Food allergies and babies
May 8, 2012 / 5:00 am
In last week’s article we discussed how the health of the digestive tract plays such a crucial role in the overall health of infants, toddlers, and children. We discussed how the entire digestive tract not only grows in size during the first 6-12 months of life but also grows significantly in its integrity. As the integrity of the digestive tract increases the infant’s ability to handle and tolerate more complex food increases. In this week’s article we will discuss the implications of food allergies and sensitivities for infants, toddlers, and children.
Food allergies and sensitivities can cause or exacerbate many of the most common symptoms and medical conditions experienced by infants, toddlers, and children. These include skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, hives, and rashes; digestive symptoms like diarrhea, constipation, colic, and acid reflux; behavioural problems like ADHD, erratic behavior, and learning difficulties; immune system disorders like chronic infections, recurrent infections, and impaired immunity; various types of headaches; sleep disorders; pain disorders; and auto-immune disease.
One of the most common questions parents ask me about their children is, “can you test my child for food allergies and sensitivities?” The answer to this question is yes and no. There are a number of different factors that come into play when investigating whether your child is experiencing food allergies that we should evaluate before simply running a food allergy test. I always start with a Comprehensive Health Assessment as part of the initial visit before we make any decisions about testing or treatment.
There are two main types of allergies that we evaluate for: Type I Immediate Sensitivity Reactions and Type II Delayed Sensitivity Reactions. Type I reactions occur immediately (within minutes) after food exposure and tend to be more noticeable or severe symptoms like hives, swollen throat, runny eyes, watery nose, and even anaphylaxis. Type II reactions typically manifest anywhere from 2-48 hours after food exposure and tend to produce chronic inflammatory symptoms like constipation, eczema, psoriasis, headaches, behavioural problems, and immune system conditions.
For the most part, if your child has a Type I reaction to food you will already know about it if they have been exposed to the food. Skin prick testing or blood testing for IgE and histamine are the most effective testing measures for Type I reactions. On the other hand, Type II allergies are typically hidden and very difficult to identify without proper testing. Children who have a Type II reaction to foods typically do not show symptoms until hours or days after consumption. Blood testing for immunoglobulin G (IgG) is the most effective way to determine type II allergies.
If your infant, child, or toddler is consuming a variety of foods and does not have immediate reactions to these foods, but has a chronic symptom or disease, testing for Type II Delayed Sensitivity Reactions may be appropriate.
If the infant is exclusively being breast fed and not consuming any other foods there is likely not much benefit to testing the infant. However, there may be significant benefit to testing the infant’s mother to determine if she has Type II reactions to foods. Antibodies pass through the breast milk from mother to child, which is very important for the child’s immune system. However, if mom unknowingly has Type II allergies to certain foods she may be passing along IgG and other inflammatory molecules to the infant, which could cause or worsen the symptoms.
If you think your infant, toddler, or child may be experiencing symptoms related to food allergies I encourage you to seek advice from a naturopathic physician to determine if allergy testing may be appropriate. If you have any questions or would like to learn more about naturopathic healthcare please check out my website at www.drbrentbarlownd.com or contact my office at 250-860-8855.
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