Sunday, September 30, 2012
Maternal Diet and Food Allergies - My Thoughts
I'm not a doctor, scientific researcher, nutritionist, etc., so the following is completely speculative. Based on my personal experience, my thinking aligns with the theory that what a woman eats during pregnancy and/or during breastfeeding plays a part in the food allergies that her child develops, IF her child was going to develop a food allergy in the first place.
So much focus is put on peanut allergies, because of their prevalence, and I think it's hard to nail that down, since so many people ate nuts while pregnant and some kids ended up with nut allergies and some didn't.
However, let's take a look at my own personal case study...my daughter. She has one particular severe allergy, that is not very common. She is highly allergic to flax seed. How many people do you know with a severe flax seed allergy? Do you even know anyone with a flax seed allergy? Maybe if you're in the food allergy circles you do, but I don't know anyone else around me, locally, who has an allergy to flax seed, other than my daughter. How did she get so "lucky"?
Hmm, well, when I was pregnant, I ate Voortman's Flaxseed Oatmeal Cookies at least once a day, every single day, for my entire pregnancy. I ate them even before I got pregnant. It was my "go to" snack. I kept them in a cookie jar on the counter and it was an easy thing to grab. I ate them like they were going out of style, and they actually did...My local store stopped carrying them when my daughter was a few months old and I had to stop eating them and I was bummed. So, I had also been eating them while I was nursing. (I only made it to about 4 1/2 months of nursing.) The ingredients in the cookies were wheat flour, flax seeds, ground flax seeds, eggs, etc. So it basically had double flax seed.
I am a creature of habit and tend to eat the same thing every day for long stretches of time. Back then, I was eating a Jimmy Dean D-Lights breakfast croissant, but I would take out the turkey sausage, so it was just cheese and egg white. I ate lots of cheese back then. I also ate some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches when I was pregnant, which I never wanted any other time.
So, I was eating peanuts, cheese, eggs, and flax seed by the pound...What are my daughter's top allergens? Peanuts, milk, eggs and flax seed! (By the way, I get so irritated that they keep adding flax seed to everything for "Omega-3" purposes. Use hemp seed, it's better! Anyway, I digress...)
I think with the peanuts, milk and eggs, it's easy for people to dismiss the maternal diet connection because they say "everyone eats those things", but not everyone eats tons of flaxseed and not everyone's child ends up with a severe allergy to flax seed.
As I mentioned at the beginning of my post, I believe this is for children who were "going to develop a food allergy in the first place". How can you know if that will be the case for your child? Well, you certainly can't know for sure, but I found an article on About.com, that concisely summarizes what I am always telling people about the predisposing factors for a potentially food-allergic child: http://foodallergies.about.com/od/faqs/f/At-Risk-For-Developing-Food-Allergies.htm
So, given what I've experienced, I'm still not sure what one should do, if they suspect their future child is "at risk" for food allergies. I joked with a friend, the other day, that perhaps they should just eat some rare food, say, rutabagas, that they don't really like, and hardly ever encounter, so their child would end up allergic to that, and then they could easily avoid that down the road.
I know that's not a realistic solution, however, but I was just trying to bring a little levity to the situation, as I often do. There are so many recommendations, and we may never know for sure which one is the "right" one, and I really don't think there is such a thing, since every "body" is different, but I just wanted to share my experience and see if it triggered any light bulbs for anyone else, who might have more insights.
I'd also like to share this other helpful article I found on About.com, about feeding an at-risk infant:
I wish I had this article back when my daughter was born...That, and the knowledge I have now about food allergies!