Fish Oil for Childhood Allergies: Everything You Need to Know
Fish oils come from oily fish such as sardines, herring, mackerel, anchovies and salmon. They are a rich source of omega-3 fats, especially DHA and EPA which are much harder to obtain from other omega-3 foods like walnuts, chia and flax seeds.
These Essential Fatty Acids can support heart health, maintain vision, protect brain function, improve mental health, promote healthy skin, aid liver function and reduce inflammation; they may also improve ADHD and autism in children, and help babies' brains and eyes develop during pregnancy.
Research is now also pointing to a link between consuming fish oils and reducing allergies in children. Below are three ways in which they may be able to help.
Supplement Early to Stop Dust Mite Allergies
Being allergic to house dust mites is relatively common, and children living in areas with a higher volume of traffic are more susceptible.
People with asthma and those with other allergies can also become sensitive to dust.
Dust mites are present in every household throughout the world. They are microscopic arthropods that feed on human skin flakes which have embedded themselves into furniture, bedding, carpets and toys where dust mites flourish and feast on the skin.
The Woolcock Institute of Medical Research in Sydney, and Imperial College London, examined data from a longitudinal study looking into asthma in children. The research looked at a number of eight-year-old children who lived in areas of high traffic pollution, half of which were given regular fish oil supplements for the first five years of their lives.
Researchers noted a significantly higher number of children with dust mite allergies in those who were not given the supplements and concluded that fish oil supplements could protect against the effects of pollution and dust mite allergies in children.
This was only a preliminary investigation, and more extensive studies are needed to gain more conclusive evidence; but the results are certainly promising.
Fish Oils May Protect Against Food Allergies
An observational study published in 2018 followed 1,304 Nordic children from birth to 2.5 years of age. The parents were periodically asked to fill out detailed questionnaires including fish oil supplementation.
Children with and without proven food allergies participated in the trial. Progression of established allergies and the formation of new ones were monitored.
Overall food sensitivity was notably lower in the children taking fish oils, and although it was less significant, a higher reduction in food allergy symptoms was also seen in the supplemented children.
Two other points raised from this study were that the children who began taking fish oil in the first six months of their life were more protected than those who started later. Also, the higher the potency of fish oils, the greater the reduction in allergy symptoms.
Again, more research is needed to determine how effective fish oil supplementation would be in more extensive studies, but this is very encouraging.
Fish Oils During Pregnancy for Childhood Asthma
The EPA and DHA found in fish oils have been associated with anti-inflammatory effects in disease, asthma and allergies.
A large number of studies in people from many different cultures, ages and backgrounds have researched the benefits of fish oils on asthmatic and allergic symptoms. Overall, there have been positive results supporting supplementation for asthma, linking decreased intake of fish oils to increased symptoms.
In a double blind, randomised controlled trial, 736 pregnant women at 24 to 26 weeks gestation were divided into a placebo group who took olive oil and another who took fish oil. EPA and DHA blood levels were tested at the start of the trial and one week after birth.
The purpose of the study was to determine the fish oil effects on asthma and wheezing in their children.
To monitor their progress, the children had regular paediatric visits in the first 36 months of their lives and then at four and five years of age.
At three to five years, the children of mothers who had received fish oils had a lower risk of asthma and wheezing which equated to a relative reduction of 30.7% compared to those in the placebo group.
A decrease in lower respiratory tract infections was also linked to fish oil supplementation.
Interestingly, the most substantial benefits were observed in the children whose mothers had the lowest levels of EPA and DHA at the start of the trial. The same was also true for children whose mothers had consumed less fish oils before the study began.
While more research is justified, these results are all very hopeful and if you are pregnant, or have young children either with allergies or without, supplementing with fish oils or eating adequate amounts of oily fish could reap great rewards long term.
Starting children as early as possible appears to be the most beneficial.
Concerning the trial for asthma and wheezing in children, it is important to note that the offspring of mothers who had low levels of EPA and DHA to start with were the ones who had the most favourable results.
It is also worth pointing out that this trial was conducted in Denmark, where oily fish consumption is much more common in the diet than other countries like the UK, for example.
Many of us are low in omega-3, particularly if we eat a typical western diet or don’t consume much oily fish. So arguably, supplementing with fish oil during pregnancy may have more profound effects here and in other countries where consuming oily fish is less common.
Have a look at our WHC Fish Oil range which is exceptionally high in quality and purity. There is even a specially formulated fish oil for children, QuattrO3 + PS.
This article is written by Rebecca Rychlik, Nutritional Therapist and Homeopath. Follow Rebecca on Instagram, Facebook and Medium, @rebeccabitesback.
Research is now pointing to a link between consuming fish oils and reducing allergies in children.