This whole food allergy thing is nuts

If you were listening to NPR this week (listen here), you may have heard that feeding babies peanut products prior to 12 months of age is actually preventive in terms of developing true allergies to peanuts.  Not too long ago, we were recommending to parents that they wait until 3 years old to start nuts.  Then the advice and the guideline shifted to waiting until one year old.  Sound confusing?

What can be frustrating and is fascinating to me is that what we ‘know’ about nutrition is always changing.  The world of food allergies, intolerances, and sensitivities (they are not the same thing in my books) is no longer a small and isolated world.  Phrases like ‘gluten free’ and ‘vegan’ show up on even the most mainstream of menus.  It is no surprise that we are learning more about the things we put in our kiddos bodies, not just from a biochemical nutrition perspective, but also as allergy prevention.

Based on articles in the last few years (some links below) and my own observations, it seems like the ‘sweet spot’ for introducing foods is 4-7 months of age.  By introducing, I mean offering tastes and sampling of different foods and creating a palate that is curious about and enjoys different flavors and consistencies.  The other aspect of food introduction is to induce or educate the immune system gently to prevent allergies, intolerances, or sensitivities.  What we introduce during this time is the part that changes the most.  Last year I would have said peanuts were not on this list, now they are a maybe.  I would also like to offer that the quality and wholeness of the food is important in this process of introduction.

Here are some other ideas I have people keep in mind:

  • Start by looking at your own plates; if there isn’t anything on there that you would like to introduce to your five month-old maybe it doesn’t need to be in your body 🙂
  • Work from your family’s diet and your goals for family eating.  You are introducing a way of eating and a way of life.  If you are not happy with the way your family eats, the time to change is when you have little people really paying attention.
  • Introduce slowly at first, taking 2-3 days to see how your baby reacts to food at first.  Then you can speed it up a little as you watch them take to eating, digesting well, and being interested in more.
  • If there are foods that parents and/or other siblings react to, try to introduce those foods all on their own so you can see if that is true for this new eater.
  • Worldwide, eating together is the way that we share our love, appreciation, and connection with one another.  Let that be the center of food introduction and family eating for years to come.

Enjoy!  Dr. S

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If you want more tips, discussion, and thoughts from Dr. Sunita, subscribe to my email list for my newsletter and inside scoop.  Thanks!

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More reading:

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-09-12/health/ct-x-0912-food-allergies-20120912_1_food-allergies-environmental-allergies-first-child

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/25/health/many-babies-fed-solid-food-too-soon-cdc-finds.html?_r=0

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