Baby food allergies and intolerance
Baby food allergies and sensitivities; what is what?
If you think it seems that there are more babies with food allergies around, you are right. Both allergies in general and food allergies are on the rise in baby’s worldwide. Theories as to why this is so include increased immune challenges from toxins, genetics and so on. A recent study of daycare centres in NSW found that 86% of surveyed centres had at least one child in care with a food allergy.
But are you sure about what an allergy is? Is a milk allergy the same as lactose intolerance? What are the main allergy forming foods? What can my allergy baby eat? Faced with regular questions on food allergy and food intolerances we have decided to explore these areas and address some of the common questions we are posed.
Don’t confuse food intolerance with food allergy
Often the term allergy and intolerance are used interchangeably; self-diagnosing either is a gamble, as not all reactions to food are what they seem. In fact allergy and intolerance are different. Clinically, a food allergy is clearly defined as an immune response (involving special antibodies called IgE) by the body to a food protein or similar large molecule. Definitions of food intolerances are a little less clear, some consider it a “chemical” reaction not involving the immune system, others refer to it as a non-IgE immune response. For our purposes it is far simpler to think of it as a non-immune response where the body is unable to deal appropriately with a certain compound in a food. One of the best known examples is to the reaction many people have to the taste enhancer MSG. By far food intolerances are the more common of the two.
When we experience an allergy the body reacts to seemingly harmless substances by treating them as a foreign invader, so the body’s response is to mobilise its army of antibodies which are made by the immune system. This is why allergies (not just food) are best diagnosed by testing the body’s antibody response to an allergen, for example by a blood test or skin prick test. This is also why many babies with undiagnosed allergies can appear overly tired; their body has its army on the front line battling without rest.
What sort of foods cause food intolerances?
It seems an unfortunate fact that our tastiest foods are most likely to be the common offenders as they have the greatest levels of natural chemicals.
- Foods high in salicylates (plant chemicals that are similar to aspirin) such as fruit, vegetables, nuts, herbs and spices and yeasty foods. Click here to see a list of salicylate levels in foods.
- Foods containing amines (part of protein) such as chocolate, cheese, yeasty foods and fish products.
- Glutamate (a protein) containing foods such as tomatoes, cheese, mushrooms, stock cubes, sauces and yeasty foods.
What are the chances of my baby being affected by food allergy?
While one in five people suffer from common allergies, babies with an allergic parent have a one in three chance of developing an allergy (slightly higher if it is mum who has the allergy); if both parents have an allergy this goes up to seven in ten, (RPA, 2002). The risk of allergy (specifically cows milk protein allergy) in babies increases if they have an allergic parent, and where bub has had cows milk formula in their first month. However, exclusive breastfeeding appears to lower the incidence. Still, overall 50% of baby’s with an allergy don’t have a family history at all.
Who are the main culprits?
According to the Better Health Channel in Victoria the following foods in order (from most common to least) may pose an issue:
- Other nuts
- Grains such as rye, wheat, oats
- Molluscs, such as oysters, mussels, clam, squid and octopus
- Crustaceans, such as lobster, prawn, crab, shrimp
- Fruit, berries, tomato, cucumber, white potato or mustard.
Over 75% of allergies are caused by three major foods (not in any order):
This information has been provided by Leanne Cooper from Sneakys baby and child nutrition, Leanne is a qualified nutritionist and mother of two very active boys.
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