Guest post by Dr. Bobby Parmar, Naturopathic Physician. The original post can be found here.
We all either have or know someone with food allergies. As someone who used to have a lot of allergies this topic is a big one for me. Peanut allergies are still some of the worst in terms of numbers and severity of reactions. Up to 10 percent of one-year-olds have peanut allergies. Nevermind all the other food allergies that are on the rise like wheat, dairy, and pollen. To protect children from severe consequences we have to de-nut our environments. It may not always have to be this way.
It looks like the overreaction of the immune system to peanuts can be modified. Instead of our immune cells hurting us when they are exposed to peanuts they remember how to protect us again. A lot of great research on children is backing this up.
Probiotics are part of the solution
In one study, when combining peanuts with a specific probiotic L rhamnosus 23 of 28 children resolved their peanut allergies, which is 20 times higher than those who didn’t take the probiotic. Think of that. More than 82% of kids didn’t have peanut allergy anymore.
Another long-term study blood tested 2-year-olds for allergies and compared the the kinds of bacteria they had in their intestines. The toddlers with the most allergies didn’t have nearly the amount of good bacteria like bifidobacterium that non allergic kids did. Instead, they were more likely to have increased levels of Candida (a fungus implicated with allergies and other things like asthma and Crohn’s disease).
All of this new information is calling into question when we should introduce solid foods into our children’s diets. It has generally been suggested to start solids at 6 months and to leave potential allergens til last ideally at 2 years of age. We’re flipping this on it’s head now because we’re seeing places in the world where allergenic foods are introduced even earlier than 6 months which are also places that have the least incidence of peanut allergy. Israel is the gleaming example of introducing a peanut snack called Bamba as early as 4 months. Israelis have almost non-existent peanut allergies. We should expect medical guidelines for food introduction next year. Look for Bamba stock to soar.
Some People still need to be Careful
Severe eczema (dry, itchy, rashy skin) and an allergy to eggs are signs that a child will be more prone to having a peanut allergy. If you do then think about introducing peanuts in the presence of a doctor who can help in case of a serious reaction. Even these at risk children deserve to have hazardous foods introduced to their diets so they can eventually overcome their allergies. Living in fear of nut contamination is scary enough. It looks like there is a way out of that. We know this because babies at higher risk of developing peanut allergies starting at 4 months have been shown to be 80% less likely to become peanut allergic once given daily diluted peanut puree. Interestingly, the benefit only lasts so long as they keep taking the peanut butter. This is another opportunity for probiotics to help the peanut exposure to reverse the allergy rather than just temporarily be desensitized to it.
When introducing peanuts wait after introducing a few other foods first. Never introduce whole nuts because of the likelihood of choking. Make a puree from 2 tsps of peanut butter and hot water (or use Bamba!). Feed from the tip of a spoon and watch for any reaction (hives, rash, behaviour changes and/or trouble breathing). After ten minutes you can continue feeding peanut, but keep watch for two hours just in case. Here’s a link to a great video where an allergist walks you through the steps:
Prevention is better than the Cure
Many professionals, including myself, are encouraging parents to use specific and appropriate strains of probiotics during the last trimester of pregnancy and the first 6 months of baby’s life to encourage a healthy low-allergy-risk internal environment. L rhamnosus and bifidobacterium are easy to find in multi-strain probiotics with the help of a medical professional.
I remember a time 10 years ago when as a student I learned about all the wonderful benefits of probiotics. To the mainstream medical world the idea of eating probiotics as medicine was laughable. “They’re just another expensive supplement that don’t do anything” they’d say. With confidence we can say they are probably the cure for some autoimmune diseases (Colitis), serious infections (C. difficile), and food allergies! Now to them I say, eat it. Eat all of it.
Australian Study on Peanuts and Probiotics
Probiotics and Allergies
Peanut Patch Treats Allergies
Candida and Crohn’s