Convincing your child to eat their broccoli is hard enough, and it’s only worse if they have food-allergies!
A food allergy occurs when the immune system falsely communicates that a certain protein in a food is harmful. Once you have an allergy, an allergic reaction happens every time you eat that specific food. A baby’s chance of developing an allergy is increased if his siblings have also been diagnosed with an allergic condition like eczema, asthma, hay fever or a food allergy.
How does it work?
Food allergies are developed when a protein called Immunoglobulin E (IgE) and a mast cell interact. IgE moves around your blood and a mast cell is found in all body tissues, including common sites of allergic reactions like the nose, lungs, skin and gastrointestinal tract.
If a food allergen is eaten and the food is digested, IgE is produced in large amounts. IgE then attaches itself to the surface of the mast cells. The next time the food is eaten, it communicates with specific IgE on the mast cells to release chemicals called histamine. This causes different allergic reactions going forward.
Foods that cause allergies are called allergens. Common allergens are:
- Dairy products like milk
- Tree nuts (almonds, cashews, walnuts)
But there is good news: it is possible for your child to outgrow certain allergies. And there is even better news: you could potentially prevent certain allergies, if you start early with the following practices:
Breastfeed your baby
If you’re able to breastfeed your baby, then do so. It’s the least likely source of nutrition that would cause an allergic reaction in your baby and breast milk easy to digest. It will also strengthen your baby’s immune system, making him less susceptible to infections and illnesses.
Offer possible food allergens regularly
Feed your baby common food allergens like dairy products, egg and nuts, a few times a week. This will help them maintain a tolerance to these foods and prevent food allergies from developing.
Feed your baby whole foods early
A recent study found that babies who are fed homemade whole foods developed fewer allergies than babies whose diets consisted of processed baby food. This is because eating whole macronutrients helps stimulate cells that work for the good of your immune system. So, if your baby can swallow whole foods (between four and six months), include fish, fruit, poultry and veggies in his diet.
Get rid of dust mites
Airborne substances like dust mites may trigger asthma and other allergy symptoms in your child which will increase the risk of him developing food allergies. Use allergen-impermeable covers on pillows and mattresses, and remove carpets and upholstered furniture from your child’s room.
Watch your diet when you’re pregnant
It’s tempting to eat whatever you want during your pregnancy, but it’s important to include wholegrains, vegetables, fish, white meat and fruit in your diet. Research has shown that pregnant women who have strong digestive tracts and healthy gut floras pass this down to their babies. Nuts and other common allergens during pregnancy have also been shown to help build up your baby’s tolerance to possible allergies.
Treat your baby’s eczema
Controlling your baby’s eczema will minimise the chance of developing allergies as healthy skin acts as a barrier to protect us from allergens. Talk to your doctor if you’re struggling to treat your baby’s skin. If necessary, your doctor may suggest a visit to a paediatric allergist or dermatologist.