Allergies seem to go hand-in-hand with babies and children these days. While no-one has a firm answer on why allergies seem to be increasing, recommendations seem to continually change with the hopes of alleviating the hike in numbers.
A recent report from the Canadian Pediatric Society says that, “Babies who are at high risk of developing a food allergy can be exposed to potential food allergens as early as 6 months of age.” From what I’ve been hearing from parents, this has been the recommendations from some doctors even before this statement hit the news wires. Remember that this is a statement. It looks at other literature out there and summarizes what’s been happening in other parts of the world. These findings have driven this new statement. Unfortunately, it makes for more confusion for parents.
I’d like to shed some light on the statement, as so many of my clients have babies with food allergies, or are at the stage of starting baby on solid foods. They may be more unsure than ever. Here are some of my thoughts:
- Allergies are on the rise, and not necessarily due to when the most allergenic foods are introduced. The foods that rank as the most common culprits are peanuts, fish, dairy or eggs. I believe there are many reasons for this including the overuse of antibiotics, an increasing number of vaccines, more cesarian sections, formula given in the first 24 hours of life and more chemicals and genetically modified food on our plates than ever before. The effects to the gut from all I’ve mentioned, play a huge part in reactions. But why a nut, or egg or fish? That’s the million dollar question.
- Most parents are going to introduce foods one at a time and watch for allergic or sensitivity reactions. Suggesting to parents that they introduce the most allergenic foods straight away can be received as daunting. There is evidence that a baby with a close relative who has an allergy or allergic condition such as atopic dermatitis, asthma or allergic rhinitis is high-risk. I’ve come across babies who are allergic where this isn’t the case. I’d be very worried for a parent to experience a reaction to a food in the early days of introducing solids. There is already tremendous fear surrounding food allergies.
- I’ve come across babies who are fine with egg yolk, but not egg white. Once the whole egg is introduced, it’s hard to figure out which is the culprit. They may have been ok if this introduction was delayed until closer to 12 months. Giving the whole egg to a more sensitive baby seems to show this as a problem food. Egg is a super nutritious food and with all the nutrients in the yolk, start and stay with just the good part.
- Sensitive babies are those who have experienced colic in the early days, and who continue to be gassy along with experiencing other digestive issues. If while breast feeding, mom changed her diet with an improvement in her baby, whether a true allergy or sensitivity, I’d suggest that the introduction to more allergenic foods be put on hold until closer to nine months.
- Probiotics can not only help balance good bacteria in the gut, but also potentially reduce allergies by 50%. I’ve seen babies suffering with eczema and other skin conditions improve with probiotic supplementation. I can’t stress enough the importance of a strong immune system and that can be achieved by ensuring a healthy gut.
I would love to get my hands on, or even do a study on, food allergies in relation to cesarian sections, antibiotics, and more. I honestly think that there is so much more to this than introducing foods at six, nine or 12 months. It plays a part, but certainly isn’t the whole picture.