Babies and children

Sister and Baby Brother

In our modern world we are exposed to many health challenges on a daily basis: overly processed foods, artificial preservatives and additives, excessive sugar, pesticides, chemicals, heavy metals, environmental toxins, and pharmaceutical medication. For children it is more difficult to cope with this toxic load because their immune systems and detoxification pathways are immature and still developing and therefore easily overwhelmed. Food intolerances are another common cause of health and behavioural problems in children. Identifying and removing the offending foods from the diet alone can have a significant impact on health and behaviour. By adding healing foods optimal health and balance can be restored.

Nutritional Medicine offers safe and natural treatments options for everyday ailments and provides parents with long term strategies to build up strong immunity and prevent health problems like asthma, eczema and allergies.

Nutritional Medicine offers support for:

  • Feeding difficulties, reflux, colic
  • Introducing solids - the healthy way
  • Food allergies and intolerances
  • Preventing allergies
  • Digestive problems
  • Immune support, colds and flus
  • Skin conditions (eczema, rashes)
  • Asthma
  • Optimising nutrition for fussy eaters
  • Healthy lunchboxes and birthday parties
  • ADD/ADHD, concentration, learning and behaviour

Modifying a child’s diet and lifestyle can be a daunting task and a challenge for family life. At Nourish Your Health we support you and your child to implement changes gradually and create better health with every little step you take.

Common childhood conditions that can be prevented, treated or well managed with nutritional medicine:

Low Immunity:

During the first 2 years of life, a child’s immune system is still developing. It is normal for a young child to get frequent acute infections; this is part of the training and maturing of the immune system towards a balanced immune state. However, infections can become a problem when they become recurrent or chronic. Constant runny noses and mucous congestion, coughs, middle ear infections, throat and digestive infections are the most common complaints. Antibiotic use, although sometimes absolutely necessary, is often overused and can set up and drive a vicious cycle of recurrent infections.

From a treatment perspective it is most important to identify the underlying drivers and triggers of frequent infections. Micronutrient deficiency is one of the most common cause of impaired immunity but can be easily balanced through dietary modification and appropriate supplementation. Maintaining optimal levels of immune-boosting nutrients has a dramatic impact on short and long term immunity. Some key nutrients include essential fatty acids, vitamin A and D and Zinc which are potent immune system modulators.

Nutrition plays a crucial role for your child’s immune system. The immune system needs a daily supply of nutrients for optimal function. If the supply of nutrients is poor or if intake of immune-suppressant foods and toxins is high, the immune response and immune function of your child will be compromised. Limiting immune suppressant and inflammatory foods from your child’s diet and increasing immune-boosting foods is equally important. When a child is sick or suffering from chronic conditions (like eczema, asthma, allergies) their body’s demand of nutrients is increased.

Nutritional medicine can help in the short term with acute treatment when your child is sick (think of it like your natural first aid kit) and build strong immunity for robust children in the long term.

Childhood Eczema:

Eczema is a unique skin disease with many factors associated with its appearance.

Eczema is a direct allergic reaction which can be linked to external triggers (e.g. chemicals, plants, metals, wool) but is much more often linked to genetic immunological abnormalities (family history of eczema or asthma), dietary factors and food allergies (especially cow’s milk, gluten and high salicylates fruit and vegetables) or emotional influences (stress).

If you have one parent with eczema you have a 20% risk of developing eczema yourself. If both parents have eczema, asthma or hay fever, your chances of developing eczema jump up to 50-80%. Fortunately we know today how to use natural and nutritional therapy to help prevent the development of eczema (and other allergic conditions) in newborns with a family history and how to manage and treat eczema naturally and nutritionally in child and adulthood. Probiotic use during pregnancy can improve innate immune parameters of the foetus and has also positive influences of the immune physiology of the placenta.

Research has shown us that genetics and dietary factors, in general, are closely linked. Your diet affects your genetic health in various ways and your genes can be modified by your diet. This is good news for parents of children with eczema as it means you can treat them naturally with food and nutrients to relieve symptoms and stabilise their health for later in life.

Common dietary factors that trigger or exacerbate eczema:

  • Processed foods
  • Highly processed, inflammatory dairy
  • Toxic fats and consuming the wrong ratio of fats. The Western diet is low in omega-3 fatty acids and high in processed vegetable oils leading to an overconsumption in omega-6 fatty acids and highly inflammatory trans-fats. Eczema has been directly linked to an omega-3 deficiency (fatty acids found in oily fish, chia seeds, walnuts and flaxseeds).
  • Poor gut ecology and imbalanced microflora
  • Acid-alkaline-balance has been altered. The average western diet is high in inflammatory and very low in alkalising foods. Stress and anxiety also have an acidic effect on the body.
  • Sodium-potassium ratio has changed – salt ingestion has sky-rocketed (mainly through processed foods) while the consumption of alkalising, potassium-rich food has plummeted

Common environmental factors that affect eczema include chemicals and toxins in personal care products and household items (from cookware to cleaning products). Ask your practitioner how you can reduce toxicity in your home and for natural, eczema-specific skin remedies.

Nutritional medicine treatment aims at treating eczema from the inside out. Although the rash appears on the skin, the root cause lies inside. By healing and gently modulating the digestive and the immune systems, two body systems that are closely interconnected and intertwined, eczema can be successfully managed, treated or even reversed.

Digestive infections, food allergies & intolerances:

Allergies and intolerances are extremely common in children these days and are often seen even in babies and young infants. An allergy is an abnormal immune response triggered by a normally harmless substance (e.g. pollen, peanuts). True allergies cause an immediate and obvious reaction (e.g. hives, swelling) called Immunoglobulin E (or IgE) mediated immune reactions and can sometimes be severe (i.e. anaphylactic reactions). The allergenic food or substance must be completely avoided. Intolerances or sensitivities, on the other hand, often cause delayed reactions. They can continue to cause immune disruptions up to two weeks after consuming the offending food. This is known as IgG mediated immune reaction and can often make it hard to pinpoint which foods are causing the problem.

When it comes to food intolerances, the most common culprits are cow’s dairy and gluten. Other highly allergenic foods include soy, corn, peanuts, sesame seeds, tomatoes and eggs. Simply identifying and removing the offending foods can have a huge impact and health and wellbeing of the child.

Common symptoms of food intolerances – what to look out for in your child:

  • Skin reactions such as hives and eczema
  • Breathing difficulties, wheezing or asthma
  • Digestive disturbances such as diarrhoea, cramping, nausea, constipation, vomiting
  • Bloated stomach after meals
  • Frequent throat clearing after a meal
  • Congestion of nose, sinuses and throat
  • Bed wetting
  • Dark circles under the eyes
  • Watery, itchy eyes, puffiness around eyes
  • Recurrent ear infections
  • Muscle aches, leg cramps, twitchy legs
  • Fatigue, headache
  • Behavioural and learning problems (poor focus, memory, anxiety, anger)

Food intolerances indicate an immune system imbalance. Nutritional treatment aims to re-balance the immune system through immune-boosting foods and specific nutrients that have the capability of reprogramming the skewed immune system, such as vitamin C, bioflavonoids, zinc and specific probiotic strains. The other major treatment focus lies on comprehensive gut healing. 70% of our immune system is located in the gut making it the largest immune organ in the human body. The gut healing protocol includes healing and sealing the leaky gut wall, establishing a healthy gut microflora and ensuring optimal digestive function. Food intolerances damage the gut wall causing ‘leaky gut’ and impairing absorption thereby easily leading to nutrient deficiencies. These can be balanced with temporary nutrient supplementation and supported by appropriate nutrition until optimal levels have been re-established. A healthy gut flora is necessary for healthy immunity as well as good digestive health. Probiotic bacteria living in our gut not only help digest our food but they also coordinate and modulate the immune response.

Food intolerances and sensitivities can be easily detected by a food intolerance test which is provided to you in your nutrition consultation should food be suspected an issue for your child. The test can be done at home. An elimination diet will then be implemented along with nutritional remedies to heal your child’s digestive system. After healing & sealing, foods may be reintroduced depending on the severity of the intolerance or you will be guided on suitable replacements that nourish your child.

Digestive infections (bacterial, viral, parasitic, fungal) have become increasingly common amongst children and adults alike. Symptoms may include consistently runny poo or diarrhoea, bloating, tummy pain, fussy eating, food cravings (mostly for grains and sugar), mood swings, poor concentration, foggy brain, impaired balance or coordination, skin rashes and low immunity. There are many factors that can contribute or predispose to digestive infections including a diet high in sugar and refined grains, an imbalanced gut flora, food intolerances, drugs and medication use, travel, contaminated water or food. Gut health and especially the gut microbiome have (fortunately!) become a main focus in health and nutrition research lately. The reason why our gut health is deteriorating is because our lives are too clean. Too sterilised. Though it may appear wise to abolish germs at every turn, surrounding your family with antibacterial everything is actually not a good idea. Living in an ultra-sanitized environment is ironically quite unhealthy. The constant exposure to microbes in infancy and early childhood contributes to the health and responsiveness of the adult immune system. Without these challenges our immune system doesn’t develop properly. When that happens, we face an increased risk of digestive disorders, allergies, asthma, and other illnesses. So don’t be afraid of dirt! The best way to strengthen your child’s digestive system and to build a healthy gut microbiome is to let them play in the mud, spent ample time in nature, encourage exposure to (farm) animals, include probiotic foods in their diet daily and eliminate refined sugar and grains and junk foods. Avoid all antibacterial products (hand sanitizers, cleaning products) as they contain chemicals and synthetic pesticides that have been proven to be harmful to health by disrupting hormones, impairing thyroid function or acting as carcinogenic.

Supporting children’s learning & behavioural difficulties:

Although it is normal for young children to be cheeky, disobedient and impulsive, some children display challenging and difficult behaviours or mood swings that are not normal for their age. According to Australian studies around 10% of children experience learning difficulties and ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) affects up to 9.5% of school-ages children. Autism Spectrum Disorders are a group of neurodevelopmental disorders that affect up 2.5 out of 1000 children.

Neurotransmitter imbalance is implicated in many behavioural issues in children. Toxicity, digestive dysfunction, infection, low nutrients levels or a combination of these factors can cause this imbalance. Biomedical research has discovered that underlying genetic components can impair one’s ability to detoxify toxins from food, the environment or medications. These toxins accumulate in the body leading to an increase in oxidative stress which in turn promotes systemic inflammation in the brain, the digestive and the immune system. Symptoms of this systemic inflammation include eczema (skin), asthma (lungs), food intolerances and digestive disorders. Research has shown that many neurological problems originate in the digestive system. A nervous system exists in the digestive tract which directly connects to the brain, hence the term ‘Gut-Brain –Connection’. This explains why inflammation and infection in the gut translates to concentration, mood and behavioural issues.

Poor diet, nutritional deficiencies, food allergies or intolerances can all negatively impact brain function. Dietary modifications like the removal of inflammatory and allergenic foods (e.g. processed cow’s dairy protein, gluten, and soy), chemical preservatives and food additives and the emphasis on including healing foods (e.g. adequate high quality protein, coconut oil, long-chain omega-3 fatty acids) can make an immediate impact on your child’s behaviour and mood. Additionally, specific nutrients, if supplemented daily, can improve cognition, brainpower, learning, balance behaviour and mood and stabilise energy levels. Key nutrients include all B vitamins, probiotics, vitamin A and D, vitamin C and zinc. Children with behavioural issues are often fussy eaters or have poor appetite. Contributing factors can include distorted sensory input, food cravings especially for sweet and starchy foods due to abnormal gut flora (and overgrowth of Candida albicans for instance) or inability of the toxic brain to coordinate normal mouth and jaw movements that negatively impact chewing and swallowing.