Pregnancy, Diet, Asthma, and Eczema

Pregnancy, Diet, Asthma, and Eczema

What Mom eats during pregnancy appears able to help protect her kindergarten-aged child from asthma and eczema. A little over ten years ago, researchers at the University of Aberdeen proposed that the recent dramatic increase in asthma and related conditions in affluent societies might be partly do to the decline of antioxidants in the diet. To study this idea further, they followed 1861 children beginning even before they were born. The mothers’ diets during pregnancy were analyzed by survey and by blood levels of antioxidant nutrients such as vitamin E and zinc. At 5-years old, the children were evaluated by parental questionnaire, objective breathing tests, and skin-prick testing. The latest results appear in the September 1, 2006 American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. The higher the level of vitamin E in the mothers’ diets during pregnancy, the lower the chance that her kindergartener had wheezed in the last year or had ever had asthma. Children born to mothers who had the lowest vitamin E levels were more than 5 times more likely to develop asthma than those whose moms had the highest vitamin E levels. Similarly, the higher the mothers’ zinc levels during pregnancy, the lower the chance that her 5-year-old ever had asthma or eczema. The protective effects of vitamin E and zinc appeared even stronger in those children who had been breast-fed. They appear to help both the developing immune system and the organs themselves. This is exciting support for the role that good nutrition can have during critical windows of child development.

This study does not offer support for the idea of simply relying on vitamin E or zinc pills (though I do recommend taking a high-quality prenatal vitamin – especially one with vitamin E derived from food sources). The study does suggest, though, that eating foods rich in these antioxidants could have a powerful and lasting effect. Great sources of vitamin E include sunflower seeds, spinach and other greens, papaya, olives and olive oil, broccoli, blueberries, and kiwifruit. Look for zinc in foods like lean meats, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, yogurt, green peas, spinach, and mushrooms. Just listing these foods is getting me in the mood for a great salad and a bowl of fruit. Isn’t it wonderful that real foods (as opposed to junk foods) offer such profound immune, skin, and respiratory benefits?

Dr. Alan Greene

As a father of four himself, Dr. Greene has devoted himself to freely giving real answers to parents' real questions -- from questions about those all too common childhood conditions to those that address the most recent and rare pediatric illnesses. His answers combine cutting edge science, practical wisdom, warm empathy, and a deep respect for parents, children, and the environment. He is also an electrifying public speaker, and has personally touched many during his talks in North America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

Dr. Greene is a graduate of Princeton University and the University of California at San Francisco. Upon completion of his pediatric residency program at Children's Hospital Medical Center of Northern California he served as Chief Resident. He entered primary care pediatrics in January 1993.

Dr. Greene is the Past President of The Organic Center and on the Board of Directors of Healthy Child Healthy World. He is a founding partner of the Collaborative on Health and the Environment. He also consults for the Environmental Working Group.

In 1995, he launched, cited by the AMA as “the pioneer physician Web site” on the Internet. His award-winning site has received over 80 million Unique Users from parents, concerned family members, students, and healthcare professionals. In addition to being the founder of, he is the Medical Director for HealthTap.

In 2010 Dr. Greene founded the WhiteOut Movement to change how babies in the United States are fed. In 2012 he founded TICC TOCC - Transitioning Immediate Cord Clamping To Optimal Cord Clamping. He is also the founder of KidGlyphs, a free iPhone app that provides a tool for young children to express themselves beyond their verbal skills while teaching them important language skills.

Dr. Greene is the Founding President of the Society for Participatory Medicine and has served as both President and Board Chair of Hi-Ethics (Health Internet Ethics. He is on the Board of Directors for Healthy Child Healthy World, The Lunchbox Project, and The Society for Participatory Medicine. He has also served as an advisor to URAC for both their inaugural and their updated health web site accreditation program. He is a founding member of the e-Patient Scholars Working Group, and a founding board member of the Center for Information Therapy.

Dr. Greene is a regular columnist for Parenting Magazine. He is also the Pediatric Expert for The People’s Pharmacy (as heard on NPR) and Healing Quest (seen on PBS stations). He was the original Pediatric Expert for both Yahoo! and iVillage.

Dr. Greene is the author of Feeding Baby Green (Wiley, 2009), Raising Baby Green (Wiley, 2007), From First Kicks to First Steps (McGraw-Hill, 2004), The Parent's Complete Guide to Ear Infections (People's Medical Society, 1997), and a co-author of The A.D.A.M. Illustrated Family Health Guide (A.D.A.M., Inc., 2004). He is the medical expert for three additional books, The Parent's Soup A-to-Z Guide to Your New Baby, (Contemporary Books, 1998) The Parent's Soup A-to-Z Guide to Your Toddler, (Contemporary Books, 1999), and The Mother of All Baby Books, (Hungry Minds, Inc., 2002).

Dr. Greene is a frequent keynote speaker at important events such as Health 2.0 2011 held in San Diego, CA, IFOAM 2008 (International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements), held in Modena Italy, the first European Internet health conference, held in Maastricht, the first International eHealth Association Conference, held in Jeddah, and the largest e-Healthcare World Conference, held in Las Vegas, and the first Green Power Baby Shower, held in Hollywood. Dr. Greene also appears frequently on TV, radio, websites, and in newspapers and magazines around the world, including such venues as the TODAY Show, Good Morning America, Fox and Friends, The Dr. Oz Show, CNN, ABC, CBS, and NBC network news, NPR, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Time Magazine, Parade, Parenting, Child, Baby Talk, Working Mother, Better Home's & Gardens, and the Reader's Digest.

Dr. Greene loves to think about challenging ideas, he enjoys being where nothing manmade can be seen, and he wears green socks.

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