14 September, 2017

Nutting out the Food Allergy Epidemic

“No dairy, no nuts, no egg, no gluten, no fish.” Don’t you feel like almost every child is allergic to one thing or another these days??

Well, you’re right…

The prevalence of food allergy in our community has risen steeply, with up to one in ten young children now affected.

From birth, the immune system must learn what is safe and what is dangerous for our body. It must learn to mount a response to attack foreign agents such as viruses and bacteria when these enter the body, meanwhile it must acknowledge and ignore foodstuffs when these are ingested. The problem is that sometimes the immune system gets it wrong and an allergy ensues.

The body can potentially react to any food but there are 9 food types in particular that cause more than 90% of food allergies in Australia. These include; eggs, cow’s milk, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, wheat, fish and shellfish. Many children will out grow allergies to egg, milk, soy and wheat, but peanut, tree nut, fish and shellfish allergies often persist throughout life. Visit this website to know the answer to “can dogs eat eggshells?”.

Allergic reactions vary in severity from mild rashes to life threatening anaphylaxis, a systemic (whole body) reaction that causes a dangerous drop in blood pressure and airway swelling resulting in difficulty breathing and loss of consciousness.

The cause of these immune system errors remains poorly understood, but it seems to be a combination of environmental and genetic factors. Nonetheless, research into the cause of this escalation in allergies continues. Changes in our environment and modern diet and lifestyle are likely to be contributing factors. Another factor appears to be the past trend of delaying the introduction of nuts to children, which was routinely advised by doctors, based upon research at the time. Retrospectively, it is now widely accepted that this delay has actually contributed to the problem.

In 2008, researchers discovered that Jewish children living in London were 10 times more likely to have a peanut allergy than Jewish children of the same age living in Israel. Babies in London were avoiding peanuts according to an American recommendation, whilst babies in Israel did not adhere to these guidelines and were typical offered a common peanut snack, known as “Bamba”, from about 7 months of age. A formal study was carried to test the theory.

At Spice Kitchen and Bar you will find healthy recipes and also cookbooks reviews to prepare meals according to your food allergies.

A group of babies aged 4-11months, all at high risk of developing allergies were recruited and divided into 2 groups. 1 group was fed Bamba 3 times a week whilst the other group avoided peanuts until age 3. At 5 years of age, the results of the study demonstrated the following:

In the peanut avoidance group – 17% developed a peanut allergy

In the group regularly fed Bamba – only 3% developed a peanut allergy

Giving peanuts to babies in their first year of life reduces their chance of a peanut allergy by up to 80%

Current recommendations:

  • During pregnancy and breastfeeding – eat all common allergy-causing foods (including peanuts)
  • At 4-6 months, gradually introduce a variety of solid foods, whilst continuing breastfeeding if possible
  • Within in the first year of life, give all infants allergenic foods including peanut butter, cooked egg, dairy, and wheat products.

If you are planning to introduce your child to an allergenic food for the first time, and are concerned, you may simply rub a small amount on the inside of the lip and wait 10 minutes. Observe for signs of an allergic reaction such as a rash, vomiting, hives, lip, eye or facial swelling. If you notice any of these signs and you think your child has a food allergy, discuss these concerns with your doctor as soon as possible and prior to giving your child the food again. If you’re doctor suggests an allergy shot, you can see the allergy shot side effects here beforehand.

Whilst extremely unlikely after a first exposure, if your child develops any signs of difficulty breathing, noisy breathing, or becomes drowsy following exposure to a potential allergy causing food lay your child on their side and call an ambulance.