As well understood as the mechanisms of allergy response and other sensitivities are, medical science is still in the discovery phase as to why in some cases our immune systems become over-sensitive and decide to attack what would otherwise be innocuous proteins. Why, for example, are there more allergy sufferers in the US than in Europe, where the cities are as heavily air-polluted or more so than comparable US cities? Could it really be, as some alternative practitioners have suggested, that our reliance on antibiotics and early-childhood vaccinations are actually counterproductive with regard to allergies? How are we to resolve the fact that without vaccinations, children are left open to serious illness, but with them may be left open to life-threatening asthma attacks? For that matter, what is the right thing to do when we know that mothers who have serious allergies can pass on the antigens and antibodies to their newborns through breast milk, when we know that otherwise breast milk is the most beneficial for baby’s nutrition and immune function?
Aside from these difficult decisions, the old adage ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’ is particularly apt with regard to allergies. The best practices for allergy prevention will be presented in this section, along with cautions and other considerations.
Allergy Prevention for Children
Breast Feed Your Infant
Long-term research has proven that the best way to equip your newborn to cope with assaults from illness and allergy is to feed him with mother’s breast milk exclusively for the first few months of life. It is the only substance that was designed by evolution to be the perfect food for immature human digestive systems. That said, what of the evidence that even newborns fed exclusively on breast milk can exhibit signs of food allergy? Anecdotal evidence would suggest that if the mother removes foods from her diet to which she and baby both react, baby’s sensitivities would clear up relatively quickly. Once again, the best way to determine to what the baby might be reacting is to keep a food diary along with a diary of baby’s reactions. There is no scientific evidence that allergies are inherited, while there is plenty of such evidence that mom’s immunities are passed through her milk. Significantly, IgG antibodies are passed through the placenta to the developing fetus’ blood supply. The best way to avoid these unintended consequences is for mom to address her allergies and sensitivities before becoming pregnant, and to avoid allergens while pregnant and nursing.
Some mothers find themselves unable or, more rarely unwilling, to breast-feed for one reason or another. If you find yourself in this situation, certainly there are nutritionally adequate formulas on the market. We would suggest you start with a hypoallergenic formula to avoid development of allergies to the ingredients of other formulas.
Introduce Solid Foods Later
The longer you can delay introducing solid foods to your infant, the more mature her digestive system will be and the less likely to develop food allergies or sensitivities. Several decades ago, it was common to breastfeed exclusively until the infant was six months old, up to one year. However, with more and more moms attempting to work full- or part-time while pumping breast milk, it seems that it is less practical, and that baby is demanding something more filling at an earlier and earlier age. Some mothers introduce baby cereals as young as six weeks, either because baby does not seem to be satisfied with just breast milk, or in an attempt to induce sleeping through the night. Given the fact that some cereals (wheat, in particular) are among the most allergenic eight foods for children, introducing these foods early is tailor-made for allergy disaster.
If you must introduce solid foods at an early age, avoid at all cost the eight most common allergenic foods, listed in the Types of Allergies: Food Allergies section. Instead, opt for fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes and low-fat proteins such as fish (not shellfish) or chicken. It is best to avoid highly processed foods and prepare your own using a blender designed for the purpose. This will allow you also to limit the sugars, sodium and preservatives that are not particularly healthful for your child and have their own risks for allergies.