Once we have allergies, they can be hard to get rid of. Avoidance of your allergen, such as shellfish or strawberries is the best prevention. The alarming rise in allergies has prompted research into the area of prevention and a few things have been identified. Of course these are not a cure, but should be considered if you have an infant who may be at risk.
- Try to avoid using cow’s milk or soy formula before 4 months of age. Breast milk is best for these babies.
- Try to delay the introduction of solids until at least 4 months of age. This gives the immune system longer to develop, before being challenged with potentially reactive foods.
These are both well-accepted guidelines for all infants, but especially important in a child with allergic parents or siblings.
Children and allergies
Up to 40% of children in New Zealand will be affected by allergies at some time in their lives. Eczema, hives, asthma and food allergies are the most common; I see them in the clinic every day. Extensive weeping eczema in a precious wee baby can simply break your heart. Some mothers feel so helpless in the face of their child’s allergies they start to feel like a bad parent. But, with a bit of help, these children can lead relatively normal lives, although they may be restricted from some activities or food. The good news is that a lot of children grow out of their allergies, particularly eczema, by 3-5 years of age. But those that go on to have allergies in adulthood live with constant frustration about their condition. Endless amounts of prescribed medications, meticulous food avoidance and often having to avoid outdoor sports due to pollens and grasses can get them down. Some people have suffered for so long, they cry telling their story. Allergies may not (usually) be life threatening, but they make a lot of people quite miserable.
Treat the cause or just the symptoms?
In my field of naturopathic medicine, our mantra is treat the cause not the symptoms. In the case of allergy, I tend to disagree and instead believe in treating the cause AND the symptoms. Also, the benefits of combining orthodox and complimentary protocols to get better results are clear.
Some natural approaches
Everyone’s allergy is different, and the way their body manifests that allergy is different. Thus, treatments are individualized and specific. There are however a few things that most allergy sufferers will benefit from. Be sure to consult with a registered naturopath or your doctor before embarking on any treatment.
Fish oils and vitamin C are a good place to start. These nutrients have great natural anti-inflammatory properties, and the Vitamin C acts as an anti-oxidant too. In particular, fish oil seems to benefit asthma sufferers, although long-term treatment (up to one year) may be needed to see effects.
Flavonoids are a class of anti-oxidants that seem to have an inhibiting effect on the release of histamine. This makes them a type of natural anti-histamine, benefitting all forms of allergies. Quercetin would be a good flavonoid option for most people.
Zinc is an essential mineral for immune health and one which most of us are lacking. Although zinc is contained in a number of foods, soil levels vary and the processing of grains and cooking methods can lead to significant losses of zinc. It is particularly important for the health of mucus membranes (therefore vital for digestive and respiratory allergies), as well as being necessary for the healing and integrity of the skin (eczema, skin allergies).
There are many more strategies including herbal medicine treatments and dietary changes which are worth investigating. Whatever you do, don’t give up on your allergies. Although they may be genetic, you may not have to suffer as much as you are.
Article: Annaliese Jones – Naturopathy, Nutrition, Herbal Medicine. Annaliese has a Bachelor of Health Science and Advanced double Diplomas in Naturopathy and Herbal Medicine, plus 15 years clinical experience. Annaliese brings both science based medicine and traditional healing wisdom together. The best of both worlds!