment. What that means in a nutshell is that they rinse their processing equipment out with hot water between foods, but that doesn't mean that they've elminated all traces of the foods that came before. If you check the allergy warning below their ingredient lists on many of the products, you'll notice a line that says "may contain trace amounts of dairy, soy, tree nuts and shellfish." Now depending on how sensitive your child is, trace amounts may not be an issue. But I let my daughter have cracker from Trader Joe's when she was about a year old. Really simple ingredients - flour, olive oil, rosemary and salt. Kinda hard to see a problem with that. Within about a minute, she was covered in hives - head to toe - and gasping for breath. Fortunately, I never left the house without benedryl and an albuterol inhaler and we got things under control quickly, although we battled bloody diarrhea and horrible eczema for at least a week after that. So, I guess if I have any advice for anyone trying to do an elimination diet, it's read your labels. On everything - even things that you wouldn't think you had to worry about like toothpaste and vitamins. So many breads and crackers contain dairy. And lots of foods do have contamination issues (I once picked up a can of garbanzo beans at Trader Joe's. The ingredients were "garbanzo beans, water and salt" but just below that there was an allergy warning stating that they may contain trace amounts of dairy, soy and shellfish. It never occured to me that I needed to worry about trace amounts of shellfish in a can of beans, you know?) Fortunately, allergy labeling has gotten much better over the past few years. And once you know which brands are safe and which aren't, it makes grocery shopping much easier. Good luck!

Don't mope, Betsy - give yourself a big pat on the back for being such a concerned mama. :-)

I've been at this for over four years now, but there was a definite learning curve along the way. My daughter's former GI doctor who was fully aware of my daughter's allergies, once prescribed medication for my daughter which contained dairy (thankfully, the pharmacist caught it before I gave it to my daughter) and later recommended that I give my daughter Culturelle. When I mentioned that Culturelle contained dairy she said "you're just wrong." I went home, went to their web site and printed out the page that said Culturelle was grown on whey and was not appropriate for people with dairy allergies. Then I mailed it to that doctor with a note saying that we'd be looking for another doctor. Don't be too hard on yourself. It takes awhile to find all that hidden dairy!

Another thing to be aware of, just to be on the safe side, is that if you give your child a vitamin supplement (most kids on limited diets take one to fill in the gaps nutritionally) some kids' vitamins contain small amounts of dairy and soy. The dairy component may not be listed as milk, per se - it could be listed as casein, lactose, whey or some other dairy-related term, so you might want to do a quick label check of your child's vitamins.

Also, to clarify my "contamination" comment about Trader Joe's earlier, most of their store label foods are made on shared equipment. What that means in a nutshell is that they rinse their processing equipment out with hot water between foods, but that doesn't mean that they've elminated all traces of the foods that came before. If you check the allergy warning below their ingredient lists on many of the products, you'll notice a line that says "may contain trace amounts of dairy, soy, tree nuts and shellfish." Now depending on how sensitive your child is, trace amounts may not be an issue. But I let my daughter have cracker from Trader Joe's when she was about a year old. Really simple ingredients - flour, olive oil, rosemary and salt. Kinda hard to see a problem with that. Within about a minute, she was covered in hives - head to toe - and gasping for breath. Fortunately, I never left the house without benedryl and an albuterol inhaler and we got things under control quickly, although we battled bloody diarrhea and horrible eczema for at least a week after that. So, I guess if I have any advice for anyone trying to do an elimination diet, it's read your labels. On everything - even things that you wouldn't think you had to worry about like toothpaste and vitamins. So many breads and crackers contain dairy. And lots of foods do have contamination issues (I once picked up a can of garbanzo beans at Trader Joe's. The ingredients were "garbanzo beans, water and salt" but just below that there was an allergy warning stating that they may contain trace amounts of dairy, soy and shellfish. It never occured to me that I needed to worry about trace amounts of shellfish in a can of beans, you know?) Fortunately, allergy labeling has gotten much better over the past few years. And once you know which brands are safe and which aren't, it makes grocery shopping much easier. Good luck!

I probably read similar studies & books for my 3 yr old son. We tried the total elimination diet at 2 yrs old but only for about 6 weeks & didn't notice anything different. Experts say it takes dairy 90 days to get out of your system so we may have given up too soon.

About a yr later we tried no gluten. That was so much harder than we ever imagined. Gluten is everywhere you don't expect it! I would definitely recommend a store tour with one of the nutritionists at New Seasons. They're great & very knowledgeable. Once you find brands you can trust, look at amazon.com. My husband is a professional deal seeker & found all of our favorite gluten-free brands there at a HUGE discount vs the local grocery store. You have to buy case qts but you'll want to anyway. We bought a lot of the Gluten Free Pantry mixes - their brownies are better than Betty Crocker! They also offer dairy free recipes.

We did gluten free for about 4 weeks, wasn't sure if we saw a difference so gave him some gluten. Within 24 hrs he was a different child - crazy, hyperactive like we've never seen. It was frightening. So, we want back to gluten free for about 4 months. One day, my mother in law gave him a breakfast bar & let him eat bread for dinner. We saw no difference. So we're off the gluten-free diet for now but do try to limit his intake.

We'll never know if he has a gluten sensitivity or his suspicious behaviors are normal for a 3yr old boy.

Best of luck!

I probably read similar studies & books for my 3 yr old son. We tried the total elimination diet at 2 yrs old but only for about 6 weeks & didn't notice anything different. Experts say it takes dairy 90 days to get out of your system so we may have given up too soon.

About a yr later we tried no gluten. That was so much harder than we ever imagined. Gluten is everywhere you don't expect it! I would definitely recommend a store tour with one of the nutritionists at New Seasons. They're great & very knowledgeable. Once you find brands you can trust, look at amazon.com. My husband is a professional deal seeker & found all of our favorite gluten-free brands there at a HUGE discount vs the local grocery store. You have to buy case qts but you'll want to anyway. We bought a lot of the Gluten Free Pantry mixes - their brownies are better than Betty Crocker! They also offer dairy free recipes.

We did gluten free for about 4 weeks, wasn't sure if we saw a difference so gave him some gluten. Within 24 hrs he was a different child - crazy, hyperactive like we've never seen. It was frightening. So, we want back to gluten free for about 4 months. One day, my mother in law gave him a breakfast bar & let him eat bread for dinner. We saw no difference. So we're off the gluten-free diet for now but do try to limit his intake.

We'll never know if he has a gluten sensitivity or his suspicious behaviors are normal for a 3yr old boy.

Best of luck!

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