In contemplating trying for a baby sometime soon I have been thinking about food allergies and intolerances. What got me thinking initially was the evidence from my own diet - and anecdotes from fellow Paleohackers - about how progressively ill we feel when we either purposely or accidently eat something from the realm of SAD. I would really love to raise a child with a Paleo food ethic but there are some concerns.
I started to worry about serious intolerences and allergies - for example although I choose not to eat gluten and peanuts if i do accidently eat either of these foods I might feel ill or off (or have no reaction at all) but there is no medically serious effects (long term effects aside - we won't discuss these here). As in my life doesn't depend on my avoiding these foods at all costs.
So my theory was whether it would actually be better to introduce some SAD foods into a young childs diet (such as gluten and peanuts) so that their body builds up a tolerance to them. My point being that I would rather have my child eat a little of these foods as opposed to having to live in fear about whether the child will accidently eat a peanut one day and have a life-threating reaction. Similarly, children are children and they will eat non-paleo at some point in their young lives (at friends houses etc) and wouldn't it be preferable to not have to worry about the child having a seriously adverse reaction to foods?
I recently heard a scientist discussing something along these lines on the radio recently - that allowing children access to these common-allergy creating foods from a young age actually allows them to build up a tolerance and minimises the risk of allergies. I can't find a link to it sorry (it was on Australian radio).
What are your opinions on this? I'd be interested in Dragonfly's take as well.
asked byMayaBee (1311)
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on March 27, 2012
at 01:45 AM
This has been discussed before, see here: http://paleohacks.com/questions/72007/will-shielding-my-child-from-allergenic-foods-make-him-more-allergenic#axzz1qHGjSF5W
My personal emphasis would be on protecting my child's gut health at all costs. (See my post on this question.)
This would mean optimizing my own gut health prior to conception and avoiding any of my known allergens/gut irritants during pregnancy. I would also avoid any antibiotics during pregnancy & birth (if possible), eat lots of fermented foods, bone broth, and organ meats during my pregnancy.
I would have a home birth (probably not a water birth) and make sure the first person to touch my baby is me or my partner. No baby hat at birth, so I could kiss baby & keep inoculating him/her with my bacteria. Exclusive breastfeeding to 6-9 months, depending on baby's needs.
I would delay any necessary vaccinations until baby's immune system was stronger (1+ year.) Nine months would be the earliest I would introduce any potential food allergens and then I would do it one at a time and in very small amounts to see if there was any reaction. Nine months is when most digestive acids & enzymes come on board.
If the baby has been inoculated with your good gut bacteria & allowed to develop his/her immune system without being exposed too early, then I imagine that gluten and other "allergens" won't be a problem.
Every child is different, so YMMV!
on March 27, 2012
at 02:35 AM
I love Dragonfly's response, and I thought I'd point out a little microbiology behind allergies. While it is not universally agreed upon exactly how allergies are developed (they are pretty tricky things) the hygiene hypothesis is the best place to start. Allergies are basically the body attacking things, after an exposure, that it thinks are dangerous but aren't really. This results in the release of histamine, which is the big body-puffing-up hives, swollen eyes, inflamed nasal passages, itchy palate, and possibly swollen throat (that's where it gets dangerous and you have to have an epi pen on hand). The antibody that is responsible for this unreasonable reaction is IgE, which is the one we keep on hand to protect against tropical parasitic worms. Because we live in relatively clean environments, where there is a low exposure to parasites and microorganisms, we don't train these antibodies to react appropriately.
There are some really promising studies going on in Europe right now on the possible inoculation of children with harmless parasitic worms to prevent future allergies, but in the meantime you want to expose your children to healthy microorganisms and keep a healthy gut flora going. This will be the best way to get their immune system primed to fight the appropriate types of threats, and leave the non-dangerous ones alone. Feeding infants too young, exposure to too many allergens too early, and a poor gut flora will be the things you want to avoid for allergies. Introduce foods one at a time. If you are nervous about certain foods (peanuts and shellfish for example) you could consider taking your child to an allergist for peace of mind. They will perform a relatively pain-free (unless they have a reaction, of course) skin-scratch test, probably on the back if they are quite young.
That being said, there is a possibility that allergies will develop, even in the healthiest of environments, so it is something to look for while introducing foods. Pay attention to any food aversions or rashes that come up after feeding. My boyfriend was a vaginal birth and breast fed for two years- he ended up allergic to wheat, shellfish, dairy, tomatoes, citrus, eggs, soy, all nuts, and fish. As his immune system matured he grew out of a lot of them, as some kids do, but he still is allergic to peanuts and fish, and recently got a celiac diagnoses. I think to some extent this is genetic- I too suffer from allergies, and know that even my grandfather had bad hayfever, which was very unusual for someone his age. Then again, I was an emergency C-section (my poor mum and all her sisters have a genetic blip that prevents them from being able to dilate at all- 7 girls in the family, none of them able to have a natural birth!) My boyfriend has both MS and celiac in his family history, so autoimmune disorders were present before he was born. Nothing is 100% avoidable, but taking steps to ensure a healthy exposure to microorganisms early in life is going to go a long ways to developing a healthy immune system!
on March 27, 2012
at 01:46 AM
i totally am on board with you. thought about the same things myself, you will be such a great mom! but it begs the question, if this is true, then why didn't every single person in any culture have a severe reaction the first time they were introduced to a new food (gluten, etc)? like the first time chinese were introduced to bread, the first time the Colonists were introduced to the Native American's peanuts, etc. does that make sense? i don't understand the science, just curious. i'm sure there are plenty of hippie moms like us across the states even who have kept their kids off certain foods without ill effects? anyways, good luck to you on your pregnancy!!! :)
on March 27, 2012
at 02:42 AM
i ate peanut butter and white bread all through my childhood and always thought the discomfort i felt was just the way fat people felt since i was a chubby kid. but in my 40s at 120lbs it dawned on me that i wasn't really fat, so why did i still feel fat?
i don't think every person become tolerant of the irritant, just accustomed to feeling unwell.