HealthSimplified: an Interview with Dr. Neeta Ogden
Dr. Neeta Ogden is an adult and pediatric allergist, asthma specialist and immunologist with practices in both New York City and New Jersey. A graduate of Yale University and Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Dr. Ogden has published research in academic journals and presented research at national allergy meetings. She specializes in a plethora of conditions, from seasonal allergies to eczema and immunodeficiency.
Recently, we had a chance to sit down with Dr. Ogden to ask her some questions pressing on our minds:
Smartypants: What kind of connection exists between diet and allergies?
Dr. Ogden: More and more medical evidence is pointing to a connection between the two. The big players here are antioxidants–specifically fish oils like the omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin D. Recent studies have shown that both of these have an impact on allergic disease especially in children. A 2004 study in the Journal of Allergy, Asthma and Clinical Immunology found that among allergic and asthmatic children, dietary supplementation with Omega 3 Fatty acids reduced the incidence of cough by 10%. Observational studies have also suggested a role for primary prevention–particularly with omega 3 fatty acid supplementation. This has also been seen in the prenatal diet– fish oil consumption in pregnant women reduced allergic manifestations in children later in life. It’s an area that needs more prospective studies, but given the results in patients with existing disease, a preventive role would seem obvious and promising.
SP: Are there any nutrients that are helpful in addressing food allergies?
Dr. Ogden: Vitamin D in particular is getting a lot of attention in the world of allergies. At the most recent 2012 American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) meeting, there were a number of exciting studies suggesting a strong link between vitamin D and allergies. For people with existing seasonal/pollen allergies on medications such as an intranasal steroids, it was found that the addition of vitamin D boosted the therapeutic effect of this drug in patients who were not even vitamin D deficient. The believe is that vitamin D actually plays a role in immunity and has an effect on the cells mediated immune responses. Another group reported that one-year-old children with low levels of serum vitamin D are more likely to have food allergies than those with normal levels–which really suggests a role for vitamin D in allergy prevention as early as in utero–i.e in the prenatal/maternal diet. Other studies pointed to low vitamin D levels being associated with higher risk for allergies in children and increased wheezing in children with existing asthma.
SP: What are the most common allergies parents have to deal with? Also, what are the key steps we can take to prevent them early on?
Dr. Ogden: The most prevalent allergic conditions right now in children are food allergy, environmental allergy to seasonal and year round allergens, asthma and eczema. The most important step a parent can take is to start as early as pregnancy– follow a more “mediterranean diet”–high in antioxidants and whole grains and low in processed foods and bring this to your family table as well–through food and dietary supplementation. Allergies run in families. So those families in which parents or siblings have allergic conditions–these are the parents who should really think about making sure there is adequate omega 3 fatty acid and vitamin D intake in both the prenatal months for the mother and the childhood years. In children with existing allergic conditions like those mentioned above, I would definitely recommend dietary supplementation with fish oil/omega 3s and vitamin D. At this point, vitamin D should probably be considered a “dietary prescription” that we as doctors recommend to our patients.
SmartyPants: What is the most common question you get asked?
Dr. Ogden: These all rank pretty high: “Will eating local honey prevent my allergies?” ”Will my child outgrow these allergies/eczema/asthma one day?” and “Can I still get a hypoallergenic dog if I’m allergic to dogs?”
Dr. Ogden: No; Possibly; And, you probably shouldn’t.
Dr. Ogden is a Fellow of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAI) and a member of the AAAAI media team. She is also a member of the American Academy of Allery, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) and a member of the ACAAI media team. She regularly appears on ABC news to share tips and medical advice on allergies and health. To learn more about Dr. Ogden and her work, visit her site here.