We’ve all been there as parents of little ones: the dreaded days of teething. The stretches of seemingly-endless periods of agony for our babies — never mind how painful it is for us to watch!
In sorting through information while writing our book, we discovered that there may be more to teething beneath the surface than, well…more teeth! Our research got us thinking: can diet help ease teething woes in our little ones?
We know that teething causes symptoms such as irritability, along with tender, swollen, inflamed gums (hence the discomfort our babies feel). We tend to look at teething from that discomfort standpoint — what can we do to make the pain better? — but interestingly enough, another solution can be delivered. And it can be found in certain foods.
Let’s shift the focus off of baby food for a moment, and just look at food in general: we already know that certain foods decrease inflammation. Among them are: garlic, ginger, turmeric, cumin, leafy greens…just to name a few. We also know that certain foods can increase inflammation. (We’ll get to that in a minute.)
Now let’s talk about baby food. Could we focus on the foods that reduce inflammation, possibly providing teething relief for our babies through their diets? Would this benefit our babies — especially during the uncomfortable bouts of teething?
We consulted Dr. Elissa Levine, MD, of Kids First Pediatrics, for her input on the topic. Here’s what she had to say:
“We know that spices such as turmeric, garlic and ginger can help settle inflammation. It makes sense that if the inflammation is around gums while teeth are erupting then these herbs would help with this inflammation as well…using the spices in the diet is a perfectly safe approach to introducing these potentially beneficial spices into your child.”
Our thoughts are, 1) WOW! and 2), if it can’t hurt, then why not try? Because every little bit truly helps.
Dr. Levine also weighed in on dairy:
“Milk proteins can cause inflammation in some people. This inflammation may be seen as a runny nose in some children, irritability in others, or can exacerbate underlying illnesses or discomfort…Like with anything else, some children are more sensitive to the pro-inflammatory effects of diary and some children are not affected at all. It makes sense to limit dairy, especially milk, when your child is teething IF your child is sensitive to the pro-inflammatory effects of dairy. (If it is your child’s favorite drink and soothes her rather than making her more mucousy and irritated, then by all means, give it to her.)”
What can you do?
If your toddler is having a rough go during bouts of teething, pay attention to his diet to be sure he’s getting more of the anti-inflammatory foods, and less of the ones that cause inflammation. Minor changes like this can go a long way for an uncomfortable baby (not to mention they make for more comfortable parents, too!). And many of these foods also act as antioxidants — double bonus!
Here are 2 simple steps you can take to help ease the pain of teething for your baby:
- Reduce his dairy intake. Take Dr. Levine’s advice and pay attention to how your child reacts to dairy. Temporarily avoiding/limiting yogurt, cheese, and milk in general during the time your child experiences discomfort for teething could make a world of a difference in lessening the pain.
- Focus on anti-inflammatory foods to feed your baby. Add a little fresh ginger to a refreshing smoothie, along with some spinach, blueberries, and water or almond milk (if you know your baby does not have a nut allergy). Pureed salmon is an excellent food to offer due to its high Omega-3s (we have a great recipe coming out in our book for Salmon and Pear puree, it’s one of our kids’ favorites!).
In a (anti-inflammatory) nutshell…
Foods you want to limit: dairy, processed foods, white pasta and white rice.
Foods you want to increase: lean protein, Omega-3 fatty acids, whole grains (such as brown rice and bulgur), dark leafy greens (such as spinach and kale), herbs and spices such as ginger, turmeric, garlic, cumin, and fruits and vegetables in general.
While I (Ali) can’t say that food is the sole reason Penelope had an easier time with teething, I do believe it helped. Yes, she was uncomfortable here and there, but she never had a terrible experience with it. (Sidenote: I realize this makes me lucky, and I also realize that now that I said that, I am totally asking for it with #2). There are of course many contributing factors as to what makes teething worse for some babies than others, many of which are beyond our control. But after doing more research for our book and connecting dots, it makes sense to me that foods she eats may have helped ease the pain by reducing inflammation in her gums.
We also limited dairy, and because I knew she didn’t have any nut allergies I offered her almond milk, because almonds are another inflammation-fighting, healthy fat.
In summary, cut out the inflammatory foods during bouts of teething, and increase the anti-inflammatory ones. At the very best, it could ease your baby’s discomfort, and at the very least, you’re bringing healthful foods and antioxidants into your little one’s diet. It’s a win-win.
So, what do you think? Would you try increasing the anti-inflammatory foods, and decreasing the others? Share your teething experiences, and let us know in the comments!
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