Early Introduction May Help Reduce Food Allergies?

By Heather Legg

Way back when my children were babies I was so careful with everything they ate. I kept a food calendar and wrote down every new food, tried it alone for 3-5 days, then moved on to something else. I alternated fruits, veggies and grains, then moved on. I had books galore to guide me through it. I remember one friend offered peas to my younger one who hadn’t had them yet in whole form and I panicked. No peanuts, strawberries, milk or chocolate until after they were one (or was it 3?).

Now new research is saying that these guidelines may be the culprit and with earlier food introduction, allergies and their severity may decrease. I came across this information which stated:
 
But doctors are beginning to think those guidelines could increase chances of food allergies by not exposing babies to certain foods early enough.

“For every food there is a window period. If you don`t introduce that particular food around 5 or 6 months of age, you could have problems down the line,” said Dr. Parag Kumar, pediatrician.

I did a bit of research and found loads of information related to this, spanning back a year or so. In this article, the author writes:

It now it appears -ironically- that one reason may in fact be that women have been told to avoid the introduction of peanut protein during pregnancy, breastfeeding and through the toddler years.

Clearly, despite recommendations in some countries for pregnant women and infants to avoid eating peanuts, the prevalence of peanut allergy is on the rise  This latest study found that the prevalence of peanut allergy was lower in a cohort of  children from Israel, where peanuts were introduced earlier and in greater quantity, than in  children from England, where introduction of peanuts was delayed. “Paradoxically,” the authors said, “past recommendations in the U.S. and current recommendations in the United Kingdom and Australia might be promoting the development of peanut allergy and could explain the continued increase in the prevalence of peanut allergy observed in these countries.”

They added, “Our findings raise the question of whether early and frequent ingestion of high-dose peanut protein during infancy might prevent the development of peanut allergy through tolerance induction. In parts of the world where large quantities of peanuts are eaten, such as the Middle East, southeast Asia, and Africa, peanut allergy is rare”.

Recommendations for introduction of these high allergen foods have not changed, because further research is necessary, but I can’t help to think perhaps there’s something to this. After all, these recommendations are fairly new and this generation’s allergies are so prevalent. Perhaps there is something more than the hygiene theory. Can us being so careful (in one way or another) be what is causing this allergy epidemic?

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