Is it true that my child may not be able get all the nutrients they need from a normal diet?
Humans, with our physiology based on an omnivorous diet (even if we decide to be vegetarian), need to eat a variety of foods each day to make sure we get all of the vitamins and minerals our bodies require. No one food source provides all of these, but a healthy diet based on appropriate quantities of meat, nuts, dairy products, fruits, vegetables and cereal foods can provide you with all of the known essential vitamins and minerals.
However, where a children's dietary intake may be less than adequate, supplements can be beneficial in maintaining their health.
What exactly are organic foods?
Although minor variations in standards exist across countries, the term 'organic food' is usually taken to mean a food that has been produced without artificial fertilisers that has not been subject to treatment with synthetic pesticides or growth promoters of any type, including hormones and antibiotics.
What are the differences between fats and oils (saturated and unsaturated), and what is their effect on health?
Fats and oils are similar chemically, the subtle differences that do exist have major effects on health. Generally, saturated fats exist in room temperature as solid fat, and unsaturated fats form liquid oils. Fats and oils are essential in the makeup of our body, specifically in the brain and other nervous tissue such as the eye. When we digest fats and oils, they are transported in our bloodstream to all areas of the body. Saturated fats clump together to form much larger structures within the blood, restricting blood circulation and increasing blood pressure. These large clumps can build up on the walls of our arteries and cause health problems such as heart disease and stroke. In the body, cholesterol production can also be increased in response to the consumption of foods rich in some saturated fatty acids. High blood cholesterol is associated strongly with increased risk of heart disease.
What are omega-3 fatty acids and what is the scientific evidence behind the claims relating to foods high in omega-3?
Omega-3 fats are polyunsaturated fatty acids that are found in significant quantities in several varieties of seafood such as oily fish, and to a lesser extent, in plants and plant oils (eg. canola, linseed, flaxseed, soy and walnut). The evidence is now quite strong that omega-3 fats are beneficial in several areas of human health: heart and vascular disease, inflammatory disease, allergies, and development and maintenance of vision and brain function.
What is DHA and EPA and how are they beneficial?
The health benefits associated with fish oils are attributable to its docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) content. DHA and EPA are essential omega-3 fatty acids.
The brain consists of approximately 60% adipose (fat) tissue by weight, of which DHA is the most abundant form. A large proportion of the brain's fatty tissue content is maintained in neurone cell membranes and in the protective myelin sheath that covers them. DHA is essential for optimal neurone and brain function, particularly in a developing brain (through the growth years through to adulthood and beyond). DHA deficiencies have been associated with ADD/ADHD symptoms and reduced learning and physical development in infants and children.
Apart from the brain, DHA is essential for optimal eye health and function. Like brain tissue, DHA is incorporated within eye tissue. A deficiency in DHA can lead to a number of eye conditions.
Omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA have also been reported to provide benefits to the immune and cardiovascular system. While providing a generally better level of immune health, some suggest that fish oil assists in reducing the risk of allergies and allergic type symptoms and reactions. Omega-3 oils have been shown to provide benefits to cardiovascular health through the inhibition of clotting factors, improving blood circulation and potentially reducing high blood pressure.
Is there a link between nutrition and a children's behaviour?
There is a link between a children's diet and their behaviour. This is most evident in infants and children with low levels of DHA in their diet.
Children with a diet consisting largely of unhealthy, energy rich foods such as fried food and many take away foods has also been linked to poor behaviour. We tend to feel better and behave better when we are healthy. A balanced diet consisting mostly of raw and cooked fruit and vegetables, complex carbohydrates such as cereals, grains and rice, followed less so with fish, lean meat, dairy products and oils is ideal for a healthy diet. While supplements should not take the place of a healthy diet, where dietary intake may be less than adequate, supplements can be beneficial in maintaining your health.
Can my child improve their memory and cognitive abilities? If so, how?
To improve and maintain your memory and cognitive ability, try to maintain a healthy diet that includes adequate nutrients consisting of protein, complex carbohydrates, fats such as DHA fatty acids, and vitamins and minerals.
Like other parts of your body, your brain requires a level of exercise to improve and maintain function. Brain exercises, thinking games and puzzles may help you to improve your memory, cognition, and you ability to concentrate. Supplements and medications may also assist, for instance when a person has high blood pressure, medication and/or the use of natural products including herbs and omega-3 fatty acids can reduce blood pressure and improve blood circulation. As high blood pressure also affects eyesight over time, reducing your blood pressure may improve and maintain optimal vision and eye health. And as the heart does not need to work so hard, general health is improved, assisting the immune system.
How can I reduce my risk of age-related conditions such as dementia (Alzheimers) or Parkinsons disease as I get older?
There has been some suggestion based on research and anecdotal evidence that through adequate diet and the use of physical and mental exercises that people may be less at risk of suffering from these and other debilitating conditions.
What is an allergy?
An allergy, or allergic reaction, is when the body develops an inappropriate immune response to substances that may not otherwise, be harmful to the body. There are different forms of allergies, the more common allergies resulting from exposure to pollen, dander (animal hair/fur), dust and in some people, certain foods such as wheat or gluten. Allergic reactions can be relatively minor (skin rash for instance) to the severe and life threatening (anaphylactic in nature, inducing shock and making breathing difficult or impossible).
There is some evidence that suggests that babies and children receiving adequate omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA through their diet (directly or via breastfeeding), and through the mother'ss diet prior to conception and throughout pregnancy, may reduce their risk of allergies.
Why do some people suffer from allergies while others do not?
No one really knows. It may be dependent upon the individual (genetics), their diet, and their environment. Some people can be allergic to one or more things (pollen, dust, dander, wheat and gluten are common) seemingly from birth, while some people can become sensitised to a stimulus over time.
Some experts believe that diet can play a role. Having a balanced diet incorporating in large part raw and cooked fruit and vegetables, followed by lean meat, fish, nuts, some dairy and fats/oils appears to work well. Be careful of wheat, gluten and cereals/cereal products, particularly if you are intolerant to these products. Some dairy products like yellow cheese are thought to exacerbate allergic conditions (perhaps through increased mucosal production), while other dairy products (milk, white cheese, yoghurt) appear to be less problematic. There is some evidence that supplementation with fish oil and antioxidants may assist in improving allergies.
How does a person know whether they may be experiencing an allergic reaction? What are possible symptoms?
If you are having an allergic reaction, if it is mild (such as a mild rash), you may not be aware of it initially. As reactions can become more severe, symptoms may include cold or flu like symptoms; a runny nose; teary eyes; or eye, nose or throat irritation. In very severe reactions, symptoms can be life threatening. These include anaphylactic reactions, where swelling may occur and breathing may become difficult.
Generally the only way to determine whether you have an allergy is to look for symptoms upon or after repeated exposure to the object you suspect may be causing your symptoms. In some cases, symptoms may not be recognizable. In all these situations, consultation with an allergist or clinical toxicologist may be advisable.
Can allergy symptoms improve?
Allergy symptoms can improve or become increasingly severe with age. Some individuals seem to suffer from allergies early in life with symptoms decreasing in severity over time. This may take several months or years. Allergy symptoms can improve or become increasingly severe depending upon diet and other potential factors such as the environment (weather, pollution, pollen, dust, etc.).
Can my diet alter my risk of allergies?
Some health professionals believe that diet can have an affect. Having a balanced diet incorporating in large part raw and cooked fruit and vegetables, followed by lean meat, fish, nuts, some dairy and fats/oils appears to work well. Be careful of wheat, gluten and cereals/cereal products, particularly if you are intolerant to these products. Some dairy products like yellow cheese are thought to exacerbate allergic conditions (perhaps through mucosal production), while other dairy products (milk, white cheese, yoghurt) appear not to be problematic. Consultation with a dietitian or herbalist may help.
Why are some children allergic to peanut butter?
There is some evidence that mothers using creams containing peanut oil (to soothe sore nipples while breastfeeding) and the use of soy-based formulas in infants may be the cause of the increase in peanut allergies in some developed countries, particularly in Australia, Britain and North America. In North America and the United Kingdom, prevalence rates among schoolchildren are now in excess of 1%. Interestingly, the prevalence of peanut allergies in Asia appears to be substantially lower in spite of the wide use of peanuts and peanut derived products in food. About 25% of children will out grow the allergy when peanuts and peanut oil is avoided during their youth.
How can I protect my children from disease, infection, viruses, etc?
While your children's ability to resist pathogens is largely dependent upon genetics, your children's diet (and that of the mother prior to the children's birth), influences their health. For instance, fish oil consumption by the mother prior to the children's birth, and while breastfeeding, are linked with a lesser risk of allergies.
As your child grows and develops, a moderate diet (as mentioned above, and explained in more detail later), will best help your child to remain healthy.
How can I better look after the health of my eyes, and that of my child?
The eyes are very sensitive to diet insufficiencies, due to the complex nature of vision. Also, as there are no pain-sensing nerve endings within the eye itself, it is almost impossible to detect early symptoms of many eye conditions until it is too late. Therefore, it is extremely important to prevent eye conditions by maintaining an optimal level of nutrition. As many diets provide less than adequate nutrition, it may be necessary to seek supplementation.