The Peanut Puzzle Part I

After my last post, I know you’re all relieved to know that we finally settled in around the one pool in the greater Las Vegas area that did not have loud music. It was a plain rectangle that was in the shade of the high rises until 1:00 every afternoon but we made do.

The highlight of my reading was this: “The Peanut Puzzle: Could the Conventional Wisdom on Children and Allergies Be Wrong?” Sorry, they won’t let you read the article.

Um… YES.

Since 2000 the “conventional wisdom,” endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, has said that parents should wait until a child is 6 months old before introducing solid foods. Then parents should start with the foods that are least likely to cause allergic reactions. This late introduction was thought to make children less likely to develop food allergies.

In the past decade peanut allergies have doubled. Clearly there’s something wrong with our “conventional wisdom.”

I hated giving Josie formula. Spooning powder from a can seemed like the antithesis of nourishment – it was the ultimate processed food. I was anxious to start her on solid foods, but I followed the conventional wisdom and waited until she was 6 months old to give her a bite of cooked sweet potato. In spite of my efforts, or maybe because of them, she’s currently allergic to eggs, soy, white fish and tree nuts.

Doctors Hugh Sampson and Scott Sicherer at Mount Sinai Medical center have found that food allergens are unavoidable and babies come into contact with protein molecules though particles in the air and on skin and in other food and that by giving them such small doses we are actually making their systems more sensitive and more likely to develop allergic responses.

“You can’t avoid food proteins,” Sampson, said. “So when we put out these recommendations we allowed the infants to get intermittent and low-dose exposure, especially on the skin, which actually may have made them even more sensitive.”

Based on a report submitted by Sampson and Sicherer, The American Academy of Pediatrics overturned this practice in January of 2008, stating – “Current evidence does not support a major role for maternal dietary restrictions during pregnancy or lactation… There is also little evidence that delaying the timing of the introduction of complementary foods beyond four to six months of age prevents the occurrence of [allergies].”

Now what? The retraction of the previous recommendation leaves a hole where the current advice should be placed, but there’s nothing there. At this point, all we know is that we don’t know what we thought we knew and I guess that’s a great first step.

When did you introduce solids? How did that work out? Does your child have allergies?

To be continued…

10 thoughts on “The Peanut Puzzle Part I

  1. Barb

    Wow. Have you been following me around? I was just researching peanut allergies and breastfeeding since my 7-month-old daughter recently went through a period of fussiness and gasiness and I wonder if it was because I was eating peanut butter M&Ms at work. Her brother is allergic to peanuts. Her brother’s pediatric immunologist said I didn’t need to do anything differently with my second child, didn’t need to avoid peanuts during pregnancy or lactation. He said that it appears as if children that are going to get food allergies are going to get food allergies regardless of what you do. I don’t know what to believe. I have friends whose kids take part in a controversial treatment in which they are given small doses of the allergen 3 times a day every day in the hopes that they become desensitived. How do you know if it’s working? When I was a kid I was allergic to cats and dogs and pretty much everything that gives off pollen outside. And as an adult I have almost no allergies whereas many of my friends who had no childhood allergies are developing hayfever at 35. Who knows what to believe about any of it? I chalk it all up to “beyond my control” and hope for the best. 🙂

  2. Alyssa

    So far, neither kid has anything but hay fever and mild sensitivity to acidic foods. I have also been fortunate enough to have had two kids who love almost any food and were easy to breastfeed well past 6 months. They also seemed to tolerate anything I ate (Ethiopian food flavored breast milk, anyone? Ugh, I know). I used the Ped guidelines as, well, guidelines, and watched how my kids’ tongue reflexes developed before I added solids (so they didn’t start until after 6 months). I also watched how their system was handling it and I would hold back on the solids and go for simpler solids and breast milk, if needed. Made our own baby food based on whatever Dave and I were eating. I feel more like we have been lucky to not have allergies rather than doing something right.
    My mom can remember distant relatives or friends that were in good health and died suddenly for unknown reasons. Her guess (as a school nurse with umpteen allergies in her schools) is some allergies have been nearly as prevalent as they are today, it was just difficult to tell what caused the sudden death. I tend to suspect our food system as adding to the allergy woes (modern processing may leave allergens in food that traditional methods – like fermentation – would break down before eating). I seem to remember some study that showed kids eating traditional prepared peanuts (they were boiled or something, not roasted like much of ours are) had lower peanut allergy rates. Of course, can’t find that now…

  3. Katherine Post author

    Barb, that is so interesting that your friends’ kids are in treatment where they get their allergen. That’s part of what I talk about in part II.

    Yeah, Alyssa, I certainly wonder if it has always been there and we just know what it is now. Could be. I also wonder about antibiotics.

  4. Beth

    Waited with both kids until they were 6 months before solids. Breastfed Zoe until 18 months, Luke still going at 15 months. Neither has allergies. I was a bit worried about peanuts, since my dad is allergic, but so far so good. I’ve know people who restricted everything they ate while pregnant and everything they fed to their kids and their kids have the worst allergies. So maybe kids do need to be exposed more.

  5. Mom

    You, my dear, were allergic to what I ate. While pregnant with you I did not tolerate dairy. Dairy is the main food group in my life. After you were born I went back to my favorite foods. Not acceptable to you. You were breast fed exclusively until you were 10 months old, and then fed very controlled solids for a very long time. At 10 months you tolerated goat’s milk just fine. Your allergies came with you at birth. And your sister? The picky eater? You remember her… she has no troubling allergies. I wish there was a little booklet that comes with each baby, a user’s manual.

  6. Barb

    Katherine, The sublingual treatment is called The Lacrosse Method and it was developed by Allergy Associates of La Crosse (Wisconsin) which is about 20 minutes from my house. Sam’s pediatric immunologist thinks it’s all a bunch of hogwash and it hasn’t been proven to work, and our insurance won’t cover any visits to this clinic (as opposed to a traditional pediatric immunologist), but my friend really believes it’s working for her 12-year-old who has soy, peanut and tree nut allergies. Who knows?

  7. Tami

    Oh, dear. I wonder about this all the time. I breast fed my babes and delayed solids. Neither were interested in solids in any quantity until about 11 months, though I offered them at 6 months. And I followed my naturopaths recommendation for slow introduction of foods and waiting on the big allergens. My oldest is allergic to eggs and wheat and sensitive to dairy. My almost two year old seems to be allergic to eggs, even when he gets them through breastmilk. I often wonder if my delayed introduction has caused the problem. Though, like you, it seems my two year old was allergic to eggs in my diet from birth. Sigh.

  8. Barb

    Okay – so just to offer something purely anecdotal… Sam, whose first baby foods were avocados, bananas and peas, and who ravished peas and edamame and pea pods from the time he could eat solid foods but was kept from strawberries and tree nuts until he was almost 2, is now allergic to peanuts and reactive to peas and soy but has no reaction to strawberries or tree nuts. I have not decided what to do with his sister as she starts eating solids. Not quite ready to give here peas or strawberries or nuts yet, even though Sam’s allergist says to go ahead. It is a perplexing problem.

  9. Barb

    Not to hijack your thread, but the plot thickens. If you want to hear something truly insane…Gerber Organic baby food has tuna oil in it. Yes, TUNA. The fish with mercury. The fish that is on the top 10 food allergens list. [sigh]

    Eva had a reaction to something in the Gerber Organic Butternut Squash and Apple with Mixed Whole Grains that she ate this weekend. So it’s either the wheat (which MAY be in the whole grain oat flour) or the tuna oil (which is used as a source of DHA). I hate that this is so complicated. And I hate that I can’t just feed my kids organic baby food and trust that they are just getting food. Apparently BABY FOOD isn’t real food and I need to now find the time to puree fruits and veggies for my daughter…. which is kind of ironic because this weekend Sammy was all excited when he saw an advertisement for some babyfood making kit on TV. “Mommy, you can make your own baby food! You can make your own baby food!”

  10. Katherine Post author

    Hey Barb, you can hijack my thread any time, baby. Hmm, that sounds kinda dirty.

    Anyhoo, that is interesting. Is tuna oil listed on the ingredients list? How did you find out it’s in there?

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