We have all heard too often the increasingly higher rates of food sensitivities and allergies developing in young children today, but how can we avoid them. Even when parents are aware of some typical trigger foods and have either introduced them early on or delayed it in their children’s diets, allergic reactions still occur. In a 2012 study published in the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, data was analyzed from 512 infants, ages 3 months to 15 months, diagnosed with or at risk for having an allergy to milk, eggs or peanuts. In a 36-month period, 72% had at least one reaction; 53% had more than one. In the early years of a child’s life, their digestive and immune system is still developing. This is the window of opportunity in those formative years to establish a foundation of optimal health.
How can this be achieved? Having a healthy digestive system, along with strong immunity are the best strategies for warding off the development of food sensitivities and allergies.
It all starts with what’s happening on the inside. Normally, the digestive system’s role is to properly absorb, break down and distribute nutrients throughout the body’s organs. However, due to the consumption of processed and nutrient-lacking foods, certain medications and high stress, this places extra stress on the digestive system to do its job properly. Parents will find that by working on improving their child’s food diet over time, the likelihood of developing allergies is reduced substantially. Here are some tips for preventing food allergies naturally:
- Exclusively breast-feeding your child for at least one year, which is the optimal amount of time for protecting against allergies. If not possible, choose a hydrolyzed-based formula that has been designed to contain smaller milk protein units that infants can digest more easily and with less risk of developing an allergy.
- Include a wide variety of non-processed, wholesome foods in your child’s diet to prevent food sensitivities. Encourage foods rich in vitamin C and other anti-oxidants, such as green and orange-colored vegetables. Eating the same favorite food item frequently often leads to an inflammatory response that could turn into an allergy towards that particular food. It’s best to rotate foods every four to five days.
- Eliminate or reduce acid-forming foods such as refined carbohydrates, white sugars, milk and dairy products as well as additives such as food dyes, artificial preservatives and aspartame. Consuming cow’s milk is quite often the underlying reason for inflammatory reactions that can include eczema, frequent ear infections, constipation, stomach aches and even other gastrointestinal conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome.Incorporate supplementation with essential fatty acids: omega 3, 6 & 9 and a multi-strain probiotic. Be sure that it includes bifidobacterium infantis which is the most prominent beneficial bacteria found in infants and toddlers. These supplements will support a stronger immune system, thereby reducing an allergenic response.
- Slow down to eat meals. Encourage your child to chew their bites of food thoroughly before swallowing. This will activate enzymes in the saliva to break down food more efficiently.
Annie Anderson is a Sleep & Parenting Consultant who specializes in helping families get the sleep they need. She provides one-on-one sleep coaching, potty training and nutrition consulting services through Cheekychops Consulting. She is also a registered holistic nutritionist and loves to work with both adults and children in achieving optimal health and wellness.
Photo Credit: nvainio on Flickr
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As a dietitian who provides nutrition services for parents, I’d love for there to be solid scientific evidence for what to do to prevent food allergies. Unfortunately this just isn’t the case currently. The scientific evidence doesn’t support these four tips. Eating a wide variety of foods, focusing on less-processed foods, and taking the time to chew foods well are all healthy habits. But there isn’t strong evidence to support that they will minimize food allergy. There also isn’t evidence that eating the other foods listed will increase the risk of allergy (or avoiding them decreases allergy risk), nor that the supplements will prevent allergy. There are only two actions that have evidence that they help prevent food allergy, and the evidence isn’t super strong for these either. They are: 1) breastfeed for 6 months and 2) don’t give your baby any solid foods before 4 months of age.
I am a registered dietitian working with infants and children for 16 years. I would like to clarify if Annie is suggesting to avoid dairy altogether or just prior to 9 months? The current Heath Canada recommendations is to introduce dairy products between 9-12 months of age. If she is suggesting all infants should avoid the entire dairy food group, this is incorrect information and this article should be retracted. She references one article/study and this does not mean it becomes a blanket recommendation for all infants. If this were the case, Health Canada and the CAP would issue a formal statement which they have not. I am afraid moms will read this article and take their infants off of dairy. If mothers think their infant/child may be allergic to dairy products, they need to see a registered dietitian to discuss how to replace the calcium in their child’s diet. Registered Dietitians have attended an accredited university for a 4 year science degree and then take a full year of internship.
As a dietitian who provides nutrition services for parents, I’d love for there to be solid scientific evidence for how to prevent food allergies. Unfortunately this just isn’t the case currently. The scientific evidence doesn’t support These 4 tips. Eating a wide variety of foods, focussing on less-processed foods, and taking the time to chew foods well are all healthy habits. But there isn’t strong evidence to support that they will minimize food allergy. There also isn’t evidence that eating the other foods listed will increase the risk of allergy (or avoiding them decreases allergy risk), nor that the supplements will prevent allergy. There are only 2 actions that have evidence that they help prevent food allergy: 1) breastfeed for 6 months and 2) don’t give your baby any solid foods before they’re 4 months old. For more info on the scientific evidence for preventing food allergy and how to introduce your baby to solid foods, watch my blog post at http://www.vitaminkconsulting.com/blog/
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