Thursday, March 12, 2015

Breastfeeding, Food Introductions, and Food Allergies

The report is out from a pretty thoroughly done assessment of data looking at one of the common naturopathic notions about food allergies.  We naturopaths have held the belief that many food allergies occur because duration of breastfeeding is too short and/or foods are introduced too early before the digestive system is developed enough to handle it.  In a supplement to the journal Pediatrics (2014;134:S1-S2, S21-S28) this study shows that long-held belief is not true.  There was no association found between food allergies and either duration of breastfeeding or what foods are introduced first. So concerning food allergies, parents need not worry about food introductions.  

Interestingly, there were other factors identified that did show higher risk for food allergies.  These factors included: higher family income, higher maternal education level, appearance of eczema before age 1, and a family history of food allergy.  The study did not examine how or why the income or education level would impact development of a food allergies.

But before we toss out the long-held mistaken belief entirely, there were other health-related issues which did correlate with food introductions and breastfeeding including:

  • An association between longer duration of breastfeeding and later introduction of foods or beverages other than breast milk, and lower rates of ear, nose, throat, and sinus infections in the year preceding the survey.
  • A 2-fold increased likelihood of childhood obesity at age 6 years among children who consumed sugar-sweetened beverages as infants.
  • An association between longer breastfeeding and increased consumption of water, fruit, and vegetables, and decreased consumption of fruit juice and sugar-sweetened beverages at age 6 years.
  • An association between frequency of fruit and vegetable intake during the first year of life and likelihood of continued frequency of fruit and vegetable intake at age 6 years.
 So, there is not a concern about generating food allergies in your child because you didn't breastfeed long enough or did food introductions wrong.  However,there are some strong benefits to your child's lifetime dietary habits by observing a longer period of breastfeeding, avoiding sugar, and introducing lots of fruits and vegetables early.

Naturewords for Your Health,
Dr. Mark

No comments: