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Food Allergies and Asthma have been on the increase over the last few decades, so is there a connection?


It seems there is and research is backing this up, for example babies who test positive to egg allergy have an increased risk of developing asthma. Children who develop food allergies early in life are more prone to asthma. It is known that around 48% of asthmatic children have a food allergy, though this data is a decade old, I suspect it would be higher now. Studies have shown, if your child is diagnosed with food allergies in the first two years of life, they have an increased risk of developing asthma around school age.

Food allergies and asthma fall into something known as the atopic march, which if you are an allergy parent I am sure you have heard of. It involves 4 conditions: food allergies, asthma, eczema and allergic rhinitis. Chances are you are not just dealing with food allergies, you are managing at least one of these as well.

There have been a few observational studies done with small groups of children, looking at food allergies making asthma more life threatening. It was found that children who had food allergies and asthma had an increased risk of anaphylaxis. So it is vital that solid management plans are in place, at home, at school and at any caregivers. As a mum with a child who has both, I know how scary this can be, and I believe educating those who care for your child is key. We need to educate, as this is life threatening.

There is a gut-lung axis, you may have already suspected I was going to bring up gut health, as the gut pretty much has influence throughout the entire body. The lungs have their own microbiome, and there is ‘cross-talk’ between the microbiota in the lungs and gut. It’s evident that imbalance (dysbiosis) in the gut has a high influence on the development of asthma. In fact, studies have sited ‘that dysbiosis in the gut and lungs seem to be critical causes of the increased emergence of asthma.

Evidence suggests that an increased diversity of microbiome in the airways may be protective, it’s certainly the case when it comes to the gut microbiome. Obviously there are other factors that influence asthma development, such as environmental influences (allergens, air pollutants), genetics and more.

So what can we do? While research is ongoing in this area, we know that having a healthy gut can reduce the risk of further atopic conditions developing and if you are already dealing with asthma, improving gut health has positive influence on the lung microbiome.

Therefore start with the gut! Start with simple steps, as I have outlined in my Food Allergies & Gut Health ebook, which you can download for free here.

I am a degree qualified clinical nutritionist, but I am not your nutritionist, this blog is written as observations only and is not intended to be personalised health advice, I am just sharing my thoughts, based on experience and scientific evidence. If you are requiring 1;1 consultation, please reach out ( nutrition@bovell.com or DM on instagram ) and if you want to connect with other food allergy parents who are focusing on optimising their child’s health, I am putting something together that you may want to be part of, jump on the waitlist and I will share more so

ref:


di Palmo E, Gallucci M, Cipriani F, Bertelli L, Giannetti A, Ricci G. Asthma and Food Allergy: Which Risks? Medicina (Kaunas). 2019 Aug 21;55(9):509. doi: 10.3390/medicina55090509. PMID: 31438462; PMCID: PMC6780261.


Hufnagl K, Pali-Schöll I, Roth-Walter F, Jensen-Jarolim E. Dysbiosis of the gut and lung microbiome has a role in asthma. Semin Immunopathol. 2020 Feb;42(1):75-93. doi: 10.1007/s00281-019-00775-y. Epub 2020 Feb 18. PMID: 32072252; PMCID: PMC7066092.

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These bliss balls are easy to make and allergy friendly, their point of difference is they use carrots.


Carrot seems to be the one vegetable most children are happy to eat, which is great due to the beta-carotene they contain. Beta-carotene (a type of carotenoid) is supportive of many functions within the body, it is a precursor to Vitamin A, meaning it converts to vitamin A within the body. Vitamin A is essential for healthy eyes, a strong immune system, for healthy skin and mucous membranes, plus much more.


Interestingly there have been a couple of studies done on the benefits of carotenoids (beta -carotene is one) and the role they play in food allergies. It was found that carotenoids inhibit IgE production, and the associated chemical mediators from the mast cells. Ok so basically what they are saying is vitamin A plays a role in reducing the allergic response, this does not mean dosing up on vitamin A is going to stop an allergic reaction, it’s more about showing how certain nutrients can play a role in the body’s response to an allergen.


Now these studies have mostly been done with mice and, well, our kids are not mice in a controlled environment, but this does give a little insight into one of the many factors that play a role in food allergies. One thing that is consistent throughout the research is the importance of eating plenty of vegetables, fruits and getting enough protein. Ensuring your child’s body has all the nutrients it needs will help the body with all its processes, including food allergy reaction. To optimise the absorption of beta-carotene have it with fat, such as the nut or seed butter in this recipe, this is because it’s a fat soluble nutrient.


If you are interested in optimising your child’s health and want support navigating their food allergies, I am launching the Kids Food Allergy Hub in February 23, you can join the waitlist here.


If you wish to go down the ‘rabbit hole’ of carotenoids, there are a few articles to start with at the end of this post, have fun :)


This recipe is a way to keep even treats within a wholefood diet, giving our children with food allergies ongoing healthy nutrition, to help their body hopefully create balance and reduce their food allergies.



Carrot Bliss Balls


200g carrots, roughly chopped

2x cups dried shredded coconut, see note

1/2 cup dates, pitted

1/2 cup rolled oats (this is optional, see note)

2x tbsp nut/seed butter

1x tsp cinnamon, powdered

1/2 tsp vanilla paste

pinch of salt

3/4 cup hulled hemp seeds for rolling (alternatives - desiccated coconut, sesame seeds, crushed nuts)


Throw all ingredients into food processor and blitz until mixture comes together. Then scoop out and roll into balls, we like them around golf ball size. Roll them in hemp seeds and store some in the fridge (4-5 days) and the rest in the freezer for school lunch boxes.


Notes:


  • If you can’t use coconut, swap for rolled oats or rolled quinoa, then leave the additional 1/2 cup oats out.


  • I find the oats help absorb some of the carrot juices, obviously this is dependent on the moisture content of this carrots. If they are particularly juicy and you don’t want to add oats, grate the carrots and let sit in sieve over bowl for 20 mins then squeeze out and use.


References:

Sato Y, Akiyama H, Matsuoka H, Sakata K, Nakamura R, Ishikawa S, Inakuma T, Totsuka M, Sugita-Konishi Y, Ebisawa M, Teshima R. Dietary carotenoids inhibit oral sensitization and the development of food allergy. J Agric Food Chem. 2010 Jun 23;58(12):7180-6. doi: 10.1021/jf100519x. PMID: 20455559.


Akiyama, H. (2017) ‘The role of carotenoid intake in food allergy prevention.’, CABI Reviews. CABI International. doi: 10.1079/PAVSNNR201712009.


Hufnagl K, Jensen-Jarolim E. Does a carrot a day keep the allergy away? Immunol Lett. 2019 Feb;206:54-58. doi: 10.1016/j.imlet.2018.10.009. Epub 2018 Oct 16. PMID: 30339818.


Noval Rivas M, Chatila TA. Regulatory T cells in allergic diseases. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2016 Sep;138(3):639-652. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2016.06.003. PMID: 27596705; PMCID: PMC5023156.



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Updated: Sep 21, 2022

When my son was first diagnosed with food allergies (11 months) I avoided oats as he was allergic to wheat and gluten and my understanding at the time this included oats. In fact when he was around 7 months old I had added a rice and oat porridge, only a little, into his mashed veggies. He had a reaction, the instant running nose, watery/itchy eyes, sneezing, a few random hives, it was a sign something was up. I stopped feeding him, cleaned him up and nursed him. He had consumed one mouthful, I didn’t even consider it was the food, it was so easy to assume it was bad hay fever as it was spring and a blowing day with high pollen count. Mum intuition had kicked in though, cause somehow I didn’t feed him that rice and oat porridge again, phew!


Fast forward to food allergy diagnoses, our allergist included oats in his allergic foods and that was it, we avoided it. Then I came to learn that oats don’t have the same gluten protein as wheat, rye, barley, malt and triticale and the reaction my son experience was most likely due to the oats being contaminated with wheat.


Oats contain a protein call avenin and some people do have an allergy to this protein, however oats do not contain gluten, the issue is they are highly contaminated with gluten due to growing and processing.


Oat crops are easily contaminated with gluten from other gluten containing crops (barley, rye, wheat etc.) they are often grown around these crops and used in crop rotation, so one year wheat, next year oats. So there would easily be some stray wheat growing amongst the oat crop, more than a trace. Then oats get stored in the same silos that previously had gluten grains, followed by transport in trucks and processing in a plant, all of which also handle gluten containing grains. You can see how easy this cross contamination occurs. So if you are anaphylactic you most likely will react to this cross-contamination as its more than just a trace.


If you have a wheat allergy or even a sensitivity, avoid oats unless they are guaranteed wheat free. There are a few producers who have dedicated farms, silos, transport and processing plants that don’t handle gluten containing grains. The two that I am aware of and my son has eaten without incidence are Bob’s Red Mill (US based) and Red Tractor Australian Oats, links below.


So if you have avoided oats due to gluten, I highly recommend exploring them further, speak with your immunologist or allergist, and try wheat free oats. It is so good to have this healthy grain on-board and worth checking if your child actually is allergic to oats or just the cross-contamination process.


The benefits of oats in the diet are many, firstly they contain beta-glucans which impact the gut microbiome (gut bugs), they act as prebiotics feeding the good bacteria in your gut helping balance your gut microbiome and in turn supporting the immune system. If you want to understand the connection between food allergies, gut health and the immune system, you can download my ebook here which goes into more detail, plus provides tips.


The soluble fibre in oats are also helpful in the reduction of cholesterol, balancing blood glucose, eases constipation, high in protein (when compared to other grains), and contain antioxidants. Another benefit of oats, they contain tryptophan which is needed to make melatonin, the hormone our brain requires to regulate the sleep-wake cycle. A little bowl of porridge may be helpful, if your child is having sleep issues.


If you are want to know more, email me at nutrition@bovell.com


I have a bunch of recipes using oats, here on my website (scroll down) and also on my instagram page.


Wheat free oats:

https://www.bobsredmill.com/shop.html


https://www.redtractorfoods.com.au/our-products/OATS/WHEAT-FREE-AUSTRALIAN-ROLLED-OATS


REF:

Smulders MJM, van de Wiel CCM, van den Broeck HC, van der Meer IM, Israel-Hoevelaken TPM, Timmer RD, van Dinter BJ, Braun S, Gilissen LJWJ. Oats in healthy gluten-free and regular diets: A perspective. Food Res Int. 2018 Aug;110:3-10. doi: 10.1016/j.foodres.2017.11.031. Epub 2017 Nov 21. PMID: 30029703.




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