As parents, we strive to provide the best care and support for our children, especially when they face health challenges. Inflammatory conditions in children, such as asthma, allergies, eczema, and various forms of arthritis, can disrupt their well-being and daily activities. While medical interventions are essential, emerging research suggests that diet may play a significant role in managing inflammation and promoting optimal health in kids. I wanted you all to have a better understanding of the connection between diet and inflammation to empower you and make informed choices when it comes to your child’s nutrition. So in this blog post we delve into the fascinating realm of childhood inflammatory conditions, highlight specific foods with potential benefit to influence inflammation, and share some practical ways to implement changes.
Is All Inflammation Bad?No inflammation is not always bad. Inflammation is a normal process. Your immune system becomes activated when it recognizes something foreign. These intermittent bouts of inflammation directed at unwanted invaders are good for our health.
It’s when inflammation persists, otherwise known as chronic inflammation that it can lead to many major diseases - cancer, heart disease, arthritis, diabetes. And in children there are many conditions characterized by inflammation, including asthma, allergies, eczema, and arthritis. Before we talk about how diet can influence inflammation, let’s dive a little deeper into these inflammatory conditions found in childhood.
How Inflammation Influences Disease in Kids
ArthritisJuly is Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month, which was what inspired me to do this post. Arthritis isn’t just an older person’s disease, it affects infants and children as well. Did you know nearly 300,000 children have been diagnosed with some form of arthritis? Arthritis refers to inflammation of the joints and includes various types, such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and juvenile arthritis in a variety of forms.
AsthmaAsthma is a chronic respiratory condition characterized by inflammation and narrowing of the airways, making breathing difficult. In asthma, the airways become inflamed and sensitive, leading to symptoms such as wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness. Allergic triggers, irritants, and immune system responses contribute to the inflammatory process in asthma.
EczemaEczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a chronic skin condition characterized by inflammation and intense itching. In eczema, the skin barrier is compromised, allowing irritants and allergens to penetrate, triggering an immune response and inflammation. Genetic and environmental factors, along with immune system dysregulation, contribute to the development of eczema.
AllergiesAllergies are immune responses triggered by exposure to certain substances, called allergens, such as pollen, dust mites, pet dander, or certain foods. When a person with allergies comes into contact with an allergen, the immune system overreacts, causing an inflammatory response. This immune-mediated inflammation leads to various symptoms, such as itching, sneezing, runny nose, skin rashes, or even severe reactions like anaphylaxis.
Foods that Lessen InflammationAn anti-inflammatory diet may potentially benefit children with various conditions characterized by inflammation. It's important to remember that lowering inflammation will not cure conditions, but can help support other medical treatments, minimize symptoms and promote overall wellness.
The following are foods that have anti-inflammatory properties:
Fatty FishSalmon, sardines, mackerel, and other fatty fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have potent anti-inflammatory effects. There’s some evidence that fish oil can be beneficial for kids with arthritis and it is considered safe to give kids.
BerriesBlueberries, strawberries, cherries, and other berries are packed with antioxidants and phytochemicals that combat inflammation. There have been many studies looking at how blueberries and other berries can reduce chronic inflammation and even a study in kids with juvenile arthritis showing when blueberry juice was given with their medication it more significantly reduced the severity of their symptoms.
Leafy Greens & Other Fruits and Vegetables
Spinach, kale, collard greens, and other leafy greens are excellent sources of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can help reduce inflammation.
However, fruits and vegetables in general, l are rich in antioxidants, which help stabilize molecules called free radicals that can trigger inflammation and damage cells. So any increase in fruits and vegetables in your child’s diet can be potentially beneficial when it comes to decreasing inflammation.
This bright yellow spice contains curcumin, which has powerful anti-inflammatory properties, by inhibiting the production of inflammatory mediators. Turmeric can be used in cooking or consumed as a supplement. See some yummy recipes below in my practical tips.
GingerGinger has been used for centuries to reduce inflammation. It can be consumed fresh, powdered, or as a tea.
Extra virgin olive oil
Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fats and contains a compound called oleocanthal, which has anti-inflammatory effects.
NutsAlmonds, walnuts, and other nuts are high in healthy fats, fiber, and antioxidants, making them beneficial for fighting inflammation. Walnuts are particularly good because they, like fish, are a source of omega-3 fatty acids.
Dark chocolateDark chocolate (with a high cocoa content) contains flavonoids, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. So yes, even moderate amounts of chocolate may benefit your kids.
Practical Tips for Feeding Your Kids
- Include berries in their diet daily. Mix it up, and give different berries. Plus an abundance of fruits and vegetables are important, so give fruits and vegetables throughout the day at most meals every week. Aim for 5 servings daily of fruits and vegetables.
- Add turmeric and ginger in cooking. Not only is it good flavor exposure, they also lessen inflammation. (I love this chicken soup recipe from ambitious kitchen, in which I use both fresh ginger and fresh turmeric: https://www.ambitiouskitchen.com/the-best-chicken-soup-recipe/ Or this Indian inspired chicken dish I make with ground ginger and turmeric: https://www.halfbakedharvest.com/30-minute-coconut-milk-braised-chicken/ )
- Cook with olive oil as your main fat source.
- Give your kids fatty fish weekly. Plus consider an omega-3 fatty acid supplement, especially if they don’t eat fish.
- Head over to my Full Script Store and order some today
- There is an Anti-Inflammatory products page under favorites created with various products from infant to adult. And for the next 2 weeks I will be offering 20% off all supplements.
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Zhong Y, Wang Y, Guo J, Chu H, Gao Y, Pang L. Blueberry Improves the Therapeutic Effect of Etanercept on Patients with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis: Phase III Study. Tohoku J Exp Med. 2015 Nov;237(3):183-91. doi: 10.1620/tjem.237.183. PMID: 26477692.
Peng Y, Ao M, Dong B, Jiang Y, Yu L, Chen Z, Hu C, Xu R. Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Curcumin in the Inflammatory Diseases: Status, Limitations and Countermeasures. Drug Des Devel Ther. 2021 Nov 2;15:4503-4525. doi: 10.2147/DDDT.S327378. PMID: 34754179; PMCID: PMC8572027.
Parkinson L, Keast R. Oleocanthal, a phenolic derived from virgin olive oil: a review of the beneficial effects on inflammatory disease. Int J Mol Sci. 2014 Jul 11;15(7):12323-34. doi: 10.3390/ijms150712323. PMID: 25019344; PMCID: PMC4139846.
Holt EM, Steffen LM, Moran A, Basu S, Steinberger J, Ross JA, Hong CP, Sinaiko AR. Fruit and vegetable consumption and its relation to markers of inflammation and oxidative stress in adolescents. J Am Diet Assoc. 2009 Mar;109(3):414-21. doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2008.11.036. PMID: 19248856; PMCID: PMC2676354.
Katz DL, Doughty K, Ali A. Cocoa and chocolate in human health and disease. Antioxid Redox Signal. 2011 Nov 15;15(10):2779-811. doi: 10.1089/ars.2010.3697. Epub 2011 Jun 13. PMID: 21470061; PMCID: PMC4696435.