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For several years now, I've been on a mission to create nutritious, allergy-friendly snacks that my son will enjoy and that also support his gut health. While I've certainly had some missteps along the way, over a decade of experimenting has led me to compile a list of personal favorites.


One such favourite is the classic-style muesli bar. If you're dealing with food allergies, you know that finding safe and tasty options can be quite the challenge. And when you do manage to find them, they often come with a hefty price tag - one that makes you wish you didn't have to consider food allergies in the first place.


This recipe uses wheat free oats and they are safe for my son who is anaphylactic to gluten, you can read more about oats and gluten here.


Oats are a great source of prebiotic fibre, however not everyone digests them easily and this can be for a number of reasons, see note *


The most common reasons are either the fibre in oats and/or the phytic-acids.


If your diet is low in fibre, having oats which are high in fibre, can lead to bloating, gas and constipation, increasing fibre slowly and making sure you are having enough water will be helpful.


Phytic acids are a type of anti-nutrient commonly found in plant-based foods like grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and tuber vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, and beets. These acids can bind to other nutrients, making them less available for absorption by the body.


This means that consuming a lot of food with high levels of phytic acid can potentially lead to nutrient deficiencies. However, there are ways to reduce the impact of phytic acid on nutrient absorption. Soaking and cooking these foods can significantly reduce the levels of anti-nutrients present and make the nutrients more bioavailable.


So that is why I toast the oats and seeds in this recipe, you can use raw oats if you want, they may not cause you any discomfort, but to gain the most out of the nutrients present I would advise toasting them, plus I think it adds to the flavour!


Recipe


2x cups rolled oats, wheat free

1x cup choice of seeds and/or nuts

1x cup pitted dates

1/2 cup seed or nut butter (if you want to try make your own, recipe here)

1/2 cup honey


Preheat oven 180C


Spread oats and seeds/nuts on baking tray and bake for 15-20mins, stirring halfway, until lightly coloured.


Add dates to food processor and blitz until a dough like paste forms, place in large bowl.


Add the seed butter and honey in small pot, over low heat, and stir until melted and mixed, pour this in bowl with date paste and mix.


Remove oats and seeds from oven and tip into bowl with date and honey mixture, and mix with a large spoon. It will take some mixing as the dough is stiff, mix until well incorporated and then press into a small brownie tin or rectangle dish, lined with baking paper and press mixture firmly in, around 1.5cm thick. Place in fridge for min. 2hrs, then remove and slice into bars. Keep the in the fridge for a week or freezer for 3 months


Note: *If you are having ongoing issues with digesting oats and/or other prebiotic foods speak to your health practitioner, you may need extra support.


Disclaimer: 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 soon.





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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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