| August 28, 2017 | Author: naturopath
Worldwide prevalence of food allergies is on the rise.
Figures by the Australian Bureau of Statistics reveal that about 13% of children aged between two and 18 avoid a food due to allergy or intolerance, and data from the U.S. suggests that 4 out of every 100 U.S. children have a food allergy.
Most children grow out of their food allergy; however, when adults develop food allergy, it usually persists.
Food allergy is an immune system reaction to food that can sometimes be life threatening, as in the case of anaphylaxis. The most common triggers, accounting for 90% of food allergic reactions, are these eight foods: milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soy. However, there are more than 170 foods known to have triggered severe allergic reactions.
Currently, there is no cure for food allergy other than avoidance of the triggering allergenic food.
Not all food reactions are food allergies. Food sensitivity, also called food intolerance, does not involve the immune system, and does not cause severe allergic reactions.
Reactions usually occur within minutes following exposure to an allergen, and most often result in hives, swelling of the lips, eyes, or face, nausea, abdominal pain or vomiting. The most severe form of food allergy is anaphylaxis. Some of the symptoms of anaphylaxis include difficult/noisy breathing, swelling of tongue, and tightness in throat. Anaphylaxis can be fatal if left untreated.
While the reasons for the increasing prevalence of food allergies are a subject for ongoing research, there is some evidence that suggests that delayed introduction of certain potentially allergenic foods may increase your baby’s risk for food allergies.
Peanuts. One study found that children in Israel were 10 times less likely to develop peanut allergy when they were compared with Jewish kids in the United Kingdom. The researchers noticed that Israeli kids consumed high amounts of a popular peanut snack called Bamba, from approximately 7 months of age, while in the United Kingdom peanut-based foods were usually introduced in the diet only after the first year of life.
The researchers suggested that the early introduction of peanuts to the diet offered protection from the development of peanut allergy. A later study showed similar results. It involved 640 allergy-prone infants, between 4 months and 11 months of age. The infants were divided into two groups. One group consumed Bamba or smooth peanut butter, while the other group was to avoid any peanut consumption. When the infants were 60 months of age, those who consumed peanuts were about 80% less likely to develop a peanut allergy compare with the group that avoided peanuts.
Eggs. When infants with eczema received 1 teaspoon of pasteurised raw whole egg powder daily from 4 to 8 months of age, they had reduced incidence of egg allergy at 12 months of age, compare with infants who were not fed any eggs until 8 months.
Milk. Researchers followed the feeding history of over 13,000 newborns. They found that those who were started on cow’s milk formula before 14 days of age were at significantly reduced risk for developing milk allergy compare to those who were given formula between the ages of 105 and 194 days.
This is not to discourage breastfeeding. The Department of Health guidelines recommend exclusive breastfeeding of infants to around six months of age when solid foods are introduced and continued breastfeeding until the age of 12 months and beyond, if both mother and infant wish.
Fish. Another study, from Sweden, found that early introduction of fish (before 9 months of age) was associated with reduced risk of developing asthma at 8 years of age.
Multiple allergenic foods. A U.K. trial divided breast-fed babies into two groups. One group, ‘the early-introduction group’, consumed at least 5 of 6 allergenic foods: milk, peanut, egg, sesame, fish, and wheat, for at least 5 weeks between 3 and 6 months of age, while in the other group, ‘the standard-introduction group’, there was no consumption of the allergenic foods before 5 months, with the exception of formula milk. It turned out that out of the 6 foods, the prevalence of peanut allergy and egg allergy were significantly lower in the early introduction group, suggesting a protective effect for early introduction of peanuts and eggs.
In the past, we have been advised to introduce highly allergenic foods after the age of one year old. These days, the evidence shows that delaying the introduction of these foods may increase your baby’s risk of developing allergies.
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Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy 2014, Food Allergy, Available at: https://www.allergy.org.au/
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