I love holistic and alternative medicine because it usually looks at the whole body and doesn’t treat just the symptom. Of course it’s still important to keep regular appointments with an allergist to monitor severe food allergies and asthma and to ensure you have the correct emergency medication on hand. But it’s important to look beyond wheezing, hives, and itchy skin. With conditions like eczema, allergies, and asthma, as well as autism, ADHD and so on, there is usually something bigger going on internally like immune dysfunction, but identifying just what is causing all the trouble can be very difficult to determine. So, we turn to a holistic practitioner and we hope they can lead us on our journey to healing. I’ve asked today’s guest to tell us more about how she treat’s children with allergic conditions. Please welcome Dr. McCollum.
Naturopathic Approach to Allergies, Asthma, and Eczema in Kids
By Dr. Meaghan McCollum (Bio below)
Having suffered from allergies, asthma and eczema myself as a child, it always aches my heart to see young kids and infants come in suffering from these common ailments. The good news is that there is lots that can be done naturally to help these young sufferers.
Allergic symptoms, asthma and eczema are all signs of poorly balanced immune function. My goal, as a naturopathic doctor, is to find the root cause of these symptoms and work to correct that first. For this reason my approach to allergic symptoms is always first to support the body’s immune system in achieving balance over time. This is most often not a fast process and is the basis from which we work on the symptoms to help reduce and eliminate asthma, eczema and other allergic symptoms.
To restore immune balance its helpful to remove aggravating factors on the immune system first. To do this we need to identify factors which are taxing you or your child’s immune system. I commonly use two tests for this purpose when I am working with my young clients on allergies, eczema or asthma complaints. Both are easy painless tests to do with kids:
IgE Skin scratch allergy test & sublingual immunotherapy
This is the test you or your child may have received if you went to an allergist. The skin is scratched in several spots on the forearm with a concentrated allergen serum over each scratch. We then watch and measure the reaction in each of the spots. This helps to identify environmental allergies. Once identified a diluted serum is created with a small dose of each of the offending allergens. This serum is taken under the tongue daily and overtime reduces the allergic response to those allergens.
IgG food sensitivity test
IgG is a type of immune cell that is associated with food ‘sensitivities’. Food sensitivities are not the same as food allergies. One of the main differences being the wide range of symptoms possible with food sensitivities and the longer length of time after consuming an offending food that it takes for a response to occur with a food sensitivity. Food sensitivities are very often an aggravating factor in allergies, eczema and asthma. After we remove these from the diet, many symptoms will improve drastically. This test is a simple blood test that tests for 95 or more of the most common foods.
After identifying these foods and environmental suspects we work with the immunotherapy and food elimination to help reduce and eliminate symptoms of allergy.
Once we’ve addressed these factors, there are a few supplements that help to restore immune system balance and I would consider essential in any treatment plan for allergic symptoms, asthma or eczema in kids:
- Vitamin D: The amount of research that has gone into the effects on vitamin D on the immune system is impressive. We know it to be an essential regulator of immune function, making adequate levels of this very important in any allergic state.
- Fish oils/ omega 3 fatty acids: we know that low intakes of omega 3 fats is associated with higher incidence of asthma (2) and supplementation has been shown to reduce allergy and asthma in young children (3).
- Probiotics: We now know that a large majority of our immune function occurs in the gut. It makes sense that restoring gut function would improve immune function and allergy. Probiotic supplementation has been studied for its effect on the immune system and has been shown to decrease the occurrence of allergy in young children (1).
There are many more supplements on the market to help with allergic symptoms, many of them very useful and effective. However, these three I would consider the core treatment as they are addressing the underlying cause of immune dysfunction to help in the long-term with allergic symptom elimination.
The beauty of our little people is that they can heal quickly when given the chance.
Bio: Dr. Meaghan McCollum is a naturopathic doctor in Calgary, with a strong clinical focus on allergy and immune dysfunction in both children and adults. www.naturmend.com
(1) Curr Opin Allergy Clin Immunol. 2013 Apr 17.
(2) Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Jan;97(1):173-8. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.112.041145. Epub 2012 Nov 28.
(3) Curr Allergy Asthma Rep. 2012 Dec;12(6):564-73. doi: 10.1007/s11882-012-0304-1.