Why Pregnant Women are Eating Peanuts (And Maybe You Should Too)

By on April 25, 2014
Food Allergy Prevention

Image via www.therootofhealth.com

Most experts agree that food allergies are on the rise. The CDC estimates that around 5% of kids have a food allergy. According to a FARE-funded study, the number of children in the U.S. with peanut allergies more than tripled between 1997 and 2008. So what can we do about it and how do we prevent children from developing food allergies?

Many experts feel that we have done ourselves a disservice by trying to avoid traditional allergy related foods during pregnancy and in early childhood. A study by Boston Children’s Hospital found that women who ate nuts more than five times a month had the lowest incidence of allergic children. You see, the immune system has a window during pregnancy and another window when our children are young. When we introduce foods like milk, peanuts, milk, and wheat we can help children learn to tolerate these foods.

If You Decide to Introduce Allergenic Foods Use These Tips

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association provides evidence that it is possible. Their study provided evidence that a mother who eats nuts during pregnancy may help build up a baby’s tolerance to them after birth. In 2008, the American Academy of Pediatrics retracted guidance suggesting that parents withhold introduction of highly allergic foods. Originally they had suggested not introducing peanuts, tree nuts, or fish until age 3. New research suggests that it is best to introduce these highly allergenic foods as complimentary foods as early as 4 – 6 months. They suggest first trying simpler complementary foods like fruits and vegetables before introducing one of the highly allergenic foods like eggs.

An article published by CBS news quotes several doctors on the topic of consuming certain foods during pregnancy,

“Dr. Ruchi Gupta, an associate professor in pediatrics and primary care at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, wrote that the study showed that pregnant women should not avoid eating nuts during pregnancy, unless they are allergic themselves.

For now, though, guidelines stand: pregnant women should not eliminate nuts from their diet as peanuts are a good source of protein and also provide folic acid, which could potentially prevent both neural tube defects and nut sensitization. So, to provide guidance in how to respond to the age-old question ‘To eat or not to eat?’ mothers-to-be should feel free to curb their cravings with a dollop of peanut butter!” she wrote.

However, Dr. Carla Davis, allergy specialist on the Immunology Society’s board of directors and a specialist at Texas Children’s Hospital’s Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Department, told CBS News in an email that the study didn’t prove that moms eating peanuts or tree nuts prevented allergies in children. Risk reduction may be due to other factors including that the mothers were eating more healthy fruits and vegetables or that the children were eating nuts at an earlier age. The families in the study were mostly educated, wealthy families, so the results didn’t match the general population, she added.

“Given several conflicting reports of the role of peanut consumption during pregnancy, it is still not clear if eating nuts before, during or after pregnancy would be beneficial for the child in the prevention of food allergy,” she said.

Conclusion

Talk to your doctor but if he says okay and you are craving a PBJ it might prove helpful for your child. I hope it goes without saying that this does not apply to women who are themselves allergic.

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